Learn about the function served by this miniature maneki neko.
As the Victorian era passed into the Edwardian and Roaring Twenties, a market developed for bisque and china bawdy novelties and figurines of women in revealing outfits. Although now most of these figurines seem more coy and cute than ribald and risque, in their time they symbolized the casting off of the perceived restraints of the Victorian era.
These little lovelies included bathing beauties, who came clad in swimsuits of real lace or in stylish painted beach wear, as well as mermaids, harem ladies, and nudies, who were meant to wear nothing more than an engaging smile. Also produced were flippers, innocent appearing figurines who reveal a bawdy secret when flipped over, and squirters, figurines that were meant to squirt water out of an appropriate orifice.
Most were manufactured in Germany from the late 1800s through the 1930s, often showing remarkable artistry and imagination, with Japan entering the market during World War I.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Perched on the edge of a black and white checkerboard dish for rings or trinkets, this tiny china bathing belle is by William Goebel. Goebel used the mold for this little gal to create a variety of goods, as she has been featured on this blog before, both as a pincushion and as a stand- (or I guess in this case, -sit) alone figurine. The entire piece is only 2.75 inches wide.
There is no doubt regarding the maker, as the underside is amply marked. There is Goebel's crowned intertwined "G" and "W" mark, both incised and stamped in blue. Other marks include an incised "Dep," "Germany" stamped in black, a black freehand "k," and an incised "RF" followed by a 600 number partially obscured by a paper label for Herpolsheimer Co. (which reveals that this diminutive dish sold originally for 75 cents). In 1870, William G. Herpolsheimer and C.G.A. Voight opened a small dry goods store in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By 1901, the store operated under the name of the Herpolsheimer Company, eventually developing into a large department store with branches in Michigan and Wyoming. The downtown store in Grand Rapids was remodeled in 1949 and hailed for its modern design, which featured a three-story display window over the main entrance. It was a landmark in the city for decades, but in 1986, over the protests of preservationists, it was gutted and altered to create a shopping mall. In the 1990s, the company was acquired by the Lazarus store chain.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
According to the label on the bottom of this celluloid cutie's cardboard base, she "Passed TCTMA Inspection." Certainly this beauteous bathing belle could easily pass any inspection! She is 9.5 inches tall and unmarked except for the aforementioned label.
But what is the TCTMA? My Internet research lead me to the website of Celluloid Library Memorial House in Yokohama, Japan. There I learned that Japan had been a major producer of celluloid. A mixture of nitrocellulose and camphor, celluloid was patented in the United States in 1869. Lightweight and easily molded, it was used in a wide variety of products, including dolls and toys. The forests of Taiwan (then Formosa) were a major source of camphor and the island was under Japanese control from 1895 through the end of WWII. Japan quickly moved from exporting camphor to manufacturing celluloid itself and soon claimed a significant portion of the international market. However, celluloid is extremely flammable. On December 16, 1932, a fire at the Shirokiya Department Store in Tokyo killed 14 people and injured 67; the fire began when a spark from a light bulb adorning a Christmas tree ignited a nearby display of celluloid toys, resulting a flames that burned four of the store's eight stories. In 1954, the United States banned imports of Japanese celluloid toys for safety reasons and the creation of flame-retardant plastics eliminated much of the demand for celluloid, although it continued to be used in some products, such as ping pong balls and and fountain pens. In 1995, the last Japanese celluloid factory moved its production to China, ending the history of celluloid manufacturing in Japan.
Now back to TCTMA. Unable to find anything about this organization on the Celluloid House website, I emailed them and promptly received a very informative reply from its director, Mr. Isoa Iwai. He explained that the initials stand for "Tokyo Custom Tokai Marine Authorized," meaning that the bathing beauty had passed inspection both by customs and the Tokai Marine Insurance Company (founded in 1879, it was the first Japanese-based insurance company). Mr. Iwai also said that these types of dolls were produced in the 1920 to 1930 period.
This lissom lass is beautifully modeled and painted. Her coloring appears as bright as the day it left the factory and her alluring expression and large blue eyes are exceptionally attractive.
She came in her original box, which no doubt helped preserve her in such pristine condition over the last century.
Thursday, September 10, 2020
A couple of weeks ago this blog featured an elongated bathing belle by the German firm of Schafer and Vater. Here is another long and lithe bather, this time accompanied by a very short and rotund male admirer. Talk about "opposites attract!" The caption beneath their bare feet declares "What the Sea Saw." This is a bit of typical Schafer word play, no doubt referring to that standard piece of playground equipment the seesaw (also known s the teeter-totter), where when one rider goes down, the other rises up. Of good sharp bisque, this odd couple is 6.5 inches tall. Underneath is a faint incised Schafer and Vater crowned sunburst and "9806," as well as a freehand black "56."
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Although their vaudeville career was relatively brief, the Five Barrisons Sisters inspired a wide variety of naughty novelties, as can be seen from the pages of this blog. These two bisque belles suggestively straddling a chair appear to be yet another. The babyish bonnets, long pleated girlish dresses, and the exposed black-stockinged legs are all hallmarks of the Barrison's act, often a mixture of innocence and double entendre. Five inches tall, this piece is incised on back of the chair's left back leg with four-digit number ending in "074" and is painted with a freehand "8" in black underneath.
Both Barrisons are sticking out their tongues, a gesture that is both infantile and immodest.
I suspect this figurine, like many portraying the Barrisons, was copied from a picture or postcard. However, I so far have been unable to find the original photograph. I did find this poster for the Folies Bergère by artist Alfred Choubrac showing two of the sisters sharing a chair in a similar salacious style.
A slightly different seating arrangement showing the same two sisters. I suspect these figurines may have been inspired by a series of studio portraits of these two sisters engaged in various off-color antics. Also 5 inches tall, this piece is incised on the crawling sibling's left thigh with "3076" and there is a freehand "47" in red underneath. If the incised number for the first is "3074," then I wonder what these two were doing in figurine "3075?!"
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Previously on this blog, I posted videos featuring various clockwork cuties by Zaiden Toy Works. The post included this March 8, 1922, advertisement by Zaiden featuring seven dolls, which it declared are only part of the company’s “Sixteen new mechanical numbers,” and I wondered how many more of the company's shimmying and shaking sirens are still out there after over 80 years, waiting to be discovered? These dancing dolls were inexpensive souvenirs of the summer boardwalks and fall carnivals, quickly discarded when their mechanisms jammed or their composition began to flake. Few survived, and even fewer in working condition. However, I have added yet another Zaiden maiden to my collection.
This 13.5-tall inch tall composition, wood, and metal mechanical doll wears her original nurse outfit. She is Zaiden's "Nurse Girl" who, according to the ad reproduces "a human like motion of rocking a baby. The mother of them all." She has a head and torso of good quality composition and a mohair wig. Her face is nicely and brightly painted. The lower arms are wood and the hands metal, but the upper arms are flexible wire. Her upper legs are wood and attached to a U-shaped metal bar that curves under her body from hip to hip and her black lace-up shoes are metal. She is wound by a key jutting out of an opening in her lower back and would rock the celluloid baby (a replacement) cradled in her hands. The mechanism is balky, but her clothes are fastened on with metal brads and I do not want to risk damaging her outfit to reach the mechanism to try to oil and clean it.
Thursday, August 6, 2020
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Well, Long Tall Sally, she's
Built for speed, she got
Everything that Uncle John need
Havin' me some fun tonight, yeah
Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and Little Richard, 1956
This long tall bathing belle is by the German firm of Schafer and Vater. With those elongated arms and legs, she certainly should be able to speed through the surf and into Uncle John's heart. Across the front of her base is the incised caption "Blackpool Mermaid." Blackpool is on the Irish Sea in north-west England. It became a tourist destination in the 1840s with the advent of the railroad and grew into a booming sea-side resort with a promenade offering a wide variety of food and entertainment. Even today Blackpool continues to attract millions of visitors to its seafront. Of excellent sharp bisque, this sea-side Sally is a long tall 7.5 inches. She is incised with the Schafer and Vater crowned sunburst and "7981" on back edge of her base.
Friday, July 17, 2020
This blond brother and sister are all ready for a day at the beach and a dip in the ocean. Arms linked, they prepare to stroll out on the stand, he carrying the towel and she holding a sponge in preparation for some salt-water bathing. German companies such as Hertwig and Company produced all-bisque dolls in similar molded outfits, often assumed by doll collectors to be undergarments rather than bathing suits. This bisque pair of beach babes is 4.75 inches tall and unmarked.
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah
I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Otis Redding and Steve Cropper, 1967
This comic couple by Schafer and Vater may be sittin' on the dock of the bay, but the man clearly has his eyes on something other than the tide. The object of his attention has appeared previously on this blog, so I was pleased to find her male match. Like his lady love, the man is of excellent sharp bisque and is unmarked. Their torsos are hollow and the legs are hinged with wire, swinging freely back and forth.
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Now with more darling ducks!
This exquisitely elegant aristocratic lady is a vision indeed. By Galluba and Hofmann, this this half doll holds a pair of binoculars in her right hand. Perhaps she is watching the races at the Royal Ascot and forgot her hat. . . and a bit more.
She retains her original mohair wig. Her perfect oval face, cameo-like features, slender neck, and sloping shoulders are the epitome of Edwardian beauty.
Of flawless fine bisque and workmanship, this belle with binoculars is 4 inches tall and incised “5691” on the back edge of the base.
Thursday, June 4, 2020
You're supposed to brighten up a place
And laugh, Clown, laugh!
Paint a lot of smiles around your face
And laugh, Clown, don't frown
Dressed in your best colored humor
Be a pallietto and laugh, Clown, laugh!
Music by Ted Fio Rito, lyrics by Sam Lewis and Joe Young, 1928
This clown certainly seems to have a lot to laugh about, as an intoxicating, and apparently intoxicated, lovely lady swoons in his arms. Of blue glazed china, this 5.25-inch tall figurine is actually a bottle, with the lacy cuffs and lithe lower legs of his tipsy tootsie covering the cork. Called a "nipper" by collectors, these comic novelty bottles were intended to hold a "nip" of alcohol. Such bottles were often offered as gifts or prizes by saloons, liquor stores, clubs, and carnivals. The clown is dressed in traditional Pierrot costume with skullcap, ruffled collar, loose tunic top with large buttons, and loose pants. Perhaps the woman represents Columbine, another character from the Commedia dell'Arte tradition, and this gallant Pierrot is rescuing her from the wiles of his crafty rival, Harlequin. Despite his laughing leer, surely this Pierrot's motives are pure--after all, look at the big beautiful bouquet her brought her. This nifty nipper is by the German firm of Schafer and Vater and is faintly incised underneath with the firms crowned sunburst mark.
Thursday, May 14, 2020
Tell this laughing lass to shake a leg and she will happily comply. She appears to be peeking over the edge of her spread skirt, which forms a shallow round trinket or ring dish. Her two lithe legs jut straight up, each attached to the base by a small spring that allows them to quiver and quake. Although only stamped underneath in black "Made in Germany," she is no doubt from the company of Schafer and Vater, known for its lissome leggy ladies. Of excellent sharp bisque, this miss and her shimmying stems are 3 inches long and high.
Friday, May 1, 2020
especially if it is as unique and alluring as this one! This blog has featured various pieces of jewelry bearing bathing beauties, but this beautiful vintage bauble is one piece from my collection that I often wear. This style of ring featuring a pair of bare voluptuous belles framed by flowing tresses and supporting a stone or signet face can be traced back to the art nouveau period, when naked nymphs in gold and silver often frolicked on jewelry. Sometimes referred to as a caryatid ring, referencing the use of a sculpted female figure as a supporting column or pillar of a building, such rings remain popular and jewelry designers are currently creating their own versions. Antique and vintage rings range from rare precious pieces from the art nouveau period to cheap plated men's signet rings sold through the mid-1900s. The quality of the rings vary from superbly sculpted to crudely stamped. In this ring, the sirens' supple curves and cascading curls are well rendered. Even their tiny facial features are nicely detailed.
Of 14 karat gold, but unmarked by a maker, this comely couple of caryatids hold a round fiery opal. The fact that opal is my birthstone makes this ring an especially serendipitous find for me.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
This coffee-colored cutie has had a few hard knocks in her long life, costing her a couple of fingers and a big toe, but she hasn't lost her big, bright smile. Despite her dings, she is still a very desirable figurine, perhaps one of the scarcest members of the scarce series of black belles in skimpy chemises by the German firm of Schafer and Vater. This delightful dusky damsel is 3.75 inches long and tall. She is marked underneath with only a freehand "17" in black. Her white chemise with green and white is worn by all her sisters in this series. All the pieces in this series I have seen are of the same excellent sharp bisque with superb sculpting.
Her face is deeply detailed, from her flowing tresses to her tiny molded teeth. The features are certainly ethnic, but not exaggerated.
The laughing lady with the coyly cocked head is exceptionally lovely from her wavy black hair to her delicate bare feet. Again, her features are ethnic, but realistically modeled. She is 3.5 inches tall and unmarked. Her companion with the heart-shaped topknot has more exaggerated facial features, but she perhaps holds one of the prettiest poses, with a graceful hand curved modestly in front of her rounded bare shoulders and full breasts. She is 3.75 inches high and is the only one in the series wearing a molded pink corset. The mocha-colored maiden is also unmarked, but another one I have in my collection is incised "3531."
This 5-inch long figurine has curly black molded hair and a soft shimmering coffee complexion, with beautifully modeled bare legs and feet. She is marked only with a black painted "48" on the bottom.
While previously all the poses could be called playful, this miss strikes one that is a bit more prurient, cupping her bare left breast and patting her well-padded posterior. Unmarked, she is 5.5 inches long.
Another black belle from Schafer, but belonging to a different series. She is simply one of the Schafer black-stockinged series of buxom blonds given dark hair and a light brown complexion. She even has blue eyes! These gals adjusting their garters are 4 inches high.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Do a search for "Barrison" on this blog, and you will find a number of posts regarding the 5 Barrison Sisters, those voluptuous blond Danish-American siblings whose naughty bawdy vaudeville act briefly brought them fame, fortune, and notoriety in the 1890s. German porcelain companies were quick to cash in on the Barrison's scandalous stardom, producing a variety of bisque figurines and novelties based on the infamous five. These prancing piggies are probably the most unusual tribute (?) I have seen to the Barrisons. Their frilly green bonnets are similar to the girlish outfits often donned by the sisters in acts that mixed innocent antics with sexual double entendres. And the sisters were never shy on stage about exposing their black stocking-clad legs. Plus the caption "The 5 Sisters" emblazoned across the basket is pretty much a giveaway (the "Barrison" was no doubt left out because of copyright concerns. German manufacturers were more than willing to be "inspired" by the Barrisons, but a lot less enthusiastic about paying them any royalties). Out of excellent bisque and beautifully modeled, this frisky fairing is 5.5 inches wide and 5 inches high. Underneath it is stamped in black, "Made in Germany."
One wonders whether this is a comment on the sisters' sometimes tarnished reputations (or the fact that the sisters liked to ham it up onstage) or simply combining the Barrisons' popularity with another fad of the period, pink pig fairings. Fairings were small inexpensive porcelain pieces, often featuring comical or satirical themes, given as prizes or sold as souvenirs at fairs from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s. Fairings were made in Germany by a number of companies. Also in Germany, the pig is a sign of good luck and prosperity. A person who is lucky will say "Ich habe schwein gehabt" (I have had pig). Postcards and other empherma of the period featured glücksschweinchen (good luck pigs), often carrying a four leaf clover or leaping through a horseshoe. It was traditional to give gifts of peppermint or marzipan glücksschweinchen at Christmas and New Years. There is an entire genre of bisque and china fairings featuring pink pigs engaged in typically human activities, such as driving a car or proudly pushing a piglet in a pram. Other fairings focused on the pig as a harbinger of good luck and wealth, such as piggies perched in a purse or peeking out of a money bag. So this figurine may not so much be an editorial comment on the Barrisons as much as some German porcelain company designer telling his boss, "Hey, people are crazy about those Barrison Sisters and people just love pink pigs. So if we can combine them, we will have a guaranteed hit on our hands!"
Thursday, March 19, 2020
No, this is not some new pandemic, but one dating from the fin de siècle, when five buxom blonde Danish-American sisters swept across Europe with their bawdy vaudeville act. It is also the title of a new book, Barrison Feberen in the original Danish, by historian Hans Henrik Appel. As the cover announces, it is: "The story of Sisters Barrison – the Danish-American pop phenomenon that shook the European cities of the 1890s and challenged the vision of gender, body and morality."
Mr. Appel was generous enough to send me an autographed copy and while I do not speak Danish (let's hope for an English version some day!), it is a beautifully printed and substantial book. It has received excellent reviews from the Danish press, praising both Mr. Appel's extensive scholarship and his story-telling skills. The book is more than a biography about the Barrison sisters, as Mr. Appel also sets the historical scene and cultural context that made it possible for the five sisters to flourish as they challenged the morality and mores of the end of an era. If you are interested in acquiring your own copy of the book, learning more about the sisters, or just want to view more pictures of this coquettish quintet, check out The Barrison Fever website.