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.
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.
Friday, February 28, 2020
As noted before on this blog, I also collect antique dolls as well as bathing beauty figurines and sometimes my two collections overlap. This pair of all-bisque chubby toddlers are dressed in their original net bathing suits, trimmed with matching ribbon. Of pink precolored bisque, the girl, thanks to her molded hair bow, is 3.25 inches tall, compared to her 3-inch tall brother. They are jointed at the shoulders and were made by Hertwig and Company of Germany.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Come with me, my love
To the sea, the sea of love
I want to tell you how much I love you
Philip Baptiste (Phil Phillips) and George Khoury, 1959
The marvelous mechanical valentine features a big-eyed bathing belle trying to keep her valentine wishes high and dry as she paddles through a pond.
Captioned "Water sports for Love," the card was printed in Germany. By rotating the paper wheel on the card's back, you can move the lass's limbs so that she appears to be swimming the breaststroke.
Her pose recalls that of Miss Ondine, the mechanical "poupee nageuse" (swimming doll) patented by Elie Martin in 1878.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
This pretty pair of bisque vases feature bathing beauties toying with their beach towels. Both are incised underneath with the Carl Schneider "G" pieced by two vertical arrows and "DEP 12223 Germany." Each vase is 7.45 inches high. They are both superbly modeled out of excellent sharp bisque and beautifully decorated. Some collectors refer to these as "spill vases." A "spill" was a thin wood stick, long wood shaving, or tightly rolled bit of paper; before the availability of inexpensive commercial matches, the spill would be used to transfer a flame from the fireplace, such as to light a candle or pipe. Cylindrical spill vases holding the prepared spills were conveniently placed on the fireplace mantel. During the Victorian era, spill vases became ever more decorative and figurative spill vases often are found in pairs. However, by the time these beach belles were produced, the abundance of inexpensive matches had long made spills, and the vases that held them, unnecessary. But the fashion of matching or complementary figural vases to adorn a mantel or shelf continued.
Thursday, January 16, 2020
I have not been posting because I was in the midst of purchasing a new home and then moving and unpacking. But as things have settled down and I am settling in, I will try to restart my bi-weekly posts. This nubile nude reclines on her original box, which is padded and covered in golden brocade. Her original light brown mohair wig is adorned with a fringe of fine golden-brown feathers and her pink slippers have molded, but undecorated, straps. Her graceful hands are exceptionally delicate and detailed. Of excellent bisque, this luscious lass is 5.5 inches long. There are no visible marks. One wonders what sort of elegant treat or treasure once resided in this beautiful box!
On the bottom of the box is round gold and white paper label reading "Gump's 268 Post St. San Francisco." Gump’s started in San Francisco as a frame and mirror store in 1861, a partnership between Solomon Gump and his brother-in-law, Davis Hausmann. Gump subsequently bought out Hausmann's interest in the firm and in 1871 was joined by his brother Solomon, the business becoming "S & G Gump: Mirrors, Mouldings, and Paintings." As newly minted millionaires from the gold rush started shopping for fancy goods to furnish their new mansions, the Gump brothers began to specialize in lines of fine quality luxury goods. Following the San Francisco earthquake, the Gumps had to rebuild. In an advertisement from the June 12, 1909, edition of "The Argonaut," S & G Gump Company extended a "cordial invitation to the public to visit them at their new quarters at 246-268 Post Street." Although most sources I found refer to the location as 250 Post Street, I have come across references to the 268 Post Street address up through the 1930s. This helps date this beauty on her box to the early 1900s. Operating under the motto, "Good taste costs no more," the store became known for its carefully curated offerings of luxury goods and was particularly renown for its collections of Oriental art and antiques. In 1995, after losing its lease, the store moved to 135 Post Street. Gump's filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and closed its store on December 23, 2018. However, in December of 2019, Gump's was reborn at the 250 Post Street location.
Although she has long lost the bottom of her box and whatever label it may have had, this 3.5 inch tall voluptuous bisque belle came from the same source. She appears to be from the same maker as the lounging lady, with the same finely-sculpted hands and pink slippers with molded, but unpainted, ties. Her box lid is covered in almost identical golden paisley brocade. The long reddish-brown mohair wig appears to be a replacement, but she retains her original skirt of embroidered tan, reddish-brown, and gold fabric trimmed with tarnished gold lace. She also carries no visible marks.
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Another old catalog page, this one from a partial catalog from an unidentified wholesaler or exporter. With descriptions in German, French, English, and Spanish, the catalog offered a wide variety of toys and dolls and appears to date from the 1920s.
At the bottom right corner of the page is a trio of bathing beauties.
The accompanying price page does not contain any specific description of the little bathers, lumping them in with a group of googly girl dolls and one oddly-placed religious figure as "Fancy dolls of papier mache, painted eyes." There is a notation for "04329," the seated bathing belle with the paper parasol, stating "Silk," apparently describing the ribbon that appears to be tied around her waist. The other two little ladies, "04330" and "04331" have no notations, which suggests that their costumes are molded and painted.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Another old catalog featuring bathing belles, this one from S.K. Novelty Company in Brooklyn, New York. Its offerings are the type of composition cuties and quasi-Kewpies found on carnival midways, where barkers urged rubes to, "Step right up and win a Kewpie doll for the little lady."
The catalog opens with "Sweetums, the Belle of the Bathers." The price of $11.50 seems extremely extravagant, but it is for a dozen dolls, as made clear on other pages. The catalog states this bather is bisque, but I suspect it is a "bisque finish" advertised on subsequent pages. In the late 1910s into the 1920s, there was a fad for comic googly-eyed bathing beauty figurines. In 1919, Playthings, a magazine for the toy trade, announced that the novelty vogue of the year was wide-eyed "beach dolls" made of wood fiber or composition. The most famous of these flirtatious flapper figures was "Splash Me," copyrighted in 1918 by Genevieve Pfeffer.
Another starry-eyes seaside siren is "Miss Neptune, Jr.," the "Star of the Sea." She appears to be Sweetums in a different color scheme. Perhaps her fuller wavy wig is the reason for the dollar difference in the price.
Next is a cadre of composition Kewpie doll knockoffs gaudily gowned in bits of silk, ribbon, and "marabough" (I think the copywriter meant marabou), some with "wonderful" or "beautiful" wigs. No doubt the material was of the cheapest quality and the costumes simple, but they certainly added to the doll's commercial appeal.
The page featuring "Lovie, Jr." clarifies that the price is for a dozen. Lovie could be purchased with or without a wig, the bald version being $2 cheaper by the dozen.
The copywriter lays it on pretty thick for "Lotus Flower." Note that little Lotus is advertised as having a "bisque finish."
Lovie, Jr. reappears, now in a knit bathing suit and cap.
Another offering in a knit bathing outfit, as well as a mohair wig.
The hand-written margin note states that, "This is absolutely the largest novelty doll in the world." She is certainly sizable at 18 inches tall and could be ordered with or without a wig.
The final page declares that the company has many other items not listed in the catalog. It proudly proclaims the company's motto, "Aeroplane service and subway prices."