Postcard Image

Postcard Image
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, April 8, 2021

Pin Up


This swan-diving sea siren is a vintage brass and enamel pin. It closes with an early version of the modern round safety catch, introduced in 1930. This would coincide with the style of her swimwear; the belt and longer legs extending past the top of the thigh are typical of 1930s bathing suits. This brass bathing beauty's sleek curves echo the Streamline Moderne style that emerged from Art Deco design in the 1930s, with its emphasis on clean curving aerodynamic lines that symbolized modernity and progress.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

A Glimpse of Stocking

comical aspect
                                                        In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
But now, God knows
Anything goes

Cole Porter, "Anything Goes," 1934

Another member of the toothsome toothpick tootsies troupe, this nubile art nouveau nymph lifts the flap of her flowing robe to expose her bare hip and a glimpse of a rather un-nymphlike black stocking. Of excellent bisque and beautifully modeled, this 5.25 inch tall lissome lass is from the same mystery maker as her sensuous sisters, all attached to a precolored bisque toothpick or match holder of some form (in this case, a tall handled basket). She is marked only with a freehand "16" in black under the basket. Although she resembles some of the black-stockinged belles by the German firm of Schafer and Vater, her beauty is more generic, lacking the unique character of Schafer's laughing ladies, and frankly, the quality and finishing of these toothpick tootsies tends to be better and more consistent than that of Schafer. Although Schafer was perhaps the epitome of creativity and comedy among the German porcelain manufacturers, its quality control was often rather lax.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Something Fishy

An earlier post on this blog featured flapper bathing belles inspired by the works of illustrator Anne Harriet Fish, which included a Willam Goebel perfume bottle with a pair of pretty bathers. I have since acquired another example of this scarce bottle with its even scarcer top, which is shaped like a black and pink parasol.

Friday, February 19, 2021

On a Pedestal

Certainly any lady this lovely deserves to be on a pedestal. This bisque belle by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann comes attached to her original stand, which is covered in golden velvet and adorned with real seashells. No doubt she once wore a bathing suit of silk net or lace, now lost to time. I suspect she may have been a high-end souvenir for an exclusive spa or seaside resort. The entire assembly is 7.5 inches high (the lass alone is 6.5 inches).  She wears molded white ballet-style bathing slippers and is marked with a blurred 400 number on the back her base of molded foliage.

The unusual base is of a deep green hard substance (possibly pasteboard), with an incised diamond pattern underneath. I do not know if the base is a creation of Galluba or a jobber who purchased figurines from the company for use in its own designs. 


Monday, February 1, 2021

Friday, January 29, 2021

Undine in Orange

This marvelous mermaid must be part goldfish, as her lower body is clad in deep orange scales. Of excellent bisque, this sinuous sea siren is 4 inches long. By the German firm of Willian Goebel, she is stamped underneath "Bavaria" in black and incised with the William Goebel crown, as well as "NG 16."

Goebel produced these finned femme fatales in a variety of eye-catching colors. Here she poses with the same model, pictured in my second book, who is gorgeous in green. They both have the same marks and the vivid coloring of their scales and tails was applied with an airbrush.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

En-meshed. . .

 . . . which is certainly what any collector would be by this delicate dancer in the remains of her original net costume. She is part of a series by the German firm of Hertwig and Company of sinuous show-girls in exiguous outfits of black mesh. Of excellent bisque, she is 5.5 inches tall and is unmarked. The pedestal behind her is actually a small vase or match holder. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Madame Chair

After a detour via bronze, this post returns to the theme of bawdy bisque. This lissome lady appears to have forgotten her gavel, among other things. An unusual seated figure, she is by my favorite maker, A. W. Fr. Kister. As it typical of this company, everything is of the highest quality, from the flawless bisque to the superb sculpting. She is 6.5 inches tall and has her original mohair wig. 

There is a channel through her hips that could be used to attach her to a pincushion. Her current seat is an antique dollhouse chair.  The slightly molded and tinted nipples are a unique characteristic of Kister's beautiful bisque belles. . . 

but her identity is further confirmed, as underneath she is incised with the cross-hatch "S" mark of this company. 


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Wanna See My . . .Lady?

A number of posts on this blog have featured female figures with strategically placed kitty-cats, a double-entendre of "pussy" as an affectionate name for a cat and as a vulgar reference to female genitalia. The Barrison Sisters built an entire vaudeville career in the 1890s by showing off their "pussies" on stage. This bawdy bronze is a slightly different play on pussy. A cute kitten sits on a marble base. Its realistic fluffy coat and appealing face are superbly sculpted, highlighted with a deep golden patina. Just 5 inches high, but with substantial heft, it could have served as a paperweight for a gentleman's desk.

Why a gentleman? Well, this prurient pussy swings open to expose a kneeling nude lady, smugly smiling as she clutches a cache of jewels. She has a subtler golden patina than her feline friend, and her hair and gems are a softly-tinted rose.

Almost obscured by the curls in the fur, "AUSTRIA" is stamped on the back rim of the cat. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Austria, particularly in Vienna, was famous for its foundries and ateliers producing finely crafted artistic bronzes. The works covered a wide variety of genres, including classical studies, animals and nature, comic subjects, Orientalist images, and even erotic images. Often the naughty bits were concealed in a seemingly innocuous subject, only to be revealed by a push of a button or lifting a up a piece of metal drapery. There is a wide variety of these Austria sculptures  concealing salacious secrets, with nubile nudes hidden within an assortment of owls, mice, sphinxes, mummy cases, Eastern idols, and, perhaps most appropriately, an iron maiden.


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Another belle in bronze, but far less brazen than the previously posted pair. This demure damsel is "Innocence" or "L'innocence" by Demétre Chiparus (1886-1947), one of the iconic sculptors of the art deco period. Often inspired by dancers and performers from the Ballet Russes and the French stage, as well as archeological discoveries in Egypt, Chiparus was renown for his chryselephantine sculptures, perfectly capturing the pose and facial expression of his subject. Carved from ivory and clad in a rather negligible negligee of cold-painted bronze, this modest maiden is 7 inches high and stands on a 3-inch tall marble base. The skilled sculptor managed to make the metal seem to cling to, and subtly emphasize, her soft curves. 

Her side-ways glance and sly smile seem a little bit too knowing, but in this country one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. 

Chiparus' signature is faintly engraved on the edge of the base by her feet.

Chiparus was born in Romania. After studying sculpture in Italy, in 1912 he traveled to Paris to continue his studies. He began with realistic works of animals and beguiling portraits of children, but by the 1920s he had created his signature style that would become synonymous with art deco sculpture. Chiparus worked closely with the Edmond Etling and Cie Foundry and his works were often displayed in the Etling specialty store. Chiparus sold the reproduction rights to the foundry and the same work can be found in a variety of sizes and materials. Mademoiselle Innocence can be found in chryselephantine, like this example. or completely cast in bronze or carved in ivory. However, Chiparus ensured that any creations carrying his name were of the highest quality and even in their day, his works were expensive and exclusive.

Because of his extraordinary talent and his renown as one of the premier sculptors in the art deco style, Chiparus' works are in high demand, and consequently there are a lot of fakes out there. Most of the copies are cast completely in bronze. Although these copies may carry his signature, they have lost his skilled touch. The fine details and chasing are lost or blurred, the poses stiff, the gestures clumsy, and any painted patina too heavy and garish. There have been attempts in the past to recreate Chiparus' chryselephantine creations, typically using fossilized mammoth ivory. The Arnold Quinn Studio produced a number of chryselephantine copies of some of Chiparus' most iconic images. Many years ago, I was in Las Vegas for a convention and came upon a gallery offering works from this studio. Of patinated bronze and carved ivory, the works were on elaborate bases of onyx and marble. They were very expensive and the salesman was quite coy regarding whether the works were originals or copies. Although of higher quality than the typical Chiparus copies, compared to the original carvings that graced Chiparus' creations, the ivory faces were flat and mask-like, the hands stiff, and the arms and legs graceless and lacking any musculature or anatomical detail. The ivory often did not fit smoothly with the bronze, suggesting to me that it was carved far from the foundry, probably in another country with craftsmen copying a model. The salesman would or could not tell me where the ivory was carved, but the shapes of the faces and style of the expressions reminded me of ivory sculpture from India. Although it appears that the studio is now defunct, these works, often with a fake Etling foundry mark, show up periodically at auction advertised as authentic Chiparus. In the past, high-end antiques galleries in New York and Florida have been sued over claims that they misrepresented reproduction Chiparus artworks as authentic originals. Chiparus sculptures also show up at fraudulent estate sales known as "house packing," when unscrupulous dealers rent an empty house, cram it full of recast bronzes and giclee prints with the signatures of "big name" artists, as well as modern Oriental rugs and Chinese import porcelain, and then try to pass off this conglomeration of fakes and forgeries as a collector's estate. Instead of innocent until proven guilty, when coming upon a sculpture attributed to Chiparus, the best assumption is fake until proven authentic.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Brazen Behavior!

The image of a handsome beach beau courting a beauteous bathing belle who is seated in a wicker beach chair has appeared before on this blog. Of cold-painted bronze, this well-detailed statuette is just 4 inches tall.  The scene starts out innocently enough, with the man appearing to introduce himself with a gentlemanly bow. . .  

However, the object of his attention and affection is not fastened to her beach chair. Turn her over, and it is revealed that the bottom of her bathing suit is unfastened as well.

The figures are cast in poses that allow them to be placed in some pretty prurient positions. 

Although unmarked, this very bawdy bronze is most likely Austrian. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Vienna became the center of many foundries and ateliers producing finely crafted artistic bronzes.The most famous is the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann, which produced detailed bronze sculptures from the 1860s until 1936. Along with miniature animals, genre scenes, comic subjects, and Orientalist images, these foundries often produced a sizable variety of erotic bronzes. The two-part erotic pieces are scarce. The most commonly found feature a satyr and nymph who can be placed in a variety of positions, from innocent to indecent (some of these mythological couplings are currently being reproduced). Another rare piece features a prone nude aboriginal man blowing on the beginnings of a campfire while a lady friend sits nearby; in this piece, both figures are free from the base and can be fitted together so that they appear to be lighting a completely different type of fire. This is the first two-part naughty bathing scene theme I have seen. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Pillow Talk

Posing provocatively on her pillow, this extraordinarily lovely lady is by my favorite maker of bathing belles and nubile nudes, A. W. Fr. Kister. She is from the company's series of languid beauties cast in creamy white bisque, carefully highlighted with subtle washes of pale golden-yellow, giving the impression of a sculpture carved in ivory or marble. She displays the superb realistic sculpting, graceful pose, and expressive features typical of Kister.  Of the finest bisque, this figurine is 5.25 inches long and 3.5 inches high. 

Under the cushion, the piece is incised with the cross-hatched "S" of Kister and "11281."

Here she appears in the company catalog. Note that the item number is identical to the incised numeral on the figurine.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Another Tiny Treasure from William Goebel

This china cutie in a canoe is another diminutive bathing belle by William Goebel, the shallow boat-shaped bowl suitable for holding rings or small trinkets.  Goebel created a series of these Lilliputian lasses, either adorning utilitarian trinket dishes or pincushion tops or simply as itty-bitty bathing beauties. The miniature maiden is a mere 1.5 inches tall and the dish is 4.5 inches long. 

Goebel may have liked small bathers, but it was big on markings. Underneath the dish carries the Goebel crowned "G" and "W," both incised and in blue.  It is further incised "RF 666" (this dainty dish, posted previously on this blog, also has a 600 number) and "Dep," as well as being stamped in black "Germany." There is also a red freehand "W."  


Thursday, October 8, 2020

This Goebel Girl Gets Around. . . .

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

Passing with Flying Colors

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

The Long and Short of It

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

Hot Seat

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

Another Zaiden Maiden

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.