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.

Friday, November 8, 2019

You Spin Me Right 'Round

You spin me right 'round, baby
Right 'round like a record, baby
Right 'round, 'round, 'round
You spin me right 'round, baby
Right 'round like a record, baby
Right 'round, 'round, 'round

David Burns, 1984

Another example of naughty novelty jewelry is this frisky fob. A fob was a short chain, ribbon, or charm that attached to a man's pocket watch and hung outside of the vest or pants pocket where the watch was tucked, making it easier for a man to extract his watch to check the time. Such fobs were a fashionable accessory for men through the early 1900s, when timepieces moved from the pocket to the wrist.  Dating from the Edwardian period this fob is termed a spinner, as it features a disk that spins freely in its frame.  One side of the disk features an engraving of a male bather wading out into the waves.

The other side portrays a bathing belle who has just emerged from the changing hut in the background and is about to dive into the surf.  Clearly these two swimming enthusiasts were meant for each other, but how will they ever meet?  Well, just spin the disk. . .

and they quickly strike up a very intimate friendship. 

The human eye and brain can only process 10 to 12 separate images per second. When viewing a sequence of still images in quicker succession, the viewer sees what appears to be a continuous moving image. Swiftly spinning the disk tricks the eye into melding the two quickly flickering images into one. Cartoon animation is achieved through this same optical illusion. Unfortunately, this illusion does not trick my camera as well as it does my eyes, so I had to engage in a little photo manipulation to achieve the image that I, but not my camera, perceived.

Of silver-toned metal, the fob is 2 inches long and is unmarked.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Early Halloween Treat

Halloween means dressing up in costumes, or in the case of this little treat, dressing down in a barely-there exotic ensemble of molded beads and jewels.  Although mainly decorated in soft creams and browns to resemble an ivory carving, her exotic attire is emphasized with gilt and accents of red and blue. By the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann, she is 5.75 inches long and incised underneath "9748."  This 9000 series was used by Galluba on many of its luscious harem ladies in exiguous beaded attire.  A similar sultana from this series appeared earlier on this blog.

A close up of her face shows the typical Galluba features, such as eyes with intaglio pupils highlighted with a dot of white and softly smiling slightly parted lips, but done entirely in shades of brown.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Waxing Elegant

Although wax half dolls and bathing belles were popular decorative items in the early 1900s, few have survived.  Bisque and china will certainly shatter or chip if dropped or handled roughly, but otherwise can stand the vicissitudes of time and temperature.  A waxen lass, whether solid or a wax coat over plaster or chalk, has a far more ephemeral epidermis, easily scratched or dented, subject to cracking in cold weather or softening on hot days.  The features painted on top of the wax tend to rub off or fade over time.  This original catalog from the Germany company of Ernst Scheddin offering  tea doll heads ("teepuppenköpfen") and wax figures ("wachsfiguren") shows the delightful variety and the delicate beauty of these vulnerable belles.  I have not been able to find any background information of this factory, but the catalog most likely dates from the late 1910s though the 1920s.

The introduction states that while the catalog displays the factory's standard articles, there are many variations and, on request, similar figures can be created in wax or chalk.

The top row of "tea doll heads" have a wax coating and can be ordered with a smooth or matte finish. The second row are of wax.

The top picture displays wax heads for assembling dolls or pincushions, while the lower offers cute chubby cherubs in wax.

Wax half dolls with movable full arms and wonderful wigs.

"Aktfiguren," a fancy way of saying nekkid ladies. . . .

Wax figures offered dressed with bits or ribbon or displayed on fancy pincushions.

These are supplemental pages offering additional decorative damsels.

Certainly my favorite page, displaying bathing beauties both nude ("nackt") or painted with glitter ("flitterbemalung"), some posing with paper parasols.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Yet More Barrison Sisters. . . .

The naughty bawdy vaudeville career of the Five Barrison Sisters was relatively brief, but, as can been seen on this blog, they were the inspiration for bevies of risqué bisque novelties.  This example has an exceptionally pretty face.  The detailed painting of the slightly intaglio eyes and the overall fine quality suggest to me that this lovely lass is by the German firm of Ernst Bohne Söhne.  Unmarked, she is 3.5 inches tall.

Although there may be a question concerning her maker, there is none regarding her identity.   Her pose and costume was clearly copied from the second sister on the left pictured on this 1895 cabinet card.

No doubt from the same maker and inspired by the same photograph, this bisque belle is 4 inches high.  She is the three-dimensional doppelgänger of the sister pictured on the far left.

She copies the pose even to the cigarette between her rosy lips.  However, in this case, the cigarette is actually a small metal tube.

The tube extends down into the figure's hollow interior.  It appears plausible that if a cone of smoldering incense was placed underneath, she would appear to smoke.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Stick It!

This intriguing reverse intaglio stickpin is another example of naughty novelty jewelry.  The image of a curvaceous diving belle on a rocky outcrop was carved into the flat back of a clear rock crystal cabochon and then painted with fine brushes, giving this marvelous miniature a glowing three-dimensional effect.  The carved cabochon is set in a 10 karat gold frame, sealed in the back to protect the delicate painting.  The stickpin itself is just 3.35 inches long.

Carving and painting these tiny treasures required great skill.  The technique originated in Belgium in the 1860s, but gained great popularity in Victorian England. The crystals can be found in a wide variety of jewelry for both men and women, including cuff links, watch fobs, brooches, and bracelets. The subjects were as varied as the settings, from sports such as hunting and fishing to natural themes such as flowers, butterflies, and birds. Horses and equestrian themes were popular, as were pampered pets such as dogs and cats.  However, rather risqué subjects such as this voluptuous bathing beauty are rare.  This type of carved crystal jewelry has been christened "Essex crystal" by antique dealers and collectors. The name appears to come from a mistaken attribution to William Essex (1784-1869). Essex was a skilled painter of miniature enamel work and was appointed as enamel-painter to Queen Victoria, but there is no evidence that Essex ever created such crystal gems.  These remarkable crystal creations were made through the early 1900s, but were replaced by mass-produced glass and plastic imitations, often in the form of inexpensive charms, which came into the market in the 1920s. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Among my Souvenirs. . . .

Romance comes to all in Summer, Spring or Fall 
It came the day that I met you 
And though you may seem a sweet and happy dream 
Yet all the time you knew it was untrue 
There's nothing left for me of days that used to be 
I live in memory among my souvenirs

Some letters tied with blue, a photograph or two 
I see a rose from you among my souvenirs

words by Edgar Leslie, music by Horatio Nicholls, 1927

This tiny brass souvenir album from France certainly contains "a photograph or two."  Just 1.5 inches tall and one inch high, it is beautifully embossed with an art nouveau pattern.  

Delightfully detailed, the edges are molded to appear as the edges of the interior pages.

It opens to reveal an octet of early photographs of very buxom beauties in various poses "plastique."

Although at first place these luscious ladies appear to be nude, they are in fact clad in form-fitting maillots.  

I have seen some of these same images reproduced on "naughty" French postcards from around 1900, such as this bejeweled belle, who appeared on a postcard signed "Reutlinger." Léopold-Émile Reutlinger took over the Parisian photography Studio Reutlinger from his father and became renown for his portraits of the most famous, and infamous, beauties of the Belle Epoque, from opera singers and actresses to performers from the stages of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergères.  He also produced artistic erotic pictures reproduced widely on postcards.

Another Reutlinger picture, this one a portrait of Caroline Otéro.  "La Belle," as she was known, was a Spanish actress and dancer who starred in Les Folies Bergère in the early 1900s.  A great beauty famed for her hypnotic dark eyes and curvaceous physique, she was one of the last great French courtesans.  Although blurred,  the Reutlinger signature and "Paris" are just visible in the lower right corner.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Beach Blanket Bunco?

Bundled up in a beach blanket and bonnet, this lovely laughing bathing belle seems a bit covered up for a day of sand and sun. . . .

However, her hinged towel opens to reveal her very brief bathing suit and bare bosom.  Of gilded spelter, this naughty novelty is 5.5 inches long and 3 inches high.

Underneath she is marked "JB 2039." “JB” stands for Jennings Brothers Manufacturing Company, founded in 1890 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The company designed and created metal decorative objects, such as bookends, clocks, candelabras, and boxes. It went out of business in the 1950s and the original molds and casts were sold. I have noticed over the past few decades that this same piece is showing up rather frequently cast in bronze and attributed to the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann (or Bergman), which produced fine quality bronze sculptures, patinated or cold-painted, in a wide variety of subjects, from innocent animals to exotic Arabs to erotic scenes. These bronze versions are variously stamped with a blurred Bergmann urn mark or "Namgreb" (some erotic authentic Bergmann pieces were signed "Nam Greb, which is "Bergman," minus an "n," spelled backwards. Typically it is written as a faux signature with two separate words in graceful cursive).  They are rather roughly cast, with flaws in the bronze, and the sharp details seen in the Jennings Brothers belle are lost or blurred, such as the coils in the hair, the folds in the blanket and ribbing on the bathing suit, the delicate sculpting of the face, and the exposed nipples. The cold painting is heavy, garish, and rather sloppy.  I know that a bronze version of this belle is currently being produced by at least European manufacturer, stamped with the Bergmann urn mark; although I have seen similar bronze bathers offered for well over $1,000 on, you can buy this one for a mere 169 euros (the gallery also offers a number of other recast Bergmann molds). 

Upon the death of Bergmann's son, the company's molds and remaining stock were sold in 1954 to Karl Fuhrmann and Company. Currently, there are high-quality reproductions from Bergmann's molds are being cast in Austria, and there are also poorer quality copies and outright fakes coming out of Europe and Asia.  Bergmann bronzes are highly collectible, especially the naughtier subjects, so unfortunately there is a lot of incentive to peddle recasts and fakes as originals.  Although it is possible Bergmann copied the Jennings Brothers or the Jennings Brothers introduced a less expensive version of a Bergmann bronze, my suspicion, taking into account the large number and lesser quality of the bronze versions, is that they are modern pieces with dubious signatures, not authentic antiques.

 A close up of the Jennings Brothers bather shows the nice sharp details, missing on the bronze versions.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

How Charming!

This antique charm features a rather prim-looking woman.  Out of gold toned metal it is just 1.5 inches high.  She appears to be rather upset and stressed, possibly because she is looking for her missing pussycat.  Where could Pussy be?  Here, Pussy, Pussy. . . .

There is that naughty Pussy!  

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Squeeze Me, Tease Me. . . .

She goes, squeeze me, come on and squeeze me
Come on and tease me like you do
I'm so in love with you
Squeeze Box, The Who  (1975)

This unusual powder dish features a red-haired flapper being courted by a concertina playing Pierrot.  Her skirt forms a round dish that would have held face powder and the puff would have no doubt been swansdown topped with a pair of shapely legs as a handle (in this case, the "puff" is a replica made of marabou and a wood dowel).  Of excellent china, these musical paramours are 6 inches wide and 4 inches tall.

Although unmarked, this piece can be attributed to the German firm of Fasold and Stauch, as both the Pierrot and his main squeeze have the company's signature elongated amber eyes surrounded by smoky gray eyeshadow.   The lovely lady's rather sultry expression and swooning pose suggests that she is getting tired of the musical overture and is ready to move on to the main act. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Like the Cherries Ripe

Her lips are like the cherries ripe
That sunny walls from Boreas screen.
They tempt the taste and charm the sight.
                                         --The Lass of Cessnock Banks, Robert Burns

Well, this leafy lass is certainly proudly displaying something ripe, rosy, and round, but they are not her lips! This prurient pin dish is from the German firm of Schafer and Vater.  Of excellent sharp bisque, this naughty novelty is beautifully sculpted, from the luscious lady's tousled blond tresses to the realistically modeled leaves.  Unmarked, this cheery miss and her extra-large cherries is 6.5 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


This lovely lady cuddling her kitty while sitting on a settee is actually a smoking set.  Of excellent bisque, this unusual piece is 6.5 inches high, 5.5 inches long, and is unmarked. 

There are three holders.  The one molded to the end of the settee is a match striker; it would have held wooden safety matches, which could be struck on its horizontally ribbed surface.  The oval basket by the lass's shapely legs is for burnt matches and the tall container in the back, molded to look like a brick wall, would have proffered cigarettes or cigars.  No doubt this piece was made to appeal to men, who would have been only proper consumers of tobacco products when it was made, which would explain the lady's charming state of dishabille.  Perhaps she once adorned a tobacconist's counter, a table in a men's club, or some other early version of the man cave. 

These two figurines featuring the same theme of a lady lounging with a feline friend appeared earlier on this blog.  Although much smaller than the smoking set (the larger of these two figurines, the pretty miss in pink, is only 3.75 inches tall), they certainly seem to all be by the same maker.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Neither Bad Nor Bold

I have previously posted about Grace Drayton's popular parody of the painting "September Morn" by French artist Paul Chabas. Drayton, best known for her pleasingly plump Campbell Soup Kids, portrayed a pudgy and wide-eyed little Miss Morn, sometimes accompanied by the caption, "Oh! please don't think I'm bad or bold, Cause where it's deep, it's awful cold!" This 6.5 inch tall version of Drayton's bare baby bathing belle is made from excellent bisque and is superbly decorated.

A close up of the face shows the wonderful details of the features, including tiny finely painted eyelashes and highlighted eyes.

On the back of the base is a blurred facsimile of Drayton's signature, "G.G. Drayton."  Although otherwise unmarked, it resembles similar pieces by the German company Schafer and Vater.