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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All in a Bustle

This beautiful belle hides a secret under her hinged bustle. . .

. . . which, when lifted, reveals a brown beetle crawling up her bare bottom. The beetle is actually molded, not merely painted on. The painting on this high-quality porcelain piece is of the finest, with delicately hand painted floral designs alternating with decorative designs and gilt touches. Not visible in the picture is the dangling garter ribbon at her raised left knee. The quality of the decoration is evident in her hair, with its elaborate tiers of curls striated with individually painted gray lines, and her finely painted aristocratic features. This china lady is 7.25 inches tall. She is an uncommon and hard to find figurine. However, she is also being reproduced. The new piece has lost the many fine painted details of the old, especially the hair, which lacks the delicate striations, and the facial features, which are very simply and blandly painted. The elaborate handpainted designs on the dress are reduced to alternating stripes in the new version, which carries a mark with cyrillic (Russian) lettering. The repro also does not have the garter ribbon. But perhaps the most important detail missing from the reproduction is the bug on her buttocks!

A previous owner helpfully looked up her mark. Carl Thieme did establish a porcelain factory in Saxony in Germany in 1872, and used this mark, along with several others. Thieme died in 1888, and in 1901 the factory began using an "SP Dresden" mark for the Saxonian Porcelain Factory. The factory is still in existence and their current figurines certainly resemble this elegantly erotic lady. I have also seen this figurine with a beehive mark that was also sometimes used by Thieme.

Another lovely lady whose hinged bustle lifts up to expose a rather voluptuous pair of buttocks. I have never seen this particular bustle belle before. She is superbly modeled, from the ruffles in her cap to her gracefully gesturing hands. There is an applied rose, carefully built up of tiny porcelain petals, tucked into her bosom and at her feet are a variety of bright applied flowers. Her light brown hair has darker fine striations, giving the appearance of individual tresses, and the floral design on her underskirt is all hand painted. Her face is particularly pretty, with finely painted features, including brown eyes and parted lips.

Although this piece is marked with the gold anchor used by Chelsea porcelain factory from 1756 to 1769, this mark was widely copied by porcelain companies throughout Europe. While she is beautifully modeled and decorated, the coloring and style are not that of a 18th century figurine. The main indicator that this piece is NOT Chelsea is that it is not modeled of the soft paste porcelain produced by that factory. China first produced what is called hard paste or true porcelain, a mixture of a white clay called kaolin and feldspar. The resulting slip is plastic and can be modeled or molded into intricate shapes or the thinnest vases and, fired at high temperatures, produces a hard, bright white porcelain with smooth, fine grain. The Chinese guarded the secret of their porcelain, which was highly sought after by Europeans, who referred to it as “white gold.” Europeans tried to discover the formula for porcelain, and in the late 1500s, in Italy, soft paste porcelain was created. Soft paste porcelain does not vitrify like hard paste porcelain and must be fired at lower temperatures. It has a more creamy background and is more porous and appears less glassy than hard paste. Soft paste porcelain is also not as plastic as hard paste porcelain and is more difficult to model. Hard paste porcelain was first produced at Meissen in the early 1700s (for the fascinating story of the discovery of the formula for hard paste porcelain by an imprisoned alchemist, check out the book the The Arcanum by Janet Gleeson). Although most people now use the terms china and porcelain changeably, some collectors argue that porcelain should be applied only to the finest, most translucent, high-fired wares.

If she is not Chelsea, who made her? One possibility is the French company of Samson Edmé et Cie was established by Edmé Samson, also known as Samson the Imitator, which produced high quality copies of early Meissen, Dresden, Chelsea, and other famous porcelains, up to the early 1900s. However, I suspect she is a fine quality piece produced by a German manufacturer, sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s. But, I did not add her to my collection because I thought she was a rare piece of Chelsea, I acquired her because she is NAUGHTY!

The is a Japanese copy of the first bustle belle. Although unmarked, the facial painting, the orangish blushing, and the decal flowers and painting all point to a Japanese manufacturer.

Anyone lifting her bustle hoping for a peek at some callipygian charms will be sorely disappointed, because she is hollow!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fake Galluba and Hofmann Bathing Beauties

This bisque bathing belle has been appearing for years in antiques markets and online auctions. She is something of a lady of mystery. She is made of tinted bisque and has a uneven, and sometimes shiny, complexion. The bisque is rather rough, so it does not have the appearance of new bisque, and the painting is appropriate for an old piece. She often has a black long wig, but has also been found bald or in various outfits.

She is clearly a copy of this lissome and lovely Galluba and Hofmann lady. This genuine Galluba has the excellent bisque, flawless pale complexion, and exquisite workmanship that are the hallmarks of an authentic Galluba beauty. The modeling on the copy is not as crisp as on the original, which suggests the copy either was made from a worn mold or molded from an existing piece.

The face on the copy is rather well done. . .

but does not match the delicate and detailed features of the true Galluba. The intaglio eyes with deep pupils and white highlights are standard for Galluba. The copy does not have intaglio eyes, giving her a rather flat, vacant look. Whoever is making the copy is clearly using the Galluba face as a template.

Once it is set next to the extraordinary original, it is easy to distinguish the copy.

Mundial Company of Belgium is now producing its own version of this Galluba model. The facial painting and finishing on the Mundial copy of low quality, but could fool honest dealers and collectors who have not had a chance to handle the scarce and exquisite original. Mundial is also producing the figurine with painted stockings and a mask. Mundial has added to its already extensive line of half dolls, bathing beauties, and all bisque dolls, and all collectors and dealers should check out the newest catalogue website. So far, it appears the Mundial still continues to fail to clearly mark its copious copies. However, many of the pieces it produces, because they were made from molds taken from the antique originals, carry old numbers and marks. The peices are also often made look worn and dirty, giving these new items the look of authentic age. These new "old" items are appearing in antiques markets, shops, shows, and online auctions, where they are often offered as antique.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Italian Half Doll by Richard Ginori?

In 1997, my parents spent the summer in Florence, Italy, where my father was teaching a summer law course. My mother found this exquisite pincushion doll in a small antique shop near their apartment in Santa Croce Square.

She does not resemble any half dolls by known German or French makers. Her facial painting is very unusual, with a grayish lavender shading around her eyes, as well as shading between her parted lips. The eyes have an upper lid line in black, while the lower is red, and the blue eyes have large black pupils and an iris outlined in a dark color. Her blonde hair has darker brushstrokes, giving the illusion of individual tresses. The fine porcelain has a very smooth creamy color, with darker shading between her breasts and fingers. Although she was awarded a blue ribbon at an annual convention of the United Federation of Doll Clubs, no dealer or collector I have shown her to has been able to identify her maker.

Some time back, at the Pottery and Glass forum on eBay, a fellow eBayer put up a beautiful female porcelain figurine for identification. I immediately saw the striking resemblance between this figurine and my half doll. The figurine was marked "Italy" and with a crowned "G," which was identified as the mark of Richard Ginori. I posted a picture of my half doll, and the other participants affirmed the remarkable resemblance. One of the participants, Walter Del Pellegrino, co-author of the book Italian Pottery Marks from Cantagalli to Fornasetti, stated that in his opinion this half doll has all the characteristics of being manufactured by Ginori. He also said that Ginori has a museum in Florence that includes an archive of factory catalogues and documents.

I then began a search for my own Ginori figurine I could use as a comparison piece for my half doll. I quickly found that the fine quality figurines are not common and they can be quite pricey. Finally, I secured this delicate damsel at a reasonable price because her slender neck has been broken and reglued. She is the same mold and model as the figurine in the eBay discussion, although the painting on my figurine is a bit more elaborate and she carries the crowned "N" mark without the Ginori name, which the company used on its products made in Doccia, Florence, from 1830 to 1890.

She has the same creamy ivory complexion as my half doll, with the darker sharing between the breasts and the fingers. The shaping of the arched eyebrows is identical and both pieces have the same shadowing around the eyes. The unusual painting of the eyes, with the black upper lid, red lower lid, and blue iris outlined in a darker color, is also the same. Both ladies have the same parted smiling lips with shading between. The hair on both figurines is overpainted with darker lines to give the illusion of individual tresses and the facial features, such as the broad foreheads and small pointed chins, also show a family resemblance.

So, is my pretty pincushion doll by Ginori? If she is, it would be a fantastic find for collectors of Italian porcelain and antique dolls, showing that Italy also produced high quality half dolls. I will be contacting the Museo Richard-Ginori della Manifattura di Doccia and asking for their help in my quest. I will update this blog if or when I receive further information.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Bevy Of Bathing Beauty Bottles

The German firm of Schafer and Vater is renown for its comic or naughty nippers in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  These novelty bottles once held a "nip" of alcohol and was often given away by saloons, liquor stores, or at carnivals as gifts or prizes.  Voluptuous bathing beauties in skin-tight swimsuits were a popular subject on Schafer's bawdy bottles.

This 5.5 tall bottle features a lithe lady moving slow and steady on the shell of her tortoise steed.  Although the blue and white bisque resembles Wedgwood jasperware, the white bas relief was not molded separately and applied to the blue background, but instead the effect was clearly created by carefully layering blue and white slip in the mold.  The bisque is excellent and the details sharply modeled.  Like many Schafer products, it carries only a number, in this case an incised “3877” on the back.

Another jasperware jug, this one featuring a bathing belle receiving a literal seal of approval (well, actually a sea lion).  Incised “3878” on back edge, this bottle is 5 inches tall. 

This 5 inch tall bisque bottle features a helpful elephant showering a smiling bathing beauty with both water and attention.  It is incised  “3877” on back.

The Schafer nippers were offered both in jasperware and tinted bisque.  This more conventional shower scene features a bathing belle rinsing off with her rather unhappy-looking canine companion.  Incised” 3864," this bottle is 8 inches tall.  

Another tinted bisque bottle, this one showing a swimmer having to deal with some very fresh seafood.  It is is incised “3876” on the back of base and is 4.5 inches tall.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Carl Scheidig Bathing Beauties

Marc and Shona Lorrin have just published Volume 7, the second to the last book of their series, The Half Doll. The book includes pictures of catalogue pages from the German firm of Carl Scheidig, established in 1906. This catalogue contains several pictures of bathing beauties

We can now identify this belle in brown as being from Scheidig. Of good bisque and nicely modeled and painted, she is 4.75 inches long and is incised underneath "6727." The catalogue number is "7485," but it is clearly the same mold. Perhaps the catalogue numbers did not correlate to the mold numbers, or the catalogue number refers to this model in a different size or treatment.

Another lovely little lady by Scheidig. The same size as her sister, this flapper is wearing a fashionable bathing suit in crisp blue and white. Underneath, she is stamped "Germany" in black and is incised "6690." The catalogue number is "7482."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fakes in France

A friend of mine traveled to Paris earlier this month and while exploring an outdoor antiques market, she came upon this display of bathing beauties. She was hesitant to buy any because I had earlier warned her about reproductions, so she snapped this picture for me instead. It is a good thing she did, because every single nude, naughty, and bathing belle in this photo is a recent reproduction by Mundial Company in Belgium. This company produces many models of reproduction baigneuses (bathing beauties and naughties), poupees (all-bisque dolls) and demi-figurines (half dolls), all copies of German originals. Some of these reproductions are made to look worn and dirty, to give these new items the look of authentic age (and also to disguise the often poor quality). Mundial does not put its own mark on any of its items, but many pieces it produces, because they were made from molds taken from the antique originals, carry old numbers and marks, and some even have spurious marks. These new "old" items are appearing in antiques markets throughout Europe, on online auctions such as eBay, and even in antique shops and at antique shows, where they are often offered as antique. Mundial continues to churn out new lines of reproductions and the quality is improving. All dealers and collectors are urged to check out the Mundial website regularly to learn about Mundial's newest "antiques."

This is one of the Mundial repros that is pictured in the Parisian flea market booth. It is a poor copy of one of the ladies from the desirable black stocking series by the German company of Schafer and Vater. To the experienced eye, the abysmal quality of the bisque, modeling, and decoration, plus the applied staining and "dirt," clearly indicate it is a fake. Although Schafer sometimes had quality control problems, even on its worst days, it would never turn out such a low quality item. However, she is certainly good enough to fool a collector or dealer who never handled the antique original. She is unmarked, but some of the Mundial ladies carry an incised number and a crude three-point crown.

This lovely lively lass with her feline friend is the real deal. Look at the fine sharp bisque, the detailed modeling, from her free-flowing curls to the fine ribbing in her stockings. Many of these delicate details were lost in the copy. The fine combmarked curls of the antique are reduced in the repro to a bunch of lumps, and the expressive face with incised lid lines of the original becomes flat and lifeless in the repro. In this original, the folds in her chemise are crisp and deep, while in the repro they are reduced to faint rolls and indentations. Here the legs are slim and shapely, with slender ankles and dainty shoes with pointed toes. In the repro, the legs look thick and clumsy. The painting in this antique piece is delicate and detailed, especially her charming face with its parted smiling lips, while that in the repro is much heavier and cruder. Schafer was rather erratic with its marks, which were stamped into the clay during the greenware stage. This nubile naughtie is marked with an incised "2863/1," but I have seen others with the incised Schafer mark of an "R" inside of a crowned sunburst.

Another Mundial copy of one of the Schafer black-stocking series. She is unmarked.

And here is the Schafer antique original for comparison. She is also unmarked.

Mundial could easily and instantly stop this wide-spread misrepresentation of its repros as antiques by simply and clearly marking its products with its company name (an incised mark would be preferable to a stamped one, as the latter could be sanded off). For years its products have been showing up in antiques markets all over Europe, so Mundial is certainly aware at this point that its products are being widely misrepresented as old. In the face of all this fraud, why does Mundial continue to fail to mark its products?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Original Beach Jams

With the summer season is passing, and many of us saying goodbye to sunny days spent on the beach, I thought I would take a look at sea-side resort wear in times past. This lithe long-legged lass wears her original one-piece beach beach pajamas, with wide flared legs and a sleeveless top. In the mid-1920s, pajamas came out of the boudoir to becoming elegant lounge, resort, and even evening wear. Such pajama sets consisted of a top and wide-legged pants, often with a matching jacket. By the 1930s, beach pajamas evolved into a one-piece jumpsuit, usually with a sleeveless or halter top and accessorized with a broad brimmed sun hat. Of fine precolored bisque, this 3.5 inch tall and long bathing belle is loop jointed at her hips and shoulders, and her elongated legs are molded to allow her to cross her legs. Her very slender body is molded in seated position with flat bottom. The 7 inch tall domed wicker beach chair has "Ostseebad Henkenhagen" written in partially obscured ink on the front bottom edge. Henkenhagen was originally a German seaside resort on the Baltic Sea, but it is now part of Poland; renamed Ustronie Morskie in 1945, its sandy beach is still a popular destination.

This picture from a 1930s Hertwig and Company catalogue displays the same slender siren, showing she was originally sold with a sun hat.

Here is her sister from the catalogue. Her beach pajamas have been lost to time, allowing us to see how she was modeled. In all my years of collecting, I have come across only these two jointed bathing beauties, suggesting that very few were made. And looking at their extremely thin and long arms and legs, many of these ladies were probably broken and discarded over the decades. She is incised "7815" on her lower back, matching the number in the catalogue, and is 3.25 inches tall when seated.

This picture shows the ladies' oddly elongated pates. The ever-thrifty Hertwig found a simple way to create the sunhats, modeling the heads so that the crown of the head did double duty as the crown of each hat. The hat itself was a simple circle of material, with the center cut out to fit over the top of the head. The raven-haired beauty has the top of her head painted green, and her blond companion retains traces of green on hers.

In 1932, American tennis champion Alice Marble caused considerable consternation when she appeared for a tennis match wearing white shorts. By the mid-1930s, shorts were becoming acceptable resort wear for fashionable females, and the one-piece beach pajamas began appearing with truncated legs. This china charmer models such a set. She is 3.5 inches high and is incised "19+34" on bottom, with "Germany" in raised letters.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Calender Girl, from 1913

In addition to collecting antique German bathing beauty figurines and related items, I also have a small collection of antique and vintage memorabilia of Austin, Texas, my hometown. So this charming calender from 1913 is a "two-fer," as it not only pictures a beautiful bathing belle, but was also issued by Nixon-Clay Commercial College of Austin.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Glasperlen and Flittergold

The German bisque companies who produced bathing beauties were always experimenting with decorative techniques which would make their products stand out from those of their many competitors.
This lovely lady has a bathing suit and hat decorated with glasperlen, also known as coralene. Hundreds of tiny glass beads were used to cover her sunhat and bathing suit, giving them a glow. Unfortunately, while such ornaments were attractive, they tended to be unstable, as the minuscule glass beads had only a tenuous hold on the underlying bisque or china. Even factory fresh items were often missing small patches, and in her travels over the decades, many of this bathing belle's glittering glasperlen have rubbed away and rolled off. However, even without such adornment, this beautiful bisque belle exudes a glow of her own. Of excellent pale bisque, with fine realistic expression and modeling, this laughing lady is 2.5 inches tall and 6 inches long. She is unmarked, but certainly is of the finest German quality.

Also once covered in coralene, this flirtatious flapper is 4.75 inches long, and 1.75 inches high. Of fine precolored bisque, she is probably by the German firm of Hertwig and Company. There are no visible marks.

Hertwig experimented with a number of decorative techniques, and this dainty dancer from this factory has her fashionable outfit covered in golden glitter, which Hertwig referred to in its catalogues as "flittergold." She is six inches tall and stands against a small vase.

It takes two to tango, and these elegant Edwardians dance the night away in gowns covered in glittering flittergold. Although Hertwig pictures a similar pair in its catalogues, I do not think these dancing damsels are by this company. Of good bisque and 5.25 inches tall, this figurine is incised “Germany 8918.”

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Exquisite Ivory Nude

I admit she is not German, not bisque, and not really a bathing beauty, but she is exquisitely lovely, and she is nude. Found in my favorite thrift shop, Next to New, this ivory bust portrays a voluptuous bare beauty emerging from a lotus.

The ivory bust is 3.5 inches tall and the wooden pedestal, which I think may be rosewood, is 3.25 inches tall. There are a few chips to the lower flower petals in the front, but, frankly, who is looking at the petals! After doing some research, I believe this stunning ivory sculpture is East Indian. I wonder if she represents the Hindu goddess, Lakshmi, who is often portrayed as sitting on or emerging from a giant lotus. Lakshmi is considered the the embodiment of beauty and grace, and this buxom belle is certainly that!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Creating a Powder Dish Puff

There are many fantastic figural powder dishes where a fluffy swansdown powder puff once formed a full fuzzy tutu for a lovely half doll as she posed in the powder. Unfortunately, over the decades, often the powder dish, the half doll, and the powder puff itself went separate ways. And while it is possible to find a suitable half doll for a base, finding the proper puff is much harder. Old swansdown puffs are scarce, expensive, and fragile and new down puffs are pricey. Plus these puffs really don't form a secure base for a valuable half doll. I have discovered an inexpensive way to both replicate the original feathery puff and securely display the half doll.

You will need wood glue, white craft glue, and a sharp craft knife. At your local craft store, buy a round wooden wheel, a round wooden dowel that will fit securely into the hole in the wheel's center, and a feather marabou boa in a color that will match your dish.

Place the dowel as high as possible inside the half doll. Slide the wheel over the dowel until it meets the base of the half doll. Mark where the dowel exits the wheel, and then cut the dowel so that it is flush with the bottom of the wheel.

Glue the dowel and base together with the wood glue and let it set. Once the glue has set, spread a layer of craft glue on top of the wheel at the base of the dowel.

Knot the end of the boa and slide it over the dowel, pushing it down on the glue. Once this has set, apply a line of craft glue around the rim of wheel, and wind the boa around the wheel, pushing it against the glue. After this dries, run a line of the glue around this marabou edge and wind more marabou around the base. Continue gluing and winding the marabou until you have a puff large enough to fit into the powder dish.

Place the finished feathery base into the dish and slide the half doll over the dowel. For more security, stick a dab of Museum Gel or glass wax under the wooden center of the base. This wonderful Pierotte powder dish is probably by the German firm of Fasold and Stauch. The powder dish is as big as it is beautiful. The base alone is 5.25 inches tall.  The amber-eyed flapper is by Carl Schneider and is 4 inches tall from her base to the top of her black bobbed hair. The only mark on the base is a faint number that appears to read 10287. The half doll is incised on the back of her base with a partically obscured five-digit number that begins 170.

Another example, in this case using black marabou. The 4.5 inch tall base is marked only France and may be from Henri Delcourt. The haughty half doll is 5 inches tall and incised 22489. She may be by the German company of Sitzendorf Porcelain, who used a 22000 series on some of its half dolls.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pretty as a Pochoir; French Costumes Pour Le Bain

In 1912 in Paris France, two luxury magazines were born, the Journal des Dames et des Modes and the Gazette du Bon Ton. These magazines were aimed at a wealthy, educated, urban, sophisticated, and fashionable clientele. They included stories, travel articles, and poetry, but their focus was on fashion. The magazines were very exclusive and printed in limited quantities. They were brilliantly illustrated by many of the finest Art Deco artists of the period and were not bound, but instead were folders containing original hand-colored prints known as pochoirs. The pochoir print was created by using a series of stencils for applying each different color. Multiple stencils created jewel-like colors and delicate shading. The Journal existed for only two years, but the Gazette was printed, with a break during WWI, from 1912 to 1925.

The elegant illustrations usually featured slim, wealthy, and aristocratic women dressed in the latest luxurious and expensive couture fashions of the day, posed with only the most chic and stylish accessories. Among these fabulous fashion plates there are only a few showing the bathing suits of the period. This early pochoir is by George Barbier, one of the most famous and sought after illustrators of this period. He produced works for both the Journal and Gazette. Entitled Costume de bain, the pochoir is dated 1913 and comes from the short-lived Journal.

Also from 1913, this pochoir, by Pierre Brissaud, is from the June issue of the Gazette. The title translates as "Let's go! Courage!"

This 1921 pochoir is also from the Gazette. By Martin, this stylized study in black and purple is entitled "The Swimming Lesson."