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 28, 2011

Is This Mr. Tuffolino?

In 1879, Italian artist Odoardo Tabbachi created "La Tuffolina" (the diver). According to a June 21, 1879, supplement to Scientific American, the pictured sculpture was "immediately purchased by the King of Italy." The article continues: "The figure could hardly be rendered more beautiful, elegant, or sympathetic, nor more graceful in attitude, representing as it does the bather in the act of diving into the water as if she was an expert swimmer." The article reports that the lovely Tuffolina had so many admirers, "the fortunate sculptor will have difficulty to fill all the orders he has received for copies."

Tabacchi's delectable diver continued to attract admirers for decades, and many German firms, such as Dressel, Kister, and Company, produced their own adaptations of Ms. Tuffolina, in both bisque and china and in a wide variety of sizes, from diminutive damsels to super-sized sirens.

However, there is a very scarce male version (would he be El Tuffolino?). In all my years of collecting, I have only come across him twice before. This is one big boy, at 22 inches tall. For some reason, the other two Tuffolinos were also gigantic (at least in the world of bathing beauty figurines), and each was accompanied by an equally large lady counterpart.

He is of excellent sharp bisque and is extremely well sculpted, from the waves in his hair to the waves at his bare feet.

The painting is as well done and detailed as the modeling. Under his base, he is incised "No. 302" and "3."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Roman Psyche Reborn as a French Bathing Beauty

This bathing beauty is actually the top of a very big powder box. Standing 10 inches tall, she is made of ceramic and decorated in a bold art deco style.

If the pose appears familiar, the belle on the box is borrowed from the Bath of Psyche by Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896). Leighton did a bit of borrowing himself, as the pose of Psyche is based on an ancient statue of Venus he had seen in Naples. The Roman poet Lucius Apuleius sets out the legend of Psyche in his work The Golden Ass or Metamorphosis. Psyche was a beautiful mortal woman who became the paramour of Cupid.

A round paper label on the bottom of the box announces that it was made in France. Both the bottom of the box and the lid are incised "14029 R."