In May, I blogged about the the Five Barrison Sisters, a vaudeville act from the 1890s that specialized in naughty antics and double entendres. Their most famous act consisted of the sisters, clad in childish frilly dresses, singing about "Mein Klein Katz" (My Little Cat), and ending the song by flipping up their skirts and exposing their "pussies," a kitten strategically tucked into the crotch of each of their ruffled knickers. Ms. 362 was undoubtedly inspired by the Barrison's act, even though her kitten is tucked into her bosom and not her bloomers. This 8 inch tall bisque figurine is dressed in a unique outfit identical to one worn by the sisters on stage, even down to the odd floral-adorned hat. There are no marks. Although the Barrisons were international stars in their short heyday, they are little known now, and one wonders how many Barrison-inspired figurines sit unidentified on antique store shelves and in collectors' curio cabinets.
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.