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.
Ms. #416 is a working girl, as this 8 inch tall china bathing beauty is actually a bottle (she comes apart at the waist). Incised underneath “Germany 5490,” she is nicely decorated, especially the art deco design on her cloak.
Ms. #415 casts a sultry look over her feather fan. This 4 inch tall china kneeling nude does have the most extraordinary large amber eyes, shadowed in gray. Although unmarked, she is attributed to the German firm of Fasold and Stauch.
Misses #414 are another toothsome twosome. This 3 inch tall china perfume bottle of two bathing beauties is based on a drawing by Anne Harriet Fish (1890-1964), a British artist and illustrator. Her work appeared in Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Tatler and she created designs for Fulper Pottery and Hubley Manufacturing Company, who made cast iron toys and novelties, such as doorstops. The bottle is stamped underneath “Bavaria” and is incised “X.F. 269,” “Dep,” and with the William Goebel crown mark.
Misses #413 are an unusual pair of china charmers. Incised "5683 Foreign," this figurine is probably by Hertwig and Company of Germany. The lady in the green beach pajamas has her left hand pierced to hold a paper parasol. Made of good china, the faces are nicely, although simply painted, and the painting on the suits shows the rather hasty application common on these little early novelties. The orange trim is cold painted, not fired in, and does show some minor wear. Cold painting is a decorative technique widely used by German companies in the 1920s and 1930s. Although of average quality, the fact that the figurine is of double bathing belles makes it scarce and desirable.
Unfortunately, while this antique original is hard to find, modern reproductions are not. This couple was first copied by the German Doll Company (GDC), which acquired the original molds. The original GDC reissues carried the company's blue clown mark. However different copies, both in bisque and china, began appearing in Germany, either made from another old mold or from molds taken off of the GDC product. The quality of the slip and decoration of these German copies is far superior to that of the antique item. On the other hand, Mundial Company of Belgium is currently producing a china copy (Ref: HR0251). In the Mundial copy, the workmanship is far inferior to the antique original, and the figurine has been made to look worn and dirty. Mundial does not mark its products and the copies are turning up in antique markets and online auctions, where they may be misrepresented, either innocently or intentionally, as antique or vintage.
Ms. #412 studies her face intently in her hand mirror, holding her powder puff at the ready in her right hand. Clearly beauty is a serious business for this bisque belle! From the German firm of Hertwig and Company and made out of fine precolored bisque, she is 3.5 inches long and high. The realistic modeling is excellent and demostrates the high caliber of artists retained by this company. Like many Hertwig products, some of the features are cold painted; you can see slight wear to her hair color and her lips probably once were painted. I think Hertwig's fine bisque nudes are often undervalued by collectors. There are no marks.
Ms. #410 is a nubile nymph from my favorite manufacturer, the German firm of A. W. Fr. Kister. Kister's lovely ladies are often mistaken for those made by competitor Galluba and Hofmann, but Kister's lissome lasses are more realistically proportioned than the stylized Gallubas and typically have molded and blushed nipples, an anatomical detail missing on most bathing belles. They also generally wear molded bathing slippers with low heels. Like most of her Kister sisters, this bisque beauty is unmarked. Of the finest bisque and workmanship, she is 5 inches long and 3.5 inches high. She retains her pale blonde mohair wig with the remains of taupe net bathing cap.
The 5.25 inch long bisque bathing beauty is incised underneath with mark of Schafer and Vater and number that appears to be "7923." Although she is an authentic antique, this lovely lass is currently being reproduced by Mundial Company of Belgium (click on "baigneuses" on the index to the left). The antique original has excellent sharp bisque and modeling, while the bisque of the knock-off lacks the clean, sharp quality of the original. In the original, the swimsuit (here bright orange, but it also came in blue) is cold painted, has a matte finish, and often shows some wear. In the reproduction, the color is fired in, and is a dirty, slightly shiny orange with greenish shading or a dingy blue). The crisply molded details of the original, such as her combmaked curls, and the flowing folds in her towel, are lost in the reproduction. Mundial does not mark its products, which are often artificially aged to look worn and dirty (and also to disguise their often poor quality). The repros are showing up in antiques and flea markets, as well as on-line auctions, where they are sometimes sold as antiques. Although their quality falls well below that of the antique original, they can fool innocent collectors and honest dealers who have not had a chance to handle the genuine item.
I will not be posting tomorrow, so please check back on Sunday!
Ms. #404 looks like she stepped out of a sea-side sketch by Charles Dana Gibson, but in fact she was created by Gebruder Heubach. This 6.75 inch tall bisque figurine is incised on the back of the base with the Heubach sunburst mark and "3753."
Ms. #403 must have been at one heck of a party. How else to explain why she is sprawled atop a ponderous porker, dressed only in her undergarments and clutching a bottle of booze? This 4.75 inch long bisque figurine is incised "5246" and is painted with a red freehand "12." There is a series of these underdressed belles literally sitting high on the hog. In Germany, the pig is a sign of good luck and prosperity. A person who is lucky will say "Ich Habe Schwein Gehabt" (I have had pig). It is traditional to give gifts of candy or marzipan pigs known as glücksschweinchen (good luck pigs) at Christmas. So maybe instead of a "good luck pig," this is a "get lucky pig."
Magnificent Ms. #402 is a towering 14 inches tall. Of the finest china and workmanship, she is stamped underneath in blue with the crosshatched “S” of A.W. Fr. Kister and is incised “10417.” On the base in bold gilt letters is "SALOME.” Her beautifully detailed costume, what there is of it, is an exact copy of that worn by interpretative dancer Maud Allan when she performed her most famous role in “A Vision of Salome.” Allan, who designed her own costumes and created her own choreography, first debuted as Salome in 1906, but it was in 1908 when she appeared on the London stage that her Salome took the world by storm. Her two-week engagement stretched into 18 months and she became one of the most famous and wealthy female performers of her time. Germany companies such as Kister and Galluba and Hofmann cashed in on Allan's fame by creating Salome figurines copied after a series of postcards Allan posed for.
After her triumph in England, Allan went on to tour Europe and the United States, but already her fame was fading. The fad for interpretative dance was passing and troupes such as the Ballet Russes were combining the freedom of interpretative dance with the discipline of ballet, creating a new, polished, and more challenging form of modern dance. In 1918, Allan returned to England to star in Oscar Wilde's "Salome," and became enmeshed in an unsuccessful libel action that ultimately destroyed her reputation and career (for more information regarding the "Black Book" trial, I recommend Philip Hoare's book, Oscar Wilde's Last Stand).
Ms. #400 and her sea-going swain clearly only have eyes for each other, and large googly ones at that. This 4 inch tall bisque figurine of a plus-size sailor and his hefty honey is by the German firm of Schafer and Vater, and is incised on bottom with a faint Schafer sunburst mark and what appears to be “126.” Behind them is a small container for matches and toothpicks. Black ladies by Schafer are scarce to begin with, and this inter-racial pairing is indeed a rarity.
Ms. #399 is a good-time gal from the German firm of Schafer and Vater, known for its portrayals of boisterous belles in black stockings. The 5.5 inch tall bisque vase (there is an opening behind the champagne glass) carries a faint imprint of Schafer's crowned sunburst on the bottom. "Champange Girl" was one of the nicknames given to the very voluptuous stage star and comic actress Trixie Friganza. Trixie began her stage career in musical comedies in 1889, but soon transferred her ample talents and figure to vaudeville. She also had a brief career in early film, until health concerns forced her to retire. Whether this vase was a tribute to Trixie or just any party girl is something known only to the long-departed designers of Schafer.
I will not be posting this Friday or Saturday, so please check back on Sunday!
Ms. #398 demonstrates that good things come ON small packages. By the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann, this prize package features a totally original 7.5 inch tall bisque fashion lady on her 1.5 inch tall silk-covered oval box. The bottom of the box is stamped “Germany” and the lovely lady is incised “404” on the lower back edge of her supporting pedestal
Ms. #397 is another scarce standing bathing beauty from Galluba and Hofmann. Of beautiful bisque and decoration, this lovely lass certainly deserves to be on a pedestal. Still wearing her original mohair wig, bathing suit, and matching cap, this 7 inch tall treasure is incised "405 N. N." on the bottom of the base.
Ms. #396 shows how an original assembly can take a common ordinary pose and make it something scarce and extraordinary. The 4 inch long reclining bisque bathing beauty is a pretty, but rather prosaic, piece from Galluba and Hoffman. What makes her special is her original 4.5 inch long bisque pin dish base. She is fastened by wooden peg that fits into her lower back to the oval dish, which is molded and decorated to resemble gentle blue waves by a stretch of sandy beach. The little bathing belle retains her original dark brown mohair wig, but has been redressed in a black net bathing suit and head scarf. She is incised “407,” followed by a cursive “g” on her upper back and the bottom of the dish is incised “9589” and stamped in maroon with Galluba and Hofmann shield mark.
This most regal lady is a 12 inch tall fashion figurine from Galluba and Hofmann. She has a bisque shoulderhead and limbs on a cloth body and stands on her original bisque base. Elaborately dressed in antique materials as Medieval nobility, under the base is written in faint purple ink "Allies Bazaar 1917.” Some talented seamstress near the end of WWI took a German-made fashion doll and lavishly redressed her as an ancient queen to raise money for the Allied cause. This elegant and exquisite lady is incised on the back of her shoulders “5842 Germany.”
Ms. #390 is a charming mermaid posing with a pink conch shell. She has a split tail, with blue-scaled legs and fin feet. Of fine bisque and nicely decorated, she is 3.5 inches long and 2 inches high. This lovely lorelei is incised “Germany” under her left calf and with part of a number “20” on her left buttock.
I will not be posing on October 7th or 8th, so please check back this coming Sunday!
Ms. #389 seeks to demonstrate that she has brains as well as beauty, although her rather revealing outfit does not exactly shout, "Love me for my mind!" This 5 inch tall bisque figurine once must have had a green jasperware container of some sort attached to the right side, but now there are only two bits of green bisque remaining. Of sharp bisque, with excellent modeling and decoration, this studious siren is incised “5513’ between the back legs of her chair.
Ms. #388 is a working girl, as her lithe nude body is actually a perfume bottle. Of good china, and nicely decorated, she is 6 inches tall. The urn balanced on her slender shoulder has molded threading for crown top, now missing. The piece is incised underneath “4392 Germany’’ and sis tamped with blurred red mark.
Ms. #387 poses prettily on her original padded powder or candy box, covered in lush gold and black brocade. She has a long auburn mohair wig and wears a black and gold brocade skirt with gold lace trim, probably the remains of a harem costume. Her painted pink slippers have molded, but undecorated, ballet ties. Of good bisque and modeling, she is 4.5 inches long and 3.5 inches high bisque nude.
Ms. #386 is stamped in blue underneath with “Germany” and the A.W. Fr. Kister crosshatched “S” and is incised under her left calf “11.” This 4 inch tall voluptuous beauty is molded in excellent creamy bisque with a faint golden-brown wash in the details of her hair and face, giving her the appearance of a marble or ivory staute. As is typical of Kister, her finely sculpted body is realistically proportioned and she has molded nipples.
Ms. #385 is a 5 inch long china nude nymph who dwells in a luster sea shell. Two air holes in the top of the shell would release air from the figurine, allowing it to be anchored on an aquarium bottom. The piece is incised underneath “24384” and “Germany” in very tiny letters.