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 26, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #534 appears to be preparing for a very, very happy New Year's celebration, judging from the magnum of champagne she holds in her left hand.  Despite her bottle of bubbly and a revealing robe that emphasizes her considerable cleavage and exposes a black-stockinged leg, her expression appears rather shy and demure.  Maybe she is just deep in thought, trying to remember where she left her bottle opener.  Of excellent sharp bisque and detailed modeling, she is 6.75 inches tall  and is incised "1101."  Attached behind her is a green urn adorned with a jasperware grapevine around the rim.  She is part of a series of lovely ladies in rather revealing outfits posed by a small jasperware container for matches or toothpicks.  Although she and her sisters are sometimes attributed to Schafer and Vater, who also made extensive use of jasperware and loved long-legged lasses in black stockings, to me the modeling, especially of the hands and faces, does not look like Schafer's work.  Next week I will picture more pretty ladies from this series. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #529 is another of a series of barely clad bisque belles literally sitting high on the hog. In Germany, the pig is a sign of good luck and prosperity and it is traditional to give gifts of candy or marzipan pigs known as glücksschweinchen (good luck pigs) at Christmas. However, considering the young lady's state of undress and "come hither" pose, instead of a "good luck pig," this appears to be a "get lucky pig."  Of good sharp bisque and nicely modeled, this gal and her glücksschwein are 3.75 inches long and incised underneath “50” and "6."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saul Steinberg's Bathing Beauty

The December 3, 2012, edition of The New Yorker included a review by Peter Schjedahl  of a recent biography of famed cartoonist Saul Steinberg.  Illustrating the article was a 1951 photograph of Steinberg and his wife, Hedda Sterne, posing by a mantel piece adorned with an interesting assortment of objects.   But who is that shyly peeking out from behind the ornate clock?

She appears to be the long lost sister to Ms. #473,  a Galluba and Hofmann fashion lady who was featured earlier on this blog.

I wish I knew the story behind Steinberg's bald bisque bathing belle.  Where did she come from and why did he and his wife give her a place of honor on their mantel?  Was she a gift from a beloved friend, a souvenir found on a trip, a precious present from one to the other?  And where is the little lady now?  Was she passed down as a treasured heirloom or does she sit forgotten and abandoned in some dusty attic or on an antique shop shelf?  If only my silent seraglio of bisque and china could talk--who knows what stories they would tell!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking . . . . but there is nothing shocking about Ms. #528 and her gorgeous gams garbed in green.  Of excellent china, this six inch tall damsel in dishabille stands before a small vase or container.  Although unmarked, she is certainly of German quality.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #527, who is naked as a jaybird, poses with her fine feathered friend by a gilt-edged powder dish.  Although unmarked, she certainly resembles half dolls by William Goebel featuring a beauty and her exotic bird.   Made of excellent china, this delightful dish is 4.5 inches high.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms.  #526 gets her ass in gear, quite literally, as she prepares to journey to the sunny shore.   Of excellent china and nicely modeled and decorated, this unusual 5 inch tall figurine served as a souvenir, as painted in dark blue on the donkey's flank is "Blonville s/Mer."  Blonville sur Mer is a coastal town in the Normandy region of France, one of the many French seaside resorts long popular with tourists seeking sandy beaches and bright sunshine.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week


 As dainty and delicate as the posies she is picking, Ms. #523 is an exceptional (and exceptionally scarce) bathing belle by William Goebel.  Her original blonde mohair wig in done in the typical Goebel beehive style, with the hank of mohair wrapped around the bald pate and kept in place by two tiny pins, pushed through a curl at each cheek.  The molded pink pumps with contrasting yellow trim are also a standard style for Goebel.  Of the finest bisque and workmanship, she is 4 inches and has no visible marks. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A. W Fr. Kister, Continued

Last week, Ms. #521 was the Bathing Beauty of the Week.  I noted that she was marked in blue with "Germany" and the cross-hatched "S" of A.W. Fr. Kister, but that Porzellanmanufaktur Scheibe-Alsbach, the successor of Kister, still uses the cross-hatched "S" mark, stamped in blue, which could date the piece anywhere from 1905 into the 1990s.   Looking through my reference books, I came across a picture of a page from an early Kister catalogue, and there was Ms. #521 and her playful pup.

This lissome lass clad in a pale green swimsuit, with a matching hat and slippers,  is a sister of the preceding Kister.  Her complexion is matte bisque, while her bathing costume and towel are glazed china.  She is 4 inches tall and 3 inches high. 

Underneath, she carries the same blue cross-hatched "S" and "Germany," as well as an incised "18."

Here the same model appears on the Kister catalogue page.  Note that she was offered with either a towel base or as a free figurine.  Of course, a popular figurine might be produced by a factory for many years.

Ms. #532 also appears on the catalogue page.  She is does not carry the blue marks, but is incised underneath "L102," which matches the catalogue number.  She was also offered with either a base or as a free figurine.  This china charmer is 3.5 inches long. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

This lovely lass with long flowing locks languidly plays with her frisky spaniel.  Of excellent creamy bisque, with subtle golden tints bringing out the details of her fine features, this 7.5 inch long figurine gives the appearance of being delicately carved from ivory or marble.  Under the springing spaniel, the piece is marked in blue with "Germany" and the cross-hatched "S" of A.W. Fr. Kister.  However, Porzellanmanufaktur Scheibe-Alsbach, the successor of Kister, following a rather convoluted history of sales and acquisitions, still uses the cross-hatch "S" mark, stamped in blue  This blue mark could date the piece anywhere from 1905 until perhaps into the 1990s.  She resembles an early series by Kister of such ivory-colored nudes, including one playing with her kitten, although the examples I have carry an incised "S" mark.  She is certainly of the same fine quality as these older pieces, and the fact that she has a tiny kiln line under one arm where it was joined to the body suggests to me that she is an older item.  Modern manufacturing methods have largely eliminated such factory flaws, although such diminutive defects are often found on even the finest early bathing belles.  Without access to the catalogues of Kister and its numerous successors, it may be impossible to date her, but I think I can safely say she is not of recent vintage.  She also is not common, as I have yet to see another example of this curvaceous cutie and her canine companion.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Long-legged Ms. #520 is by my favorite maker, A.W. Fr. Kister.   Of the finest bisque and workmanship, this 8 inch tall delectable dancer is incised underneath Kister's crosshatched "S"  and "3" over "12040."  Her breasts have molded and tinted nipples, typical for this maker, and she wears unusual molded thigh-high white stockings with scalloped tops.  The brown mohair wig is a replacement, and her ruffled pink and blue miniskirt, which perfectly matches her molded heeled pumps, is new.  One wonders how this lovely and lithe lady was originally wigged and costumed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #515 appears to be blowing a kiss to some lucky admirer.  She is a less common pose by Galluba and Hofmann, and although she is a mere two inches tall, this sweet petite displays the fine bisque and delicate decoration of her larger Galluba sisters.  She wears her original mohair wig and someone has done a very nice job of redressing her in antique net and silk ribbons.  There are no visible marks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

I am posting a day early this week, and will be taking a brief break, but will return soon. (I hope with some new lovely little ladies and nubile naughties!)
 Ms. #515 is a rather mysterious maiden.  At first glance, she looks like she was made by Galluba and Hofmann.  The pose matches one produced by this factory, and she wears the molded ballet type bathing slippers often donned by this company's bathing belles.  Her molded bathing suit perfectly copies in bisque the net and silk ribbon bathing suits originally worn by Galluba's bathers.  However, she is not marked and her rather harsh and heavy facial painting do not look like the delicately decorated features of typical Galluba ladies.  Galluba produced mainly luxury items for export, and after WWI, suffered from the poor post-war economy.  By 1930, its workforce had been cut by almost a third and the company went bankrupt in 1937.  Perhaps this little lass is from Galluba's postwar production.  The molded hair and bathing outfit would have certainly cut down on costs and labor.  These possibly later Galluba gals in their molded suits are actually quite scarce.  Of quality bisque and well modeled and finished, she is 5.25 inches long.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Tapping on her tambourine, Ms. #513 is a sultry sultana from William Goebel's series of harem ladies.  She has lost her original costume of silk and brocade, but with a body like this, she certainly doesn't need clothing to win over her pasha's heart!  I have sort of a soft spot for Goebel's gals.  Although their bisque and modeling is often of the same high quality as those lovely ladies produced by Galluba and Hofmann and A.W. Fr. Kister, their faces lack the ethereal loveliness of Galluba or the striking beauty of Kister.  If Galluba, Kister, and Goebel were sisters, Goebel would be the one described as "but she has a great personality."  That said, this tempting tambourinist does have an especially pretty face.  Any bathing belle doing something other than lounging about and looking lovely is scarce and desirable, and one as big and beautiful as this undulating odalisque even more so.  She is 5.5 inches long and is incised under her replaced mohair wig "1745" and "C."  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

As first glance, Ms. #514 appears to be from the German firm of Dressel, Kister and Company.  The pose is one made by the manufacturer, she is of a fine pretinted china of the type often used by this company, and her brown, rather than the more usual blue, eyes are typical of Kister.  Although she is quite nicely done, to my mind, the workmanship is just not up to the high Dressel standards.  Instead of the blue "bishop's cozier" mark (which looks like a spiky backwards question mark) often found Dressel pieces, this little 4 inch long bathing belle is incised underneath "Made in Germany" and what appears to be an underlined "V."  Dressel was renown for its luxury porcelain items, and although it survived WWI, it struggled during the subsequent economic crisis, going bankrupt in the 1930s.  The City of Passau, where the company was located, acquired the factory and kept it functioning on a reduced basis until closing it in the 1950s.  Perhaps this brown-eyed girl is from the post-WWII production period. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #512 is by my favorite manufacturer, A.W. Fr. Kister.  Products by this factory are much harder to find than those by its competitor, Galluba and Hofmann, and while both companies' products display the finest bisque and workmanship, I prefer the more realistic modeling of the bisque beauties by Kister.  The fact that this lovely little lady is by Kister, and that she retains her original bathing suit and wig, allowed me to overlook her arms having been snapped off and reglued (the breaks now hidden under armlets of antique gold braid) and her right hand missing its thumb (now disguised by the tiny seashell in her hand).  She displays a number of attributes that allow me to attribute her to Kister.   Her square face with its strong jaw is unlike the perfect ovals found on Galluba ladies.  Not only are her anatomical proportions much more realistic than those found on Galluba's ladies, her full breasts have molded and tinted nipples, a detail generally found only on Kister's delightful damsels.  She is 3.5 inches long and 2.5 inches high,  and there are no visible marks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bathing Beauties of the Week: Bruno Schmidt


 This large and lovely lady appears on page 130 of my book, Bawdy Bisques and Naughty Novelties: German Bathing Beauties and Their Risqué Kin, in the chapter dealing with jointed bathing beauties.  However, I had neglected to mention her maker, Bruno Schmidt.  At first glance, she might pass for a fashion lady by Galluba and Hofmann, but there are many subtle differences: she does not have the standard Galluba oval face with large intaglio eyes outlined in black; her molded undergarments lack the ribbed texture of those worn by Galluba ladies; and her anatomy is much more realistically modeled compared to the Galluba ladies with their elongated necks, tiny waists, and exaggerated breasts and bottoms.  Instead of being marked with a "400" series number used by Galluba, she is incised on the back of the base with "3441."  Schmidt used a "3000" number series for its half dolls and bathing belles and many of its large half dolls have similar jointed arms.  Of the finest bisque, she is 10 inches tall and retains her original mohair wig.  


A close up of her serene and exquisite face.

Here she poses with a much smaller sister, who, despite her reduced size, still displays the same high quality bisque and workmanship.  Although their poses are different, the style of their original mohair wigs is identical.  The more petite of the pair is incised "3306."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

 Ms. #510 is a winsome wide-eyed harem lady (or at least the upper portion of one) by Schafer and Vater.  Of excellent china, she is 2.5 inches high and is marked with a freehand "3" inside the base.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

 Ms. #508 sits on the edge of a pin dish, cautiously eyeing the extra-large lobster that is ominously approaching her slender ankles and dainty feet.  Maybe he is just coming over to admire her bright yellow high-heeled shoes?  Of excellent china, this 3.5 inch round pin dish is incised underneath with the William Goebel crown over an intertwined "G" and "W" and "R.F. 642," and is also stamped in blue with the Goebel crown mark.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #493 isn't afraid of making an asp of herself.  This charming snake charmer doing the fandango with a fanged friend is a vase by the German firm of Schafer and Vater.  Of bisque, it is  5.5 inches tall and is unmarked. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #491 is yet another bathing beauty bottle by the German company of Schafer and Vater.  This particular bottle is glazed in blue, but the same nifty nipper (because it holds a "nip" of alcohol) can also be found in brown glaze and tinted bisque.  The double meaning caption is typical of Schafer, as "Life Preserver" could refer to either the inner tube on which the belle is balancing or to the booze within.  Incised "4263," the bottle is 5 inches tall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week


Ms. #490 is a lovely lorelei, probably by William Goebel.  Although her upper half is that of a warm-blooded woman, her legs are covered with blue scales and end in finned feet.  The earliest depictions of mermaids generally show them with this spilt tail, their scaly legs coiling like twin sea serpents.  The stylized mermaid in the Starbucks logo and the statue of the Little Mermaid in the harbor of Copenhagen are examples of split-tail mermaids.  Of good bisque and modeling, this undulating undine is 4.5 inches long and is unmarked. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #489 appears rather rattled by her rodent visitor.  Of excellent sharp bisque and by Schafer and Vater, this miss and her mischievous mouse are 3.5 inches tall and 4 inches wide.  Her light blue skirt billows out to form a small dish to holds pins or trinkets.  There are no marks.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Limber Lasses for Your Ashes

These athletic ladies adorning ashtrays are from the German firm of Weiss, Kühnert, and Company.

Here is a picture from the WKC catalogue, dating from the 1920s or 1930s. 

This flexible flapper is the same model as the ashtray pictured in the catalogue, second from the left.  She is incised underneath "Germany" and "6231," matching the catalogue model number.  While certainly charming,  this china piece, like many WKC products, is of average quality and the decoration is a bit hasty, with dabs of black from her heeled pumps running down her right calf.  Her facial painting is very simple, with one stroke brows, black eyes and  lid lines, and  bestung dark red lips.  She is 3.5 inches long and 3 inches high. 

This ashtray is incised underneath "Germany" and "6232," also matching her model number in the catalogue.  Painted in graceful script on one edge of the base is "A Present from Southend-on-Sea."  Southend is a British seaside resort in Essex, dating back to the Georgian era.  She is 4 inches long and 3.25 inches high.

The limber lasses, along with model #6230, began showing up as separate figurines, without their ashtray bases, shortly after the reunification of Germany, and were sold as antiques, although they were clearly modern creations.  Their quality was better than that of the WKC originals, with swimsuits that were a light solid color with a darker trim and tinted stockings; the ball in Model #6230 was often striped.    

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bathing Beauty(ies) of the Week

Misses #486 and #487 are sisters, still clad in their similar, but not identical, original silk dresses.  Big sister is 5.5 inches high, while her bookish little sister is 4.75 inches tall.  They both also have their original mohair wigs.  While the outfits are unfortunately frail and frayed, they still show how the maker, Galluba and Hofmann, dressed its fashionable ladies in the elegant gowns of real silk and lace.  Underneath the tattered finery are molded undergarments, and at one point this pretty pair must have been mounted on a bisque bases, or perhaps boxes or pincushions.  The larger lady is marked with a "400" number on the back of her supporting pedestal.          

Friday, July 6, 2012

What I did on my day off for the Fourth. . . .

. . . reorganized my small gallery of bathing beauty prints, pochoirs, and posters.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Graceful Ms. #483 is another delicate dancer from a series produced by Gebruder Heubach.  Heubach called this beautiful ballerina "Rose," and originally, adorned in a ribbon tutu, she posed atop a pincushion.  Of smooth pale bisque and beautifully modeled, she is 7 inches tall and unmarked.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #481 appears to be very, very fond of her fine feathered friend.  No doubt inspired by the myth of Leda, this slender siren and her swan swain are actually form a holder for a man's pipe.  Attributed to the German firm of Fasold and Stauch, this pretty pair of interspecies paramours are 4.25 inches high and incised underneath "042."

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over. . . .

 . . . or at least my fountain does.  An inventive German collector converted some of his squirters to tiny bubbling fountains using a small pump, and I was inspired to try with some squirters from my collection.  I used a cat water fountain from Petco as the base (by the way, having tried a variety of such pet water fountains, I recommend the Petco product as the cheapest and easiest to clean and maintain), filling the two tiers with decorative aquarium gravel. 

I ran a length of aquarium air tubing from the pump into the squirter.  This little guy, modeled after the the famed Manneken Pis of Brussels, works exceptionally well, because unlike most squirters, the opening is in his back, rather than the usual top of the head.  The opening is also smaller than is typical, allowing for a tight fit of the tubing.  I also tested out a number of other squirters from my collection.

These ladies demonstrate why such naughty novelties were not meant to be used as perfume bottles.  Not only does the liquid squirt out a surprising distance in a stream, rather than a mist or spray, the fluid heads off in two different directions.

While the most typical type of squirter is a little boy in his nightshirt, this Black version is much harder to find than his White counterparts.

This unusual squirter portrays an early firefighter; he is actually spraying water from a hose coiled behind his right leg.  His helmet was designed to keep hot embers and ashes from falling down into his collar and the original was probably made of thick, tough leather.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

 Ms. #480 is a demure damsel who is just starting to come out of her shell.  Of excellent china, she is 5 inches long and 3 inches high.  Incised with "Germany" and faint number that looks like "Sp. 1116," she is attributed to Limbach Porzellanfabrik, which used this "Sp." mark on its products.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Sitting pretty on her hog (definitely not the Harley-Davidson kind), Ms. #479 is a powder or trinket  box.  This fetching flapper and her porcine mount are of china, and while unmarked, are certainly of fine German quality.  The box measures 5 inches tall and long.  I wonder why in past times there appeared to be some strange fixation with women prancing about on big pigs

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Reproduction Warning!

The Victorian Trading Company, which specializes in selling Victorian and Edwardian inspired cards, clothing, and decorative items, is offering the following reproductions of naughties and bathing beauties in its current catalogue.  The reproductions look  to be of good quality and there is no indication where they were made or whether they are marked.

This is a copy of a flipper inspired by the Five Barrison Sisters, a music hall act of the 1890s.  When she is flipped over, her bare bottom is exposed.

This is a copy of the turtle lady from the Germany company of Weiss, Kühnert, and Company.  Her bare buttocks are revealed when the top of the turtle shell is opened. 

This bathing beauty flower frog was originally produced by the Sitendorf Porcelain Factory, although other German companies produced similar items.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #478 seems oblivious to the salacious shellfish reaching for the hem of her bathing suit   Boy, talk about fresh seafood!  The front of this 3.25 inch high bisque bather and her lascivious lobster  is slightly concave, so it could serve as a pin tray.  There are no marks.  I leave it to someone else to make the obvious "crabs" joke.