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.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Very Sweet Bathing Beauty

This bathing beauty bottle was a recent find at an estate sale.  The bottom of the bottle is marked "Des. Patent No. 84181," and tracking this design patent number,  I discovered that the "ornamental design for a bottle" was registered March 12, 1931, by Frank B. Putt and assigned to Brandle and Smith Company, a Philadelphia candy manufacturer.  This clear-glass cutie was intended to be a candy container.  Originally, she would have worn a paper belt as her label and a paper face, held in place by decorative paper confetti or grass, would have been inserted behind her molded glass features.  At 10.5 inches tall, she would have held a lot of sweet treats!

I found this example, said to be all original, including the candy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All-Bisque Bathing Beauty Dolls

As I have noted previously on this blog, I collect antique dolls as well as bathing beauties, and I especially like German and French all-bisque dolls.  So this pretty pair of adorable all-bisque dolls wearing their molded bathing suits is a "two-fer" for me!  Big brother is 4.5 inches tall with loop-jointed arms.  He is of excellent bisque and is beautifully decorated.  The tiny hand-painted anchor on his swimsuit adds a jaunty nautical touch.

His slightly smaller sister is 4.25 inches high and she is of the same superb quality.  Neither doll is marked, but they are certainly of the finest German workmanship.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Butt of the Joke

This masquerading miss is a little late for Halloween, but she has a trick that is a treat.  The German caption below the masked mädchen looking flirtatiously over a bare shoulder reads "Promenaden scherz" (promenade joke).

Turn the dish upside down and you see it is not just her shoulder that is bare!  The fan-shaped pin dish is of good china and is 4.5 inches wide.  Although unmarked, it is certainly of German origin.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

This blog already features one engaging enchantress, but this bosom belle rides her original besom with a wooden handle and bisque bristles. Of excellent sharp bisque, she is 7 inches tall and is beautifully and realistically modeled.
Her expression is lively, with a little wicked glint in her intaglio eyes and molded teeth visible between her full smiling lips.

These delicious damsels in their domino masks examine their cache of candy corn from a successful night of trick or treating (I will leave it to others to make the obligatory "trick" joke).   
Both these masked maidens are by William Goebel.  The voluptuous brunette is 4.5 inches high and is stamped "Germany" in black, while the lady with the lute is 4 inches tall and, in addition to the black "Germany" stamp, is incised "3739" and "B."  Both retain the remains of their original wigs.  Typical of Goebel, the wigs are a hank of mohair around the figure's bald pate and held in place with tiny pins.  Because the wigs were not sewn to a supporting wig cap, they tend to unravel over time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Beach Boys (Updated 10/10/13)

This beefcake beach boy by Hertwig and Company has appeared before on this blog.  Of good china, he is incised "544" on the back of his hips.  He is making an encore appearance to introduce. . . .

his (slightly) bigger brother.  This brawny blond is of light-weight earthenware that Hertwig advertised as "feinsteingut."  He is 4 inches long, and in addition to the "544" mark, is incised underneath "16."

This picture from the Hertwig catalogue shows two swimsuit-clad men, model numbers 544 and 545.  I have not yet come across Model 545 in either china or earthenware.

REPRODUCTION WARNING!: The Belgium company Mundial at Kerlouve  is currently reproducing this bathing boy (see HR2009-1 and HR2009-3).  However, as is typical of this company's products, the quality is far below that of the antique originals, with the surface artificially stained to give the pieces the look of age (and to help hide the poor workmanship).  No doubt these pieces are already turning up at antiques markets throughout Europe, where they are being sold as old, and they could fool unwary dealers and collectors who have not had the chance to see the authentic antiques.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Their Favorite Things--And Mine Too!

A friend tipped me off to a December 17, 2012, article that appeared in Cape May Magazine entitled "Their Favorite Things."  In the article, four bed and breakfast proprietors in the Cape May beach-side resort share their favorite things, including Sandy Miller of Windward House Inn, who describes the large collection of antique bathing beauty figurines that adorn her B&B. Miller and her late husband, Owen, collected the lovely ladies in the 1980s (I visited Cape May a number of years ago, but was unable to view the fabled Windward House collection because the B&B was closed for the season).

Except not all in the collection are ladies!  As seen in this picture headlining the article, the collection includes at least one scarce male of the bathing beauty species, a rare specimen I have dubbed Mr. Tuffolino.  

REPRODUCTION WARNING:  Mundial Company is manufacturing copies of "Tuffy" in a pink, red, or black bathing trunks (look for HR2011-1 through HR2011-3 under "Baigneueses").  The quality is far below that of the antique original (it does not even have Tuffy's most manly mustache!), but the copies could deceive a dealer or collector who has not had the pleasure of meeting the real Mr. Tuffolino in the flesh (or bisque). 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Last of the Brazen Hussies

This post covers my final example of a Schafer and Vater bisque naughty novelty that has been copied in bronze.

This 5.25 inch long flipper is of excellent sharp bisque and has the caption "Monna Vanna" incised across the nubile nude's diaphanous veil.  "Monna Vanna" was a 1902 opera by Maurice Maeterlinck, which takes place in 15th century Italy, where the army of Florence  has laid siege to Pisa.  Monna Vanna, a beautiful and virtuous Pisan noblewoman, agrees to come to the tent of the leader of the besieging forces clad only in a mantle if he will allow food to enter Pisa to feed her starving fellow citizens.  I suspect Maeterlinck envisioned a much more substantial mantle.

The flip side of Ms. Vanna.  This piece has been reproduced in Germany and the copies are often sold as antiques.  One version is glazed solid pink or green to imitate the precolored bisque often used by Schafer.  The other version is of good white bisque and colored like the original.  However, in the copy, the colors tend to be deeper and brighter and the painting, especially the facial painting, is carefully, almost stiffly, done, unlike the usual freer and loser hand typical of Schafer decorators.

Here is the metal model of Monna.  The folds in her cloak and the flow of her long tresses are almost identical to bisque version, suggesting that some foundry copied the Schafer figurine for this casting.

The end of both Ms. Vanna and my series of immodest metal maidens.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Brazen Hussies, Part II

This post continues my exploration of bisque belles by Schafer and Vater and their metallic mates.  This beguiling geisha is a bisque flipper by Schafer.  Of excellent sharp bisque, she is 5 inches wide and the caption incised along the hem of her kimono reads "The Yellow Peril."

Flip her over and you discover she has neglected to fasten her very Western knickers, her bare bottom framed by her ruffled petticoats and her legs clad in the black ribbed stockings so favored by Schafer.

Here is the same flipper in bronze.  The modeling is nearly identical to the bisque version, down to the folds in the kimono and the caption along the hem.

She is also a near match underneath, even to the ruffles of the undergarments.  This particular flipper has also been found in copper, aluminum, and other metals, but the casting is often of far lower quality, with many of the details blurred or lost.

Again, the question; which came first, the bisque or the bronze?  Because the bisque versions are so characteristically Schafer, and the metal maidens so closely copy their bisque sisters, I suspect that some foundry used the original Schafer pieces as models for its molds.  I wonder whether this was a partnership between Schafer and a foundry, or pure plagiarism. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

On A Roll(s)

Following my August 14, 2013, posting, a friend sent me a link to an article on the BornRich website about one-of-a-kind custom Rolls Royce mascots, which pictured the above "Naughty Lady" hood ornament from David Robson's 1912 Silver Ghost.  She is clearly a copy of Ms. #442, down to the incised design on the dress and the textured base.  I wonder if the artist in fact made the mold directly from a Schafer and Vater piece.  Maybe I should contact Mr. Robson about commissioning one for my car, but I doubt she would present quite the same panache on the hood of a 2001 Toyota Echo. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brazen Hussy!

Ms. #442 has previously been pictured on this blog.  This lively and limber lady is by Schafer and Vater.

Here is the same model, but in cold-painted bronze instead of bisque.  Other than some small and subtle changes, such as the loss of the incised design on the bisque version's black dress, the bronze belle is identical to her bisque sister.  Unmarked and 4.5 inches tall, this heavy metal miss would have been a pulchritudinous paperweight for a man-around-town's desk.
The question is which came first, the bisque or the bronze?  Did Schafer copy the bronze to model its mold, or did some foundry use the Schafer lady for the bronze casting?  There is no evidence I know of that Schafer operated a foundry in addition to its prolific porcelain factory.  Yet, I have two other metal maidens in my collection that are most definitely bronze versions of well-known Schafer pieces.  One will appear in my next post.*
*By the way, I have begun to post every other Wednesday, as I have pretty much posted pictures of every item in my collection that is not already included in my second book.  Coming up with a new idea every week is not easy, so I have eased off a bit.  But I promise to post at least twice a month, so please continue to check back!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Another China Charmer by Gebruder Heubach


This bobbed-hair bathing beauty is by Gebruder Heubach.  Of excellent china and beautifully modeled, this 5 inch long nude is incised underneath with "11899" and stamped with "Made in Germany" in a circle in green.  The circle mark is identical to another Heubach bare belle pictured earlier on my blog   That lithe lass is incised "11896" (Heubach used a 10000 and 11000 number series for many of its nudes and bathing beauties).  Like her seated sister, this slender siren has her carmel-colored hair molded in a very short, severe style, full well-shaped coral lips, a very pale complexion softly shaded with faint blushing, and a slim adolescent physique. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too Much Maid!

This bawdy bottle features a bare bather surrounded by leering bald men.  Called a "nipper," because it was meant to hold a nip of alcohol,  this naughty novelty was made by the German firm of Schafer and Vater.  It is 6 inches tall and incised "6776" on the back edge.  Under the skinny-dipping siren is the caption "September Morn."

Here is the original "September Morn," now in the collection of the New York Museum of Metropolitan Art.  This rather innocuous nude, painted in 1912 by French artist Paul Chabas, was once one of the best known and most reproduced paintings in the United States.  After it was exhibited  in the Paris Salon, where it won the Medal of Honor, the painting traveled to a gallery in Chicago, where it was displayed in the window of a local art store.  The city charged the store owner with violating a city ordinance barring the display of lewd pictures.  The ensuing trial and acquittal of the owner brought the painting to public attention. Subsequently, the picture journeyed to New York City, where, again on display in a gallery window, Ms. Morn caught the censorious eye of Anthony Comstock, leader of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.  Reportedly,  an outraged Comstock charged into the gallery, declaring that there was "too little morn and too much maid!"  After the gallery refused to remove the painting from display, Comstock threatened legal action, but never followed through.  Surrounded by scandal, Ms. Morn became part of popular culture, reproduced on anything from fine art prints to cheap stick pins.

 Her popularity soon led to parody.  Here is another version of Ms. Morn from Schafer,  created by Grace Drayton, best known for her pleasingly plump Campbell Soup Kids.  The caption reads "Oh! please don't think I'm bad or bold, Cause where it's deep, it's awful cold!"  Of excellent sharp bisque, this 6.5 inch tall vase is incised with both the Schafer sunburst mark and a facsimile of Ms. Drayton's signature, "G.G. Drayton."

Another version of Drayton's little Miss Morn.  This 5.25 inch tall figurine also carries Drayton's signature.

Here  Drayton's pudgy parody appears on a plate.  The back of the plate carries the stamp "Z.S. & Co. Bavaria."

This 13 inch tall composition nude may have been inspired by Ms. Morn.  Although the arms have been reversed, otherwise the pose is the same.  She retains her original mohair wig and probably was given away as a prize at a carnival or boardwalk arcade.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bathing Beauty of the Week

This fantastic fashion lady by Galluba and Hofmann is as big as she is beautiful.  A little later in the Edwardian period, she has sheer tinted stockings instead of textured stockings, slim heeled pumps in place of low bootines, and she lacks the ribbed undergarments found on some of her earlier sisters.  Although still shapely, she is slimmer, without the exaggerated curves typical of the earlier fashion ladies.  Her face is especially exquisite with large blue-grey eyes and parted lips, her graceful gestures display her delicate and detailed hands, and a molded necklace encircles her slender throat. Of the finest bisque and modeling, she is 10.5 inches tall, with no visible marks.   She has been redressed and her mohair wig is a replacement.  Under her shirt is an old auction label from  Sotherby's York Avenues Galleries label (she was Lot #376), but there is no date.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Naughty Kitty! Very, Very Naughty Kitty!

Along with bathing beauties and naughty novelties, I also collect antique and vintage maneki nekos, the famed Japanese beckoning cat.  Known as the "lucky cat" or "welcoming cat," the maneki neko is supposed to beckon good fortune into a home or business.  Sometimes, I find a "two-fer," a vintage neko that is also naughty.  This rather prim-looking pussycat sitting proudly on his pillow has a very naughty secret. . . .

for underneath is an extremely explicit erotic scene of two lovers.  This piece was certainly influenced by shunga, the traditional Japanese erotic art, generally appearing in woodblocks.  The vivid and unashamed depiction of sexual activity (and the exaggerated genitalia) are typical of shunga.  This feline (and his frisky friends) is 4.5 inches high and appears to be made of the same low-fired clay as the traditional hakata ningyō.  This neko has his left paw raised and Asian art expert Alan Scott Pate, in his delightful and informative book, Maneki Neko, Japanese Beckoning Cats--From Talisman to Pop Icon, writes that in some traditions the raised left paw is associated with "night businesses," such as bars, restaurants, and brothels (signed copies of this book can be purchased directly from Mr. Pate at  Instead of a lucky cat, this neko might instead be called a "get lucky" cat.

The nemuri neko, or sleeping cat, is closely related to the maneki neko.  The serenely sleeping feline symbolizes peace and harmony.  The most famous nemuri neko was immortalized by the master woodcarver Hidari Jingorō at the Tōshō-gū Shrine in Nikko, Japan.  This cat-napper is depicted as the traditional tricolor Japanese bobtail,  and her elaborate bib indicates that she is a pampered and prized pet.  But this napping neko also has a secret side. . . .

as this content cat also conceals an explicitly sexual scene.  Also of clay ceramic, this figurine is 6 inches long. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Bathing Girl Who Is a Real Doll

In addition to bathing beauty figurines, I also collect antique dolls.  Sometimes I find a little treasure that fits into both.  Inside an antique and slightly battered cardboard box labeled "Bathing Girl". . . .

is the little bathing girl herself, clad in her original brightly-striped knit bathing suit and matching cap, trimmed with silky bows.  Marked "Heubach Kopplesdorf 250-17/0 Germany," and 6.5 inches tall, in her day, she was a rather inexpensive  play doll, but sweet and pretty enough to catch a little girl's eye and win her heart.  I could see a row of these bathing girls displayed among the lithographed tin sand pails and wood-handled fish nets in some little souvenir shop along a 1920s seaside boardwalk.  Papa, Mama, and little Eloise are taking an leisurely evening stroll after dinner down the pier as the last rays of the setting sun glimmer red and orange over the lapping waves and the shop lights come on.  Suddenly Eloise stops, pressing her slightly sunburned nose against the toy shop window.  There stands the dearest little doll in the whole world!  Dressed in a pretty striped bathing suit just like Eloise's, the doll has eyes as bright blue as the morning seaside sky, shining auburn curls, and is just the right size to fit into Eloise's pinafore pocket!  Papa and Mama, noticing that Eloise has fallen behind, turn and see their daughter staring longingly at the little doll.  They share an indulgent smile.  After all, they are on holiday, Eloise is a good little girl, and the doll is not at all expensive.  A few minutes later, Eloise, her sun-kissed cheeks even rosier, skips happily between her parents, smiling down at her new little companion. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bathing Beauty of the Week

This bizarre vase is part of a series by Hertwig and Company of Germany.  This particular peculiar piece was entitled "Der Gutmutige" (the good natured).  Atop the bald pate of a monocled man  perches a young woman in a short glittery dress.  There is a hole on one edge of the monocle and corresponding holes in the woman's hands, and if a cord is run through the holes, the woman appears to be playfully tugging at the man's monocle (as one friend said, she has "caught his eye").  Judging from the lady's brief and garish outfit, she is perhaps a showgirl of some sort and the man is her good natured and generous sugar daddy.  Of the finest sharp bisque, with excellent modeling and details, there is an opening in the back of the man's skull.  Incised underneath "1273," this piece is 5.5 inches tall.

This a copy of a Hertwig catalogue page picturing the entire strange series.  They are from left to right, the "The Lovers," "Grass Widow," "Merry Widow," "Suffragette," "Those Dames," "The Good Natured," and "Their Dream."  Note that the number in the catalogue matches that incised on the bottom of the above vase.

A friend sent me this picture of another of these Hertwig oddities.  This one, according to the catalogue page, is "The Lovers." What at first glance appears to be an out-of-place waterfall is actually the lady's fashionable fur stole and matching muff.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Made to perch on a pretty pincushion or fluffy powder puff, Ms. #547 admires her gold bracelet, while we admire her.  Her amber eyes with their smoky gray shadowing are typical of the finer pincushion figurines and bathing beauties made by the German company of Fasold and Stauch.  Although only 3.5 inches tall, including her base, she is beautifully modeled, with arms and legs free from her body and delicate hands with free thumbs.   Of excellent china, this beguiling bare belle is incised only "6540" on the base.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Flea in Her Ear. . . .Or, A Little Farther South

Madame, the flea that crept between your breasts
I envied that there he should take his rest.
The little creature's fortune was so good
That angels feed not on such precious food.

John Donne (1572-1631), On a Flea on His Mistress's Bosom

For centuries humans have been fed on by fleas.  Yet these nasty blood-sucking, disease-spreading parasites engendered a genre of early eroticism, the flea hunt.  The image of a nubile young woman intensely searching her naked milk-white skin in the intimacy of her boudoir appeared in everything from fine art to bawdy ballads.

Woman Catching a Flea, Georges de La Tour, 1638.

But fleas are tiny, and sometimes the pursuit for the pest requires a posse, so it was not uncommon to also portray a helper, often husband or lover, literally shedding a little light on the hunt.

The Merry Flea Hunt, Gerrit Van Honthorst,  1628

Although certainly far later, the concerned couple in In #546 continue this historic erotic theme.  Of excellent china, this 4.5 inch tall figurine is finely painted and beautifully detailed.  It is marked only with a faint and partial blue crown underneath.  The concentration on the helpful husband's face as he holds up the candle and bends closer to better scan his wife bare breasts is truly touching!  Schafer and Vater also produced a flipper featuring a lone female searching for a frisky flea.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Visions of Salome

A friend forwarded me an online article announcing that interpretative dancer Maud Allan's original Salome costume, currently held by the Dance Collection Danse (DCD) in Toronto, Canada, will receive treatment from the Canadian Conservation Institute.   
Once conserved, the costume will join other Maud Allan artifacts in DCD's extensive Allan archives, which, according to the article, include a bisque nodder (this example is from my collection). . . .
and Salome cigarettes (also from my collection).
In fact, Ms. Allan, during her brief stardom as the "Salome dancer," inspired all sorts of diverse memorabilia.  The name "Salome" may invoke many visions, but a waltz is probably not one of the first to come to mind (my collection). . . .

Although born in Canada in 1873, Maud Allan moved with her family to San Francisco, California, while a child.  She became an accomplished pianist and in 1895 traveled to Berlin to continue her music studies, but in 1902 abandoned the piano to become a dancer of "musically impressionistic mood settings."  Allan, who designed her own costumes and created her own choreography, first debuted in the title role in “The Vision of Salome” in 1906, but it was in 1908 when she appeared on the London stage that her Salome achieved stardom. Her two-week engagement stretched into 18 months and she became one of the most famous and wealthy female performers of her time.  After her triumph in England, Allan would tour Europe and the United States, but her fame quickly faded. The fad for interpretative dance was passing as troupes such as the Ballet Russes combined 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).
In my book, Bawdy Bisques and Naughty Novelties, I have a chapter devoted to Ms. Allan and the bisque and china Salomes she inspired. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bathing Beauty of the Week

Ms. #545 shows that good things come ON small packages.  This sultry sultana is by Schafer and Vater, and the same harem lady was also produced sans box.  Of excellent china with sharp modeling, this beauty on a box is 4 inches tall and carries the Schafer sunburst mark stamped in black.  The undulating odalisque is of pink precolored china, as can be seen where the cold-painted gilt on her skirt has worn off, while the box was cast in white slip.