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, 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. 

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