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.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Getting Into the Swim

In 1878, Elie Martin, patented a mechanical "poupee nageuse" (swimming doll), marketed as Miss Ondine. The doll must have been popular, as she was produced in some form until the early 1900s. While the limber lady pictured below has cupped metal hands and wooden arms and legs, other versions have hands that are jointed at the wrist, as well as hands with separate fingers. She can also be found in a variety of sizes.  This example is 15 inches long. I don't know if her bathing suit is original, but it is old and looks authentic. I have seen Ondines dressed in similar material and style.

She has a key underneath and, when wound, swims the breaststroke, stroking with her arms and kicking her legs in a rather frog-like manner.   The cork body is supposed to be waterproof so that she would float in water (but I am not going to try it!).  Although her swimsuit is somewhat stained and frayed and her arms and legs have expected wear and touch-ups, her mechanism works wonderfully after all these decades, a testament to Martin's craftsmanship.

This beautiful bather is unusual because she has a bisque breastplate and a rather fetching décolleté;  in other examples I have seen, the head was mounted on a cork and the bathing suit sewn shut around the neck. The plate is not simply a shoulder plate that was cut in half, but was clearly molded this way, as all the edges are finished.  The lady has a cork pate and is only marked "2" on the back of her head.  While some versions have French bisque heads, Miss Ondine is most commonly found (not that she is common!) with a Simon and Halbig head, mold #1079. Later or cheaper models had bisque heads from lesser German companies or celluloid heads. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another Bathing Beauty Who Is a Real Doll

 On my blog, I previously posted about the "Bathing Girl" by Heubach Kopplesdorf, a sweet, inexpensive, small bisque-headed play doll still in her original box and bathing suit.  This little golden-haired beach babe is also still tied into her original box and wears her original pale blue mesh bathing suit and matching cap.  Just five inches tall, and on a five-piece composition body, this diminutive doll's painted eyes and closed mouth suggest that she was an even less expensive souvenir than the Kopplesdorf doll.  Petite and pretty, she could win over a little girl's heart at a seaside resort without doing any real damage to Papa's or Mama's vacation budget.  The back of doll's head is incised with an intertwined "W&S," the mark of the German firm of Walther and Sohn, and "Made in Germany." 

 On one end of the box is a paper label for recording the inventory number, with notations written in pencil.  Most genuine old boxes have some sort or label or identification number on the outside of the box.  These labels let an importer or shop owner know at a glance the contents without having to peek inside.   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Very Special Edition

This smiling and scantily clad sultry sultana perched on a powder box is marked underneath in red “Editions Etling Paris” inside an inverted triangle.  In 1909, Edmond Laurent Etling opened his specialty store in Paris at No. 29 Rue de Paradis, offering the most exquisite and exclusive objects d'art of bronze, ceramic, and glass.  The shop was stocked with the creations of the leaders in the French modern art movement, including Dimitri Chiparus, A. Godard, Claire-Jean Roberte Colinet, Lucille Sevin, Jean Theodore Delabassé, Gazan, Georges Béal, Maurice Guiraud-Rivière and Marcel Guillard.  Etling's elegant editions spearheaded a style that would become known as art deco.  After Paris fell to the Germans during World War II, the store was closed and Etling, who was Jewish, was sent to a concentration camp and his death.

Of excellent china and beautifully painted in brilliant colors, this 8 inch tall box is the epitome of the art deco objects offered by Etling. On back of box lid is “A Godard” painted in fancy black script and the bottom of box is also marked "France" and with a dark red circle containing the letters “S,” “E,” “G, and “B.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Queen of Hearts

This pretty perfume bottle features a flirty flapper wearing her heart on her sleeve--well, not exactly on her sleeve, but she is certainly letting her sentiments be known.  Of good china, this 5 inch tall figural perfume bottle is incised on her base with the Carl Schneider mark and “DEP 15750 Germany.”  She holds a large heart, with a crown top, that would have once held some sweet scent.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Diminutive Deco Damsels

This pretty pair of precolored bisque swimmers is unusual, not because of their pose, but because they are nearly pristine, with both their cold painted features and colorful cloth bathing suits intact.    Their fetching and fashionable swimwear is patterned with bold art deco designs, beribboned with bright little bows.  Just 2.75 inches long, these tiny twins look very much as they did when they left Hertwig and Company nearly a century ago.  Too often these little flappers are now found nude and denuded of their painted features.  These two bathing beauties show how Hertwig made even some of its most common bisque belles eye-catching and alluring. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Perfect Combination

The vast majority of all-bisque dolls are children, so this early all-bisque lady is very unusual, especially as she was modeled with molded underwear (but still manages to look very prim and proper).  Although her combination underwear resembles that worn by the fashion ladies by Galluba and Hofmann, she is more Victorian than Edwardian.  Combination underwear was introduced in the 1870s to reduce bulk under the fitted jackets and narrower upper silhouette of the period.  Combinations were worn through the Edwardian period, becoming frothier and sheerer, often inset with delicate lace and ribbons, and the cuffs climbing closer to the knees as hemlines began to rise.  By the 1920s, the combination was reduced to the flapper's brief "step-in" chemise or teddy.  This combination set, with its short sleeves, modest neckline, and longer legs, would date this demure matron to the late 1800s.  She is of excellent sharp bisque and is delicately painted and beautifully modeled.  Her mohair wig is a replacement and she is 4.75 inches tall.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tell Me Pretty Maiden. . . .

My last post featured a bisque figurine of  a chorus line of the Five Barrison Sisters by Hutschenreuther Porzellanfabrik.  This post is of another line of lovely ladies by Hutschenreuther, the six pretty maidens known as the Florodora Girls. 
Florodora was a musical that opened in London in 1899, where it became an immediate success.  It was even more successful when it "crossed the pond" and played in New York City, in part because of its famed Florodora Girls.  Called the "English Girls" in the script, the six charming chorines were soon dubbed the Florodora Girls.  This line of lissome lasses is 7.5 inches long and is faintly stamped underneath with the Hutschenreuther mark.
Below is the picture of  the famed Florodoras in the flesh, rather than bisque, that undoubtedly inspired the figurine.  During the long run of the show, over 70 women would be selected as a Florodora, each being a standard 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing around 130 pounds.  Their appearance with a sextet of handsome young men in the song "Tell Me Pretty Maiden" made the tune a popular hit of the time.
The pretty maidens attracted a swarm of stage door Johnnies.  It is claimed that they all married millionaires, and while it is true that a number of the Florodoras did marry into money, the story  of the most famous Florodora Girl shows that money does not always buy happiness.  Evelyn Nesbit was 14 years old when she was discovered working in Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia and offered a job as an artist's model.  She became one of the most popular and recognized models in Philadelphia, and later, New York City, posing for such famous artists as Charles Dana Gibson, the creator of the Gibson girl.  In 1901, her beauty won her a place as one of the Florodora Girls and launched her stage career.  It also brought her to the attention of famed architect, and renowned roué, Stanford White.  The 47-year-old White assumed the role of Nesbit's "protector," moving her, her widowed mother, and younger brother into an opulent hotel suite he decorated himself and arranging for her brother to attend a prestigious military school.  In truth, White's interest in the young teenage Nesbit was more predatory than protective, and one evening, after being plied with champagne, Nesbit lost consciousness, only to wake up naked in White's bed.  However, White continued to play Nesbit's benefactor, introducing her to many in New York high society.
Nesbit's beauty attracted other admirers, including Harry Kendall Thaw, heir to a $40 million coal and railroad fortune.  Thaw was mentally unstable and had a history of brutality and sexual sadism, but he was also very rich, and after being ardently pursued for four years by Thaw, Nesbit, who was always worried about falling back into poverty, married him in 1905.  Thaw made Nesbit repeatedly tell him about White's treatment of her.  Although a frequent patron of brothels and prostitutes, Thaw had a fixation on female virginity and became obsessed with redressing his wife's honor.  On June 25, 1906, Thaw shot and killed White while both men were attending the theater.  After two trials, during which Nesbit had to testify in sordid detail regarding her relationship with White, Thaw was declared not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to an asylum.  Thanks to his family's wealth and influence, Thaw was found sane and released in 1915, but the next year, after he was arrested for sexually assaulting and brutally beating a 19-year-old man, Thaw was again found to be insane and committed, though he would eventually be released.  Nesbit divorced Thaw in 1915 and continued to have a modest career in vaudeville and movies, but her fame as the "fatal beauty" would follow her through her life.

Friday, September 19, 2014

More Barrisons in Bisque

Previously on this blog, I posted about this bisque version of those naughty, bawdy, blonde, and buxom Barrison Sisters made by the German company of H. Hutschenreuther Porzellanfabrik (the figurine, not the sisters, although if tales of the time are correct, these maidens were most certainly on the make).

Hutschenreuther was certainly "inspired" (a nice way of saying that the sisters probably didn't see a cent from this use of their image) by this publicity photo of the infamous five in costume for the stage, each playfully holding an elegant lorgnette.

Although only featuring four femmes, rather than five, this 7 inch tall bisque figurine also undoubtedly sought to cash in on the sisters' vast, but brief, popularity in the 1890s.  Marked only with a freehand "16" in black under the base, the figurine is  of far finer in quality than the Hutschenreuther piece.  Who made this beautiful bisque tribute to the Barrisons is a mystery, as is the whereabouts of the missing fifth sister.  Perhaps she had to go and attend to her pussy.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Taking a Seat

Most bathing beauties recline, some sit on the ground, and a smaller percentage are made to stand.  Very few are molded in a sitting position because this would mean that the manufacturer or jobber would have to go through the extra expense of providing these little ladies a suitable seat.   The ever creative and thrifty Hertwig and Company solved this problem by using natural seashells, manufactured already by Mother Nature.  This little precolored bisque belle perches on a real shell.  She wears her original bathing suit and cap and is just 2.75 inches high, not counting her conch couch.  

Here she appears in the Hertwig catalogue.  As can be seen in the catalogue picture, Miss Shell, my belle, has lost the rayon ribbon trim that formed the suit's straps, as well as a little decorative bow on her left knee.   

Two larger versions of sirens seated on shells.  The catalogue refers to them as "Badedame auf echter Muschel" (bathing lady on a real shell).

Here is one of these larger ladies, sans shell, but comfortably seated in a wonderful little woven beach chair.  The cushion under her seat, which could have served to hold pins, has been hand painted with  the words "1,000 Islands."  Perhaps this was a souvenir from a visit to the archipelago of scenic islands where the Saint Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario (certainly a much more romantic notion than an advertisement for a popular salad dressing).  Also of precolored bisque, she retains her original swimsuit, complete with ribbons, and is approximately 3 inches tall.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Catalogue Girl

 This large lovely lady from Galluba and Hofmann strikes a graceful, but very scarce, pose.  She is 6.5 inches long and incised "423 RR" underneath.  As is so typical of Galluba, she is of the finest bisque, decoration, and modeling.  Her mohair wig is a replacement.

This pose appears twice on this page from the Galluba catalogue, in the second row from the top, once with a mohair wig and once with what appears to be a molded bathing cap. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This Bathing Beauty will Bring a Smile to Your Face. . . .

literally, in fact, because she is a toothbrush holder.  The chore of brushing your teeth would be a treat when you had this flirtatious flapper to look at.  Of excellent china, this brush-holding belle is 4 inches tall and 3.25 inches wide.  On each side of the yellow base is a small rectangular opening for holding a toothbrush. 

While most vintage toothbrush holders were made to stand on a sink or bathroom shelf, this holder would have hung on a wall, with the triangular opening for a nail or hook.  I suspect not too many survived, because a careless bump could send this fragile femme crashing to the tiled floor and her demise.  This piece is incised on back "777" and is of fine German quality. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Galluba and Hofmann Beach Babe. No, Really, She is!

At first glance (and probably second and third), a collector would not recognize this graceful Japanese lady as a product of Germany, much less by the firm of Galluba and Hofmann.  She appears to be a delicate Japanese okimono carving, but she is in fact of porcelain, tinted and decorated to resemble a fine ivory statue.  Under her base, this 7.5 inch tall figurine carries a partial stamp of Galluba and Hofmann shield in dark green and is incised  "4628."  And this beauty is on a beach!    She has tucked her skirt up into the wide obi and has tied the ends of the full sleeves together behind her back to protect her elaborately ornamented kimono from the sand and surf as she collects seashells along the shore.  Her basket is full of selected shells, and more are molded at her feet.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Just Kicking Back

This 4 inch tall comic cutie, although unmarked, cannot be by anyone other than the German firm of Schafer and Vater, who excelled in making this sort of wacky and wonderful novelties.  When her legs are tapped, this well-upholstered bathing belle swings them back and forth for a surprisingly long time.  She is of excellent sharp bisque and modeling.

I have updated my The Curse of Frankendoll with new information and pictures, including a photograph of a huge array of Frankendolls being sold at a 2014 German doll market.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dainty Damsel by Galluba and Hofmann

This lissome lass in her molded undergarments is a bisque fashion figure by Galluba and Hofmann,  She retains her original mohair wig, but has lost her outer garments of real silk and lace to the many passing years.  Her previous owner made her the necklace out of antique beads so tiny, they had to be strung on a human hair.  Just 5.75 inches tall, this lovely little lady is marked "406."  This rather shy and demure pose, with her hands folded behind her back, is very unusual for Galluba, whose ladies typically gesture gracefully with outstretched arms. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Article in "Antique Doll Collector"

My newest article, entitled "Galluba and Hofmann; Always in Fashion," appears in the July 2014 edition of "Antique Doll Collector." The article concerns 1983 Nina Ricci advertisement featuring three seated elegant Edwardian ladies by Galluba and Hoffman, the fashion figurines by Galluba, and the famed British photographer, Angus McBean, who used them in advertising and his custom-made Christmas cards.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Bookish Bathing Beauty

This bathing belle with a book is by my favorite manufacturer, A. W. Fr. Kister.  Although she has been nicely redressed in vintage material, her molded and tinted nipples are visible through her net bathing suit, an anatomical detail typical of Kister.  The molded one-strap bathing shoes with low heels are also a style of footwear favored by this company.  Of excellent pale bisque, she is 5 inches long.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sometimes Discretion is Not the Better Part of Valor

Earlier in this blog I noted that Dollmasters, a spin-off of Theriault's Auctions, which specialized in artist and reproduction dolls, old store stock, and reproduction doll clothes, had become Florence and George and was offering a variety of figurines made by the Belgium company, Mundial (aka Keralouve), whose copies of antique bathing beauties, half dolls, and all-bisque dolls have flooded antiques and flea markets and on-line auction and sales venues, where they are often misrepresented as old.  The catalogue is now on-line and is offering 16 "porcelain fancies" created by Mundial.  The catalogue describes these items as "Cast from the original designs, you'll find it hard to distinguish from the rare and sought originals - except that ours are stamped "f&g" on the underside."  Great, I thought, unlike the rest of Mundial products, at least these will be marked to indicate that they are reproductions.  Then I read the actual description for each piece, which includes the following:
"Since Florence & George is committed to collectors and the integrity of the secondary market and this piece is an especially accurate reproduction, we have discreetly marked it with a nearly invisible ink which is only revealed under a black light."
I think I still have indentations on my chin from my dropped jaw slamming into the keyboard after reading that.  How is marking each piece with "nearly invisible ink. . . only revealed under a black light" protecting collectors and the "integrity of the secondary market?"  I may be dating myself here, but I haven't had a black light since I tossed out all my fluorescent posters after graduating from high school.  I know a few antiques dealers and appraisers who travel around with a portable black light, but the vast majority of the doll and bathing beauty collectors I know don't bother.  Most of us are attuned enough to pick up overpainting and repairs without the use of a black light.  A folding 30x loupe is often as useful as a black light and doesn't need batteries.  And contrary to common lore, not all modern paints and glues will necessarily glow under a black light.  A black light can be a useful tool, but most collectors do just fine without one.  When I have seen collectors and dealers using a black light, they focus on the areas most likely to be repaired, such as fingers or projecting limbs.  I have never seen anyone using a portable black light to look for hidden marks under a figurine.  And if the ink is "nearly invisible," how is anyone going to even know to check it out with a black light?
On the other hand, I guess the bit of good news is that even if these items aren't marked as clearly as I would like (they don't need "REPRO" in big black letters across the forehead, but a clearly visible underglaze mark in dark paint, or even better, an incised mark, would have been far more preferable), just the fact they are appearing in the George and Florence catalogue may serve to educate more collectors that these reproductions are on the market.  I have nothing against reproductions, and these are pretty attractive and reasonably priced, all I ask is that they be clearly and indelibly marked as such!
Because links and catalogue stock are constantly changing,  here some of the reproductions currently on offer.  As always, it would be a good idea to check the catalogue regularly to see whether any new items have been added:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Just Lounging Around

If this lovely lady lying on her chaise lounge looks familiar, it is because she is the super-sized version of the powder box appearing on page 150 of my book, Bawdy Bisques and Naughty Novelties: German Bathing Beauties and Their Risqué Kin.  This pretty power box is 7 inches long and 6.5 inch high, and because of her large size, is much more detailed than the version in my book, which is only 4.75 inches long.  In the smaller box, the lady was left stark white, while in this deluxe model, she has a flawless complexion and beautifully painted features.  She holds a small red object in her hand.  Perhaps it is a powder puff and she is about to dip it into the box under her, or perhaps it is a small apple for this more modern Eve.  The box is incised underneath “3265.”  My smaller version is stamped "Bavaria" and I attribute both boxes to William Goebel.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Beware the Frankendoll! FAKES WARNING!!!

I have updated my blog to add a page warning of The Curse of Frankendoll, new dolls cobbled out of mismatched excavated German pieces and deceptively advertised as rare antiques.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pas de Deux

This delicate dancer is the sister of the bisque ballerina appearing in my previous post. Also 8 inches high and jointed only at the shoulders, she is of excellent pale china.  Her molded gray wavy short hair is adorned with a gilt headband decorated with raised dot design.  There is a hole in her left toe for a supporting rod and there are no marks. 

This picture from a 1911 Dressel, Kister, and Company catalogue displays an entire troupe of toe dancers.  Most came au naturel, but they were all supplied with simple wooden stands.   This charming china ballerina appears in two sizes in this photograph. 

Although all these lovely ladies appear to have molded hair, another picture from this catalogue shows a dancer, in the lower right corner, striking the same pose as the bisque belle in the prior post.  Other than the molded hair, the modeling and detail appears to be identical.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dance, Ballerina, Dance!

This prettiest of prima ballerinas is attributed to the German firm of Dressel, Kister and Company. Of the finest flawless bisque, she is 8 inches high.  Her slender arms with delicately detailed hands are jointed at the shoulders, but her legs are stiff.  There is a hole in her left toe for supporting rod, and these beautiful ballerinas were once attached to pincushions and music boxes ornately adorned with silk, lace, beads, and ribbon.  Her luxurious costume, lavished with silk floral garlands, gold lace, and tiny gilt beads, appears to be original and is typical of the elaborate outfits used by Dressel in dressing its ladies and half dolls.  There are no visible marks. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Another Member of the Tea Party. (No, Not THAT Tea Party!)

This exquisite aristocrat in her elegant molded Edwardian gown is a variation of the literary lady reading the newspaper as part of the terrific trio of tea partiers by Galluba and Hofmann.  She retains her original wooden chair adorned with ormolu ornaments and her full, lush mohair wig.  Although her chair is not marked, she is incised under the edge of her skirt "4990."  Of the finest bisque and workmanship, she is 7 inches tall.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


On this blog, I have repeatedly warned collectors about reproduction bathing beauties and all-bisque dolls made by the Belgium company, Mundial (aka Keralouve) that have flooded antiques and flea markets and on-line auction and sales venues, where they are often misrepresented as old.  Although the quality of these items is often far below that of the antique originals, it is good enough to fool many collectors and dealers, especially when the items are aged with applied dirt and rust spots.  I have just discovered that Dollmasters, a spin-off of Theriault's Auctions, which specialized in artist and reproduction dolls, old store stock, and reproduction doll clothes, has become Florence and George and the spring catalogue is offering a variety of Mundial bathing beauties (see pages 10, 11, and 37; there is also a copy of a Schafer and Vater figurine on the back cover).  The catalogue states that "Cast from the original designs, you'll find it hard to distinguish from the rare and sought originals - except that ours are stamped "f&g" on the underside."  While it is good that these, unlike the rest of Mundial products, will be marked to indicate that they are reproductions, the problem with stamped marks, as collectors and dealers learned from the re-issues made by the now defunct German Doll Company, is that they can be removed by unscrupulous sellers.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bottle Babe

Perhaps this bathing belle seems to be slyly smiling because she has a secret. . . .

. . . .this beach babe is a bottle, perfect for concealing a secret stash of hooch.
And at 7 inches high and 6 inches long, she could contain quite of bit of booze.  This is one woman who really knows how to hold her liquor!  There are no marks and she is made of a low-fire ceramic.  Hertwig and Company of Germany produced bathing beauties, figurines, and other items in this type of ceramic, which the company advertised as "feinsteingut."  Her modeling and pose do resemble many of Hertwig's flapper bathing beauties from the 1920s and 30s.