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.