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 22, 2016

Dresden Dolls

As delicate as her dress, this lovely little lady layered in porcelain lace is by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann.  Although a mere 3.5 inches long, the facial features of this bisque belle are as detailed as those on her larger sisters, as is her original mohair wig.  To create her ethereal finery, real lace was dipped in porcelain slip and draped over the figurine during the greenware stage.  When fired, the lace burned away, leaving only the thin porcelain shell.  Many dealers and collectors refer to this as Dresden lace, after the porcelain-making area of Germany where the many companies used this technique, although porcelain factories throughout Germany produced such "spitzenfiguren."  The airy bathing suit or sundress is beautifully done, using two types of lace; a fine net makes up the majority of the dress and details such as shoulder straps and a bow at the waist, while an eyelet material was used to create an underskirt, as well as to trim the bodice.  Sadly, as is so typical of this fragile porcelain lace, there is some damage to the front of her skirt, but it is amazing that so much of her frail outfit is still intact after a century!

Here she poses with two more dainty diminutive damsels from this scarce series.

Friday, December 9, 2016

New Article

My article, "A Whistle and a Shimmy; Clockwork Carnival Dolls of the 1920s" is in the December 2016 issue of "Antique Doll Collector." The article looks at the clockwork cuties companies like Zaiden Toy Works created for carnival concessionaires. Below are some of the dolls included in my article.  This is "Bimbo," advertised by Zaiden in 1922 as a “wonderful creation” who “executes the belly roll.” 

Another Zaiden maiden is "Salvation Nell," a “Salvation Army girl shaking her tambourine and collecting funds. A Goddess of Mercy.”

Although Zaiden did make a Hula dancer, this doll is “Hula-Hula,” a big-eyed Kewpie-doll type by Progressive Toy Company. 

This March 8, 1922, advertisement by Zaiden features seven dolls, which it declares are only part of the company’s “Sixteen new mechanical numbers.” How many more of these shimmying and shaking dancing dolls are still out there after over 80 years, waiting to be discovered? 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Peek-A-Boo. . . We See You!

In this bronze figurine, a shy bathing belle peeks out of her beach cabana, demurely clutching the curtains closed so that all we see is her sweetly-smiling face and dainty slippered feet.  But press down on the button atop her tent. . . .

and you are treated to a whole other side of her personality. Pulling out the button on the left side of the changing hut restores her modesty by flipping the bare beauty back to her original position. 

This erotic mechanical bronze is 6.25 inches tall. The lower back base of cabana incised with stylized urn contains a "B" and “Nam Greb Austria.” The "B" in the urn is the mark of the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann, which produced detailed bronze sculptures from the 1860s until 1936. Among the miniature animals, comic subjects, and Middle Eastern scenes, the foundry produced erotic bronzes, typically featuring a nude woman or a pair of naked lovers secreted within a seemingly innocuous subject, only to be revealed by a push of a button or lifting a up a piece of metal drapery. Often the erotic subjects are marked "Nam Greb," the reverse of Bergmann's name (less one "n"). Bergmann's son subsequently reopened the foundry, but the molds and remaining stock were sold at his death in 1954 to Karl Fuhrmann and Company. Currently, there are high-quality (and expensive) reproductions from Bergmann's molds, typically the miniature cold-painted animals, being cast in Austria, but as far as I can tell, not of the more complicated mechanical bronzes. There are also cheaper and poorer quality copies of some of the erotic Bergmann models coming out of Europe, China, or India. These pieces have poor modeling and blurred details, may be garishly gold-painted or patinated, and the female figurines' figures often have been slimmed down (but their breasts enlarged) to cater to modern tastes.  Many of these bronzes, whether recast from an original mold of carelessly copied, carry the Bergmann or Nam Grab marks.