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 28, 2017

Happy New Year!

Ending this year with a very different type of gal by Galluba and Hofmann.  This 4.5 inch tall little girl with her pet piglet is coated with finely ground bisque referred to as "snow."  Such snow children, often referred to as "snow babies," were first made in Germany in the early 1890s and were popular Christmas decorations through the early years of the 1900s.  Galluba produced a variety of such snow children figurines with different decorative treatments.  Some like this example were tinted with a soft faint golden brown wash, giving the appearance of ivory or alabaster, while the snow is a faint gray or slate. Others were fully colored.  Sometimes the snow covered just the base and was lightly sprinkled over the children's heads and shoulders and in other examples it completely covered the children's clothing.  The snow might be left realistically white or, when it coated clothing, colored blue.  As with all Galluba figures, the quality of the modeling and workmanship was always high.  Her piglet pal holds a four-leaf clover, a sign of good luck, in its mouth.  In Germany the pig itself was also considered a sign of good luck and prosperity. A person who is lucky might say "Ich habe schwein gehabt" (I have had pig). It is traditional to give gifts of candy pigs known as glücksschweinchen (good luck pigs) at Christmas and New Years and such propitious pigs were often featured on Christmas and New Year postcards.  Underneath, this snow child and her swine are incised "4644."  Galluba used a 4000 series number on its snow figurines.  Not all lasses with lucky pigs are so sweet and innocent; earlier on this blog I posted some more adult-oriented examples of German glücksschweinchen.

Here is a colored version offered by Theriault's, sharing the base with a little boy.  These charming children are 4.5 inches high and incised "4666."  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In the Mode

This fashionable fräulein clad in the epitome of Edwardian elegance takes her shaggy terrier for a stroll.  Her formfitting gown of emerald green and black is textured fine flocking, giving it the appearance of fabric.  This 7 inch tall bisque vase is incised “1071” on bottom back edge of vase.

She is part of a series of fashionable figures by Hertwig and Company of German, advertised in their catalogue as "Figuren mit Paperhüten und mit Tuchschur bemalt" (figures with paper hats and painted flocking). This lady has lost her original crepe paper hat and mohair wig, which someone has replaced with a turban of blonde mink.  As this catalogue picture shows, she has lost not only her original headdress, but also her male companion, as the set was advertised as "Paar Modefiguren" (pair of fashion figures).  The difference in the model number in the catalogue may be related to size, as the pictured set was advertised as 13 centimeters tall, or just over five inches in height.    

A close up of her face, showing the flirtatious glance and subtle smile she once granted to her now absent gentleman admirer.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Gentle as a Lamb

The lovely lady with her loving lambkin is a big and very unusual figural powder dish.  The little lamb is the dish and a fluffy powder puff forms its fleece.

 Superbly sculpted from all sides, this piece is 6.5 inches long and 5 inches.  It is incised underneath “13746.”

Her slim, rather square face with narrow elongated eyes resembles those of certain delightful deco damsels by Gebruder  Heubach.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Rarity by Riera?

This elegant Edwardian is all original, from the top of her jaunty chapeau to the bottom of her velvet-covered box base (except for the antique paper rose I added to hide some damage to her left fingertips).  Twelve inches tall, she has a bisque head and limbs on an armature body.  

Although there are no visible marks, the modeling and decoration of her face (especially the feathered eyebrows) recalls the lovely ladies made by Dressel, Kister, and Company.  The large expressive hands are also typical of Dressel.

Her feet are tacked to the box lid with little nails, which are cleverly disguised as shoe buckles.

Her base is actually a box, that may have once held some sweet treats or treasured trinket.

Her outfit would be the epitome of fashion in the late 1910s, with the unusual mushroom-shaped hat fitted low over the eyebrows, short jacket with a wide collar, high waist, and a full skirt, such as pictured in this fashion plate from 1917.

She may be a rare fashion doll dressed by Mademoiselle E. Victoria Riera, who created exquisitely costumed dolls in France in the early 1900s.  Riera is first mentioned in the French magazine Femina in 1908 as the winner of a doll dressing contest for three little ladies she garbed in detailed historical costumes.  Her dolls had bisque heads and limbs, which Riera bought from other manufacturers, and wore beautifully tailored hand-sewn costumes representing historical eras, regional folk dress, or contemporary fashion.  Her dolls were posed on velvet bases, often, but not always, with a label carrying Riera's name and the year.  These dolls were luxury items, exhibited at museums and high-end fashionable stores. Riera continued to dress dolls through the 1910s, including taking part in exhibitions to help raise funds for the French war effort.  This 12-inch fashion lady auctioned by Theriault's has an identical bisque head to my belle on a box, the same unusual feet with the nail buckles, and a similar velvet-covered base. Theriault's attributed her to Riera.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

On the Ball

This nubile nude leaning against a big bright beach ball is unmarked, but has the amber painted eyes with sultry gray shadowing typical of bathing beauties and half dolls of the German firm of Fasold and Stauch.  Of excellent china, this belle of the ball is 5.5 inches long. 

A close up of her face, showing the typical Fasold eyes.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Mystery Deepens

Earlier in this blog I posted about a mujer de misterio, a señorita from Spain who at first glance appeared to be a fashion figure from Galluba and Hofmann, but in fact was a replica made of plaster.  She now has a sister, also from Spain.  This lovely lass also has a mohair wig, which in this case appears to be original, arms jointed at the shoulders, and molded off-white combination underwear ending just above knees.  Standing on her base, she is 16 inches tall.

She has all the charming characteristics of a Galluba gal, including the perfect oval face, large intaglio eyes, the long slim neck, and surprisingly wide shoulders.  

Her elegant outfit of velvet and lace appears to be all original and is beautifully made.

Underneath are several petticoats trimmed in fine lace and lace knickers with delightful ribbon garters (one could argue this is superfluous as she has molded underwear underneath, but I am glad that her mysterious maker made this extra effort!).  The right or left foot slightly forward is common to Galluba's fashion ladies, but the dainty little feet with multi-strap pumps are not typical footwear for Galluba ladies, who tend to have footwear with elongated toes so that the tips of their shoes are often visible under the hems of their long Edwardian skirts.  Perhaps a little artistic license by her unknown creator?

Her base, trimmed in lavish red velvet and gold braid, is the top of a round box (the bottom is lost to time).  The only mark is “2270/60” in pencil written inside the lid.  One wonders if the box held sweet treats or perfumed power.  Whatever its contents, this must have been some gargantuan  gorgeous gift!  This lady and her lacy outfit are in wonderful condition considering time and the fragility of the materials.  Clearly someone treasured this beautiful box-lid belle for many, many years. 

Spanish craftsmen for centuries have created religious figures and icons out of wood and plaster.  It appears now that sometime in the early 1900s a Spanish artisan decided to branch out into more modern mannequins to adorn shop windows and gift boxes and used the bisque belles of Galluba as a model.  Perhaps someday a catalogue, advertisement, or business card will come to light to help solve the mystery of these lovely ladies of Spain. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fly Girl

This bathing belle appears ready to flee the fly that has alighted on her thigh.  Of excellent china, the fly-shy flapper is 2.5 inches high and three inches long.  The frisky fly is metal and has clear celluloid wings.  This bather has been attributed to Fasold and Stauch.   

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ooo-La-La, a French Bathing Beauty

As noted before on this blog, I collect antique dolls as well as bathing beauty figurines.  It is always a special serendipity when my two collections overlap.  This 17-inch tall French fashion models an antique doll-size bathing suit from the 1860s or 70s.  Such dolls were the Barbie dolls of their day, and their exquisite and costly wardrobes included every article of accessory or clothing a proper lady would need in her trousseau, including a demure, but fashionable, bathing suit for a visit to the beach.  Her two-piece bathing suit, consisting of a long tunic top and full trousers, is beautifully tailored of canvas with wool ribbon trim.  All the buttons, even on her cuffs, are fully functional.  I added the snood, stockings, and leather slippers--although they are far newer than the suit itself, they are appropriate for the period.  Finding authentic early doll fashions is far from easy, and bathing suits are exceptionally scarce.   

Although sea bathing was long considered to have curative powers, as the Victorian era saw a rise in the middle class and leisure time, trips to the beach became more merry than medicinal.  Fashion magazines printed pictures of the latest in swimwear, balancing modesty and mode.  This illustration is from the July1864 edition of Godey's Lady's Book, a monthly women's magazine published from 1830 to 1878.  Typically, such bathing suits were made from wool, serge, or flannel.    

The doll herself has a bisque swivel head on a matching shoulder plate and a kid body.  She wears her original mohair wig, which perfectly matches her eyebrows.  Although marked only "4" on her shoulder plate, she is attributed to the French manufacturer Masion Jumeau.  Her exaggerated elongated almond-shaped eyes, dubbed "wrap around" by collectors, are typical of early Jumeau fashions.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Paper Doll

I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own
A doll that other fellows cannot steal
And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes
Will have to flirt with dollies that are real

Johnny S. Black, 1915, as recorded by the Mills Brothers in 1942.

This 7.5 inch tall bathing beauty is made entirely out of crepe paper on wire armature. I know nothing about her other than she is definitely old, weird, and wonderful.  Her blue Gibson girl type bathing suit is amazingly detailed, complete with nautical collar, short puffed sleeves, knee-length skirt over longer bloomers, all edged with thin strips of white trim.  Brown crepe paper curls peek out from the front of her blue mob cap adorned with a red bow, and in the back, tucked under her cap, is a chignon of twisted paper.  Her face has a molded nose and each finger is separately wired. She poses provocatively on a wooden dome base.  With coquettish side-glancing eyes, she appears to be looking down the beach for some of those flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes to come and steal her. 

Her age is a bit of a mystery.  Dennison Manufacturing Company, a paper supply and manufacturing company, in the 1890s began to offer sets of paper dolls with either ready-made dresses of colorful crepe paper or with sheets of crepe paper a child could use to create her own dolly fashions.  Throughout the 1900s, Dennison helpfully offered booklets showing how its crepe paper products could be used to create festive decorations and costumes for any occasion.  It even offered instructions for making crepe paper dolls on armature bodies of wire or pipe cleaners, and, although these creations are charming, they are far less complex in construction than this tissue tootsie.  Below is a cover of a 1929 Dennison instruction booklet for making novelty dolls, showing the simpler doll design. 

The height of Dennison's DIY popularity appears to be in the 1920s through the 1940s.  During this same period, wire armature crepe paper dolls with painted crepe paper faces or heads of wax, composition, or bisque were popular as holiday or wedding decorations and center-pieces; some are clearly homemade, but others were produced commercially in Germany, the United States, and Japan.  This crepe paper bathing belle, with all her delicate details, could have been a commercial product, but may also be the creation of an extremely skill home hobbyist, and she most likely dates from this period.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dog Days

In Austin, we are now into the dog days of summer, those long days of simmering searing heat. The term comes from the early Greeks, who noted that beginning in late July Sirius, the dog star (because this bright star was the "nose" of the constellation Canis Major) appeared to rise before the sun, heralding the hottest season of the year.  However, summer heat has not slowed down this pair of  playful pups, each engaged in tugging off one of the stockings of his mirthful mistress.  These figurines are fairings, small inexpensive bisque or china pieces often given as prizes or sold as souvenirs at fairs from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.  Made in Germany, many fairings carry a caption; here each fairing features the motto "Lucky Dog."  There is a bit of a double entendre here, as "dog" could also be slang for a chap or chum.  And indeed any man allowed the privilege of stripping a stocking from such a lovely leg would consider himself a lucky dog indeed!

Of good china, and nicely decorated and detailed for this type of inexpensive novelty, this coquette and her canine companion is 4 inches long and 5 inches high.  It is marked only with a freehand black “63” inside the base.

This bisque version is 4 inches tall and is stamped "Made in Germany" in black underneath.  Of good bisque, the painting is bright and gaudy with gilt, but somewhat slapdash and hasty, typical for many fairings.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Snake Charmer

 He's a cold-hearted snake 
Look into his eyes 
Oh oh oh 
He's been tellin' lies 
He's a lover boy at play 
He don't play by the rules 
Oh oh oh 
Girl don't play the fool--no
Paula Abdul and Elliot Wolfe, 1989

This slinky serpent is either charming, or is being charmed by, the lithe and lovely lady curled up on his coils.  A very unusual creation by Galluba and Hofmann, this 4.25 inch tall  and 4.5 inch wide china figurine is stamped underneath in green with the company's intertwined “G” and “H” inside a crowned shield and incised “40.”  The encircling snake forms a shallow dish, perhaps for holding powder or trinkets (or maybe an apple?).

As they stare into each other's eyes, one wonders who is hypnotizing whom.

A back view of the this lissome lass and her elongated lover.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Little More Than a Glimpse. . . .

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

                                              Cole Porter, 1934

In the days of long skirts and multiple petticoats, the image of a shapely female leg with a well-turned ankle often appeared in naughty novelties, such as these lovely lower limbs.

This risqué bisque is a naughty nipper, a novelty bottle that once held a "nip" of alcohol and was often given away by saloons, liquor stores, or at carnivals as gifts or prizes.  The German company Schafer and Vater is know for its comic or bawdy bottles.  Although marked only with a blurred digit, this 6.5 inch tall bottle resembles many of this company's products, especially its underdressed lasses showing off the their lithe legs in molded stockings.

This 5.75 inch tall leg is a bit of a mystery.  Of bisque, it is hollow and open at the top, as well as at the heel, so it could not have served as a bottle.  It is also clad in a stocking of real fabric and the shoe is covered in silk, further suggesting that this limb was not meant to hold liquid.  It cannot stand by itself, so I added the base, with a rod that fits up into the molded hole in the heel.  Perhaps it was meant to be a comic candy container and once had a bag of small sweet treats.  Or, with a base,  maybe it was a counter display to show off a brand of stocking?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2017 Doll Show

My page for the Austin Doll Collectors Society's upcoming October 14, 2017, doll show has been updated (including the show's new location and downloadable dealer contracts).  Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dressed from Head to Toe . . . .

but with nothing in-between, this long-legged lass is from the German firm of Fasold and Stauch.  Of excellent china and 9 inches tall, she sweetly smiles with confidence, knowing that the right accessories are all you need to make a fashion statement.  Perhaps at one point she wore a dress of real fabric and lace, but with such a stunning hat (and figure!), who needs clothes?

Although marked only with a freehand “11” in black under her base, this flirtatious fashionista flashes the typical elongated amber eyes with grey shading attributed to Fasold.

Her torso fits down onto slots at the tops of the legs and is held in place with plaster. This allowed Fasold to use the same lithe limbs for a variety of figurines, without having to create an entirely new mold. For example, this be-gloved lovely, part of an auction by Theriault's, has been found on the same shapely legs.

Or a powder dish could be added, to hold an elegant half doll powder puff, as shown by this example, also from the same Theriault's auction.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Dancing Shape, an Image Gay. . .

She was a phantom of delight 
When first she gleam’d upon my sight; 
A lovely apparition, sent 
To be a moment’s ornament; 
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair; 
Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair; 
But all things else about her drawn 
From May-time and the cheerful dawn; 
A dancing shape, an image gay, 
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
Any collector would be haunted, startled, and waylaid by this most beauteous bisque belle.  Although her original form-fitting silk dress covers any marks (while caressing every supple curve of her graceful swaying figure), this  6.75 inch tall lovely lady (not including her wood base) is no doubt by the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann.  She is clearly related to another waltzing woman pictured earlier on this blog, and they are gowned in clinging Edwardian gowns of the same color of silk.  One wonders if she too once had a tuxedoed beau.  There are holes in the soles of her molded white pumps for supporting rods.  The wood base is a replacement and she may have once had a base of bisque or decorated an elaborate candy box or pincushion.

A close up of her exquisite features.  She wears her original mohair wig.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Plaster, but No Saint

This seductive sultana is of chalkware or plaster.  During the early 1900s, there was a fad for pretty plaster ladies, often dressed in real materials, even if it was just a filmy lace chemise.  Perhaps the best known of these chalkware coquettes are the charming plaster poupees designed by the famed French Boudoir artist Maurice Millier.  I do not know who made this ravishing rani, but she is clad in her original exotic, and somewhat exiguous, outfit.  In surprisingly good shape considering the fragility of her materials, she is 11.5 inches tall and unmarked.  The quality of both the figurine and her costume are quite high for this type of novelty statuette.  Unfortunately, her maker is a mystery.  

She reflects the West's continuing fascination with Orientalism, imaginative and fanciful depictions of a mysterious, seductive, and decadent Middle East.  Her costume appears to have been inspired by the elaborate and lavish costumes created by Léon Bakst for the Ballet Russe's 1910 "Scheherazade." 

In fact, her outfit certainly resembles (sans a couple of thousand dangling pearls) the costume worn by dancer Vera Fokina, who portrayed the unfaithful Zobéide, the favorite wife of Sultan Shahriyar, even to the openings down the front of the legs, the puffy peplum at the hips, and the contrasting bodice.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May,

Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I took this picture for another project, but I liked it so much I decided to include it on my blog.  Both bisque bathing beauties are by Galluba and Hofmann and have their original net bathing suits; the more mature lady, a bathing belle fully deserving of the much-abused adjective "rare," has her original wig as well.  Her expression seems to say, "Let's just see how cute you'll be in another 30 years, buttercup."