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, 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.  

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