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, 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.