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 5, 2019

Fancy That!

Another old catalog page, this one from a partial catalog from an unidentified wholesaler or exporter.  With descriptions in German, French, English, and Spanish, the catalog offered a wide variety of toys and dolls and appears to date from the 1920s.

At the bottom right corner of the page is a trio of bathing beauties.

The accompanying price page does not contain any specific description of the little bathers, lumping them in with a group of googly girl dolls and one oddly-placed religious figure as "Fancy dolls of papier mache, painted eyes."  There is a notation for "04329," the seated bathing belle with the paper parasol, stating "Silk," apparently describing the ribbon that appears to be tied around her waist.  The other two little ladies, "04330" and "04331" have no notations, which suggests that their costumes are molded and painted.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Aeroplane Service, Subway Prices

Another old catalog featuring bathing belles, this one from S.K. Novelty Company in Brooklyn, New York.  Its offerings are the type of composition cuties and quasi-Kewpies found on carnival midways, where barkers urged rubes to, "Step right up and win a Kewpie doll for the little lady."

The catalog opens with "Sweetums, the Belle of the Bathers." The price of $11.50 seems extremely extravagant, but it is for a dozen dolls, as made clear on other pages. The catalog states this bather is bisque, but I suspect it is a "bisque finish" advertised on subsequent pages. In the late 1910s into the 1920s, there was a fad for comic googly-eyed bathing beauty figurines. In 1919, Playthings, a magazine for the toy trade, announced that the novelty vogue of the year was wide-eyed "beach dolls" made of wood fiber or composition. The most famous of these flirtatious flapper figures was "Splash Me," copyrighted in 1918 by Genevieve Pfeffer.

Another starry-eyes seaside siren is "Miss Neptune, Jr.," the "Star of the Sea."  She appears to be Sweetums in a different color scheme.  Perhaps her fuller wavy wig is the reason for the dollar difference in the price.

Next is a cadre of composition Kewpie doll knockoffs gaudily gowned in bits of silk, ribbon, and "marabough" (I think the copywriter meant marabou), some with "wonderful" or "beautiful" wigs.  No doubt the material was of the cheapest quality and the costumes simple, but they certainly added to the doll's commercial appeal.

The page featuring "Lovie, Jr." clarifies that the price is for a dozen.  Lovie could be purchased with or without a wig, the bald version being $2 cheaper by the dozen.

The copywriter lays it on pretty thick for "Lotus Flower."  Note that little Lotus is advertised as having a "bisque finish."

Lovie, Jr. reappears, now in a knit bathing suit and cap.  

Another offering in a knit bathing outfit, as well as a mohair wig.

The hand-written margin note states that, "This is absolutely the largest novelty doll in the world."  She is certainly sizable at 18 inches tall and could be ordered with or without a wig.

The final page declares that the company has many other items not listed in the catalog.  It proudly proclaims the company's motto, "Aeroplane service and subway prices."

Friday, November 8, 2019

You Spin Me Right 'Round

You spin me right 'round, baby
Right 'round like a record, baby
Right 'round, 'round, 'round
You spin me right 'round, baby
Right 'round like a record, baby
Right 'round, 'round, 'round

David Burns, 1984

Another example of naughty novelty jewelry is this frisky fob. A fob was a short chain, ribbon, or charm that attached to a man's pocket watch and hung outside of the vest or pants pocket where the watch was tucked, making it easier for a man to extract his watch to check the time. Such fobs were a fashionable accessory for men through the early 1900s, when timepieces moved from the pocket to the wrist.  Dating from the Edwardian period this fob is termed a spinner, as it features a disk that spins freely in its frame.  One side of the disk features an engraving of a male bather wading out into the waves.

The other side portrays a bathing belle who has just emerged from the changing hut in the background and is about to dive into the surf.  Clearly these two swimming enthusiasts were meant for each other, but how will they ever meet?  Well, just spin the disk. . .

and they quickly strike up a very intimate friendship. 

The human eye and brain can only process 10 to 12 separate images per second. When viewing a sequence of still images in quicker succession, the viewer sees what appears to be a continuous moving image. Swiftly spinning the disk tricks the eye into melding the two quickly flickering images into one. Cartoon animation is achieved through this same optical illusion. Unfortunately, this illusion does not trick my camera as well as it does my eyes, so I had to engage in a little photo manipulation to achieve the image that I, but not my camera, perceived.

Of silver-toned metal, the fob is 2 inches long and is unmarked.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Early Halloween Treat

Halloween means dressing up in costumes, or in the case of this little treat, dressing down in a barely-there exotic ensemble of molded beads and jewels.  Although mainly decorated in soft creams and browns to resemble an ivory carving, her exotic attire is emphasized with gilt and accents of red and blue. By the German firm of Galluba and Hofmann, she is 5.75 inches long and incised underneath "9748."  This 9000 series was used by Galluba on many of its luscious harem ladies in exiguous beaded attire.  A similar sultana from this series appeared earlier on this blog.

A close up of her face shows the typical Galluba features, such as eyes with intaglio pupils highlighted with a dot of white and softly smiling slightly parted lips, but done entirely in shades of brown.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Waxing Elegant

Although wax half dolls and bathing belles were popular decorative items in the early 1900s, few have survived.  Bisque and china will certainly shatter or chip if dropped or handled roughly, but otherwise can stand the vicissitudes of time and temperature.  A waxen lass, whether solid or a wax coat over plaster or chalk, has a far more ephemeral epidermis, easily scratched or dented, subject to cracking in cold weather or softening on hot days.  The features painted on top of the wax tend to rub off or fade over time.  This original catalog from the Germany company of Ernst Scheddin offering  tea doll heads ("teepuppenköpfen") and wax figures ("wachsfiguren") shows the delightful variety and the delicate beauty of these vulnerable belles.  I have not been able to find any background information of this factory, but the catalog most likely dates from the late 1910s though the 1920s.

The introduction states that while the catalog displays the factory's standard articles, there are many variations and, on request, similar figures can be created in wax or chalk.

The top row of "tea doll heads" have a wax coating and can be ordered with a smooth or matte finish. The second row are of wax.

The top picture displays wax heads for assembling dolls or pincushions, while the lower offers cute chubby cherubs in wax.

Wax half dolls with movable full arms and wonderful wigs.

"Aktfiguren," a fancy way of saying nekkid ladies. . . .

Wax figures offered dressed with bits or ribbon or displayed on fancy pincushions.

These are supplemental pages offering additional decorative damsels.

Certainly my favorite page, displaying bathing beauties both nude ("nackt") or painted with glitter ("flitterbemalung"), some posing with paper parasols.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Yet More Barrison Sisters. . . .

The naughty bawdy vaudeville career of the Five Barrison Sisters was relatively brief, but, as can been seen on this blog, they were the inspiration for bevies of risqué bisque novelties.  This example has an exceptionally pretty face.  The detailed painting of the slightly intaglio eyes and the overall fine quality suggest to me that this lovely lass is by the German firm of Ernst Bohne Söhne.  Unmarked, she is 3.5 inches tall.

Although there may be a question concerning her maker, there is none regarding her identity.   Her pose and costume was clearly copied from the second sister on the left pictured on this 1895 cabinet card.

No doubt from the same maker and inspired by the same photograph, this bisque belle is 4 inches high.  She is the three-dimensional doppelgänger of the sister pictured on the far left.

She copies the pose even to the cigarette between her rosy lips.  However, in this case, the cigarette is actually a small metal tube.

The tube extends down into the figure's hollow interior.  It appears plausible that if a cone of smoldering incense was placed underneath, she would appear to smoke.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Stick It!

This intriguing reverse intaglio stickpin is another example of naughty novelty jewelry.  The image of a curvaceous diving belle on a rocky outcrop was carved into the flat back of a clear rock crystal cabochon and then painted with fine brushes, giving this marvelous miniature a glowing three-dimensional effect.  The carved cabochon is set in a 10 karat gold frame, sealed in the back to protect the delicate painting.  The stickpin itself is just 3.35 inches long.

Carving and painting these tiny treasures required great skill.  The technique originated in Belgium in the 1860s, but gained great popularity in Victorian England. The crystals can be found in a wide variety of jewelry for both men and women, including cuff links, watch fobs, brooches, and bracelets. The subjects were as varied as the settings, from sports such as hunting and fishing to natural themes such as flowers, butterflies, and birds. Horses and equestrian themes were popular, as were pampered pets such as dogs and cats.  However, rather risqué subjects such as this voluptuous bathing beauty are rare.  This type of carved crystal jewelry has been christened "Essex crystal" by antique dealers and collectors. The name appears to come from a mistaken attribution to William Essex (1784-1869). Essex was a skilled painter of miniature enamel work and was appointed as enamel-painter to Queen Victoria, but there is no evidence that Essex ever created such crystal gems.  These remarkable crystal creations were made through the early 1900s, but were replaced by mass-produced glass and plastic imitations, often in the form of inexpensive charms, which came into the market in the 1920s. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Among my Souvenirs. . . .

Romance comes to all in Summer, Spring or Fall 
It came the day that I met you 
And though you may seem a sweet and happy dream 
Yet all the time you knew it was untrue 
There's nothing left for me of days that used to be 
I live in memory among my souvenirs

Some letters tied with blue, a photograph or two 
I see a rose from you among my souvenirs

words by Edgar Leslie, music by Horatio Nicholls, 1927

This tiny brass souvenir album from France certainly contains "a photograph or two."  Just 1.5 inches tall and one inch high, it is beautifully embossed with an art nouveau pattern.  

Delightfully detailed, the edges are molded to appear as the edges of the interior pages.

It opens to reveal an octet of early photographs of very buxom beauties in various poses "plastique."

Although at first place these luscious ladies appear to be nude, they are in fact clad in form-fitting maillots.  

I have seen some of these same images reproduced on "naughty" French postcards from around 1900, such as this bejeweled belle, who appeared on a postcard signed "Reutlinger." Léopold-Émile Reutlinger took over the Parisian photography Studio Reutlinger from his father and became renown for his portraits of the most famous, and infamous, beauties of the Belle Epoque, from opera singers and actresses to performers from the stages of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergères.  He also produced artistic erotic pictures reproduced widely on postcards.

Another Reutlinger picture, this one a portrait of Caroline Otéro.  "La Belle," as she was known, was a Spanish actress and dancer who starred in Les Folies Bergère in the early 1900s.  A great beauty famed for her hypnotic dark eyes and curvaceous physique, she was one of the last great French courtesans.  Although blurred,  the Reutlinger signature and "Paris" are just visible in the lower right corner.