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 31, 2020

Madame Chair

After a detour via bronze, this post returns to the theme of bawdy bisque. This lissome lady appears to have forgotten her gavel, among other things. An unusual seated figure, she is by my favorite maker, A. W. Fr. Kister. As it typical of this company, everything is of the highest quality, from the flawless bisque to the superb sculpting. She is 6.5 inches tall and has her original mohair wig. 

There is a channel through her hips that could be used to attach her to a pincushion. Her current seat is an antique dollhouse chair.  The slightly molded and tinted nipples are a unique characteristic of Kister's beautiful bisque belles. . . 

but her identity is further confirmed, as underneath she is incised with the cross-hatch "S" mark of this company. 


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Wanna See My . . .Lady?

A number of posts on this blog have featured female figures with strategically placed kitty-cats, a double-entendre of "pussy" as an affectionate name for a cat and as a vulgar reference to female genitalia. The Barrison Sisters built an entire vaudeville career in the 1890s by showing off their "pussies" on stage. This bawdy bronze is a slightly different play on pussy. A cute kitten sits on a marble base. Its realistic fluffy coat and appealing face are superbly sculpted, highlighted with a deep golden patina. Just 5 inches high, but with substantial heft, it could have served as a paperweight for a gentleman's desk.

Why a gentleman? Well, this prurient pussy swings open to expose a kneeling nude lady, smugly smiling as she clutches a cache of jewels. She has a subtler golden patina than her feline friend, and her hair and gems are a softly-tinted rose.

Almost obscured by the curls in the fur, "AUSTRIA" is stamped on the back rim of the cat. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Austria, particularly in Vienna, was famous for its foundries and ateliers producing finely crafted artistic bronzes. The works covered a wide variety of genres, including classical studies, animals and nature, comic subjects, Orientalist images, and even erotic images. Often the naughty bits were concealed in a seemingly innocuous subject, only to be revealed by a push of a button or lifting a up a piece of metal drapery. There is a wide variety of these Austria sculptures  concealing salacious secrets, with nubile nudes hidden within an assortment of owls, mice, sphinxes, mummy cases, Eastern idols, and, perhaps most appropriately, an iron maiden.


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Another belle in bronze, but far less brazen than the previously posted pair. This demure damsel is "Innocence" or "L'innocence" by Demétre Chiparus (1886-1947), one of the iconic sculptors of the art deco period. Often inspired by dancers and performers from the Ballet Russes and the French stage, as well as archeological discoveries in Egypt, Chiparus was renown for his chryselephantine sculptures, perfectly capturing the pose and facial expression of his subject. Carved from ivory and clad in a rather negligible negligee of cold-painted bronze, this modest maiden is 7 inches high and stands on a 3-inch tall marble base. The skilled sculptor managed to make the metal seem to cling to, and subtly emphasize, her soft curves. 

Her side-ways glance and sly smile seem a little bit too knowing, but in this country one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. 

Chiparus' signature is faintly engraved on the edge of the base by her feet.

Chiparus was born in Romania. After studying sculpture in Italy, in 1912 he traveled to Paris to continue his studies. He began with realistic works of animals and beguiling portraits of children, but by the 1920s he had created his signature style that would become synonymous with art deco sculpture. Chiparus worked closely with the Edmond Etling and Cie Foundry and his works were often displayed in the Etling specialty store. Chiparus sold the reproduction rights to the foundry and the same work can be found in a variety of sizes and materials. Mademoiselle Innocence can be found in chryselephantine, like this example. or completely cast in bronze or carved in ivory. However, Chiparus ensured that any creations carrying his name were of the highest quality and even in their day, his works were expensive and exclusive.

Because of his extraordinary talent and his renown as one of the premier sculptors in the art deco style, Chiparus' works are in high demand, and consequently there are a lot of fakes out there. Most of the copies are cast completely in bronze. Although these copies may carry his signature, they have lost his skilled touch. The fine details and chasing are lost or blurred, the poses stiff, the gestures clumsy, and any painted patina too heavy and garish. There have been attempts in the past to recreate Chiparus' chryselephantine creations, typically using fossilized mammoth ivory. The Arnold Quinn Studio produced a number of chryselephantine copies of some of Chiparus' most iconic images. Many years ago, I was in Las Vegas for a convention and came upon a gallery offering works from this studio. Of patinated bronze and carved ivory, the works were on elaborate bases of onyx and marble. They were very expensive and the salesman was quite coy regarding whether the works were originals or copies. Although of higher quality than the typical Chiparus copies, compared to the original carvings that graced Chiparus' creations, the ivory faces were flat and mask-like, the hands stiff, and the arms and legs graceless and lacking any musculature or anatomical detail. The ivory often did not fit smoothly with the bronze, suggesting to me that it was carved far from the foundry, probably in another country with craftsmen copying a model. The salesman would or could not tell me where the ivory was carved, but the shapes of the faces and style of the expressions reminded me of ivory sculpture from India. Although it appears that the studio is now defunct, these works, often with a fake Etling foundry mark, show up periodically at auction advertised as authentic Chiparus. In the past, high-end antiques galleries in New York and Florida have been sued over claims that they misrepresented reproduction Chiparus artworks as authentic originals. Chiparus sculptures also show up at fraudulent estate sales known as "house packing," when unscrupulous dealers rent an empty house, cram it full of recast bronzes and giclee prints with the signatures of "big name" artists, as well as modern Oriental rugs and Chinese import porcelain, and then try to pass off this conglomeration of fakes and forgeries as a collector's estate. Instead of innocent until proven guilty, when coming upon a sculpture attributed to Chiparus, the best assumption is fake until proven authentic.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Brazen Behavior!

The image of a handsome beach beau courting a beauteous bathing belle who is seated in a wicker beach chair has appeared before on this blog. Of cold-painted bronze, this well-detailed statuette is just 4 inches tall.  The scene starts out innocently enough, with the man appearing to introduce himself with a gentlemanly bow. . .  

However, the object of his attention and affection is not fastened to her beach chair. Turn her over, and it is revealed that the bottom of her bathing suit is unfastened as well.

The figures are cast in poses that allow them to be placed in some pretty prurient positions. 

Although unmarked, this very bawdy bronze is most likely Austrian. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Vienna became the center of many foundries and ateliers producing finely crafted artistic bronzes.The most famous is the Viennese foundry of Franz Xaver Bergmann, which produced detailed bronze sculptures from the 1860s until 1936. Along with miniature animals, genre scenes, comic subjects, and Orientalist images, these foundries often produced a sizable variety of erotic bronzes. The two-part erotic pieces are scarce. The most commonly found feature a satyr and nymph who can be placed in a variety of positions, from innocent to indecent (some of these mythological couplings are currently being reproduced). Another rare piece features a prone nude aboriginal man blowing on the beginnings of a campfire while a lady friend sits nearby; in this piece, both figures are free from the base and can be fitted together so that they appear to be lighting a completely different type of fire. This is the first two-part naughty bathing scene theme I have seen. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Pillow Talk

Posing provocatively on her pillow, this extraordinarily lovely lady is by my favorite maker of bathing belles and nubile nudes, A. W. Fr. Kister. She is from the company's series of languid beauties cast in creamy white bisque, carefully highlighted with subtle washes of pale golden-yellow, giving the impression of a sculpture carved in ivory or marble. She displays the superb realistic sculpting, graceful pose, and expressive features typical of Kister.  Of the finest bisque, this figurine is 5.25 inches long and 3.5 inches high. 

Under the cushion, the piece is incised with the cross-hatched "S" of Kister and "11281."

Here she appears in the company catalog. Note that the item number is identical to the incised numeral on the figurine.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Another Tiny Treasure from William Goebel

This china cutie in a canoe is another diminutive bathing belle by William Goebel, the shallow boat-shaped bowl suitable for holding rings or small trinkets.  Goebel created a series of these Lilliputian lasses, either adorning utilitarian trinket dishes or pincushion tops or simply as itty-bitty bathing beauties. The miniature maiden is a mere 1.5 inches tall and the dish is 4.5 inches long. 

Goebel may have liked small bathers, but it was big on markings. Underneath the dish carries the Goebel crowned "G" and "W," both incised and in blue.  It is further incised "RF 666" (this dainty dish, posted previously on this blog, also has a 600 number) and "Dep," as well as being stamped in black "Germany." There is also a red freehand "W."  


Thursday, October 8, 2020

This Goebel Girl Gets Around. . . .

Perched on the edge of a black and white checkerboard dish for rings or trinkets, this tiny china bathing belle is by William Goebel. Goebel used the mold for this little gal to create a variety of goods, as she  has been featured on this blog before, both as a pincushion  and as a stand- (or I guess in this case, -sit) alone figurine. The entire piece is only 2.75 inches wide.

There is no doubt regarding the maker, as the underside is amply marked. There is Goebel's crowned intertwined "G" and "W" mark, both incised and stamped in blue. Other marks include an incised "Dep," "Germany" stamped in black, a black freehand "k," and an incised "RF" followed by a 600 number partially obscured by a paper label for Herpolsheimer Co. (which reveals that this diminutive dish sold originally for 75 cents). In 1870, William G. Herpolsheimer and C.G.A. Voight opened a small dry goods store in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By 1901, the store operated under the name of the Herpolsheimer Company, eventually developing into a large department store with branches in Michigan and Wyoming. The downtown store in Grand Rapids was remodeled in 1949 and hailed for its modern design, which featured a three-story display window over the main entrance. It was a landmark in the city for decades, but in 1986, over the protests of preservationists, it was gutted and altered to create a shopping mall. In the 1990s, the company was acquired by the Lazarus store chain.      


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Passing with Flying Colors

According to the label on the bottom of this celluloid cutie's cardboard base, she "Passed TCTMA Inspection." Certainly this beauteous bathing belle could easily pass any inspection!  She is 9.5 inches tall and unmarked except for the aforementioned label.

But what is the TCTMA? My Internet research lead me to the website of Celluloid Library Memorial House in Yokohama, Japan. There I learned that Japan had been a major producer of celluloid. A mixture of nitrocellulose and camphor, celluloid was patented in the United States in 1869. Lightweight and easily molded, it was used in a wide variety of products, including dolls and toys. The forests of Taiwan (then Formosa) were a major source of camphor and the island was under Japanese control from 1895 through the end of WWII. Japan quickly moved from exporting camphor to manufacturing celluloid itself and soon claimed a significant portion of the international market. However, celluloid is extremely flammable. On December 16, 1932, a fire at the Shirokiya Department Store in Tokyo killed 14 people and injured 67; the fire began when a spark from a light bulb adorning a Christmas tree ignited a nearby display of celluloid toys, resulting a flames that burned four of the store's eight stories. In 1954, the United States banned imports of Japanese celluloid toys for safety reasons and the creation of flame-retardant plastics eliminated much of the demand for celluloid, although it continued to be used in some products, such as ping pong balls and and fountain pens. In 1995, the last Japanese celluloid factory moved its production to China, ending the history of celluloid manufacturing in Japan.

Now back to TCTMA. Unable to find anything about this organization on the Celluloid House website, I emailed them and promptly received a very informative reply from its director, Mr. Isoa Iwai. He explained that the initials stand for "Tokyo Custom Tokai Marine Authorized," meaning that the bathing beauty had passed inspection both by customs and the Tokai Marine Insurance Company (founded in 1879, it was the first Japanese-based insurance company). Mr. Iwai also said that these types of dolls were produced in the 1920 to 1930 period. 

This lissom lass is beautifully modeled and painted. Her coloring appears as bright as the day it left the factory and her alluring expression and large blue eyes are exceptionally attractive.

She came in her original box, which no doubt helped preserve her in such pristine condition over the last century.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Long and Short of It

A couple of weeks ago this blog featured an elongated bathing belle by the German firm of Schafer and Vater. Here is another long and lithe bather, this time accompanied by a very short and rotund male admirer. Talk about "opposites attract!" The caption beneath their bare feet declares "What the Sea Saw." This is a bit of typical Schafer word play, no doubt referring to that standard piece of playground equipment the seesaw (also known s the teeter-totter), where when one rider goes down, the other rises up. Of good sharp bisque, this odd couple is 6.5 inches tall. Underneath is a faint incised Schafer and Vater crowned sunburst and "9806," as well as a freehand black "56."  


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Hot Seat

Although their vaudeville career was relatively brief, the Five Barrisons Sisters inspired a wide variety of naughty novelties, as can be seen from the pages of this blog. These two bisque belles suggestively straddling a chair appear to be yet another. The babyish bonnets, long pleated girlish dresses, and the exposed black-stockinged legs are all hallmarks of the Barrison's act, often a mixture of innocence and double entendre. Five inches tall, this piece is incised on back of the chair's left back leg with four-digit number ending in "074" and is painted with a freehand "8" in black underneath.

Both Barrisons are sticking out their tongues, a gesture that is both infantile and immodest.

I suspect this figurine, like many portraying the Barrisons, was copied from a picture or postcard.  However, I so far have been unable to find the original photograph. I did find this poster for the Folies Bergère by artist Alfred Choubrac showing two of the sisters sharing a chair in a similar salacious style.

A slightly different seating arrangement showing the same two sisters.  I suspect these figurines may have been inspired by a series of studio portraits of these two sisters engaged in various off-color antics. Also 5 inches tall, this piece is incised on the crawling sibling's left thigh with "3076" and  there is a freehand "47" in red underneath. If the incised number for the first is "3074," then I wonder what these two were doing in figurine "3075?!"

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Another Zaiden Maiden

Previously on this blog, I posted videos featuring various clockwork cuties by Zaiden Toy Works. The post included this March 8, 1922, advertisement by Zaiden featuring seven dolls, which it declared are only part of the company’s “Sixteen new mechanical numbers,” and I wondered how many more of the company's shimmying and shaking sirens are still out there after over 80 years, waiting to be discovered? These dancing dolls were inexpensive souvenirs of the summer boardwalks and fall carnivals, quickly discarded when their mechanisms jammed or their composition began to flake. Few survived, and even fewer in working condition.  However, I have added yet another Zaiden maiden to my collection.  

This 13.5-tall  inch tall composition, wood, and metal mechanical doll wears her original nurse outfit.  She is Zaiden's "Nurse Girl" who, according to the ad reproduces "a human like motion of rocking a baby. The mother of them all." She has a head and torso of good quality composition and a mohair wig. Her face is nicely and brightly painted. The lower arms are wood and the hands metal, but the upper arms are flexible wire. Her upper legs are wood and attached to a U-shaped metal bar that curves under her body from hip to hip and her black lace-up shoes are metal. She is wound by a key jutting out of an opening in her lower back and would rock the celluloid baby (a replacement) cradled in her hands.  The mechanism is balky, but her clothes are fastened on with metal brads and I do not want to risk damaging her outfit to reach the mechanism to try to oil and clean it.  

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Long Tall Sally

Well, Long Tall Sally, she's
Built for speed, she got
Everything that Uncle John need
Oh, baby
Yes, baby
Wooh, baby
Havin' me some fun tonight, yeah

Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and Little Richard, 1956

This long tall bathing belle is by the German firm of Schafer and Vater. With those elongated arms and legs, she certainly should be able to speed through the surf and into Uncle John's heart. Across the front of her base is the incised caption "Blackpool Mermaid." Blackpool is on the Irish Sea in north-west England. It became a tourist destination in the 1840s with the advent of the railroad and grew into a booming sea-side resort with a promenade offering a wide variety of food and entertainment. Even today Blackpool continues to attract millions of visitors to its seafront.  Of excellent sharp bisque, this sea-side Sally is a long tall 7.5 inches. She is incised with the Schafer and Vater crowned sunburst and "7981" on back edge of her base. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Sea-Side Siblings

This blond brother and sister are all ready for a day at the beach and a dip in the ocean.  Arms linked, they prepare to stroll out on the stand, he carrying the towel and she holding a sponge in preparation for some salt-water bathing.  German companies such as Hertwig and Company produced all-bisque dolls in similar molded outfits, often assumed by doll collectors to be undergarments rather than bathing suits.  This bisque pair of beach babes is 4.75 inches tall and  unmarked.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

Otis Redding and Steve Cropper, 1967

This comic couple by Schafer and Vater may be sittin' on the dock of the bay, but the man clearly has his eyes on something other than the tide.  The object of his attention has appeared previously on this blog, so I was pleased to find her male match.  Like his lady love, the man is of excellent sharp bisque and is unmarked. Their torsos are hollow and the legs are hinged with wire, swinging freely back and forth.  

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Update on the Hertwig's Extraordinary Anthropomorphic Animals Page!

Now with more darling ducks!

Binocular Vision

This exquisitely elegant aristocratic lady is a vision indeed. By Galluba and Hofmann, this this half doll holds a pair of binoculars in her right hand. Perhaps she is watching the races at the Royal Ascot and forgot her hat. . . and a bit more.

She retains her original mohair wig.  Her perfect oval face, cameo-like features, slender neck, and sloping shoulders are the epitome of Edwardian beauty.

Of flawless fine bisque and workmanship, this belle with binoculars is 4 inches tall and incised “5691” on the back edge of the base. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Laugh, Clown, Laugh!

You're supposed to brighten up a place
And laugh, Clown, laugh!
Paint a lot of smiles around your face
And laugh, Clown, don't frown
Dressed in your best colored humor
Be a pallietto and laugh, Clown, laugh!

Music by Ted Fio Rito, lyrics by Sam Lewis and Joe Young, 1928

This clown certainly seems to have a lot to laugh about, as an intoxicating, and apparently intoxicated, lovely lady swoons in his arms. Of blue glazed china, this 5.25-inch tall figurine is actually a bottle, with the lacy cuffs and lithe lower legs of his tipsy tootsie covering the cork. Called a "nipper" by collectors, these comic novelty bottles were intended to hold a "nip" of alcohol. Such bottles were often offered as gifts or prizes by saloons, liquor stores, clubs, and carnivals. The clown is dressed in traditional Pierrot costume with skullcap, ruffled collar, loose tunic top with large buttons, and loose pants. Perhaps the woman represents Columbine, another character from the Commedia dell'Arte tradition, and this gallant Pierrot is rescuing her from the wiles of his crafty rival, Harlequin. Despite his laughing leer, surely this Pierrot's motives are pure--after all, look at the big beautiful bouquet her brought her. This nifty nipper is by the German firm of Schafer and Vater and is faintly incised underneath with the firms crowned sunburst mark.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Spring in Her Step

Tell this laughing lass to shake a leg and she will happily comply.  She appears to be peeking over the edge of her spread skirt, which forms a shallow round trinket or ring dish.  Her two lithe legs jut straight up, each attached to the base by a small spring that allows them to quiver and quake.  Although only stamped underneath in black "Made in Germany," she is no doubt from the company of Schafer and Vater, known for its lissome leggy ladies.  Of excellent sharp bisque,  this miss and her  shimmying stems are 3 inches long and high. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Put a Ring on It. . . . .

especially if it is as unique and alluring as this one!  This blog has featured various pieces of jewelry bearing bathing beauties, but this beautiful vintage bauble is one piece from my collection that I often wear.  This style of ring featuring a pair of bare voluptuous belles framed by flowing tresses and supporting a stone or signet face can be traced back to the art nouveau period, when naked nymphs in gold and silver often frolicked on jewelry.  Sometimes referred to as a caryatid ring, referencing the use of a sculpted female figure as a supporting column or pillar of a building, such rings remain popular and jewelry designers are currently creating their own versions.  Antique and vintage rings range from rare precious pieces from the art nouveau period to cheap plated men's signet rings sold through the mid-1900s.  The quality of the rings vary from superbly sculpted to crudely stamped.  In this ring, the sirens' supple curves and cascading curls are well rendered.  Even their tiny facial features are nicely detailed.  

Of 14 karat gold, but unmarked by a maker, this comely couple of caryatids hold a round fiery opal.  The fact that opal is my birthstone makes this ring an especially serendipitous find for me.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Bevy of Black Beauties

This coffee-colored cutie has had a few hard knocks in her long life, costing her a couple of fingers and a big toe, but she hasn't lost her big, bright smile.  Despite her dings, she is still a very desirable figurine, perhaps one of the scarcest members of the scarce series of black belles in skimpy chemises by the German firm of Schafer and Vater.  This delightful dusky damsel is 3.75 inches long and tall.  She is marked underneath with only a freehand "17" in black.  Her white chemise with green and white is worn by all her sisters in this series.  All the pieces in this series I have seen are of the same excellent sharp bisque with superb sculpting.

Her face is deeply detailed, from her flowing tresses to her tiny molded teeth.  The features are certainly ethnic, but not exaggerated.  

 The laughing lady with the coyly cocked head is exceptionally lovely from her wavy black hair to her delicate bare feet.  Again, her features are ethnic, but realistically modeled.  She is 3.5 inches tall and unmarked.   Her companion with the heart-shaped topknot has more exaggerated facial features, but she perhaps holds one of the prettiest poses, with a graceful hand curved modestly in front of her rounded bare shoulders and full breasts.  She is 3.75 inches high and is the only one in the series wearing a molded pink corset. The mocha-colored maiden is also unmarked, but another one I have in my collection is incised "3531."

This 5-inch long figurine has curly black molded hair and a soft shimmering coffee complexion, with beautifully modeled bare legs and feet.  She is marked only with a black painted "48" on the bottom.

While previously all the poses could be called playful, this miss strikes one that is a bit more prurient, cupping her bare left breast and patting her well-padded posterior.  Unmarked, she is 5.5 inches long.

Back to playful, this time with a perky pink piglet.  As well as lovely leggy ladies, Schafer produced a lot of pig figurines and on occasion combined the two.  This sweetie and her swine are 5.5 inches long.  It is incised underneath “3530,” but another example I had in my collection also carried the Schafer crown mark. As another lady from this set is incised "3531," this indicates that this may have been the number series for this line.

Another black belle from Schafer, but belonging to a different series.  She is simply one of the Schafer black-stockinged series of buxom blonds given dark hair and a light brown complexion.  She even has blue eyes!  These gals adjusting their garters are 4 inches high.