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.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Shell Game

Any collector would be a winner with this shell-decorated box topped by two nubile bisque nudes. Although it has become common to refer to any antique shell-adorned box as a "sailor's valentine," the term should properly apply to the intricate and colorful shell creations housed in hinged boxes and produced in Barbados to sell to sailors during the 1800s. However, during the Victorian period it was fashionable for ladies of leisure to engage in shell craft, adorning boxes and other items with tiny shells painstakingly dipped in wax or glue and arranged in elaborate designs. The hobby was so popular that it was possible to purchase patterns and packets of presorted shells. An offshoot of the craze for shell-bedecked knick-knacks was a cottage industry in creating shell-encrusted souvenirs to be peddled at popular tourist resorts along the coasts of England and France. Wood boxes covered in paper, often in whimsical shapes, were decorated with sea shells, typically locally collected. While the sea shells were not as colorful and the patterns not as intricate as those produced in Barbados or Victorian parlors, the boxes were unusual and inexpensive souvenirs of a sea-side sojourn. Often a bisque figurine, a chromolithographed scrap, or other item was included to add color and interest. The two bare bisque bathing belles on this box certainly add both!

Both beauties are each around 4 inches long. It is not possible without detaching them to look for marks, but they appear to be part of a series by William Goebel of lovely ladies clad only in a ribbon tied around their high-piled tresses. 

The box itself is about 8.25 inches long and 4 inches high, not including the sizable shells covering the lid. It is made of thin wood covered in red paper. The interior is lined in faded red fabric and features a mirror edged in red cord. 


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