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.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nodding Acquaintances

These two rather mature beach boys truly are nodding acquaintances, as their bisque heads bob up and down.  They seem to be sizing each other up rather skeptically.  Maybe they just realized they have inadvertently exchanged beach robes.  They have delightfully detailed character faces and their stocky bodies and oversized hands and feet are well modeled.  The blues and reds of their beach wear were cold painted, but the rest of the decoration is fired and of excellent quality.  Each is 7 inches tall.  The old boy in blue stripes is incised on the back edge of his robe "927" and his companion is marked "9274."  

A friend referred to them as the "Bobb-sey twins."  Wish I had thought of that one!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pretty as a Picture

I have absolutely no wall space, but I could not pass up this beautiful bathing belle portrait.  I love the brilliant colors, the impressionist treatment of water and sky and, of course, the buxom windblown strawberry-blonde beauty in her charming 1910s bathing outfit.

A close up of the face shows this luscious lass was painted by a skilled and talented artist.  Something about the style makes me wonder if this was painted as an illustration for a magazine. The image is 17 inches wide and 23.5 inches high and is painted oil on a panel.

It is signed by a rather odd monogram, which looks something like a "W" interposed over a paw print or stylized blossom. 

A friend has suggested that the monogram resembles that used by Henry Sumner Watson  (1868-1933), who also used the name Hy S. Watson.

Watson was an American illustrator who often worked in oils and specialized in outdoor and sports images. The period is right and the style of painting does resemble some of his artwork. Below is "Reeling One In," a work by Watson that served as the cover design for the July 21, 1921, edition of Field and Stream magazine. I see some resemblance between this painting and mine, especially in the looseness of the brush strokes, the treatment of the white fabric, the young ladies' highly colored complexions and red-blonde hair, and the impressionistic treatment of the waves and sky. It may just be wistful thinking, as many illustrators of the period used similar styles and colors. Admittedly, all of the paintings and sketches I have found so far by Watson are  signed with his name, not his monogram.  When I find the time, I hope to visit the extensive fine arts library at the nearby University of Texas and do a little more research. 


Thursday, March 19, 2015

You Great Big Beautiful Doll!

Oh! you beautiful doll,
You great big beautiful doll!
Let me put my arms about you,
I could never live without you;

Oh! you beautiful doll,
You great big beautiful doll!
If you ever leave me how my heart will ache,
I want to hug you but I fear you'd break
Oh, oh, oh, oh,
Oh, you beautiful doll!
Lyrics by Seymour Brown, 1911

This extra-large lovely lady is another gorgeous giantess by Galluba and Hofmann.  Of the finest bisque and modeling, she is 12.5 inches long and 4.5 inches high. Although time has claimed her clothing and coiffure, her voluptuous beauty has remained intact.  Underneath she is incised "427 A."   I suspect these big, beautiful dolls were intended as exhibit pieces for commercial expositions or store displays and were not marketed to the general public.  They are very hard to find compared to their smaller sisters, and it would have taken a sizable shelf to display one of these massive maidens.

A close up of her face displays the extra details Galluba lavished on these voluminous belles, including painted teeth between her full parted lips.  Someday I may make her a wig, but right now I think she looks lovely just draped in her strip of antique lace.

The give you a better idea of scale, here she poses with a Galluba bathing belle in a more standard size (6 inches long).

And here is my even bigger  (14.5 inches long and 7 inches high) bathing belle with her literal little (5.25 inches long) sister.  Both are all original.

A close up of this amazing amazon's delicately detailed face, complete with feathered eyebrows, painted eyelashes and molded teeth.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Pretty Poser

Striking a pose, while her pussycat takes repose, this beauteous belle cast in pure white bisque is a bit of a mystery.  She is stamped underneath in graceful cursive "Perlena," but I have yet to find any maker of that name.  My Internet searches have turned up a number of finely made figurines both in porcelain and bisque with this mark, but no manufacturer.  I suspect that Perlena may have been the name of a distributor of fancy goods or a high-end gift shop.  But if her origins are hidden, her beauty is openly displayed.  She is superbly sculpted from her elaborately coifed hair to her slim feet in dainty heels pumps.   This curvaceous coquette with her kitten companion is 6.5 inches tall.

One might glance at her shoes and headband and think she portrays a flirtatious flapper of the 1920s, but I believe her dress, what there is of it, dates from the 1910s era.  The complex coiled chignon, held in place by ribbons or a headband, is the epitome of early Edwardian chic.

And, as this 1905 shoe advertisement shows, slender heeled pumps with a single strap were already gracing fashionable feet.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


This is a fan that would make any bathing beauty collector pop his or her cork, a big, beautiful chromolithograph advertising fan from Moet and Chandon, advertising their White Seal bubbly, with each blade topped by a voluptuous bathing belle.  The colors, after all these many years, are bright and brilliant.  Chromolithography, first developed in the 1830s, provided printers with an inexpensive method to produce multicolored prints and paper products.  Chromolithography was used to create everything from fine art to postcards and paper dolls.  However, by the 1930s, the process was superseded by the even less expensive offset printing process.    

Each blade is 9.75 inches long, and when opened, the fan spreads out over 18 inches.  The first blade shows a siren in a striped suit surfing on a spray of champagne.

On the other end, this luscious lass prepares to dive into an oversized champagne glass.  Bottoms up!

The five inner blades each features a different bathing beauty enjoying her day at the beach.

But this fan is not just a frivolous fancy.  In addition to cooling a fevered brow (perhaps as a result as viewing this collection of curvaceous cuties), it serves as a calendar -- for the year 1906.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Com, and trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastick toe.

John Milton, L'allegro (1645)

This terrific twosome tripping the two step was made by Hertwig and Company.  Of excellent bisque, these dancing damsels are 5.75 inches and are unmarked. 

Here they appear in the Hertwig catalogue, where they are listed as "Two Step."  Their colorful outfits are covered with flocking, giving the appearance of velvety fabric. Hertwig described this treatment  as "mit irisierendem, seidenartigem, überaus farbenprächtigem" (with very colorful iridescent silk).  Flocking is fragile and wears easily, as can be seen on these girls' gowns.

There seems to have been an Edwardian fascination of figurines of lovely ladies doing the daring dances of the day.  This curvaceous couple has appeared previously on this blog.  Of excellent china, this 8 inch tall figurine is by Galluba and Hofmann and is incised "9039" underneath. 


Galluba appears to have been inspired by this postcard by Spanish artist Luiz Usabal Y Hernandez (1876-1937).

These bisque belles have also previously appeared on this blog.  They are clad in gowns covered in glitter, described in German catalogues as "flitter gold."  This figurine is 5.25 inches tall and incised “Germany 8918.”

They were also copied from a Usabal postcard.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

But Pussy and I Very Gently Will Play. . .

I love little pussy,
Her coat is so warm,
And if I don't hurt her,
She'll do me no harm.
So I'll not pull her tail,
Nor drive her away,
But pussy and I,
Very gently will play.

Pussy has long existed as a double-entendre, both as an affectionate name for a cat or a girl and as a vulgar reference to female genitalia.  The Barrison Sisters created a entire act around their pussies and German companies produced risque bisque figurines portraying pulchritudinous ladies playing with their pussy. . . cats.  Dressed only in her chemise and black stocking, this femme and her frisky feline friend are part of a series of damsels in dishabille with their pussies peeking out from under or between their legs.  Incised with number that appears to be “6355” and a freehand red "14" underneath, this paronomastic pair is 2.5 inches long and 2.75 inches tall. 

Two more coquettes and their kitties from the same series.  I have yet to identify the maker, but they are of German quality.  The seated lady is 3 inches tall bisque and incised underneath with number that appears to be "4899" and a painted freehand black "14." Her reclining sister is 4 inches long and unmarked.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Two New Year Babes

These two nubile nudes are by the German firm of Gebruder Heubach.   Although best known among collectors for its bisque figurines and dolls of charming character children, Heubach also created a wide variety of china and bisque figurines, often with a hint of art deco.  Its bathing belles and nudes are realistically modeled and beautifully decorated, but are also fairly hard to find.  Both of these lounging lasses are 7 inches long.

Another reason these Heubach bathers and nudes are often overlooked by collectors is that the figurines typically do not carry the company's mark, but are marked only with an incised number and a green "Made in Germany" inside a circle.  Both of these bare belles carry the circle mark, and the one on her side is incised with a partial number that appears to be "95/3."

The Heubach bathing beauties have a unique look, with rather square faces, narrow eyes, and short sleek bobbed hair.  Unlike the Heubach children, who are often portrayed as smiling or laughing, the ladies have rather enigmatic, introspective expressions.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Getting Into the Swim

In 1878, Elie Martin, patented a mechanical "poupee nageuse" (swimming doll), marketed as Miss Ondine. The doll must have been popular, as she was produced in some form until the early 1900s. While the limber lady pictured below has cupped metal hands and wooden arms and legs, other versions have hands that are jointed at the wrist, as well as hands with separate fingers. She can also be found in a variety of sizes.  This example is 15 inches long. I don't know if her bathing suit is original, but it is old and looks authentic. I have seen Ondines dressed in similar material and style.

She has a key underneath and, when wound, swims the breaststroke, stroking with her arms and kicking her legs in a rather frog-like manner.   The cork body is supposed to be waterproof so that she would float in water (but I am not going to try it!).  Although her swimsuit is somewhat stained and frayed and her arms and legs have expected wear and touch-ups, her mechanism works wonderfully after all these decades, a testament to Martin's craftsmanship.

This beautiful bather is unusual because she has a bisque breastplate and a rather fetching décolleté;  in other examples I have seen, the head was mounted on a cork and the bathing suit sewn shut around the neck. The plate is not simply a shoulder plate that was cut in half, but was clearly molded this way, as all the edges are finished.  The lady has a cork pate and is only marked "2" on the back of her head.  While some versions have French bisque heads, Miss Ondine is most commonly found (not that she is common!) with a Simon and Halbig head, mold #1079. Later or cheaper models had bisque heads from lesser German companies or celluloid heads. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another Bathing Beauty Who Is a Real Doll

 On my blog, I previously posted about the "Bathing Girl" by Heubach Kopplesdorf, a sweet, inexpensive, small bisque-headed play doll still in her original box and bathing suit.  This little golden-haired beach babe is also still tied into her original box and wears her original pale blue mesh bathing suit and matching cap.  Just five inches tall, and on a five-piece composition body, this diminutive doll's painted eyes and closed mouth suggest that she was an even less expensive souvenir than the Kopplesdorf doll.  Petite and pretty, she could win over a little girl's heart at a seaside resort without doing any real damage to Papa's or Mama's vacation budget.  The back of doll's head is incised with an intertwined "W&S," the mark of the German firm of Walther and Sohn, and "Made in Germany." 

 On one end of the box is a paper label for recording the inventory number, with notations written in pencil.  Most genuine old boxes have some sort or label or identification number on the outside of the box.  These labels let an importer or shop owner know at a glance the contents without having to peek inside.   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Very Special Edition

This smiling and scantily clad sultry sultana perched on a powder box is marked underneath in red “Editions Etling Paris” inside an inverted triangle.  In 1909, Edmond Laurent Etling opened his specialty store in Paris at No. 29 Rue de Paradis, offering the most exquisite and exclusive objects d'art of bronze, ceramic, and glass.  The shop was stocked with the creations of the leaders in the French modern art movement, including Dimitri Chiparus, A. Godard, Claire-Jean Roberte Colinet, Lucille Sevin, Jean Theodore Delabassé, Gazan, Georges Béal, Maurice Guiraud-Rivière and Marcel Guillard.  Etling's elegant editions spearheaded a style that would become known as art deco.  After Paris fell to the Germans during World War II, the store was closed and Etling, who was Jewish, was sent to a concentration camp and his death.

Of excellent china and beautifully painted in brilliant colors, this 8 inch tall box is the epitome of the art deco objects offered by Etling. On back of box lid is “A Godard” painted in fancy black script and the bottom of box is also marked "France" and with a dark red circle containing the letters “S,” “E,” “G, and “B.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Queen of Hearts

This pretty perfume bottle features a flirty flapper wearing her heart on her sleeve--well, not exactly on her sleeve, but she is certainly letting her sentiments be known.  Of good china, this 5 inch tall figural perfume bottle is incised on her base with the Carl Schneider mark and “DEP 15750 Germany.”  She holds a large heart, with a crown top, that would have once held some sweet scent.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Diminutive Deco Damsels

This pretty pair of precolored bisque swimmers is unusual, not because of their pose, but because they are nearly pristine, with both their cold painted features and colorful cloth bathing suits intact.    Their fetching and fashionable swimwear is patterned with bold art deco designs, beribboned with bright little bows.  Just 2.75 inches long, these tiny twins look very much as they did when they left Hertwig and Company nearly a century ago.  Too often these little flappers are now found nude and denuded of their painted features.  These two bathing beauties show how Hertwig made even some of its most common bisque belles eye-catching and alluring. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Perfect Combination

The vast majority of all-bisque dolls are children, so this early all-bisque lady is very unusual, especially as she was modeled with molded underwear (but still manages to look very prim and proper).  Although her combination underwear resembles that worn by the fashion ladies by Galluba and Hofmann, she is more Victorian than Edwardian.  Combination underwear was introduced in the 1870s to reduce bulk under the fitted jackets and narrower upper silhouette of the period.  Combinations were worn through the Edwardian period, becoming frothier and sheerer, often inset with delicate lace and ribbons, and the cuffs climbing closer to the knees as hemlines began to rise.  By the 1920s, the combination was reduced to the flapper's brief "step-in" chemise or teddy.  This combination set, with its short sleeves, modest neckline, and longer legs, would date this demure matron to the late 1800s.  She is of excellent sharp bisque and is delicately painted and beautifully modeled.  Her mohair wig is a replacement and she is 4.75 inches tall.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tell Me Pretty Maiden. . . .

My last post featured a bisque figurine of  a chorus line of the Five Barrison Sisters by Hutschenreuther Porzellanfabrik.  This post is of another line of lovely ladies by Hutschenreuther, the six pretty maidens known as the Florodora Girls. 
Florodora was a musical that opened in London in 1899, where it became an immediate success.  It was even more successful when it "crossed the pond" and played in New York City, in part because of its famed Florodora Girls.  Called the "English Girls" in the script, the six charming chorines were soon dubbed the Florodora Girls.  This line of lissome lasses is 7.5 inches long and is faintly stamped underneath with the Hutschenreuther mark.
Below is the picture of  the famed Florodoras in the flesh, rather than bisque, that undoubtedly inspired the figurine.  During the long run of the show, over 70 women would be selected as a Florodora, each being a standard 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing around 130 pounds.  Their appearance with a sextet of handsome young men in the song "Tell Me Pretty Maiden" made the tune a popular hit of the time.
The pretty maidens attracted a swarm of stage door Johnnies.  It is claimed that they all married millionaires, and while it is true that a number of the Florodoras did marry into money, the story  of the most famous Florodora Girl shows that money does not always buy happiness.  Evelyn Nesbit was 14 years old when she was discovered working in Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia and offered a job as an artist's model.  She became one of the most popular and recognized models in Philadelphia, and later, New York City, posing for such famous artists as Charles Dana Gibson, the creator of the Gibson girl.  In 1901, her beauty won her a place as one of the Florodora Girls and launched her stage career.  It also brought her to the attention of famed architect, and renowned roué, Stanford White.  The 47-year-old White assumed the role of Nesbit's "protector," moving her, her widowed mother, and younger brother into an opulent hotel suite he decorated himself and arranging for her brother to attend a prestigious military school.  In truth, White's interest in the young teenage Nesbit was more predatory than protective, and one evening, after being plied with champagne, Nesbit lost consciousness, only to wake up naked in White's bed.  However, White continued to play Nesbit's benefactor, introducing her to many in New York high society.
Nesbit's beauty attracted other admirers, including Harry Kendall Thaw, heir to a $40 million coal and railroad fortune.  Thaw was mentally unstable and had a history of brutality and sexual sadism, but he was also very rich, and after being ardently pursued for four years by Thaw, Nesbit, who was always worried about falling back into poverty, married him in 1905.  Thaw made Nesbit repeatedly tell him about White's treatment of her.  Although a frequent patron of brothels and prostitutes, Thaw had a fixation on female virginity and became obsessed with redressing his wife's honor.  On June 25, 1906, Thaw shot and killed White while both men were attending the theater.  After two trials, during which Nesbit had to testify in sordid detail regarding her relationship with White, Thaw was declared not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to an asylum.  Thanks to his family's wealth and influence, Thaw was found sane and released in 1915, but the next year, after he was arrested for sexually assaulting and brutally beating a 19-year-old man, Thaw was again found to be insane and committed, though he would eventually be released.  Nesbit divorced Thaw in 1915 and continued to have a modest career in vaudeville and movies, but her fame as the "fatal beauty" would follow her through her life.