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, July 24, 2015

Precious Pearls

A friend alerted me to this archival footage from the Library of Congress entitled "Birth of a Pearl."  The footage is by American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, dated 1903.  Ms. Pearl, clad only in a skin-tight maillot, was no doubt an extremely enticing sea siren in her day.

The is a definite resemblance between Ms. Pearl of the film and this bisque version. Incised "6641" on the back of the bottom shell, this precious pearl on the half shell is 5 inches wide. The top of the shell is a separate piece and these fragile lids often were broken or lost over the years.

Probably the most famous luscious lady found lounging within a lustrous seashell is Aphrodite or Venus, the Greek or Roman goddess of beauty, love, and desire, born of sea-foam.  This early version of Venus is from a mural in the Casa di Venus, found in the ruins of Pompeii.

Another version of a nubile nude encased in a shell by English painter Henry Courtney Selous, entitled the "Birth of Venus" and painted in 1852.

Venus meets vaudeville on this poster advertising Australian magician Jean Hugard's famous illusion, "Birth of a Sea Nymph," dating from the 1910s.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

More Brazen Hussies

This very happy hussy, holding high her wine glass, is of heavy bronze.  She has been cold painted to add a touch of color.  Although unmarked, she is most likely of Austrian or German origin.

As an added treat, this trollop's dress lifts off, exposing her ample, and very detailed, anatomy.  She is just over three inches high from the bottom of the chair to her uplifted glass.

And if that is not naughty enough, there is an opening underneath that would have once held an atomizer and a tiny hole between her legs for the escaping spray.

Another metal minx.  Her more slender shape and short tresses suggest she may date from the 1920s. Like the preceding Victorian vixen, she is superbly sculpted.  I have seen a similar figurine, with a removable metal fox fur that draped down her bare body.  Unmarked, she is 4.5 inches tall.

 She also has the connections for a hidden atomizer and a tiny hole between her legs.

These antique erotic bronzes are very collectible and reproductions have consequently appeared on the market.   There are high-quality reproductions from Austria, cast from the original molds and often cold painted, as well as poorer quality copies, often from China or India.  These latter pieces have blurred or missing details and clumsy sculpting.  In this modern copy, the lass has lost her glass, as well as her squirting capacity.  In this piece, not only does the dress lift off, but she can also be removed from her chair. 

Compared to the original, many of the details, such as the tassels of the chair or the tufted upholstery, are poorly rendered, if at all.  Note how in the copy, the woman's full figure has been slimmed down to appeal to more modern tastes and her face and form are rather stiff and roughly rendered.  Sadly, it is not uncommon for unscrupulous dealers to offer these new pieces as antiques.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Sweetheart's the Man in the Moon

My sweetheart’s the man in the moon.
I’m going to marry him soon.
‘Twould fill me with bliss just to give him one kiss.
But I know that a dozen I never would miss.
I’ll go up in a great big balloon
And see my sweetheart in the moon.
Then behind some dark cloud where no one is allowed
I’ll make love to the man in the moon.

James Thornton (1861 – 1938),  songwriter and vaudeville performer

This week is another moonstruck maiden and her moon man.  These star-struck sweethearts are pictured in my book Bawdy Bisques and Naughty Novelties: German Bathing Beauties and Their Risqué Kin. Underneath, these honeymooners are incised with the Schafer and Vater starburst mark and "1551." 

As you can see from this picture comparing them to the pair in my previous post, these are larger lunar lovers at 5.25 inches tall.   The bigger belle, in her excitement, has apparently dropped her rose, which lies abandoned on the base.  

This view shows the vases in the back, sculpted like swirling clouds.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Over the Moon. . .

. . . about this lovely lass and her lunar lover.  Of excellent sharp bisque and 4.5 inches tall, this cosmic couple is from the factory of Schafer and Vater and is part of a very scarce series of beautiful belles literally on their  "honey moons."  The base is open in the back to form a small vase, perhaps to hold toothpicks or matches.  Figurines from this series are found in both precolored and tinted bisque (if they are found at all!), but to my taste, the tinted bisque best brings out the details of this delightful design.  As it so typical of Schafer's giddy girls, she is clad only in a close-fitting chemise that clings to her curves, black stockings, and orange heeled pumps (and from the grin on his crescent face, the man in the moon does not seem to mind!).  Underneath, the figurine is incised with the Schafer starburst mark and the number "4260." 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What's New, Pussycat?

What's new, pussycat? Woah, woah
What's new, pussycat? Woah, woah

Pussycat, pussycat, you're delicious
And if my wishes can all come true
I'll soon be kissing your sweet little pussycat lips

Pussycat, pussycat, I love you, yes, I do
You and your pussycat lips
You and your pussycat eyes
You and your pussycat nose
Hal David and Burt Bacharach 

Dressed in little more than an oversized cat skin, black stockings, and heeled pumps, this pulchritudinous pussycat is most likely by the unknown maker responsible for many of the toothsome toothpick tootsies previously featured on this blog.

Of excellent bisque, she is 3 inches long and 4 inches high.  A precolored bisque urn by her knees would have once held matches or toothpicks.  There are no marks.

There is some slight resemblance between this lovely lass in her cat cloak and the cruel, tasteless, and frankly creepy, costume donned by Miss Kate Feering Strong for the Vanderbilt's 1883 fancy dress ball.  Inspired by her nickname, "Puss," Strong had a costume created out of white cat skins, including the taxidermied cat head atop her own.  Her nickname is spelled out on her collar, complete with a bell.  As a cat lover, I think another name for a female animal, beginning with "B" and ending with "H," would have been a far more appropriate emblazoned across her throat.      

On a lighter note, lovely ladies dressed up as pretty pussycats was a popular theme in the music halls and theaters.  The final kittenish coquette is the French actress and writer, Colette, as she appeared in a 1912 revue, "La Chatte Amoureuse." 

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.