‘Into the woods’ is probably not the most accurate title for a post describing the rather wide-ranging array of Cybis wildlife sculptures profiled below, but I think that with more than 50% of them qualifying as per habitat I can probably get away with it.
Beginning with the smallest woodland denizen, Deer Mouse ‘In Clover’ is 3.5” high and was produced only from 1970 to 1973, as an open edition at $65. At introduction it was named Deer Mouse ‘Musha’ In Clover; the June 1970 U.S. Copyright Office registration shows it as “Musha In Clover, deer mouse”. Obviously, somewhere along the line Cybis decided to drop the mouse’s name. By the way, the genus name for mouse (Mus) is said to derive from the Sanskrit word musha which means “thief”!
Musha’s European relative, the dormouse, was represented by Cybis in two colors. The 5.75″ high brown Maximilian appeared in 1977 and his albino mate Maxine followed in 1978. Their introduction prices reflected the difference in coloration: Maximilian’s issue price was $250 while Maxine’s was $195. Both are now retired. (Additional examples of dual-color sculptures are shown in Color Confusion.) This couple also had a special one-of-a-kind relative that was done for a charity auction in 1978; the colorway is unknown but he (or she?) wore spectacles, carried a book, and was named The Professor.
Staying in the rodent family for a bit, here is Prairie Dog ‘Poko’. Introduced in 1976, he is 8” high and wide and was an open edition (long retired) with an introduction price of $245.
Chipmunk with Bloodroot was also introduced in 1976, as a limited edition of 500. Measuring 8” high and 9” wide and designed by Lynn Klockner Brown, I think this is one of their best smaller naturalistic flora/fauna pieces – not only for the chipmunk but the plant and habitat depiction as well. It should be noted that the porcelain stamens of the bloodroot (Sangunaria canadensis) flowers are especially delicate and very prone to accidental breakage. It was priced at $625 at introduction; by 1993 the going rate for this piece at retail was $1500. There is some uncertainty regarding the issue size for this piece; the often-erroneous early-2000s softcover book Price Guide to Contemporary Collectibles and Limited Editions claims that the edition size was only 225. I happen to own sculpture #253; however, edition size discrepancies are certainly not unknown, so that cannot be taken as verification either way. Cybis may have reduced the final issue size before closing.
Another rodentious relative is Woodchuck ‘Roly Poly’, an open edition dating from 1987 which still appears on the current Cybis website at $495. Designed by Lynn Klockner Brown, he makes quite the woodland fashion statement with his oak-leaf chapeau! He is similar in size to ‘Poko’ at 8” tall.
And how can we possibly overlook the industrious beavers? Beavers ‘Egbert and Brewster’ is a completed limited edition of 400 sculptures from 1981, measuring 6.5” high. The introduction price may have been $285 but this is unconfirmed; it was $325 in 1982. I have to confess that the pose of these two beavers always made me think that one of them must have one heck of a headache from gnawing too many tree branches that day and so his partner is giving him a cranial massage.
Cybis also created four squirrel sculptures, all of which are chronicled in Squirrelly Doings at Cybis.
A wildlife-pair sculpture that I couldn’t resist buying when it was introduced in 1985 is Otters ‘Baxter and Doyle’ because I adore otters and could watch them for hours, given the chance. Cybis’ otter sculpture is a completed limited edition of 400, measuring 5.5” high and 11.5” wide. In 1991 the Cybis retail price was $775.
Also by the waterside we might find the American Bullfrog ‘Enchanted Prince’ which was a 6” high open edition made for only a single year (1971-1972) at $250 retail. There was also a unique one of a kind sculpture created for the benefit auction mentioned earlier; an apron and bonnet were added, and this particular sculpture was given the name of Aunt Betsy Trotwood. It’s likely that the leaves and branch were not used for that sculpture, because they probably would have interfered with the specially-added decorations.
The studio’s very first deer sculpture was produced in 1955 and was on display at the Cybis in Retrospect museum exhibit in the early 1970s. It is described in the accompany publication as being 4” high and done in the “stained glass” high fired color decoration; it was named simply Fawn. Unfortunately it is not illustrated in the book, nor anywhere else that I’ve been able to find.
A circa-1974 text list by Cybis of verified sculptures includes a Woodlands Deer Scene. Unfortunately the list provides no specifics as to year, size, photo, etc — only that the sculptures on the list definitely had been made by Cybis at some time since 1950.
Desiree, the White Deer was created as part of Cybis “Fantasia” genre of sculptures as a limited edition of 1000 in 1981 and priced at $575, but the issue size was later reduced to only 400 the following year. She is 4.5” high which is a rather small dimension for a limited edition. The color scheme shows that Cybis was not aiming for naturalism with Desiree; one catalog describes her as “an enchanted princess in the guise of a white deer” who awaited a prince’s kiss of true love to return her to mortal form.
Petunia, the Pet Doe is a 3” high open edition from 1987 at $110; the most recent of the five deer sculptures that Cybis produced, she is shown on their current site priced at $295. The two other Cybis deer sculptures are described later in this post.
Over the decades Cybis produced four different fox sculptures; the earliest, Fox in Woodland is mentioned in Cybis in Retrospect as being ca. 1953, produced in a glazed decoration (possibly stained glass??) and measuring 3” high x 8” long. Unfortunately there was no photo in the catalog, nor was it displayed in the accompanying museum exhibit.
The fox shown above, named simply Fox, was produced only during the early 1960s as an open edition in two color formats. The white bisque version shown here was made from 1963-1964, and the color version from 1963-1965. It is 3″ high and 6″ long. As shown in the photos, there was considerable variation in the color and glazing. This sculpture is the source of legendary “blue fox” whereby one of the color versions emerged from a firing as entirely, unmistakably blue. The occurrence is cited in Cybis’ 1970s catalog.
The close-but-not-exact dimensions provided by all sources to date does make one wonder if “Fox” and “Fox in Woodland” might be the same sculpture, especially since Cybis did many more glazed animal pieces in the 1950s than they did in the 1960s; however, the fact that Cybis in Retrospect mentions both pieces separately – as well as the fact that the second fox was done in the very early 1960s – seems to clearly indicate that Fox in Woodland was indeed a different piece.
Foxes ‘Chatsworth and Sloane’ dates from 1986 as a limited edition of 200; its introduction price was $425 but by 1992/93 this had risen to $750. The edition was probably closed in 1993 or 1994 at the latest. The original name at introduction was American Red Fox Cubs ‘Chatsworth and Sloane’. This is one of my favorite Cybis animal sculptures, and not merely because of the name! It is 7” high and 9” wide. These fox cubs were modeled from life on a litter of orphan foxes rescued, raised and returned to the wild by designer Lynn Klockner Brown.
The magnificent Arctic Fox stands almost 20” tall and was a limited edition of only 100 sculptures in 1980, introduced at $4500. (sculpted by Charles Oldham)
Far more likely to be found in the barnyard than the woodlands, Burro ‘Fitzgerald’ was an open edition (now long retired) introduced in 1964 at $30. He was named in memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Almost two decades later this young Burro ‘Benjamin’ was released as an open edition in 1983, for $185. He is 5.25” high. For a number of years it continued to be sold under that name, but when Cybis began yearly adding sculptures to their second nativity set they decided to include Benjamin as one of the 1985 additions. In keeping with their format of making each nativity piece in both a full-color naturalistic version and also a plain white bisque version with gold accents, they did the same with this one and called it “Burro, Reclining”. It is the same sculpture as the 1983 edition in all respects except the name. It now appears on the most current (updated in late 2008) Cybis website in the Nativity section only, at a retail price of $395. Like all of the other nativity pieces it is an open edition; the color Nativity Burro is in fact ‘Benjamin’ by another name.
Cybis’ charming Raccoon ‘Raffles’ became a collector favorite as soon as he was introduced in 1965; the advertising copy from Cybis explains his name as having been chosen “because he is such an engaging thief.” (shades of David Niven!) Standing 7.5” high, he was an open edition initially priced at $110. This was one of Lynn Klockner Brown’s earliest designs for Cybis after joining them in 1964.
The two photos are a good illustration of how the colors on a particular piece may vary as a result of the individual hand painting; the second example has much darker fur and a few of the cherries are depicted in different stages of ripeness. The first example is the typical coloration, and in fact I was surprised that this second one was not described in the auction listing as being an artist’s proof in view of the unusual intensity of the colors.
The following four sculptures have several features in common: they are all limited editions, extremely large and detailed, and the larger version of each had a smaller and less expensive sculpture created from one element of the bigger one. These were the White-Tailed Deer group, the single Deer in Motion, the Charging Buffaloes group, and the single American White Buffalo.
White-Tailed Deer was a very limited edition of 50 sculptures issued in 1986, showing a group of three deer – a buck and two does – running through the forest. This is a large sculpture measuring almost 19” tall and 28” wide. Its original introduction price was approximately $9000 which rose to $11,500 by 1988. On the current Cybis website it has a retail price of $16,995. Some (perhaps all?) of these are unusual in that the phoenix logo is painted on, rather than being a mold impression.
Concurrently with the White-Tailed Deer, Cybis also issued a separate sculpture named Deer in Motion using the buck from the larger grouping. He is 13” high and 16” wide; the issue size was 750 and the price at the time of issue was $1500. The current Cybis site shows that the retail price has risen to $2975. It does not have a wood base. The example shown in this old snapshot is one that I once owned and often used as a holiday table centerpiece; the extraneous “greenery and goldery” is, obviously, not part of the actual sculpture! This piece, as well as almost all of my Cybis collection, was sold in 2010 and was among the most challenging to properly and safely pack for shipment.
Where the Buffalo Roam…
The deer sculptures were not the first wherein Cybis created a multi-animal grouping plus a single-animal release at the same time. This massive buffalo trio is among the heaviest sculptures that the modern studio released, because in addition to the very hefty porcelain elements it was mounted on a solid wood base. The prairie-grass elements applied to the top of the base are amazingly detailed, and just about as prone to accidental breakage as you might expect! The buffalo mold was initially based on a bronze sculpture brought to the studio by Marylin Chorlton, who requested that Susan Eaton adapt the design for porcelain.
There is some confusion about the edition size and nomenclature of this piece. The 1979 Cybis catalog publication lists it as ‘American Buffaloes’, with dimensions of 16” high, 38” long and 14” deep (front to back) and an edition size of just a single one-of-a-kind sculpture that was created in 1975 as a commemorative and thus it had no retail price. Yet the photograph above is from a 2012 auction listing showing one that is signed and numbered as #2 and described as being called “Charging Buffaloes”. The current Cybis website – which was last updated in 2008 – lists “Charging Buffaloes” (with, unfortunately, the wrong buffalo photograph attached to it) as being 14.5” high and 37” wide, in an issue of 25, at a retail price of $35,000. (A 1988 Cybis price list showed it at $17,500.)
Thus there are two possible scenarios to account for the existence of multiple examples of this piece:
- Cybis may have decided to produce the first (circa 1975) sculpture as a very small limited edition at some point after the 1979 catalog went to press. In that case, the website dimensions given as 14.5” high x 37” wide would not be accurate; there are quite a few instances of typographical errors and/or image mismatches on the Cybis site. Or, on the other hand,
- The studio may have decided to produce a small retail version slightly downsized from the OOAK original. In that case the Cybis website dimensions are probably correct.
Either scenario would account for the slight name change to Charging Buffaloes (from the original 1979 catalog listing as “American Buffaloes” as being a OOAK piece). In any event, the actual declared edition was only 25. The actual sculpture shown above sold in 2012 for less than $1000 but it was described as having multiple areas of damage and bad/failed repairs to the ‘grassy’ areas.
A single buffalo from the trio above was issued as its own limited edition American White Buffalo sculpture in 1975; it is 13.5” high, 18” long and was an issue of 250. The edition was completed within two years and its closing retail price was $1500. The sculpture was physically separate from the accompanying solid mahogany base (not mounted into it via a toggle bolt) and thus these are sometimes offered for sale without the original base.
In the early 1990s Cybis inaugurated its Hall of Fame series of downsized reproductions of closed or retired sculptures; one of these downsized editions was the Buffalo II (a/k/a “HOF edition white buffalo”) in 1993. Measuring 11.5” high and 16” wide (exactly 2” smaller in each dimension than the original 1975 limited edition American White Buffalo) it was issued as an edition of 1000. The HOF version is offered in two colorways: in white at $1975 and in color at $2975 (as per current Cybis website prices). This sculpture does not have an accompanying wood base. Comparison of this HOF replica with the original 1970s American White Buffalo shows noticeably less ‘grass’ on the base and and it not of the same workmanship either.
It so happens that the very first buffalo that Cybis produced dates back to the 1960s causes a bit of confusion itself! This earliest example was the Albino Buffalo, produced only 1964-1965, in white bisque. It is listed in their 1979 index as an open edition, 4” high (no other dimension provided) and priced at $15. The black-and-white photo in the same catalog shows a buffalo matching this one, displayed with a base although the listing/index does not mention this.
The very same 1979 catalog also lists (but does not illustrate) another which is named simply Buffalo, made from 1968-1978 as an open edition with an accompanying wood base, although many that are seen nowadays on the secondary market are missing this. Over that 10-year period its retail price rose from $40 to $85. It is normal for this piece to have small grey felt circles affixed to the bottom of the hooves, by the way. This buffalo is 3” high and 5.5”long not including the accompanying base (the 1979 Cybis catalog has a typo showing 5” as the height and fails to mention the base). All of these brown buffaloes bear the name CYBIS in block letters plus the year 1968 in the mold within the belly area.
Confusion arises partly because of the difference in supposed heights: the 1964-1965 Albino Buffalo being listed as 4” high in the 1979 catalog and also the identical buffalo which was released three years later, in 1968 and at a considerably higher pricepoint, with the same publication now describing it as being 5” high. The likely explanation is that the 4” height cited in the catalog for the 1964 albino buffalo includes an accompanying base which for this piece was indeed about 1” thick. Where they got a supposed five-inch height for the brown 1968 release is anyone’s guess! The two sculptures are exactly the same in all respects (both buffaloes themselves are 3” high) except for their color, and both were sold with an accompanying wood base which was about 1” thick. It would be interesting to find out if there is a year impression in the mould of the Albino Buffalo; my guess is that there is none or if there is, it should say either 1963 or 1964. Perhaps Cybis included the “1968” mold impression on the brown ones to distinguish this different-color edition from the earlier one.
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