The circus theme was a popular one for Cybis porcelain; it was represented continuously in both human and animal studies ever since the first two in that genre were introduced in 1975.
Barnaby, an open edition introduced in 1975, was originally named Barnaby the Bicentennial Circus Bear and was available in brown for $125. In 1976 the white version was added for that one year only, although the brown one continued to be available until the edition was retired at $145 in 1977. Because both versions have 200th on the trumpet, the name was eventually altered to simply Bear ‘Barnaby’ by 1979.
Monkey ‘Bosun’ was made for those same three years (1975–1977); his price rose from $150 to $175. He has no Bicentennial counterpart, and is 6” high.
Elephant ‘Alexander, He’s the Greatest’ was the first of three circus elephants and debuted in 1975 at $310. He is 7” high and about 12” wide. The standard retail colorway for Alexander is blue trappings and a red ball, as shown; an alternate colorway (red trappings and blue ball) is shown in Color Confusion. Because the ball was merely glued in place, it’s not unusual to see this piece now offered for sale without it.
Seal ‘Sebastian’ is one of only two seals the studio produced; the other is the Baby Harp Seal, seen in All at Sea. An open edition in 1976 at $135 and retired prior to 1982, he is 5.5” high.
The Child Clown Head ‘Funny Face’ was sculpted by Marylin Chorlton and William Pae, and is 10.5” high on its wood base. Introduced in 1976 at $225, it became the studio’s longest-running child bust. His several variations, including the holiday version, can be seen in the Child Portrait Busts post.
Poppy the Performing Pony was also introduced in 1976. She is a limited edition of 1000 priced at $325 and is 6” high. The edition was completed in 1979.
Only one circus piece was introduced in 1977: Dandy the Dancing Dog who is 8.25” high and was initially priced at $145. He was the first of what would ultimately be four circus dogs by Cybis and was retired prior to 1982.
The Circus Rider ‘Equestrienne Extraordinaire’ was introduced in 1979 as a declared limited edition of 500 at $2775… by far the most expensive circus piece that Cybis ever produced. Production problems must have abounded because it was made for only two years and the edition size was slashed to only 150, although the final retail price had only risen modestly (to $2995) at closing which occurred at the end of 1981. It is 13” high.
This piece was designed by Lynn Klockner Brown, although the horse was adapted from a maquette by Carl Paul Jennewein which the Cybis studio purchased from him during the 1970s.
Also introduced in 1979 was the 7” high open edition Rumples the Pensive Clown at $425. He was retired in 1982 with a final price of $525. The sculptor, William Pae, modelled Rumples after his young son and their dog. This piece is very unusual in that it has a painted underside; I don’t think I’ve ever seen another Cybis piece that isn’t simply plain white bisque in that area. The underside of all Rumples pieces is painted green.
Another William Pae clown and the limited edition circus piece for 1981 was Juggler ‘Frollo’ who is 10.5” high. The original declared edition of 1000 was later reduced to 750 and perhaps even further before completion. In 1982 he was priced at $775. The edition was closed sometime before 1988.
The second circus dog was Big Top, named originally Big Top, the Circus Dog and later Circus Dog ‘Big Top’. An open edition in 1982 at $195 and retired prior to 1988, he is just under 5” high; closing price is unknown.
There is no doubt that Elephant ‘Phineas’ is a circus performer. This 1984 open edition was $325 and he is 7.5” high.
This photo compares Phineas and Alexander. Note that Phineas never included a ball.
The 2008 Cybis website also included a small sitting elephant named Willoughby under the Circus heading as well as Animals. However, due to his lack of any circus accoutrements I have placed him into the Menagerie post.
The third full-figure Cybis clown is Jumbles and Friend from 1985. This was a limited edition of 750 introduced at $675. The sculpture is 8.5” high and, like ‘Rumples’, was created by William Pae.
Valentine is the female child clown head issued in 1985 as a companion piece to Funny Face who had been issued nine years earlier. Both child clown heads were sculpted in the 1970s by Marylin Chorlton but Valentine’s release was postponed after Marylin’s death. Again William Pae contributed to the design, this time by creating Valentine’s hair. Prior to the introduction of Valentine, Cybis had never indicated a specific gender for Funny Face; he had always been called the Child Clown Head, not “boy” clown head. This was probably deliberate because all of the other Cybis child heads were identified or clearly identifiable as either male or female. Valentine is 9.75” high and her original retail was $335. Although there is a separate “with holly” version, I have not come across any alternate colorways of Valentine. More views of both clown heads can be seen in Child Portrait Busts.
The third Cybis circus dog is Pierre the Performing Poodle, an open edition from 1986. He is 4.5″ high. Although his issue price is unknown, in 2008 he was $295 on the Cybis site.
The following year (1987) Je’taime, Poodle (Mate to Pierre) – a variation of the Pierre piece – appeared. Oddly, she was not placed into the Circus category at first but instead into a short-lived Valentine-themed group called the “Sweetheart Collection.” Her pricing history matches Pierre’s. She differs from Pierre only in her headgear, ball decoration, and body color (light brown rather than light grey.)
The most recent circus piece, probably also dating from the 1990s, is Circus Horse Trio ‘Showtime’ which was a limited edition of 2000. Unfortunately this seems to be the only available photo anywhere. It is 9.75” high and as wide, and was shown on the Cybis website for $995. It’s a shame that there are not more and better photos of this piece. It’s interesting that of the five limited-edition circus sculptures, three are horses and two are clowns.
Speaking of clowns, there is one additional clown study: Pagliacci, an open edition from 1985. However, he was never part of Cybis’ circus genre and was instead placed into their “Theatre of Porcelain” category, which is depicted in the Music and Opera post.
The Hamilton Collection/Cybis ‘Gift of Innocence’ Clown Doll
A collaboration between Cybis and the Hamilton Collection giftware company resulted in the production of a collectible doll called A Gift of Innocence. The head and hands were designed in porcelain by Cybis, although the actual doll pieces were not physically produced by the Cybis studio. The doll is about 18″ long and sold at retail for $135. The back of the neck has a stamped copyright year of 1991, and the back of the box indicates that the doll was “produced for the Hamilton Collection in Malaysia.” It was a numbered limited edition but the edition size is unknown; examples numbered in the high 3900 range have appeared for sale online, so it’s likely to have been an edition of between 4000 and 5000. There was no way that the Cybis studio could handle that sort of volume and so the porcelain components were actually made overseas. Cybis would only have created the final master mold for the overseas manufacturer to use in order to produce the working molds for the thousands of castings.
The doll as originally manufactured included a small bouquet of silk daisies which was supplied in the box within a small plastic bag. The photo above shows the doll holding the flowers.
The literature supplied with the doll, as well as its original box, states that this was “the first ever porcelain doll to bear the Cybis name.” However, one book (2003 Price Guide to Contemporary Collectibles and Limited Editions by Mary Sieber) lists two Cybis-related dolls in the “Hamilton Collection” section, under the subheading “Children to Cherish” and the designer name Cybis. Both are indicated as being 1991 releases priced at $135. One listed as Gift of Innocence, and the other as “Gift of Beauty” (that one being first because the format is alphabetical.) Since the packaging for the clown doll states that it is “the first”, it was probably introduced in the first half of 1991, with the other doll slated for later in the year. However, I’ve been unable to find anything whatsoever on the purported A Gift of Beauty doll other than this single reference, so perhaps it was never actually released? If anyone knows anything about the Gift of Beauty doll from the Hamilton Collection, please let me know via the contact form on the About the Cybis Archive page.
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