Continuing the review of Cybis’ literature-based portraits naturally leads to their interpretations of characters from Greek, Roman and Chinese mythology. All but two were limited editions, and all but two are female. Considering the wealth of subjects from which to choose, it seems a bit surprising that relatively few designs were created in this genre.
Chinese Goddess ‘Kwan Yin’, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion is 13.5” high. Produced only from 1972 – 1976, the original declared issue of 750 was supposedly (see below) closed after only 350 were created. Her retail price went from $1250 to $1450 during that span. This piece was designed by Harry Burger, who also created the Cybis Chess Set given to the USSR at the 1972 Moscow Summit. Other spellings of this deity’s name include Quan Yin and Kuan Yin. In some parts of the Buddhist world this deity is male and named Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, “the lord who looks upon the world with compassion”, but in China she is female. The lobster upon which she stands may represent the Buddhist tale of the farmer and the lobster. The farmer protected the lobster, who lived in a nearby pond, from being caught by others for food. A crow and a snake who also lived nearby hatched a plot between them to attack the farmer, but the lobster defended his benefactor, killing the crow and snake before the farmer could be harmed.
There is a puzzle about the edition size of Kwan Yin. According to the 1979 Cybis catalog, which was published three years after Kwan Yin’s edition was completed, the original declared edition of 750 was reduced to 350 (as I cited above.) However, in recent months two undoubtedly authentic Kwan Yins have come to light which were numbered #401 and #407 respectively. Several possible reasons for such “overnumbering” are discussed in Edition Size Discrepancies. There may have been only 350 Kwan Yins (as the catalog states) BUT that doesn’t mean that all of their numbers fall between #1 and #350. Clearly at least two of them do not. An unfortunate murkiness, but there it is.
Persephone, daughter of Demeter and wife of Hades. The original version of Persephone is 14.5” tall and is a completed limited edition of 200 that was introduced in 1982 at a price of $3250; the price rose to almost $6000 before completion in the early 1990s. She was sculpted by William Pae and is larger in body scale than any of the other Cybis full figure portraits; if she had been sculpted standing, in the same scale, she would have been about 18” high.
During the Brielle Galleries’ spring 1982 “Cybis party” during which Persephone was introduced, guests could watch as art director George Ivers painted a white bisque version using a young lady (Ms. June Kiely of Eatontown, NJ) as his model.
Cybis later issued two Hall of Fame versions of Persephone:
Persephone II is 12.5” tall and was an issue of 500. At this time I do not know her issue year other than that it was in the mid to late1990s. Other than the height, there are four differences in this first Hall of Fame replica: (1) The original Persephone carries spring flowers such as daffodils, but in this version the daffodils are replaced by roses and there are no leafy vines on her lap; (2) Original Persephone’s hair is all the same color, but in this version the braided section is a mixture of white and blonde; (3) The back of the rock on which the original Persephone sits is decorated with a berrying vine; there is no vine on this HOF version but instead some areas of moss are decorated with tiny spring blooms. And lastly (4) the trim on the bodice of this HOF version is a soft lilac, while the original Persephone’s dress is accented with blue.
Persephone III (the second Hall of Fame replica) is purportedly 10.5” tall and was an issue of 1500 introduced in the early 2000s. I have found no photograph of this version anywhere and would be very glad to learn of one, to see the differences between Persephone III and the previous sculptures. (There is a direct-contact form at the bottom of the About the Cybis Archive page.)
Aphrodite, the goddess of love in Greek mythology, designed by Lynn Klockner Brown. She is 8 ½” tall, and was a declared edition of 750 in 1983 at $875.
In the 1980s Cybis launched a series called “Classical Impressions” made in plain white bisque to evoke the look of Parian. Among the first in the series were the two mythological characters below.
Leda and the Swan was a 1986 limited edition of 500 which had an issue price of $1450 in white bisque as shown, which was the only available version initially. By 1988 Cybis had added a separate “color” edition of only 200 priced at $2250, while increasing the white version to $1750. I have never seen a color version but would love to! Although not a tall sculpture at only 9”high, the base is 13” wide. The story of Leda, Queen of Sparta, being visited by Jupiter/Zeus in the form of a swan was also the subject of a sonnet by William Butler Yeats. According to some versions of the myth, the offspring of this union was Helen of Troy.
Speaking of that legendary beauty, see my Artist Profile of William Pae for photos of his Helen of Troy sculpture model that was, sadly, never produced by Cybis.
The dynamic study of Icarus, the mortal who dared to fly too close to the sun on his manmade wings, is an impressive 19” tall to the topmost wingtip, about 15” deep front to back, and about 18” wide overall. He was an edition of 500 priced at $1800 at introduction in 1986 which increased by almost $200 in only two years. I have never seen a high-number example of this piece for sale and it may be that the edition was closed well before the declared issue of 500 was reached. Additional views of this piece will be shown in the Classical Impressions post.
This study is called Dream of Venus, introduced in 1988 as an addition to the Classical Impressions series. At 20” high, this Roman counterpart of Aphrodite is one of the tallest bust/torso sculptures created by the modern studio.Unlike Leda and Icarus, she was offered from the start in two colorways: a 500-piece white bisque edition for $950, and a 200-piece color version for $1475. In the early 2000s Cybis changed this to a single edition size of 500 in a choice of either bisque for $2975 or color for $3500.
Cybis’ three other limited edition mythology-based studies were the hippocampus Sea King’s Steed ‘Oceania’ and Arion the Dolphin Rider (both shown in All at Sea with Cybis); Pegasus may be found flitting about amongst the Unicorns and Pegasi, and two centaurs cavort in Cybis Flights of Fantasy.
The final two Cybis “mythical” sculptures are both open editions which first appeared decades ago.
Eros (Cupid Head) on base. Although not a limited edition, it seemed churlish to not include him with his fellow gods and goddesses! He has been produced as an open edition continuously since 1974 and is 10” high including the base. There can be considerable variation in the skin tone of this sculpture; I’ve seen examples ranging from barely-tinted white, to a charmingly natural blush (most common), to what can only be described as a ‘California beach-boy suntan’ version which is shown in the second photo! His original issue price was $135 which eventually rose to $695.
It took quite a few more years for Psyche, Eros’ True Love to make her appearance but she finally did in 1980 as a 9” high open edition companion to Eros, on a matching wooden base for $195. Her price also eventually reached $695. The mythological Psyche was an exceptionally beautiful human girl who was rescued from certain death by Eros. After undergoing many trials and tribulations she was eventually reunited with Eros and given the drink of ambrosia by which she became a goddess, her particular purview being the soul. Their daughter Hedone, by the way, was the goddess of pleasure, enjoyment and delight…. from which we get the word “hedonist”.
A list of verified Cybis sculptures in their 1974 catalog (no photos or other specifications, unfortunately) includes a limited edition Europa and the Bull and an open edition Greek Head. Their appearance and production years are as yet unknown.
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