Fairytales proved a fertile field for the imaginations of the artists of Cybis for the first two decades of the modern studio’s existence, with many of the best loved tales by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm being represented by them in porcelain. They were a mixture of open and limited editions; the open editions are shown first.
The very first Cybis fairytale character was Thumbelina who was introduced in 1957 at $25 and retired fifteen years later in 1972 at $45. She is 4” high.
Although the standard Thumbelina is the blue-eyed blonde in the first photo, this unusual brunette colorway showed up on eBay. In addition to her eyes being brown instead of light blue, there are subtle differences in her dress as well: the hem and sleeve edges are straight and plain, instead of having the scallop and impressed decoration of the commonly seen production version. The blue is also a darker shade. This was not marked as an artist’s proof and is the only one I’ve seen so far in this colorway. The presence of the copyright symbol next to the Cybis signature normally indicates that a piece was produced in the 1960s or 1970s rather than the 1950s, although this may possibly be a test piece that had the signature added by the studio much later. The earliest Cybis advertising photos of Thumbelina clearly show the blonde version, so this one is a tiny bit of a mystery!
Alice in Wonderland, engrossed in her book, is 5.5” high and was introduced as an open edition in 1964. This was also offered in a white bisque version which was only made for one year (1964-1965) at $40; this piece is quite rare. The color version shown here was made from 1964-1969 and rose in price from $50 to $60 during that time.
However, it turns out that there were at least two — and possibly three — Alice in Wonderland versions. The black-and-white Cybis photo above is the one appearing in their catalog publications but there are three differences between that piece and the two known retail versions: (1) there is no lace on her pinafore bodice, (2) there is a lace trim on the edge of her sleeves, and (3) the hem of her skirt is trimmed in lace. It’s not known if any of these were actually produced for retail or if this was a photographer’s artist proof.
Was this one of the very first retail Alice sculptures? She was produced for no more than two years and so if these were sold at retail there couldn’t have been many of these. Notice that in this version the lace trim on her sleeves and hem is gone (and it would remain so), but now her pinafore top has acquired lace around the outer edge. To be honest, I think this neat, understated lace trim is more attractive than the larger flowers they subsequently used. Many thanks to the Cybis collector who supplied the above picture and tipped me off to its existence!
Cybis made three very different versions of Cinderella. All were open editions. Cinderella, shown here resting a moment from cleaning the hearth with her broom, is 7.5″ and was made from 1960-1968. It was offered in both a plain white bisque version (which I have never seen) at $60, and the standard colorway with a blue blouse at $75.
The unusual red-blouse colorway shown above supposedly had a production run of only 30 pieces. There was also a third colorway in which her blouse is yellow but reportedly only three of those were made; those certainly must be the rarest of the first Cinderella!
This photo appear in Cybis’ very first (1965) catalog and may depict a prototype colorway. It differs from the examples above in regard to her blouse (which seems to be shaded light and dark), her skirt which is clearly a dark color, and her apron which has a pattern of tiny flowers rather than being plain white. Her broom also appears to be a darker brown than either of the production versions. It would be interesting to know if any of these were actually produced for retail sale.
After the retirement of the first Cinderella sculpture there were none in the Cybis line for twelve years until the introduction of Cinderella at the Ball in 1980. Her issue price is unknown but she was $525 by 1982. She is 8.5″ high.
Cinderella, Belle of the Ball was a 1990s introduction seen on the 2008 Cybis site for $995 which, frankly, was either a typographical error or grossly overpriced. Like the previous Cinderellas she was an open edition and is 8.5″ high. Although this is the photo that appeared on the Cybis website, the piece is damaged; one of the two ‘tails’ of the bow at her waist is broken off. I have never seen one of these for sale and suspect that few or none were ever purchased.
Cybis tweaked the Goldilocks story by transforming the three bears into pandas! Goldilocks and Panda ‘Bear’ was made for only three yrs (1973-1975) at $145 throughout. The companion piece Panda ‘Bears’ was sold separately during that same period for $75. The standing panda is stamped in the mold CYBIS ©1972 (the year priot to the retail release) on bottom of one foot. The painted Cybis signature and copyright symbol are on the sitting panda’s foot; thus if they should accidentally be separated both are still marked Cybis.
Hansel (9” high) and Gretel (7” high) were made for only two years (1974-1976) but had a healthy price increase during that short time. Gretel began at $155 and finished at $225; Hansel went from $165 to $235. Gretel was sculpted by Marylin Chorlton and Hansel by William Pae. They were always sold as two separate sculptures, not as a pair.
This artist’s proof of Gretel is more of a match for Hansel’s earthy brown tones.
Heidi is 7.5″ h, Although Cybis in Retrospect lists it only in this decorated (color) version, the official Cybis catalog Porcelains that Fire the Imagination™ states that it was first offered in only a white bisque version, from 1962-1965 at $40. I have never seen a white one. The color version was introduced the year after (1966) at $55, and was eventually retired in 1973 at $165.
The story of The Little Match Girl was one that always made me very sad as a child; Cybis’s portrayal from 1983 (5.75″ high) was an open edition, now long retired.
And of course no fairytale collection could be complete without Little Red Riding Hood! Sculpted by William Pae, she is 5” high and was made from 1973 to 1975. Her price ranged from $75 to $110 during that time.However, this may not have been exactly the way she was originally intended to appear.
The photos of Little Red Riding Hood that appear in the 1979 Cybis catalog and in their 1980 hardcover book Poems for Children and Other People both show her with dark (not blonde) hair and with her cloak bow as red, to match the lining. I’ve never seen an actual dark-haired Red Riding Hood and so this is a similar case to Alice in Wonderland, where the production piece differs from the prototype that was photographed for the advertising literature. The book and catalog photos are different, so more than one photo was taken of the dark-haired version.
Speaking of her clothing, I have never understood why Cybis departed from the traditional depiction of Red Riding Hood as wearing a solid red hood/cloak and chose to instead dress her in a white cloak with only a red lining and gloves. The blonde hair color does correspond to the earliest illustrations of the character from the late 1800s and early 1900s though.
After vacillating a bit about where Pandora should belong (mythology or fairytale?) I am showing the standard retail version of her here. The others can be seen in the Pink and Blue post. Introduced by Cybis in 1967 at $75, she is 5″ high.
Turning now to J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan, Cybis depicted all four of the mail characters; one of them was also produced later in different iterations.
One of the the first three Cybis fairytale characters, Peter Pan was produced in color (shown above) and also in plain white bisque. Both appeared in 1958 but the white version was retired in 1967 (having retailed at $60 throughout) while the color one continued until 1970, having risen only from $75 to $80. He is 7” high.
Tinkerbell is 7.5”high. She was also made in both color and white bisque, and was introduced in 1959, the year after Peter. The white version was retired in 1965 (priced at $50); the color one continued until Peter was also retired (in 1970) and finished at $80. The example in the purple dress may be an artist’s proof.
Michael was not introduced until 1984 – a long time after both Peter Pan and Tinkerbell had been retired. However, Wendy was still being made and so Cybis apparantly decided to give her a companion. He is 6.5” tall which makes him the same height as Wendy; issue price was $235, but see below.
Here is Wendy who was actually the first of the Peter Pan characters, an open edition in 1957 originally priced at $35. Even a decade later (1967) she still sold for her issue price but jumped to $115 by 1979. Three years later (1982) Cybis almost doubled her price (to $225) and then she inexplicaby vanished from their lineup, not appearing at all in a 1988 price list although Michael was there at $295.
Wendy has been produced in multiple special variations for gallery events.
The standard retail Wendy (at left in photo) has a plain white dress with a pink ribbon at the waist, pink pigtain ribbons, pink shoes with a blue rosette, and carries a ragdoll dressed in green and blue.
Betsey Bobbin (at right) was an issue of 300 for the Fall 1982 introductions event at Marks Gifts in Paramus, NJ. Her price was $295, an upcharge of $75 versus the price of the standard edition Wendy. Her dress is trimmed in pink and green and unlike the earlier Brielle Galleries event version shown below, Betsey’s bodice has only a single spray of flowers and her skirt is plain. Her green belt is accented with a pink rosebud and she carries a beribboned flower in her hand instead of a doll. The store’s newspaper advertisement describes this special issue as “Betsey Bobbin, a nursery rhyme favorite and Dorothy’s companion in the Land of Oz.” Betsey does not appear in the original Wizard of Oz story, however, but instead in a later book entitled Tik-Tok of Oz. Unlike Dorothy, Betsey does not return home but remains in Oz and is made a Princess.
Wendy in Blue and Floral Decoration was an issue of 300 for a Cybis event at Brielle Galleries during the late 1970s and was priced just under $200. Her dress is trimmed with blue instead of pink, and is decorated with flowers on both sides of the bodice. It isn’t readily apparent in the photo, but pale pink ‘rosebuds’ are scattered here and there on the skirt as well. The shoe colors are reversed (blue shoes with pink rosette) fro the standard version, and her doll is now dressed in two shades of blue.
Supposedly an additional retail-gallery special edition of Wendy was a black-and-orange version which was probably for another year’s Fall Introductions event – but I have not found an image of that one. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if there were other variations as well!
The final open editions in this retrospective are from the same fairytale – well, more or less, because the naming of these two pieces was a bit muddled. Both were introduced in 1986 as open editions. Rose Red is 5.5” high; her issue price was $595.
Rose White is 8.5” high and was originally priced at $675. The name confusion arises from the fact that in the actual Grimm’s fairytale the sisters are “Rose Red” and “Snow White”….the Snow White in that story having no connection whatsoever to the Snow White of evil queen/seven dwarves fame. Cybis probably feared confusion on the part of collectors if they used the correct character name and thus, Rose White she (incorrectly) is!
Jack and The Beanstalk is one of less than a half-dozen limited edition fairytale designs. Designed by Lynn Klockner Brown and introduced in 1984, he had a declared editon of 750 priced at $575. This piece is 8.5” high.
Although it is the same colorway as the production version shown above, there is an important difference in this artist’s proof: Jack is much farther away from the beanstalk! I suspect that the breakage/separation risk factor was ultimately determined to be too much greater this way, because Jack is only attached to the beanstalk at two points rather than four (in the retail version.)
Sleeping Beauty was introduced in 1982; notice that Cybis has replaced the traditional tale’s spindle with an embroidery needle. This sculpture is 7.5” high overall. An edition of 750 initially priced at $695, she sold for $1075 only six years later.
Fleurette is based on a much lesser-known fairytale from the early 1900s. Slightly over 8″ high, she was introduced as an edition of 1000 in 1981 at $725 and was either completed or closed early sometime in the 1990s. Her “unfinished tale” will be related in a separate post.
One Rapunzel, Three (actually four) Ways
Cybis made four somewhat different representations of the Rapunzel character. The first three Rapunzels were all cast from the same mold but differed in various decorations. All three are 8” high, and each color was an issue of 1000. All three were issued at different times during the 1970s (not all in 1975 as one error-prone price guide has it.) The three versions, prices, and ways in which they differ are as follows:
Pink Rapunzel’s right hand holds an ornate mirror just below her lap as her left hand hovers slightly above. The top of her hair is caught in a decorative round net. Her hairstyle has no braids. Introduced in 1972 at $375, this edition was completed in 1974 at $425.
Apricot Rapunzel has the addition of a long braid coming forward on her righthand side into her lap, as well as one that hangs down her back. The front braid is decorated with a dark apricot ribbon and a spray of small orange flowers. Rapunzel’s hands hover slightly above this braid/bouquet. The top of her hair is a coiled braid decorated with flowers and pearls. Introduced in 1975 at $475 and completed in 1979 at $525.
Lilac Rapunzel’s hair hangs down her back (no front braid). Her right hand now holds a nosegay of flowers with long lacy ribbon streamers. The bodice and hem of her gown are tinted lilac and have decorative accents, unlike the first two Rapunzels in which those areas are plain. She wears a pointed headpiece decorated with roses and feathers. Introduced in 1978 at $525, her edition was completed in 1982 at $675.
One thing I hadn’t realized until very recently (and many thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for pointing this out!) is that there are two slightly different versions of Lilac Rapunzel’s headpiece, depending on whether a given sculpture was made in the earlier or later part of her production run. Although all of the headpieces contain 3 feathers, in the earlier pieces the center feather was upright, as shown in the photos below with the arrow pointing to the relevant feather.
The problem was that this feather was extremely prone to breaking off in transit or handling, because of its precarious position, often ending up lost in the powdery stryrofoam snow within the packing box. That feather’s position was just an accident waiting to happen.
Eventually, after getting multiple sculptures repeatedly sent back to the studio due to the broken feather, its position was lowered so as to make it less vulnerable. This photo shows the altered position of the central feather; the sculpture number of this one is in the 300s (although as we know, that number isn’t always an accurate indication of production position, as explained here.) But pieces with the upright central feather were definitely made earlier in the production run than those with the lower one. When shopping for this Rapunzel online it is important to make sure the central feather is actually there and has not been broken off entirely, especially if there aren’t multiple photos of the headpiece from all angles.
I always hoped that the third/final edition of Rapunzel would have been done in shades of blue – which would have been gorgeous with her blonde hair – but they opted for the lilac instead. Shades of purple and lilac were used on a number of Cybis pieces introduced in the late 1970s so apparantly that was the “trendy color” at the time.
The later (probably 1990s) Hall of Fame edition Rapunzel II is purportedly 7” high and was an edition of 1500. She was shown on the 2008 Cybis site priced at $795 but with no photograph and the studio was unable to provide a description even of the colorway. I have never seen one for sale and would be very glad to find a photo of it! If it was indeed ever produced, it is probably a downsized replica of the original 1970s Rapunzel mold that differs in color (blue, perhaps?) and/or accessories from the three originals.
Dare we all hope for a “happily ever after”?
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