Despite the fact that the Cybis studio produced numerous religious studies since the early 1950s, they only produced one papal portrait: a bust of Pope John Paul II. There was only a single design/mold but it was produced in four separate editions and sizes at different times, eventually comprising four different colorways and offering various options as to whether it was mounted on a wood base. The piece itself was designed by Dolores Valenza during the 1980s. All four editions are simply titled The Pope and differ in only in physical size, edition size, and color/price versions.
The largest Pope bust is 14” high x 12” wide and was probably issued in the fall of 1988 because supposedly this was commissioned as a 10th Anniversary commemorative of John Paul II’s accession which occurred during that year. It does not appear in a February 1988 Cybis price list and so if it does date from that year it must have been an autumn introduction. Its introduction price is not known at the moment but a good guess would be plus/minus about $1000 and was offered in both plain white bisque and in color as shown. The current Cybis site shows this color version as an edition of 100, on a black wood base that is not discernible in the photo, currently priced at $2995. The white bisque version, not pictured there, is an edition of 200 (also on base) selling for $1200… a difference of $1795 for the application of color.
The next edition is downsized to 12” high x 10.25” wide, which is consistent with the size reduction described in Upsize, Downsize. This second edition of the bust was issued in 1989 and the Cybis 50th Anniversary backstamp appears on any that were physically created during that year; it was part of Cybis’ special “50th Anniversary Biblical Collection” and the sculpture itself titled in that brochure as the The Pope, 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition. It was again offered in two colorways: The white bisque version was priced at $850 without a base, or $950 on a base. The color version was $1200 without a base and $1300 with one. However, on the current Cybis website the color version pictured is listed as a limited edition of 100 but without the option of a base (the photo above is from the original 1989 brochure, in which the base was an option) and is priced at $2795. The white bisque version, not pictured on their site, is now an edition of 200, likewise has no base, and is priced at $975.
What is interesting is that the original 1989 brochure does not identify this piece as being a limited edition, which appears to indicate that this was originally an open edition! In that case one would assume there must be examples in circulation that are not numbered. If it was indeed a limited editionwhen introduced in 1989, the brochure would surely have indicated that. It is very puzzling because I can’t think of another Cybis piece that began life as a non-limited edition and then was later “upgraded” to one, and at the same time the wood-base option was dropped.
The third edition of The Pope was also another downsize and was offered only in the single colorway shown, which the Cybis site describes as “gold on white”. It is 10.5” high x 9.5” wide, does not have a base, and is an edition of 1000 currently priced at $1195. This must have been introduced during the 1990s (probably early-to-mid decade) despite the white-with-gold colorway which was used for some of the other 1989 Golden/50th Anniversary pieces. I continue to be puzzled by the fact that the 1989 edition of this sculpture was done in either full color or pure white, rather than white with gold as this later one was. This piece is titled simply The Pope, exactly like the original (largest/1988) sculpture; this invites confusion if one does not pay attention to the relative sizes.
The final, and smallest, version of The Pope is 8” high x 7” wide, and is an edition of 2500 currently priced at $395. There is no photo on the Cybis site of this version but its name is given there as The Pope – (white) (tone on tone). I will hazard a guess that in this version the same areas that are decorated in gold on the 1989 version are highlighted on this one only with glaze… just as Cybis did with the robe on the special blue colorway of Melissa. It sounds as if the white bisque version of the two largest (1988 and 1989) Popes are the typical all-matte with no glazed highlights (similar to, say, the Queen of Angels madonna.) I have no idea whether this final version is completely white or has natural skin color. This smallest, largest-edition-size and least expensive version was the last iteration of their Pope bust and almost certainly dates from the mid to late 1990s or perhaps even the early 2000s.
This photo shows the original 1988 Pope bust being presented. The Cybis caption reads Theresa and Joseph Chorlton (CEO of Cybis) present Pope John Paul II with a commemorative anniversary bust at the Vatican. Although this is the only Cybis portrait of an actual Pope, the studio has personally presented other sculptures to two other Popes as well. A one of a kind enthroned Saint Peter was presented to Pope Paul VI in 1964, and Moses ‘The Great Lawgiver’ was presented to Pope John XXIII.
The other religious-themed Cybis pieces can accessed through the “Religious/Biblical” category link.
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