They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to things like copyright infringement there’s such a thing as being a little too flattering! So herewith the Archive inaugurates a Hall of Shame, displaying blatant knockoffs of Cybis Porcelain copyrighted designs.
But first, an important bit of clarification. The Hall of Shame does not include any items cast from the any of the commercially available hobbyist molds that Cybis themselves utilized during the 1950s. That situation is explained in the When Is a Cybis Not a Cybis post. Those molds were actually copyrighted by the moldmaking company and were widely available for purchase by anyone. Their design copyright, however, remained the property of the moldmaking company and that is why we don’t see any copyright symbols on the pieces that Cybis produced from those molds during their first decade in business. Those weren’t ever “Cybis designs” and thus there can be umptillion examples of them made by whoever, at any time, without any of them being a Cybis knockoff… even though Cybis themselves produced the exact same thing at one time.
There is one item that I dithered over adding to this post, and that is the extremely close copy of the Cybis Court Jester that was produced by the Seymour Mann Company. Personally I would consider this to be an unauthorized copy BUT there are enough slight differences to keep a few lawyers busily arguing (while collecting fees) for a while. That knockoff/copy/whatever is shown in a dedicated post, The Cybis Court Jester (or, Send in the Clone) for your perusal.
I’d also like to point out that the sellers who offered the Hall of Shame examples shown below are almost certainly not the same people (the copyright infringers) who created them in the first place! The sellers who took these photos were merely offering an item which they most likely had absolutely no idea was an unauthorized knockoff of something else. So in this one case I have deliberately omitted any identifying watermark, in order to protect the innocent.
The purpose of the Hall of Shame is simply to illustrate how some people chose to create a copy of an original Cybis; and also to point out how their “knockoff” status is discernable (other than, of course, the absence of any Cybis signature or mold impressions.)
Additional items will be added to the Hall of Shame if/when discovered, but here are the first inductees. The knockoff is shown first, followed by an example of the actual Cybis sculpture.
This copy of the 1956 Madonna with Bird appeared for sale on eBay in 2008 within a mixed lot of religious jewelry (some of which festoons and surrounds the sculpture) and other items. There was only this one photograph, and the only detail the seller included was that it was “signed Slovenia on the bottom”. That is a mystery in itself and I wish a photo had been included!
Other than the colors being different from any of the three legitimate Cybis editions of this sculpture (the original – shown above – and the two later reissues shown in the Later Madonnas post) there are other red flags. The bird is not cast from the same mold as the one Cybis used; look at the wings and also the shape of the end of the tail. The position of the sleeve/hands mold pieces, where they join with the torso mold, is also “off and the cloak edge is completely in the wrong place. The position of her hands and their fingers does not correspond exactly to the genuine piece. And lastly, the vertical braid sections do not exist in the original, and the neckline is plain rather than trimmed. The mystery here is where and how a Slovenian maker acquired a mold (or even a piece from which to cast a “negative”) of an Ispanky piece that was created by him in the USA. One wonders if there are other versions of this knockoff as well.
This unsigned ceramic was a clear attempt to copy the 1977 Cybis piece Rusty and Jonny (Playing Marbles). It’s unclear whether the maker actually cast a negative mold from an actual piece and simply didn’t do it very well, or whether they created their own version freehand.
In this case the maker tried, equally unsuccessfully, to copy the colorway of the original as well.
And now, as they say, “for something completely different”: This is not a ceramic at all, but a candle! It is, of course, the iconic Mr. Snowball from 1962, but here cast in beeswax. This is the only such example I have found, and I reached out to the seller to inquire if perhaps the mold was currently being sold commercially to candle and/or chocolate makers. Alas, it turns out that the mold for this was included in a liquidation sale of a former candlemaker several years ago and so it’s impossible to trace its source.
I must say that the candle is quite a faithful copy of the porcelain, and it’s deliciously ironic that a design named “snowball” would end up being reproduced in a medium that would, by its very nature, eventually “melt” and disappear!
If any readers know of other potential “inductees”, there is a direct-contact form at the bottom of the About the Cybis Archive page.
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