The final week of October seems an appropriately spooky time for a discussion of the ‘body snatching’ that occasionally occurred within the design process of Cybis porcelains. Despite my fanciful terminology, it wasn’t always an entire sculpture body that was appropriated for use in another; sometimes it was only certain parts.
Because most porcelain sculptures are composed of multiple separate molds, it’s not all that difficult to borrow a piece or two from one design to use on another. For example, the hands originally sculpted for Ophelia (produced from 1966-1974) were attached to the arms of Beau Brummel who may have originally been designed in the early 1980s but apparantly wasn’t released until 1990 or later. Because both figures are the same size – 13″ or so – the hands remain in proportion.
Larger body sections were also re-used, even for sculptures much closer in retail timeframes than the decade or more that separated Ophelia and Beau. The entire lower body (waist downward) of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1971-1975) was used for Berengaria four years after Eleanor’s edition was completed. The skirt and robe are identical except for the colors and more elaborate decoration on Berengaria’s. I’m not sure whether the entire torso (from neck to hem) was re-used with various sculpting tweaks, but even that is possible. The lower bodies are identical, however.
The most extensive re-use of an earlier human body mold for a later sculpture is Dawn (1962-1966) morphing into Queen Titania who was introduced in 1977. The only structural differences between them are the heads, the position of the arms, and the addition of a longer skirt on Titania.
A sharp-eyed reader has pointed out another adaptation/re-use; in this case it is only a section of the original piece. The head and torso of the madonna in the 1957 introduction House of Gold, designed by Harry Burger, was used again in 1968 for the bust that most collectors call the ‘Madonna with Blue Veil‘ even though a white version was made as well. For several other interesting colorways of the House of Gold, see the 1950s Cybis Madonnas.
A virtually concurrent element-snatch is the branch structure from the Goldfinch (1960-1963 or 1961-1964 depending on which Cybis publication you read) being re-used in its entirety for the Magnolia introduced in 1963. If the Goldfinch was retired in Spring 1963 and the Magnolia introduced in Fall 1963, the clones just barely missed each other in the retail line.
A triple bird-snaring occurred during the 1960s as well. The same bird appeared on no less than three sculptures within a 10 year period.
Its first appearance was in 1953, on the Madonna with Bird which is said to have been designed by Laszlo Ispanky before he formally joined the Cybis studio.
It next appeared as the female Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, one of a limited edition pair of bird studies issued in 1961. The only difference is the orientation, color, and the addition of legs.
And finally the third appearance in 1964, as the avian accent on the monumental one of a kind Flower Bouquet of the United States created for the New York Worlds’ Fair.
I strongly suspect that both of the Blue Gray Gnatcatchers (seen in Later Birds) were probably created at the same time during the early 1950s but only one of them was re-used. It may even have been the original intent to have two birds on the Madonna piece!
Here is a “body part” that went from a bird sculpture to a floral one. The vertical component of the Blue Headed Vireo Building Nest (1960 introduction) was re-used for the Windflower in 1963. Both pieces were retired in 1965.
Another flower study actually does have the same mold piece used at the same time for two different sculptures. The branch upon which the American Rose (issued in 1987) sits also serves the same purpose for the Mountain Laurel with Butterfly…whose introduction date is unknown at present but likely to have been the early 1990s. They use the identical ‘branch base’ mold except that the topmost part was “cut off” for the Mountain Laurel because it wasn’t needed. Both of these are current retail open editions on the Cybis site but with a significant difference in price: the Mountain Laurel is $395 and the American Rose is $895.
Cybis’ second Nativity set contains three camels, two of which were issued in the 1980s and the third in the 1990s. Camel I was a 1984 introduction whose entire body (other than the legs) was recycled into the kneeling 1990s Camel III with a shortening of part of the neck. This is another example of both pieces being available at the same time.
Sometimes the repositioning of a single element enables the re-use of the entire body mold. This was the case with the 1987 Unicorn ‘Lord Bentley’ who has his neck arched downward. When Cybis decided to launch a short-lived mini-series of all-black sculptures called the “Midnight Collection” in 1988, one of the first was Black Beauty who uses Lord Bentley’s body but with his neck in a normal position (looking forward) instead of arched. When the Little Foal was introduced during the 1990s he was simply another colorway of Black Beauty who had by then been retired. Both Lord Bentley and the Little Foal are on the existing Cybis site as current open editions.
There’s also the case of a bird that “flew” from one sculpture category to another. The bluebird that perches on the right hand of the Madonna with Bird (1953-1962) was also used as the female Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (1961-1970) which is one of a pair.
These detail photos more readily show the match. The only difference is in the positional orientation and the fact that the Gnatcatcher has legs + feet, while the Madonna’s bird is crouched and so has feet only.
I do differentiate between “body snatching” (or body-parts-sharing) and named variations that are based on different decorative elements. For example there’s a plethora of “spinoff” bunnies, each with their own name and pricepoint, such as Bon Bon wearing a top hat and a bouttonniere and rechristened Puttin’ on the Ritz. It’s perfectly clear that those are simply decorative variations on the original theme, especially since the original is still part of the retail lineup. And those are all open editions; however, I do find it a bit surprising that Cybis would ‘borrow’ elements for their limited edition designs. But compared to the total number of Cybis designs over the years they are a very small percentage….not anything close to an “invasion of body snatchers” at all. 🙂
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