Unlike several other porcelain studios, such as Boehm and Connoisseur, Cybis never made a butterfly the subject of any of their sculptures. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t fluttering about in some of the Cybis designs, however. The studio utilized two particular butterfly molds, plus four others that were used only once; and there are three instances of a painted butterfly making its appearance.
Butterfly Mold ‘A’
For convenience’ sake, I’ve designated the two most often used butterfly molds as A and B.
Mold ‘A’ was used to add a butterfly to nine Cybis designs. Although I’ve never had occasion to measure one, a good guess is that it is about 1” wide … give or take a fraction.
The first appearance of this butterfly mold is on the Flower Bouquet of the United States that was made for exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Two ‘official’ Cybis photos of this piece exist. The black-and-white photo above, which appears in the 1971 museum exhibit catalog Cybis in Retrospect, clearly shows four butterflies which are indicated by the arrows.
And yet, this color photo appearing on page 19 of the 1979 Cybis catalog clearly shows NONE of those butterflies at all! [There are several other missing elements as well, which are revealed in the Bouquet’s separate Archive post.] The caption states, “the only one of its kind, it is now in the Smithsonian Institution.” One wonders which photo was taken first! It’s too bad that no photo seems to exist showing the bouquet in place at the Fair, which would answer the question of whether the butterflies departed before, or after, the bouquet left the studio.
Six years later, this butterfly alighted on the 1970 open edition Mushroom ‘Jack O’Lantern’.
For some odd reason, there seem to be two possible locations/perches for the butterfly on this piece. On some, the butterfly is on the mushroom cap but on others, it is perched on this leaf. It might have helped if a photo had been included in their 1979 catalog, but there is none.
This butterfly’s next stop was the limited edition Pansies ‘China Maid’, which was produced from 1972 to 1974.
When the same piece was released in a different (purple) colorway in 1975, as Pansies ‘Crinoline Lady’, the butterfly of course remained in place.
The second mixed-flower study to receive a butterfly – two of them, actually – was the 1982 limited-edition Spring Bouquet. One is at the top, and the other is at approximately the 8 o’clock position in this photograph, perched on a rear-facing leaf.
This was probably a retailer-event promotion piece during the mid-1980s; definitely after 1985 which was when the Baby Rhino ‘Monday’ was first introduced. It does not appear on any Cybis price lists that I curently have, which often indicates that it was a gallery event piece.
This pink dogwood with nest and butterfly may have been a mid- or late-1980s event piece as well (unless it appears on a price list that I do not have.) Notice the difference in color intensity between these two pieces. This design is simply a reissue of the earlier Wood Wren with Dogwood from the early 1960s, but with the bird removed, a butterfly added, and the flowers in pink instead of white. This iteration is not on any Cybis literature from the 1960s or 1970s.
At least we do have a year (1988) for this butterfly’d piece which is the Mountain Laurel with Butterfly …one of only two times that the butterfly was actually mentioned in a sculpture name. Unfortunately, this is the only photo that I have ever been able to find of it; you would think that the studio would have managed a better one, or perhaps more than one angle.
Although it may not appear so at first glance, the butterfly mold ‘A’ was slightly tweaked into a swallowtail form before it was placed on the nose of the Hippo ‘TGIF’ for a dealer event promo at some time after 1986. Perhaps the studio didn’t want to make it quite to obvious that they were using the same butterfly mold for both.
A close-up collage of pieces that include butterfly ‘A’.
Butterfly Mold ‘B’
I could have simply called this the “tiny butterfly”! This mold is probably no more than ¼” wide (if even that) because it had to be in proportion to a relatively small sculpture.
Queen Titania was the first to hold this butterfly, in 1977.
It then aestivated for almost 20 years, until it was brought back for the first Collector’s Society piece, the Golden Princess, in 1995. One would have thought that the studio might have had some use for it during the intervening decades!
Its final appearance was on the third and last Society piece, to alight on the hand of the Little Princess in 1997.
Other Butterfly Molds
The honor of hosting the very first butterfly (as far as I am aware) goes to a charming 1957 piece called the Valley Quail. To be honest, I think this one has the nicest paint design of any, followed closely by one of the Pink Dogwood examples. This mold, as well as Mold A, may not even have originated at Cybis.
The first title-mentioned butterfly was this one in Apple Blossom with Butterfly in 1977. It is very similar to Butterfly Mold A but edges of the wings are slightly different.
Spring 1980 saw the debut of Oriental Girl ‘Lotus Blossom’ who wears a butterfly-shaped barrette. This is the only instance of this butterfly mold.
A second butterfly-bedecked child bust appeared in Spring 1980 as well, but the one in Psyche’s hair is entirely different than Lotus Blossom’s.
It’s also not the same as the one that would later be put onto the Hippo.
Painted or Relief Butterflies
The only other butterflies on Cybis items appear on the two ‘warm-weather’ Four Seasons Plaques in 1982, and on the Iris Compote.
A blue butterfly appears on the Spring Promise plaque. It’s hard to tell whether it is flat-painted or molded in slight relief (I think a combination of both.)
The Summer Dreams plaque contains two flat-painted butterflies: a small yellow one at the lower right, and a larger peach/orange one at the top center.
A blue butterfly is part of the design on the back of the 1983 Iris Compote.
Other Insects and Various Creepy-Crawlies
Eight other Cybis pieces either feature or include an insect, bug, arachnid, or gastropod.
The 1977 Kestrel is about to dine on a preying mantis, which also happens to be the largest realistic portrayal of an insect that Cybis did.
The 1981 open-edition fairy Ariel rides atop a fanciful grasshopper.
It was stylistically similar to the 1975 Ladybug ‘Duchess of Seven Rosettes‘, although not as detailed.
A naturalistic ladybug appears on two Cybis floral pieces.
The one on the circa-1960s Windflower is part of the leaf’s mold. This piece was made in several colorways, shown in the Flowers post.
This possibly-OOAK golden yellow flower study, sold during the studio’s final liquidation, also has a ladybug on one leaf.
The arachnids are represented only by the painted-on spider on Little Miss Muffet‘s cushion.
Of course, we cannot forget about the charming Sir Henri Escargot, whose various color permutations can be seen in A Snail Tale! This was the only representation of a snail by Cybis, which seems odd when one thinks about it.
And lastly, the Spring Promise plaque shown above also includes a dragonfly and a ladybug.
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