This chronological review of the various signatures and marks appearing on Cybis porcelain sculptures may be useful when trying to “date” or verify the authenticity of a given piece. Sculptures that were created during the 1940s transitional period (from Cordey to Cybis) can present challenges because some of the signature styles or colors used at that time would be red flags if seen on a later piece. Also, as shown in Identifying Unsigned 1950s Cybis, at least some pieces during that decade emerged from the studio lacking a Cybis signature; that post shows an alternative method of identfying such items.
The Cybis studio was an offshoot of Boleslaw Cybis’ original Cordey China Company. There was an indeterminate number of years in which the output of both lines coexisted, and the earliest Cybis pieces clearly show their Cordey heritage. By the way, the correct spelling is Cordey – with an ‘e’ – not “Corday” as is sometimes seen from online sellers. However, the actual pronunciation as set by Cybis themselves is “corDAY”! (And there was indeed a company named Corday; they made perfume during the 1920s-1950s and their vintage bottles have become collectibles.) Examples of Cordey sculptures are often described online as “Cordey Cybis” even if the piece being offered bears only the Cordey mark.
This example of a dual signature (Cordey mould impression plus Cybis signature stamp) is found on a circa-1940s cat done in the usual Cordey style.
This signature – the M.B. stands for “Marja and Boleslaw” – appears on the bottom of a circa-1940s vase done in the Cordey style. Note the color of this blue ink because this is the color that was used for most signatures during the Cordey/Cybis transition period.
This signature is an abbreviated form of the Marja-and-Boleslaw one shown above. It is almost always seen in blue paint, and can appear on sculptures from 1940 through part of 1957. Boleslaw Cybis died in May 1957; his wife Marja died in June 1958.
Here is a combination of the previous two signature styles! Notice that it too was applied in the same “1940s blue” signature paint as the one seen on the vase.
The back-to-back letter C signature, dating from the 1940s into possibly early 50s, may represent the two Cybis artists (husband and wife) working together. It has been suggested that this signature was used on Cordey pieces but I have not seen any examples that combined the Cordey mould impression with this signature (which would prove that particular assertion). If that is true, it’s possible that the pair of Cs might represent “Cordey/Cybis” — however, it seems as if those two different “ranges” were deliberately kept separate during the brief period of overlap.
The problem with the painted example is that it doesn’t accurately represent the same mark that was occasionally used as a mold mark; as shown by this raised impression that appears on a cat piece, the letters actually overlap instead of being back-to-back as in the Cybis catalog depiction of it. In fact the mold mark is eerily close to the Chanel’s interlocking double-C logo, although the Cybis mark is more vertical. The cat bearing this mark dates from the 1950s but I would guess most likely the early part of that decade.
This standalone B(oleslaw) Cybis signature dates from 1953-1957 and has been found in blue and in a reddish brown.
Most of the 1950s pieces, especially the religious ones, have the stamped Cybis signature (name only). Commonly it is in the blue or brown paints shown above but occasionally also in a dull pinkish color or a dark charcoal grey; these could well be faded from red and black. As can be seen from the examples above, there was also a two-line “Cybis Fine China” stamping version as well.
This bright red Cybis signature was found on a 1950s religious figure of a young Jesus with gold skin.
Here’s a signature anomaly that I’ve to date seen only once: a raised Cybis signature mold mark! It appears on the same 1950s cat piece that had the raised double-C mark. The piece also has the reddish-brown “Cybis Fine China” stamp on it as well. It may well be that the two raised marks were only used for a very short time.
Some of the 1950s Cybis items have a signature that is incised (recessed) which appears to indicate that they were signed during the greenware stage (before the first firing.) As shown in these two examples, sometimes the signature was gone over with paint in the final stages but at other times left plain as in the lefthand example.
This stamped (not handwritten) signature is slightly different from the ones shown above; this stamp is on a Holland Mold-derived pheasant from the 1950s. Notice the difference at the top of the C, and also the overall shape; this stamp is slightly more vertical.
According to Cybis records, the use of this block-letter signature began in 1945 but it does not indicate an ‘end’ date. This may simply be a way of indicating that a piece could be signed simply “Cybis” rather than only by initials. This block-text format was also frequently used as a mold impression.
This eagle mark supposedly has a very specific date range of 1947 to 1951 according to the Cybis catalog. It can be found in either blue or black/grey, and also as a mold impression as shown in the second image. The cited dates may be somewhat flexible, however, because an Angel in Adoration has been found bearing this mold impression despite the fact that the same Cybis catalog lists her as not being introduced until 1953! So one or more of those production dates (either for the stamp or for the angel) may not be exactly accurate. It’s probably safer to say that the Eagle mark in one form or the other was used “in the late 1940s and early 1950s.”
Modern Studio Cybis Signatures
The familiar script-format handwritten Cybis signatures began to appear in the early 1950s which is when the Cordey company was sold and the artists turned their attention to producing only Cybis sculptures. It also marks the appearance of the modern Cybis style, moving more toward bisque pieces and away from the highly glazed rococo look that had been a hallmark of Cordey. It is at this point that the signature began appearing more and more often in brown, and by the early 1960s the brown (or gold leaf, in certain cases) became pretty much standard.
The collage image, taken from various backstamps, shows the possible variations in style between the modern Cybis signatures. Note that two of them are in a shade of brown that closely approximates the charcoal that was used on the early stamp; however, the most common paint color is the typical mid-brown, or the aforementioned karat gold paint especially if the signature has to be placed on a dark background.
Here’s an exception to the “always-in-brown” modern paint signature rule, on the Twelve Drummers Drumming holiday ornament released in 2000. I have only seen one of these offered for sale and so have no idea whether all of them were signed in this color; also, the actual colorway of the piece is different from Cybis’ own stock (advertising photo). (Both colorways are shown in the Twelve Days of Christmas post.)
This unusual black hand-painted signature appears on a Wendy; because that sculpture was an open edition it cannot be dated individually but the design was introduced in 1957. It is possible that this particular one was made when the studio first abandoned the stamped name and switched to hand signing after Marylin Chorlton took over in 1957. I have not yet seen a Wendy with a stamped signature. The Baby Owl was another 1957 introduction that I have not seen with a stamped signature either, and those have all been in brown so far.
If a sculpture consists of two separate figures joined together on a single base, each figure will have its own signature in the proper place. The sculpture of two unicorns called Gambol and Frolic is an example of this, the underside of which is shown above; each unicorn is signed on the inside of the right rear thigh.
It should also be mentioned here that the copyright designations of © or ® (in this case the ® means that the phoenix impression is a registered trademark of Cybis) may be either handwritten or stamped. Either is legitimate but they are always done in the same paint color as the Cybis signature they accompany. Some sculptures may have the copyright and/or registered trademark symbol as a mold impression instead of, or in addition to, a painted/stamped one.
Also, the so-called “bird mark” (as many online sellers refer to it) mold impression changed in 1979 from the single phoenix to the phoenix-arising-from-flames shown above. A vertical version of this design appears on the cover of the 1979 Cybis catalog.
Signature Anomalies and Curiosities
You didn’t think that Cybis signatures would be 100% consistent, did you? Here are some examples found thus far.
Normally there is no limited-edition indication on a sculpture other than the # sign followed by the individual sculpture’s number (if the # appears at all.) However, I have found two instances of it being written as shown above (LE meaning limited edition) on the Scheherazade sculpture. If any readers have a Scheherazade, I would be interested to know if it does or does not have the “LE” designation because that is the only piece that I have ever seen this written on. It may be that for some reason they were all marked in this manner, but why it would be this particular sculpture and none other is a mystery.
This early 1980s non-limited edition Madonna, Queen of Peace may contain several signature variations, so let’s look at them.
This example has the phoenix-in-flames/registered trademark mold impression, plus a handwritten Cybis signature, a stamped copyright symbol, and the unusual “Made in USA” as handwritten in full. Typically it would simply be written “USA” or the Made in USA would be applied as a mold impression. Even more unusual is the handwritten date (1980). The two circular areas at top and bottom are small holes that would normally be open.
This second example is similar but does not have Made in USA on it in any format; it does have the extremely atypical year date in paint.
The third example has Made in USA as a mold impression this time, so it is not handwritten….. but now the handwritten date is 1981! On this sculpture the copyright symbol was written rather than stamped, and the firing holes are open as they should be. The felt circles were probably applied by the owner.
It’s very unusual for a standard non-limited edition to be dated by hand, or to have a painted “Made in USA” added. It’s possible that some of the 1980 molds did not have the Made in USA impression that they should have borne, and thus this was added in paint; and then starting in 1981 this was corrected. But as for the handwritten date, why bother dating this particular piece at all? It seems to only have been produced for two years (1980 and 1981) before retirement, so what was the purpose? Very odd.
Another atypical signature appears on the limited edition Prima Ballerina; the notation “Trenton, N.J.” appears in paint. The only other sculptures that I have so far seen this on have been the Collectors Society pieces and one of the Display Signs. However, there may be other examples of the ‘Trenton’ signature not yet discovered.
The award for Really Weird Signature Format thus far has to go to the limited editions Queen of Sheba and Theron, both from 1987, and both of which have something I’ve never seen on any other Cybis piece: a handpainted phoenix logo. Below are three examples from the Queen of Sheba, all signed the same way on the back edge of her robe.
I would love to know whether the phoenix mold impression also appears on the bottom of the sculpture; if any reader has a Queen of Sheba, would you please take a look and let me know? If it is there in the mold, I can’t imagine why they would want to add it again in paint; and if it is not in the mold, I can’t imagine why this would have been omitted when every other Cybis piece has it. Note that this piece, too, has the introduction year added although I’m not as surprised by this as I am about them putting it on a non-limited edition such as the Madonna Queen of Peace. Does the Queen of Sheba have any mold impressions at all? It’s a mystery waiting to be solved.
The signature on Theron contains another new element as well: the trademark designation T.M. applied in paint. The phoenix is also portrayed with the wings in a different position which makes it look more like a dove and not at all like the trademark Cybis phoenix shape. This “profile” phoenix shape corresponds to the latest iteration of the Cybis mold impression which is shown in the next example.
The marks on this young girl bust named Robin feature an unusual repetition of elements as well as the new profile-orientation phoenix posture in the mold rather than merely painted on. Not only does Robin bear the registered trademark symbol (circled R) and the copyright symbol, but the initials T.M. (“trademark” abbreviation) were added in paint — odd because the TM designation is normally used only while something is in the process of trademark registration; once it is registered, the TM designation is replaced by the circled R. Perhaps the painted TM refers to the “new” profile phoenix mould impression? Even if so, there is no need to repeat the copyright symbol for the Cybis name twice (in mold plus in paint), nor is there any need to repeat U.S.A. in paint because it’s already there as a mould impression.
Here is a real puzzler: The addition of the letter S, either alone or circled, to several sculptures that appeared in an August 2019 auction. I have no idea what the S could possibly stand for! The main thing the pieces had in common was that they were among the items liquidated by the Cybis studio at the time their premises was sold; but they were only a few among more than 100 sculptures in that same auction. So in this case, your guess as to the meaning of “S” is as good as mine!
More weirdness from the same auction of studio pieces: This notation A.P.R which means…. what? A.P. has always meant Artist’s Proof, but “R”?? Another “you got me” signature. This was on a Fleurette who differed in no discernable way from the production version.
Here’s another piece signed in a way that I cannot explain! This too was in the August 2019 studio-backstock auction sale. What we have here is a 1950s/early 1960s Cybis namestamp done in black paint. That in itself is not terribly unusual. It is combined with a stamped copyright symbol which is a bit unusual (see Copyright Years for more on this) but still possible if the piece in question was made during the early 1960s. Where it begins to get strange is the paint-stamped Made in U.S.A. which I have not encountered applied by that method before. The final mark – which almost looks as if it was applied with a Sharpie – is A.P denoting an artist’s proof…. a practice that the studio didn’t engage in (as far as we know) during the 1950s. One could be forgiven for assuming the the Cybis piece bearing these marks was probably made in the early 1960s, even though the Made in U.S.A stamp remains weird. What blows that theory out of the water is that the piece is Kittens ‘Ruffles and Truffles’ which was not introduced by the studio until ….. 1983! That’s a good twenty years after the studio stopped using that signature stamp. Could this piece have been originally sculpted in the early Sixties and stuck on a shelf for twenty years before its retail introduction? No, because there is a phoenix mold impression that was not used on any 1960s pieces, and so this is yet another one that defies logic in how it is signed.
I’ll end this markings overview with an illustration of the special 50th Anniversary stamp that was added to all sculptures that were introduced and physically produced in 1989. Cybis’ own advertising regarding this stamp actually engenders much confusion because their literature states that it is applied “only to sculptures introduced in the Golden Anniversary Year” which was 1989. This sounds as if the stamp appears on all 1989 designs regardless of what subsequent year any given individual sculpture was produced by the studio, and indeed that is what I thought for quite some time. However, this turns out to not be the case.
For example, one of the 1989 new introductions, which appears within Cybis’ “Golden Anniversary Sculptures” brochure, is Bunny ‘Bunnykins’. If the exact wording of the brochure is taken at face value (that all new designs added to Cybis’ retail line will have the special stamp) then every retail Bunnykins should have the 50th Anniversary stamp… but they do not. In fact most do not, which is not surprising considering that it has been listed as a still-open edition continously ever since. Therefore the 50th Anniversary stamp must only have been applied to 1989 retail introductions that were physically created by the studio during that year; any pieces that were cast from that mold after December 31, 1989 onward do not have this stamp.
The stamp was applied adjacent to the Cybis signature and mold impressions, unless available space dictated that it had to be placed elsewhere.
The script beneath the name/logo reads “America’s Oldest Porcelain Art Studio”; the dates are 1939-1989 to commemorate Boleslaw Cybis’ arrival in America from Eastern Europe, on commission to paint murals in the Polish Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. He subsequently established his first studio in an old mansion in Astoria, a Queens County suburb of NY City, and later moved it to Trenton, NJ. However, the Cybis studio as a corporate and retail entity did not exist until the early 1950s, and so the fifty-year mark actually refers to the year that ceramics were first produced in the USA by Boleslaw and Marja Cybis.
However, there is no 75th anniversary commemorative marking on any Cybis sculpture because the studio stopped production in the early 2000s. The Cybis website was last modified in January 2009, at which time a “70th anniversary 30%-off sale” was advertised; the site was never updated after that and disappeared entirely in late 2018. If still using Boleslaw Cybis’ initial USA-arrival date as the starting point, the studio’s 70th would indeed have occurred in 2009; but if going by the actual legal incorporation date of the modern Cybis studio (1953), that milestone would not occur until 2023. It is a moot point, because the last known new Cybis retail introduction was the Carousel Reindeer in late 2008.
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