This charming trio of separate but related Cybis porcelain sculptures is based on Longfellow’s classic poem The Children’s Hour about his three young daughters. Indeed, Cybis captions this photo within their 1979 catalog Porcelains that Fire the Imagination as “The Children’s Hour Group”. However, they were each sold separately as Alice, Allegra and Edith (shown left to right in the photo below).
All are non-limited editions that were introduced in 1978 and retired in Spring 1981.
Alice is fittingly depicted seated with a book in her lap and a basket of yarn by her side; no frivolous or frolicsome pastimes for her, thank you very much! She is 7.75” high and sold for $275 at introduction; her final price was $350. Because these are most often seen on the secondary market as single sculptures, a variety of names have been applied to them by sellers who either couldn’t or didn’t bother to research the piece; one large auction house offered Alice with the supposedly ‘official’ name of “The Storyteller”! The real Alice’s name was Alice Mary Longfellow; she was born in 1850 – the oldest of the three girls – and died unmarried in 1928. It was she who worked tirelessly to preserve her father’s home in Cambridge, Massachusetts which is now a historic site.
Allegra (center) stands 9.5” tall, in a motion-arrested posture with the corners of her lips upturned as if she is just about to (or perhaps trying very hard not to?) giggle; her original price was $250 and ended at $310. Her real name was Anne Allegra and she was the youngest of the girls, born in 1855. She married Joseph Gilbert Thorpe and the house they built in 1887 was designed to closely resemble the house she grew up in; it’s now one of Cambridge’s historic homes. Allegra was the longest-lived of her siblings when she died in 1934.
Although it doesn’t appear so in the Cybis catalog photo, Edith’s hair is noticeably darker than that of her sisters; so I have to assume that the artist interpreted Wordsworth’s “golden hair” as meaning that hers was the deepest blonde color. She is the tallest of the three at 9.75” high and also sold for $250 at first although $310 at retirement. Edith was the middle sister, born in 1853; she married lawyer Richard Dana III and had four sons before her death in 1915. When her sister Allegra had a house built in 1887, Edith and her husband also built one for themselves on the adjacent lot.
All three of the Cybis sculptures have unmistakably bright blue eyes in keeping with the poet’s description of them as the “blue-eyed banditti”!
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.
A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!
They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.
They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!
Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!
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