The Limnettes® were a unique product of the Cybis studio during the first half of the 1970s. They are small hand-painted porcelain plaques that were designed by the Polish artist George Ivers (nee Jerzy Iwaszkiewicz.) Ivers was actually working for Lenox at the time but came to the Cybis studio after the production run of the Limnettes® had ended… joining Cybis as their Art Director in 1973 and remaining in that post for thirteen years.
Cybis applied for trademark registration of the word “Limnette” in 1972 and was granted it in 1974; that is why the backs of the first-year-production pieces are signed Limnette™ which indicates an item that is awaiting approval of a trademark application. Many of those pieces are dated 1971 even though the official introduction year was 1972.
Cybis’ original intention was for all of the Limnettes® to be mounted on porcelain as shown in these two introductory brochures.
It appears as if most (perhaps all) of the 1971-signed pieces were produced with the porcelain mounts but in 1972 a switch was made to using wood instead.
There were three different series of Limnettes®, with four designs per series, and all were limited editions of 500 per design at introduction. All of the Limnettes® were priced at $125 each for the entire availability term. According to the 1979 Cybis catalog appendix, the “final edition size” was reduced to 100 before completion (in 1975 for all.) Unfortunately the edition size of the Limnettes® is a textbook instance of published information contradicting reality, which I discuss in Edition Size Discrepancies: A Cybis Conundrum. Each of the series contain actual Limnettes® that are numbered higher than the supposed final edition size of 100; for example, several have appeared on eBay with numbers in the mid-200s.
The three series were entitled “The Wonderful Seasons”, “Everyone’s Fun Time” and “When Bells Are Ringing.”
The Wonderful Seasons
Each of the four portraits depicts a lady dressed to represent Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
The earliest ones were produced with these bisque porcelain mounts that had a textured front surface. Here are Winter and Spring.
Followed by Summer and Autumn. The oval porcelain plaques are 4” high and about 3.25” across at the widest point.
The ‘texturizing’ on the front was not done by hand but is instead in the wedge mold itself.
The sides and back of the wedge/mount are smooth. Each is numbered and signed Cybis on the back. These four have matching sculpture numbers and are from the John S. Minton collection. Many thanks to his family for providing these photographs for inclusion in the Archive!
The studio subsequently switched to these black-painted wood mounts, no doubt to save on production time and costs because they took up less of both than did the original bisque ones. The wood mount is 5.5” high x 4.25” wide. The dark color provides more contrast to the white porcelain oval, but it also makes it more noticeable if the plaque was mounted onto it slightly askew.
Because the wood mounts could not be signed on the reverse, that information had to be relocated to the plaque itself… making things a bit crowded along the edge.
Everyone’s Fun Time
The concept of this series was simple: people having fun. The Pond is a winter scene complete with ice skaters and hockey players.
This example is dated 1973 and is 5.5”high x 6” wide.
Country Fair is complete with a Ferris wheel and carousel. The original 1971 copyright registration for this item gave its name as The Carnival.
This example is dated 1971 on the front and is numbered #241/500 on the back of the mount; no mention of an Ivers signature. The numbering format is very strange because Cybis almost never included the edition size in their signatures; perhaps they only did this for these first-year pieces.
This example on a dark wood mount is dated 1972 near the Cybis signature and is numbered 13; the dimensions are 5.5” x 5.5”. Notice how the signatures are clearly visible on this one, whereas the 1971 example doesn’t even (at first glance) seem to be signed at all; however, enhancement of another photo reveals a faint grey Cybis signature located at the lower right, just below the Balloon Man’s brown pants.
Windy Day was originally copyright-registered as Windy Afternoon. This is obviously a 1971 piece; it is 4.5” high and 7” wide overall, with the plaque being about 3.5” x 5.5”. The seller of this plaque quoted the numbering on the back as being #58/100 but again I wonder if that was a typo for 500?
Here is Windy Day on wood, dated 1973 and having the Ivers signature adjacent to “Cybis.”
A fanciful day at The Seashore. The original copyright registration name for this piece was On The Beach. As shown on the wood mount it is 4.25” high x 7” wide overall. Signatures, dates, and numbers were omitted from its description.
I have no idea why the original copyrighted titles of these four Limnettes® were not the ones applied to them when they were actually introduced at retail.
When Bells Are Ringing
Although it’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to directly correlate bells with more than two of these subjects, three of them do also represent holiday celebrations.
Easter Egg Hunt measures 5” high and 5.5” wide and is signed Ivers at the bottom left. A different but un-pictured (bad photo) example dated 1972 did not have the Ivers signature and was numbered 333.
This scene is called Merry Christmas. The plaque is 3.75” h x 5” wide, with the mounted piece being 5” x 5.5”…. not much wiggle room on the sides! The example shown above was not cited as being Ivers-signed, nor was a date mentioned; however, a similar example also on the wood mount was described as signed 1972 and #333.
This winter scene is entitled Sabbath Morning. This example dates from 1971; the seller repeated his written description error re: the number, citing it as being “241/300” even though the listing photograph above clearly shows that it is actually #241/500. A different example of this Limnette®, also mounted on wood, was dated 1972 and numbered simply 333; the Ivers signature was not cited as appearing on that one.
Independence Celebration is obviously a July Fourth scene (perhaps it’s the Liberty Bell that’s ringing?). This is 5.75” high and 5.5” wide overall. The Ivers signature appears in black along the curve of the right hand edge, while the Cybis signature is in white at the lower left; this is a rare instance of the Cybis signature being in a non-standard paint color. This one was numbered 333.
Having only ever seen fully-assembled Limnettes® for sale, I had assumed that the flat back of the porcelain was simply glued onto the front of the wood (or porcelain) wedge that supported it. But, thanks to the gift of an unmounted example from a Cybis artist, we can now see how it was actually done.
It’s clear that the wedges did not have a smooth solid front but instead had a hole in the center, into which this secondary piece of porcelain which was glued into the back of the porcelain. The X marked the center point and the piece, which looks rather like a Ouija-board pointer, was meant to be centered on it. We must assume that this fit into a cut-out on the face of the wood plaque, and then turned slightly in order to ‘lock’ it in place. One would have thought that something else (glue?) would have been required for a more secure attachment, however. Although I do own one Limnette® (Autumn) I’m not inclined to try to separate it from its mount in order to test this theory! That assumes that the Seasons pieces, being smaller than the later editions, were attached in this same way, of course.
Although the Limnettes® themselves were proprietary to (trademarked by) Cybis, Ivers’ art in this format was already well known. Some of them were mounted and others were not. An interesting small item was found in a 2011 auction listing:
The porcelain fragment is very small, only 1.5” high and 2.25” wide. It is attached to a square of wood which is very very similar to (if not the same as) that which was used for the bases of quite a few Cybis busts during the 1970s; the wood was described as measuring 3.25” x 3” x 1.5”. A handwritten label on the side read “Boy on Sand Dunes”, and the original owner was supposedly a clerical employee at Cybis. Perhaps Mr. Ivers made this for her as gift. Other examples of his work can be seen at the George Ivers Gallery website.
Name Index of Cybis Sculptures
Visual Index (for human figures/busts only)
About the Cybis Reference Archive
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