Update: In order to keep this page to a manageable size, it now contains only the full-figure madonna pieces made by Cybis during the 1950s. The busts and torsos depicting a madonna have been spun off into their own separate post. If you are trying to identify a Cybis madonna that has a glazed finish and is NOT a full figure, that is the place to look.
The Cybis studio produced a multitude of madonnas throughout their 75-year history, and the majority of them made their first appearance during the 1950s. At that time the studio was going through a transition from the very ornate rococo Cordey line to the more realistic bisque designs of the newly-named Cybis Art Porcelain studio. Although these madonnas were produced under the Cybis name, many of them hark back to their Cordey predecessors via their colors, glazing technique, or decoration style.
These 1950s-era madonnas can be a challenge to date and/or identify, not only because few detailed records were kept by the studio during the 1950s but also because not all of them were given retail names.
Compounding the confusion is the fact that during that decade most (possibly all) of the items sold by Cybis were not from molds they designed, but instead were purchased from various ceramics mold manufacturers in Trenton, such as the Holland Mold Company; that story is told in When Is a Cybis Not a Cybis. The Cybis studio was by no means the only one doing this; in fact, their rival Boehm purchased one of the exact same madonna molds shown below and was selling it under the Boehm imprint at the same time Cybis was selling theirs! (In this post the madonnas that are definitely known to be products of another company’s mold are noted as such at the end of the description.)
The appearance of the Cybis signature on the 1950s madonnas can also vary. Many of them were signed (or stamped) in a distinctive blue paint that was not used in any other decade. A few pieces continued to be produced into the early 1960s, by which time the studio had transitioned to brown signatures, and so a blue signature would indicate an earlier-created piece. The post covering Signatures and Marks contains color examples of each and their approximate date ranges.
A curious fact is that, with only one exception from the 1980s, every one of the Cybis madonnas has been an open (non-limited) edition. For the 1950s pieces this is a given because Cybis did not begin creating numbered limited editions until 1960 but it is unusual that although every other genre of Cybis sculptures eventually included multiple limited editions, there was only one limited-edition madonna design.
It should be noted that Cybis frequently created non-retail production runs of religious sculptures for local New Jersey churches during this period, and many of those must have been madonnas although they also included saints. Some of the female saint sculptures are easily mistaken for madonnas if they happen to wear a halo. There are no doubt many of these special sculptures waiting to be discovered and catalogued!
Because there were so many Cybis madonnas, I’ve separated the overview into three parts. This one focuses only on the full-figure madonnas that were introduced to the retail market during the 1950s. The non-full-figure (i.e., busts or pieces that depict only the upper part of the madonna’s body) pieces made in the 1950s have their own post. Even though some of the designs continued to be produced until the early to mid 1960s, they were all first introduced during the 1950s. All of the he madonnas (full figure, bust, or torso) that were introduced to the retail market from 1960 onward are covered in the Later Madonnas post.
We’ll begin by looking at a single Holland Mold Company mold that was used for four different 1950s Cybis madonna designs.
The mold was advertised by Holland in this March 1959 ad within Ceramics Monthly magazine. The body mold shown as their H-856 is 17.5″ high and simply called “Madonna.”
Cybis omitted the separate Holland Mold base, removed the rosary which is part of the Holland mold, added a floral circlet, and issued Mystical Rose as design number 2092 in both white bisque and color until the early 1960s. She is 17.5″ tall and sold for $45 (white) and $55 (color) throughout.
However, when they took the same mold and added a halo, a flowering branch next to her right leg and a flower on her foot, the studio sold her as Our Lady of Lourdes ‘Healer of the Sick’. They assigned design number 2091 to this version. If the 1979 catalog appendix can be relied upon (not always) she was retired slightly earlier than the plainer Mystical Rose: it gives “late 1950s” as the retirement date. This was also made in both white bisque ($55) and color ($65.) The 1979 Cybis catalog contains a photo of this same piece and cites it as being 19.5″ high which is probably an error because that would only be possible if it was on a 2″-high base such as the one Holland sold.
This Our Lady of Lourdes has a very interesting openwork-design halo. She is also done in their bisque color finish. (The dual upper photo is of the same sculpture; the lighting the right-hand photo an inaccurate pink cast.)
Here we have a glazed white hobbyist-produced Holland Mold madonna H-856 without the optional base, next to the openwork-halo Cybis Our Lady of Lourdes.
Cybis also took the upper body portion of the original Holland Mold, removed the rosary, and made it into their Madonna in Prayer bust/torso. That piece is 7.5″ high. They also produced a Mystical Rose bust/torso from the same mold but possibly upsized because the actual size of that piece is in question. Both of these adaptations can be seen in the 1950s Madonna Busts post.
This piece was incorrectly identified as “Immaculate Conception” in a photo caption in the 1978 and 1979 Cybis catalogs and, as a result, originally here as well. It has now been determined that the correct name of this piece is ‘Assumption.’ She was produced in both white bisque and color. Her height can be either 13.5″ or 15″, depending on whether she is put onto a single (fluted porcelain as in first two examples above) or a double (fluted porcelain atop a dark wood) base. Produced from the mid-1950s to early 1960s, her price was $30 for the white and $37.50 for the color version throughout. [Cybis design #2104]
This Madonna and Child is very unusual in that it’s one of the very few that had gold leaf (“old coin gold”) covering the ‘skin’ areas. The rest of the piece is probably in their highly glazed color ‘stained glass’ finish. It is about 12” high. This was a non-Cybis mold design that was retired before 1963.
Some examples of this beautiful large madonna ‘Immaculate Conception’ have hand-applied ringlets added to her cascade of wavy hair. The overall height will depend on the base treatment; she is 17″ tall unless she has a secondary, ‘basket-weave’-design lower base added, which brings her up to 18 inches. Thus far, only the plain white version has been found with the second base. [Cybis design #251-W]
This lovely pink colorway has handmade ringlets added to the sides and back of her hair. She does not have the additional base and so is 17″ high. [Cybis design number is 251 for the non-white versions]
In this rich blue colorway, Mary’s hair is brown and with no ringlets added. Another difference: Her eyes are painted as open, rather than closed!
A group of three Immaculate Conception colorways; there may have been other colorways produced that have not surfaced yet.
Small, full-figure madonnas were always popular and Cybis made at least two (probably more.) It is extremely likely that this is Madonna ‘Spiritual Vessel’ from the 1950s to the early 1960s. She is 8” high, made in white bisque at $25 and color at $30. She was still being sold by Cybis in 1963 but disappeared from their price lists before 1967. [Cybis design #2146]
I do not know what name Cybis gave to this somewhat unusually-dressed madonna who is a bit more than 9″ tall. Her cloak is atypical in that it is fastened at the neck (with what reminds me of a pair of blue Cheerios!) and overall there is not much detail; nevertheless, she is actually quite charming. In style she reminds me of the small madonna bust shown at the beginning of this post. She could be any one of the “name but no image” madonnas that are known, or another piece entirely. Based on her attire, let’s call her the madonna in scallop-edged robes.
This 1950s sitting madonna and child (actual name unknown) was also a Holland Mold design, except for the halo which was a Cybis addition. The Cybis version is signed in the correct format and color for the period. [Cybis design #223]
Here is the same piece in a much ‘frillier’ decoration, including more gold accents and a pink rose spray embellishment, but sans halo.
There are four known versions of the House of Gold sculpture and it’s possible that there are even more! This madonna and child study was made between 1957 and 1965. It is 14” high overall if it is on the wood base, and 9” across. The photo above is the same version that is illustrated in the 1979 Cybis catalog; note the white dress and pink accents. According to the same catalog this piece was offered in plain white bisque at $75-$100, and in “color” at $175 all during its production run; however, that latter price is incorrect, because the 1963 price list shows the color version at $125. The one in the photograph above would have been the color version seen during the 1960s; I have not yet found a photo of a white bisque one.
An interesting bit of trivia is that the crown worn by this madonna was used 30 years later (in 1996) by Cybis as a small single-year promotional item for the short-lived Collectors Society. In that iteration it was produced in white bisque with gold accents. In addition, the head and torso of the madonna was used again in 1968 for a madonna bust issue shown in the Later Madonnas post.
Although mounted on the usual base, this is possibly the most unusual example because of the rarely-seen gold skin, just like the standing but much simpler madonna and child shown earlier. That, and the stained glass finish, definitively date this to the 1950s. The lack of a crown brings the overall height to 13”.
The title ‘House of Gold’ is taken from a Catholic litany; the ‘house’ refers to the body of Mary while she was pregnant (literally ‘housing’ the baby Jesus) and ‘gold’ to preciousness and brilliance.
Here we have another rare version, also from the 1950s: the House of Gold with Dove. The stained-glass colors may be the same as shown in the second example but this one is properly on its base and also includes a dove that has just landed on (or perhaps about to take flight from) Mary’s left knee. The sculpture itself was designed by Harry Burger, a freelance artist who created several sculptures for Cybis including the famed 1970s Chess Set which was President Nixon’s gift of state from the USA to the USSR.
This photo appeared in the November 1978 issue of The Catholic Transcript and shows one of the more recent (as suggested by the crown) House of Gold examples being presented by the Knights of Columbus to Pope John Paul II. The crown appears to be the gold one but it’s impossible to guess the other colors from this black-and-white photo. It is unlikely that Boleslaw Cybis was actually a personal friend of the Pope (born Karol Wojtyla), given the 25-year difference in their ages and the entirely different locations in which they both lived before Cybis came to the USA in 1939. Except for a two-year stint in Rome, Wojtyla never left Poland before becoming Pope in 1978; and there is no indication that Boleslaw Cybis ever went back to Poland after 1939.
Update, July 2021: Two examples of a House of Gold have been found with the Cordey name and a Cordey design number on the underside! They are decorated very differently than the examples shown above, and have their own Archive post. This is the only Cordey piece known to have transitioned into the Cybis retail line.
This full figure madonna with rose crown may also have had a companion full figure Jesus sculpture. She is about 10.5″-11″ high and is another pre-1963 retirement.
This full figure praying madonna with halo is 13″ high and has the almost-black early 1950s Cybis stamp as shown. This was definitely cast from a commercially available mold because it was still in use by hobbyists and other giftware companies, such as Goebel Hummel, even as late as the 1970s.
This piece was in one of the studio-liquidation auction lots in 2019/2020 with just this one photo of her among the crowd. I went slightly batty for weeks trying to identify her, then finally gave up and placed her into the general Religious post as an “unidentified saint.” She certainly didn’t match any of the well-known ones.
Fast forward to May 2021, when a fellow Cybis-nerd spotted a remarkably similar Goebel item whilst surfing the ‘Net. It took all of ten minutes to peg the Cybis piece as a reproduction of the circa-1500s limewood carving generally known as ‘The Nuremburg Madonna.’ The photo above is the original. Cybis may have used the same mold as Goebel (with minor tweaks) or vice versa; Goebel’s version is supposedly from the early 1960s. Countless reproductions of the original item have been done over time, in ceramic, porcelain, wood, and metal and so Cybis’ is just one of many.
The 1970 museum exhibit catalog Cybis in Retrospect and/or the 1979 Cybis catalog mentions, but does not illustrate, a Madonna and Child, glazed decorated (possibly stained glass?) and 19.5” high. The unusual height makes one wonder if it was on a base as well as whether it is a standing or sitting study.
Just to make things even more challenging, the 1973 Cybis catalog includes a single-page text list of verified sculptures, many of which probably date from the 1950s. There’s no way to know whether these are busts, torsos, or full figures. If anyone recognizes any of the names and has images or information, there is a contact form below; I’d greatly appreciate being able to fill in the blanks. Likewise if you have photos of any Cybis madonnas that are not included in either of these overviews, and would like to add them to the “database” please let me know.
Lady of Grace
Madonna ‘Comforter of the Afflicted’
Mother of Divine Grace
Our Lady of Fatima
By the early 1960s the Cybis studio had moved completely away from the 1950s style of glazed/stained glass decoration for their retail introductions, and even in their special commissions for local churches – which were often glazed – the colors had become more muted. They also stopped utilizing commercially-available molds. The first numbered limited edition pieces appeared in 1960 but this new trend did not affect the madonnas.
The next post covers all of the Cybis madonnas that were introduced in 1960 and after.
Images of Cybis porcelain sculptures are provided for informational and educational purposes only. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner as indicated via watermark. Please see the copyright notice in the footer and sidebar for important information regarding the text that appears within this website.
The Cybis Archive is a continually-updated website that provides the most comprehensive range of information about Cybis within a single source. It is not and never has been part of the Cybis Porcelain studio, which is no longer in business.