Cybis produced ballet sculptures ever since the early days of the ‘modern’ studio; the earliest example was introduced in 1960. New ballerina sculptures in both limited and non-limited editions were issued through the 1980s and likely beyond. The fifteen designs are illustrated below in chronological order. Issue and closing/retired prices are indicated, when known.
Ballerina ‘Red Shoes’ was made both in decorated and in white bisque. At 10.5” high, it was produced only from 1960-1968 in both versions as an open edition; the closing prices in 1968 were $75 and $50 respectively. The original name of this piece, as shown in the Cybis Spring 1963 price list, was Young Ballerina ‘In the Spotlight’ and she was placed in a category called ‘Objects d’Art’ along with various other human figures and (rather inexplicably!) two horse studies. The name change to “Red Shoes” was done sometime between 1963 and 1967.
This figure’s mold was one of two sold by the Wilton Cake Decorating Company as a topper/party favor during the 1960s! Read the strange story in A Cybis on Your Cake.
Ballerina ‘On Cue’ was made only between 1963 and 1970; in the 1967 Cybis catalog the photograph of this sculpture is captioned as Pause for a Ballerina; however, in all other literature and sculpture lists it is titled Ballerina ‘On Cue’. This may have been the very rare instance of a name change or simply a creative photo caption; however, all other photo captions in the 1967 catalog do reflect the sculptures’ proper names. This sculpture was offered in both white bisque and color versions, and is 12.5” high. The ‘color’ version is the one in the second photo, with a white tutu, pink shoes, and a gold crown. The example in the third photo (blue dress) is probably an artist’s proof.
Interestingly, the photo of this sculpture in the Cybis in Retrospect museum catalog shows a slightly different base from the production version; it may be that the horizontal part was removed so as to create a more dramatic photograph. There are other instances where the Cybis catalog shows a sculpture placed on a wooden base even though it was never offered for sale with one. On Cue’s closing prices in 1970 were $125 and $150, respectively, for the white bisque and standard color.
Little Princess, 10” high, an open edition produced 1968-1970 at $125 for the entire run.
From the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ ballet we have The Enamored Prince Florimund and The Enchanted Princess Aurora. They were both 12” tall and were sold as separate sculptures rather than as a pair. They were made from 1973 to 1978. The 1979 Cybis catalog prefixes both names with the words “Ballet Sculpture”. Although the declared limited editions were 500 each, only 200 of each were made. Their issue (and closing) prices were $975 for Florimund and $1125 for Aurora. (This pair was likely sculpted by Harry Burger, a freelance artist who also created the 1972 Chess Set, among other Cybis pieces.)
This pair of sculptures was once the subject of a very “high level search”, as recounted in an article appearing in the Asbury Park [NJ] Press on August 28, 1977:
Ira Jacobson, owner of Brielle China and Galleries, has received a letter of appreciation from the White House for his help in the solution of a unique problem. He participated in a search for 12 pairs of sculptures, originally created at the Cybis Porcelain Studio of Trenton, to decorate the tables at the first full White House State Dinner of the Carter Administration, June 28. Honored on the occasion were Venezuelan President and Mrs. Carlos Andres Perez. The White House had approached Cybis with their theme for the decorations, the ballet. From the Cybis ballet collection they selected the figures of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund, [the] principal roles in the classic ballet “Sleeping Beauty,” to be used as the table centerpieces. The problem was that the porcelains are from a “retired” collection, and finding private lenders was an enormous task for the White House staff. According to Jacobson, who was called on by Cybis to assist in locating the pieces, “I was delighted to be called upon to represent Cybis in America by adding my part to the White House table decor.”
An article in a 1977 issue of Acquire magazine included this photo of the table setting:
It accompanied a long article describing the rationale behind the materials (mirrors and acrylic pedestals) chosen to design the centerpieces:
The pedestals were constructed in five and six inch heights and one pedestal of each height was placed on one mirror…Each pedestal was draped with garlands of ivy and gardenia blossoms and votive candles in lucite holders were placed among the leaves at a height of four inches…Bonita alternated the lead sculpture from table to table and faced the sculptures in various directions.
This one-of-a-kind pink colorway of Aurora dances on a very pretty pink-and-blue-checkerboard base.
The first of the 1980s ballerinas was Karina. She is 5” high, a non-limited edition introduced in 1981. By 1988 her price had risen to $525.
She was followed by Kristina in 1982, a non-limited edition that is 6.75” high. She was $625 in 1988.
Cynthia, the third ballerina, made her appearance in 1983 at $625 and was $825 in 1988. She is 9.5” high.
This is Clara, from The Nutcracker, an non-limited edition standing 9” high, introduced in 1985 at $395. She was retired before 1993. A Cybis retailer ad during her introduction year stated that she is the “first in a series of three memorable ballerinas” which is interesting because Cybis had just ‘finished’ introducing three supposedly-related ballerinas (Karina, Kristina, and Cynthia).
Romeo and Juliet, a limited edition of 300 introduced in 1985, is 14.5” high. Their introductory price was $2200 which rose to $2850 by 1988. The edition was completed by 1993. (The third photo is of an artist’s proof in darker colors and with a pink bow and added flowers.)
Swanilda was a non-limited edition introduced in 1985 with an issue price of $450 and retired in less than three years because she is not on their 1988 price list. She was the second on the aforementioned ‘series of three memorable ballerinas’, following Clara. In the ballet Coppelia, where she is a major character, her name is often spelled Swanhilde.
Recital was issued in the autumn of 1985 as a non-limited edition for $275. She is one of the shortest-lived Cybis introductions, because a February 1986 Cybis update list shows her as already retired! This means that she was produced for only six months, at most. This is puzzling, because this is a rather simple figure without any elements that should have caused production problems.
Kitri was issued in 1986 as a non-limited edition and is probably the third in the Clara-Swanilda-(Kitri) trio; she is 6” high and was $550 in 1988. This ballerina is from Don Quixote; her Spanish costume causes her to be occasionally misidentified by online sellers as named “Carmen” ….an entirely different Cybis piece that is shown in the Music and Opera post.
This group of Kitri’s fans painted in various colors was part of an auction sale of various studio backstock in 2019.
The magnificent Swan Lake’s Odette and Siegfried is definitely the rarest and most expensive ballet-themed sculpture the Cybis studio ever produced; it was featured on the cover of the Spring 1988 issue of Collector Editions magazine. This impressive sculpture is 14” high and had a declared issue of 100 in 1987 at a price of $8750. The edition size was later reduced to only 15.
Curtain Call was a large-number declared limited edition of 2500, at 9.5” high. She was a Spring 1991 introduction at $875. This is another piece that almost certainly did not complete its declared edition. Notice that she is the same ballerina as Odette except for the position of her head which was an easy alteration.
This white version is a OOAK artist’s proof.
Time Out took a very long ‘time out’ between design and production! Although her mold impression has a copyright year of 1982, she was not introduced at retail until a decade later (1992). She is 4.25″ high and had an issue price of $595.
Prima Ballerina is 8.5” high, and is a bit unusual because despite being designed and copyrighted during the 1980s, she was not issued as a retail piece until a decade later: She is listed as “new” on the May 1999 price list from Cybis, at $975 but with a blank space where the “Declared Issue” would normally be, and so it’s impossible to know what was intended. (Unfortunately, I did not take a screenshot of this item when it was on the Cybis website.) The original maquette (clay prototype) was created by Lynn Klockner Brown but the finishing details were done by a different Cybis artist. However, because of her much-delayed retail introduction year (1999) she ends up being the final ballerina ever issued by Cybis.
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