Cybis had a continuous history of child head/portrait busts through most of the studio’s existence. All but three were attached to a wood base, and all were between 9” and 11” high overall. Most were issued as companion sculptures although each was sold separately. Only three were limited editions; the others were open (non-limited). Let’s take a look at them in chronological order.
This newly discovered piece from the studio’s backstock is very likely the first child bust that they produced. It is unfortunate that the only photo of it, amidst a number of other pieces in the same auction lot, is at this awkward angle. Nevertheless we can get a fair idea of its age and size. The design and painting style, as well as the dipped-lace collar, point to it being from the 1950s; what we don’t know is whether the head was cast from a commercially-purchased mold as were so many of the 1950s Cybis pieces. The overall style is not dissimilar to some of the 1950s Capodimonte child busts designed by Bruno Merli. It appears to be the same height as the more modern-day busts near it, which means approximately 10″ or so. Lacking any other identification at the moment, I am calling this the Little Girl Bust with Lace Collar.
The Head of Boy and Head of Girl were both introduced in 1963 (at $40 retail) and retired in 1970 at $85. They are approximately 9.75” high on their wood bases. As related in When Is a Cybis Not a Cybis, neither were original Cybis-designed molds although Cybis later purchased the copyright to both of these (exact) sculptures.
On most of these heads the Cybis signature is applied by hand with a brush, in brown paint. However, these two were signed with the same stamp that the studio used on their 1950s pieces, suggesting that these may have been among the earliest ones produced. Notice also the different wood finish used for the bases, suggesting that these were not only early but from different production ‘runs.’
A real surprise was the discovery of this pair in an nonstandard hair color! This is the only example that I have come across and would be very interested to know whether they are one of a kind. However, they are both signed simply “Cybis” as normal, with no A.P. designation which the studio always adds to a OOAK piece. It’s also possible that they were done for a special gallery event, although those issues typically date from the 1970s and 1980s. It would be very surprising to discover one from the 1960s! This pair really flew under the collectors’ radar: it was first offered in November 2013 and did not sell; then again by the same auctioneer almost a year later in September 2014, did not sell; and finally sold – third time’s the charm – two months later at only $118 for the pair.
In 1967 Cybis released both the Baby Boy Head and the Baby Girl Head. Both are 11” high overall, both sold for $95, and both were made for only a single year before being retired in 1968. The boy head (and possibly the girl as well) has gone by slightly different names within Cybis literature: in their 1967 catalog they are both called “Baby Heads”, in the 1968 catalog the boy is pictured in profile with the name as “Young Boy”, and the 1979 catalog’s appendix lists him as the “Baby Boy Head!” Because the 1979 one is the most recent – and makes the most sense – that appears to be the official version.
Simultaneously with the two open-edition baby boy and girl busts Cybis also introduced the limited edition Baby Bust. It had a declared edition of 500 (at $375 retail) in 1967 but in 1968 this edition too was closed after only 239 had been made. This piece had serious production problems, i.e., a bad habit of exploding in the kiln (probably the definition of Not A Good Thing!) At the time of closing the price had risen to $550. It is 11” high on its wood base.
For some reason this sculpture has always reminded me of a Buddha statue in the “protection pose”!
After the baby busts (perhaps in more ways than one??) Cybis did not introduce any new child heads for a few years, until 1972 when the Eskimo Child Head ‘Snow Bunting’ (shown on the left in this photo) was released at $165. Retirement came in 1981 at $365, a significant price increase. It is 10.5” high on its base.
A special edition of the Eskimo Child was created in the late 1970s for a Cybis event at Brielle Galleries. Not only are his base and colorway different, but a hat and turtleneck sweater have been added. This sculpture was given its own name of ‘Nanuq’, Little Polar Bear and was an edition of only 200 (shown at right.) If memory serves, I believe the price was somewhere between $250 and $295. One was also donated to a Garden State Arts Center charity auction in 1978.
This Eskimo Girl Head adaptation of the original Eskimo Child may have been created under similar circumstances (as a retailer event promo piece) or may possibly be a test piece/one of a kind. Sadly, no photo was provided of any markings on this piece.
Although this next sculpture isn’t technically a “bust” because it does show part of her lower body, I’ve chosen to include Mary, Mary here. Her inspiration was, of course, the nursery rhyme. She is 10.5” high and was produced only from 1974 to 1979, at $475 retail throughout. She was a limited edition but there is a bit of confusion as to the actual edition size. The declared edition of 750 was definitely reduced to only 500 before closing, according to the 1979 Cybis catalog. However, the sculpture shown in this photograph was described by the auctioneer thusly: Cybis bisque limited edition figure, ‘Mary, Mary’, h 10 ½”: Hand-painted number 525 of limited edition. Hmmmmm. Unfortunately if there ever was a photograph of the back of the sculpture/signature it is no longer available, and so we’re left wondering whether it was really #525 or just a typo.
(Eros, a bust of the Greek child-god of love, was introduced in 1974 but is profiled with the mythological characters.)
Cybis returned to their original practice of introducing ‘companion’ male and female child heads at the same time in 1975, with the Indian Boy Head ‘Little Eagle’ and the Indian Girl Head ‘Running Deer’. In their advertising Cybis described them as brother and sister. Both open editions were retired in 1979. Running Deer is 10” high, was issued at $175 and retired at $285. Little Eagle is 12.5” high and sold at a slightly higher pricepoint ($225/$365). Neither of these was ever attached to a base. They were always classified by Cybis as part of their “children” series rather than their North American Indians collection, by the way.
In 1976 Cybis introduced another iconic child head. This is the Child Clown Head ‘Funny Face’ (shown at right in the photo) which was sculpted by by Marylin Chorlton except for the hat which was designed by William Pae. He is 10.5” high and was introduced at $225. He continued in the Cybis lineup until the studio ended production in the 2000s; he was $475 in 1993. Funny Face was also produced in at least (to my knowledge) two numbered special-event editions for retail galleries; there may be additional versions that I’m not currently aware of, so if any reader happens to have one I’d love to add it here.
‘Funny Face’ with Holly (shown at left) was the separate holiday-themed retail edition. Thanks to a helpful Archive reader I have been able to peg his introduction date to 1976 as well (probably as an autumn introduction) and his likely release price as $275 or $295 . The “holiday” version has a white base whereas all of the other versions use dark wood. This version, too, continued into the 1990s although at a significantly higher pricepoint during that decade: $750 in 1993.
Funny Face in Green with Daisy was a special edition of 150 numbered sculptures produced in the 1980s for a Cybis event at the Reese Palley store in Atlantic City, NJ. This was the actual name that the piece was given. If I recall correctly the price was either $295 or $325.
Lucky was another special-event piece that was, like the Eskimo child ‘Nanuq’ numbered and also given its own name. This piece is unusual for another two reasons: it had an plaque affixed to the base (which was done for very few Cybis issues) and it was not done for a retail gallery:
I can only assume (dangerous, I know!) that Claridge’s in Atlantic City approached Cybis with a request to make a special piece for their New Years’ Eve celebration event to which their “high rollers” were invited. Perhaps each table had one of these as a centerpiece which was later raffled off? This was a physically-numbered edition of 300.
The introduction of redheaded Jeremy in 1977 coincided with Cybis temporarily renaming the child head collection as “Children of the World”. He is 9.5” high overall. Originally issued at $175, he was retired in 1981 at $315.
His sister-sculpture Jennifer appeared in 1978 at a slightly higher $210 pricepoint. She is a bit smaller at 9.25” high and was likewise retired in 1981 (at $325.)
The same year (1978) also saw the introduction of Jason who is the same size as Jeremy (9.5” on base) and was priced at $195. Another pre-1982 retirement here.
Jason’s companion sculpture Jessica was issued in 1979 at $245, is the same size as Jennifer (9.25”), and was retired during the early 1980s as well. Jessica and Jason are two of only three African-American children that Cybis ever portrayed; the other is the Football Player seen in the Sports Sculptures post.
The Oriental Boy ‘Cheerful Dragon’ (Shi Lun) also made his appearance in 1979. He is 10” high on base and had an issue price of $300. His price at his 1981 retirement was $375.
Following the precedent set by Jeremy/Jessica, the following year (1980) saw the appearance of Oriental Girl ‘Lotus Blossom’ (Lien Hua). She is the same height as the other girl-head sculptures, at 9.25”. Her issue and 1981 retirement prices were the same as her brother Shi Lun’s. With the retirement of these two busts Cybis eliminated their “Children of the World” category.
(Psyche, the myth-based companion head to Eros, was also introduced in 1980 but – like Eros – is shown in the Mythological post.)
These two Victorian-era children are Edward and Victoria, both issued in 1981 although ‘split’ between the Spring and Fall introductions. Both are 10” high overall, and both were introduced in 1981; they were selling for $345 each the following year. Both were retired sometime between 1983 and 1988; their final prices are not known.
The third limited edition child bust issued by Cybis was Robin (Girl’s Head with Flowers) which is an edition of 1000 introduced in 1982. She is the largest of this genre at 10.75” high overall. Her introductory price was $475 which rose to $650 by 1988, and $950 by late 1993. Although she remained on Cybis price lists throughout the 1990s and into Y2K, it is doubtful the full edition size was completed. The highest sculpture number I have seen for sale to date is #601.
This detail shot of Robin’s flower crown shows that by the 1980s the studio was already moving away from some of the handmade-flower details of the previous decade and opting for the easier-to-produce molded ones instead.
There followed a short hiatus in the introduction of new child heads until 1985 which is when Valentine appeared. She was designed by Marylin Chorlton at the same time as Funny Face, for which she was intended as a companion, but not released at retail for another nine years. William Pae also contributed to this piece, by designing Valentine’s hair. Up to this point Funny Face had been gender-neutral, simply described as “Child Clown Head”; however, with the appearance of Valentine Cybis renamed the original piece to Funny Face (Boy Clown Head) to correspond to their new Valentine (Girl Clown Head) issue. This new introduction meant that all of the non-limited-edition child and baby busts were now considered to be male/female companion pieces. Valentine is 9.75” high overall and had an original price of $335, rising to match Funny Face‘s $475 by 1993.
Of course Cybis also offered Valentine with Holly. Like the holiday-counterpart Funny Face, the base on this version is white as well and, also like him, her 1993 price was $750.
It’s no real surprise that when Cybis added their Hall of Fame Editions line in the early 1990s, they brought back their very first child head pieces as downsized replicas. In fact it’s quite possible that these were the first of that genre because they were introduced in 1991.
Cybis price lists offered them simply as Boy Head and Girl Head under the “Hall of Fame” section; a more accurately descriptive name is Hall of Fame Boy Head and Hall of Fame Girl Head. Their 1993 price was $275 each, or $500 if bought as a pair (this option disappeared shortly afterward.) Cybis cited the size as 7.25” overall for both; however, the pair in the photograph was described by the seller as being 6.75” high. They appear to be identical to the 1960s originals (which were between 9.5” and 10” high) except in size.
There was also a prototype model of a young girl bust created during the 1980s by William Pae. Because her face appears to be that of a child slightly older than the ones depicted here, I have included the photo in the Children to Cherish post.
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