Cybis Goes to the Circus

The circus theme was a popular one for Cybis porcelain; it was represented continuously in both human and animal studies ever since the first two in that genre were introduced in 1975. Only four of the circus sculptures were limited editions.

BARNABY THE BICENTENNIAL BEAR in brown by Cybis

BARNABY THE BICENTENNIAL BEAR in white for 1976 by CybisBarnaby, an open edition introduced in 1975, was originally named Barnaby the Bicentennial Circus Bear and was available in brown for $125. In 1976 the white version was added for that one year only, although the brown one continued to be available until the edition was retired at $145 in 1977. Because both versions have 200th on the trumpet, the name was eventually altered to simply Bear ‘Barnaby’ by 1979.

 

MONKEY BOSUN by CybisMonkey ‘Bosun’ was made for those same three years (1975–1977); his price rose from $150 to $175. He has no Bicentennial counterpart, and is 6” high.

 

ELEPHANT ALEXANDER HES THE GREATEST by CybisElephant ‘Alexander, He’s the Greatest’ was the first of three circus elephants and debuted in 1975 at $310. By 1993 his Cybis price was $975. He is 7” high and about 12” wide. The standard retail colorway for Alexander is blue trappings and a red ball, as shown; an alternate colorway (red trappings and blue ball) is shown in Color Confusion. Because the ball was merely glued in place, it’s not unusual to see this piece now offered for sale without it.

 

SEAL SEBASTIAN by Cybis

Seal ‘Sebastian’ is one of only two seals the studio produced; the other is the Baby Harp Seal, seen in All at Sea. An open edition in 1976 at $135 and retired in Spring 1980 at $195, Sebastian is 5.5” high.

 

FUNNY FACE standard edition by CybisThe Child Clown Head ‘Funny Face’ was sculpted by Marylin Chorlton and William Pae, and is 10.5” high on its wood base. Introduced in 1976 at $225 and rising to $475 by 1993, this became the studio’s longest-running child bust. His several variations, including the holiday version, can be seen in the Child Portrait Busts post.

Funny Face was one of only two instances where Cybis licensed one of their sculptures to be the basis for an item made by someone else. This was a collector doll called A Gift of Innocence, produced by The Hamilton Collection in 1911. None of these dolls were actually made by Cybis. Full details about this and the other licensed Cybis doll can be found in their own Archive post.

 

POPPY THE PERFORMING PONY by CybisPoppy the Performing Pony was also introduced in 1976. Designed by Susan Eaton, she is a limited edition of 1000 priced at $325 and is 6” high. The edition was completed in 1979.

 

DANDY THE DANCING DOG by CybisOnly one circus piece was introduced in 1977: Dandy the Dancing Dog who is 8.25” high and was initially priced at $145. He was the first of what would ultimately be four circus dogs by Cybis and was retired at $245 in Spring 1980.

 

CIRCUS RIDER Equestrienne Extraordinaire by Cybis

Circus Rider detail by CybisThe Circus Rider ‘Equestrienne Extraordinaire’ was introduced in 1979 as a declared limited edition of 500 at $2775… by far the most expensive circus piece that Cybis ever produced. Production problems must have abounded because it was made for only two years and the edition size was slashed to only 150, although the final retail price had only risen modestly (to $2995) at closing which occurred at the end of 1981. It is 13” high.

This piece was designed by Lynn Klockner Brown, although the horse was adapted from a maquette by Carl Paul Jennewein which the Cybis studio purchased from him during the 1970s.

RUMPLES THE PENSIVE CLOWN by CybisAlso introduced in 1979 was the 7” high open edition Rumples the Pensive Clown at $425. He was retired in 1981. The sculptor, William Pae, modelled Rumples after his young son and their dog. This piece is very unusual in that the underside (bottom) of the object he sits on is painted the same green as the top and sides.

FROLLO JUGGLER by CybisAnother William Pae clown and the limited edition circus piece for 1981 was Juggler ‘Frollo’ who is 10.5” high. The original declared edition of 1000 was later reduced to 750 and probably even further. In 1982 he was priced at $775. The edition was closed sometime before 1988.

 

BIG TOP circus dog by CybisThe second circus dog was Big Top, named originally Big Top, the Circus Dog and later Circus Dog ‘Big Top. An open edition in 1982 at $195 and retired prior to 1988, he is just under 5” high; final price is unknown.

 

CIRCUS ELEPHANT PHINEAS by CybisThere is no doubt that Elephant ‘Phineas’ is a circus performer. This 1984 nonlimited edition was $325 and he is 7.5” high. On the 1993 Cybis price list he is $475.

circus elephants Phineas and Alexander by CybisThis photo compares Phineas and Alexander. Note that Phineas never included a ball.

Some of the Cybis price lists placed the small sitting elephant Willoughby under the Circus heading, while other lists put him with “Animals and Woodland.” However, due to his lack of any circus accoutrements I have put him into the Menagerie post.

clown JUMBLES AND FRIEND by CybisThe third full-figure Cybis clown was Jumbles and Friend from 1985. This was a limited edition of 750 introduced at $675, and increased to $875 by 1993. The edition was probably not completed; I have not seen any for sale numbered higher than 200. The sculpture is 8.5” high and, like ‘Rumples’, was created by William Pae.

 

CHILD CLOWN HEAD VALENTINE by CybisValentine is the female child clown head issued in 1985 as a companion piece to Funny Face who had been issued nine years earlier. Both child clown heads were sculpted in the 1970s by Marylin Chorlton but Valentine’s release was postponed after Marylin’s death. Again William Pae contributed to the design, this time by creating Valentine’s hair. Prior to the introduction of Valentine, Cybis had never indicated a specific gender for Funny Face; he had always been called the Child Clown Head, not “boy” clown head. This was probably deliberate because all of the other Cybis child heads were identified or clearly identifiable as either male or female. Valentine is 9.75” high and her original retail was $335; her subsequent pricing always matched that of Funny Face. In 1993 Cybis offered them at $475 each or as a pair for $900; all such multi-piece discounts were eliminated shortly afterward.  Both Valentine and Funny Face had “with holly” versions as well; photos and price history of those are shown in the Child Busts post.

 

PIERRE THE PERFORMING POODLE by CybisThe third Cybis circus dog is Pierre the Performing Poodle, a nonlimited edition from 1986. He is 4.5″ high. Although his issue price is unknown, he sold for $295 during most of the 1990s.

POODLE JE TAIME by Cybis

circus dogs Pierre and Je Taime by CybisThe following year (1987) Je’taime, Poodle (Mate to Pierre) – a variation of the Pierre piece – appeared. She was not placed into the Circus category at first but instead into a short-lived Valentine-themed group called the “Sweetheart Collection.” After being moved to “Circus”, Cybis offered both dogs as a pair for $475 but discontinued the option after 1993.  Je’taime’s pricing history matches Pierre’s after that.  She differs from Pierre only in her headgear, ball decoration, and body color (light brown rather than light grey.)

BOBO THE MUSICAL BEAR by CybisI am going to give an Honorable Mention here to a piece that spent only its first six months within the Circus collection before being unceremoniously booted into the Musical Menagerie group within the Animals collection. BoBo the Musical Bear appeared in Spring 1987 and was assigned to the Carousel/Circus Collection. He certainly does look the part, but in the winter of that year he was re-assigned; the February 1988 and all later Cybis price lists show him in Animal Kingdom and Woodland rather than in Circus. One can argue that by appearance and ‘birth’ (initial category assignment), BoBo is a Circus piece; the counter to that is that he spent more than a decade in the Animals category and/or its eventual sub-category ‘The Musical Menagerie’, and thus ‘tenure’ should define what he is supposed to be. In other words, it’s a toss-up!

 

ELEPHANT WILLOUGHBY by CybisThat said, I am at a complete loss to explain the baby Elephant ‘Willoughby.‘ The 1986 Cybis catalog shows him as a new introduction on a page with four other Animal Kingdom & Woodland Collection pieces. However, he (like BoBo) remained in his original category for only six months, because in the February 1988 price list, he is (and remained) in the Circus Collection! Here we have the opposite situation from BoBo, i.e., that Willoughby, who has absolutely nothing ‘circus-y’ about him other than the fact that he is an elephant, is now supposed to be a circus animal. Personally, I don’t buy it and feel that he should have stayed at home with the other Animals. At least the BoBo re-assignment makes some sense because he is playing an instrument, but there is zero (IMHO) justification for putting Willoughby in the Circus category. This is why the Cybis category system often makes me very frustrated.

CIRCUS HORSE TRIO SHOWTIME by Cybis

The final actual Cybis circus piece was Circus Horse Trio ‘Showtime’,  a limited edition of 2000 introduced in 1991 but was designed during the 1980s by Susan Eaton. Unfortunately this is the only available photo anywhere at the moment. It is certain that nowhere near the intended number of pieces were ever made, and I would not be surprised if the total production never exceeded a few pieces. I have never seen one come up for sale anywhere. The piece is 9.75” high and as wide, and was priced by Cybis at $995. It’s a shame that there are no additional or better photos of this piece!

So, of the five-limited edition circus pieces, three were horses (Poppy, Circus Rider, and Showtime) and two were clowns (Frollo and Jumbles.)

Speaking of clowns, there is one additional clown study: Pagliacci, an open edition from 1985. However, he was never part of Cybis’ circus genre and was instead placed into their “Theatre of Porcelain” category, which is depicted in the Music and Opera post.

 

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