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, an open edition introduced in 1975, was originally named ‘Barnaby’ the Bear and was available in brown for $125. In 1976 a white version titled Bicentennial Circus Bear ‘Barnaby’ was added for that one year only, although the brown one continued to be available until the edition was retired at $145 in 1977. The sculpture name was eventually altered to simply Bear ‘Barnaby’ by 1979.
Monkey ‘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, 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. His designer is unknown, but the elaborate details on his trappings were the work of George Ivers. 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 fairly common to see this piece now offered for sale without it.
Seal ‘Sebastian’, an open edition in 1976 at $135, was retired in Spring 1980 at $195. He is 5.5” high and was sculpted by Charles Oldham. Although Cybis called Sebastian a seal, he is actually a sea lion because he has visible ear flaps; seals do not have ear flaps.
The 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 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.
Only one circus piece was introduced in 1977: Dandy the Dancing Dog who is 8.25” high and priced at $145. He was sculpted by Charles Oldham. Dandy was the first of what would ultimately be four circus dogs by Cybis and was retired in Spring 1980.
The 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.
Also 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 Todd in his Hallowe’en costume; the puppy is their dog, ‘Rocky’ (named after the Stallone character.) This piece is unusual in that the underside (bottom) of the seat is painted the same green as the top and sides; normally the underside of a Cybis piece is white.
The limited edition Circus piece for 1981 was Juggler ‘Frollo’ who is 10.5” high. He was sculpted by William Pae during the 1970s, and Frollo’s hat is modelled after the men’s hat called an ‘applejack’ or ‘apple’ hat which was popular at that time. Frollo’s 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.
The open-edition circus introduction for 1981 was Percy the Blue Ribbon Pig. This is one of several instances where I cannot find any logical justification for the Collection assignments of certain Cybis sculptures (and why I rant about them in my Collections post.) Aside from the fact that I’ve never seen a performing pig in a circus (have you??), the “blue ribbon” portion of the name suggests that Percy is a prize-winning specimen in a livestock show. I certainly don’t see ‘circus’ when I look at this piece, but Circus is where the studio put him and so he is here as well. Percy was sculpted by Susan Clark Eaton and sold for $195.
The 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.
There is no doubt that Elephant ‘Phineas’ is a circus performer. He is an Asian elephant sculpted by Charles Oldlham, and is 7.5″ high. This 1984 non-limited edition sold for $325.
This photo compares Phineas and Alexander. Note that Phineas never included a ball.
The third full-figure Cybis clown was Jumbles and Friend from 1985. This was a limited edition of 750 introduced at $675. 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. Mr. Pae was inspired by an illustration in a turn-of-the-century book of Mother Goose stories in the Cybis studio’s art library.
Valentine 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 during the 1970s by Marylin Chorlton and William Pae, but Valentine’s release was postponed indefinitely after Marylin’s death. 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. Both Valentine and Funny Face had ‘with holly’ versions as well; photos and price history of those are shown in the Child Busts post.
The third Cybis circus dog is Pierre the Performing Poodle, a nonlimited edition from 1986. He is 4.5″ high and was designed by Susan Clark Eaton. Although his issue price is unknown, he sold for $295 during most of the 1990s.
The following year (1987) Je T’aime, Poodle – a decorative variation of the Pierre circus dog – appeared. She was not placed into the Circus category at first but instead into a Valentine-themed group called the Sweetheart Collection, where she remained for almost three years. When Cybis eliminated the Sweetheart Collection, Je T’aime (“I love you” in French) was put into the Circus Collection and given the designation “mate to Pierre.”
There’s a bit of a sticky circus wicket in 1986, regarding an introduction from that year: The baby African Elephant ‘Willoughby’, designed by Susan Eaton. The 1986 Cybis catalog shows him as a new introduction on a page with four other Animal Kingdom & Woodland Collection pieces. However, he remained there for only six months, because in the February 1988 price list, he was reassigned to the Circus Collection! This move is very puzzling because nothing about this sculpture indicates that he is a circus animal. In fact, he was originally created as part of the series of 1980s baby animals that included the baby hippo, baby rhino, and baby harp seal. However, Willoughby remained in the Circus category for the rest of the studio’s operational life and so (based only on the principle of tenure) I am including him here. I don’t agree with the Collection assignment, however, and feel that he should have remained in the Animal Kingdom which is where he was ‘born’ and clearly belongs.
I 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 its eventual sub-category ‘The Musical Menagerie’, and thus ‘tenure’ should define what he is supposed to be…if we are going to use that premise to qualify Willoughby the elephant for Circus membership, but otherwise not. In other words, it’s a toss-up!
The final Cybis circus piece was Circus Horse Trio ‘Showtime’. Although introduced in 1991, it was created during the 1980s by Susan Eaton. The declared edition size was unusually large: 2000 pieces, according to the 1990s price lists that I have. The only edition size greater than this was the smallest version of The Pope bust, which was a declared edition of 2500. The vast majority of Cybis edition sizes at that time were in the hundreds, with a very few being editions of 1000, and so the expectation of collector demand for 2000 of any piece was unrealistic. I am certain that nowhere near the declared number were made, especially as the studio was not fully staffed and was operating under a ‘pieces made to order’ status during the 1990s and 2000s.
Unfortunately, this is the only available photo anywhere at the moment, and was the only one that the studio had on their website; in fact, the actual thumbnail was even smaller, so I have enlarged it was much as I can without risking complete and utter pixelation! I have never seen any other photo of Showtime, nor seen one come up for sale anywhere. It is 9.75” high and about 10″ wide, and was priced by Cybis at $995. It’s a shame that there are no additional or better photos of this piece; if anyone happens to have one, I’d be so grateful for some pictures! There is a contact-form link below.
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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.