Turning now from the mythological and Shakespearean genres to a more wide-ranging overview of the literary characters as portrayed by Cybis, we find that quite a few of them are from the medieval era.
The bust of Beatrice, from The Inferno, is 12” high overall and a limited edition of 700. Designed by Laszlo Ispanky, she was issued in 1965 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth. The edition was completed in 1971 at $275. Two slightly different colorways of her green dress have been found: a sage green and a wheat color faintly tinted green.
Here’s an unusual Beatrice with lace trim added to the shoulders of her dress. She is not an artist’s proof but instead has a normal retail edition sculpture number. It’s possible that this piece came out of the first or second firing with damage — perhaps a crack or other imperfection where an arm joins the body — and someone decided to add the lace trim in order to hide it, rather than discard the bust altogether. This was definitely done at the studio, as evidenced by the gold paint extending onto the lace section (second photo); if added by an owner, it would not look like this.
Scarlett comes to us from Gone With the Wind, an edition of 500 issued in 1968 at $450 and completed in 1974 at $825. She is 12” high. I have always wondered why, given that the book clearly describes Scarlett O’Hara as having dark hair and the movie naturally followed suit, Cybis chose to make their porcelain version a redhead! There were two different colorways of the nosegay of roses on Scarlett’s bodice: white with a pink central blush, and a solid pink.
Jane Eyre, from the Charlotte Brontë novel of the same name. She is 13” high, and is a limited edition of 500 that was issued in 1981 at $975. The edition was completed between 1983 and 1988.
Camille, from Camille by Alexandre Dumas. The cascade of flower-bedecked porcelain lace bows on the back of her dress make this sculpture one of the most challenging to safely handle and pack! Her mirror is a separate element that was glued in place, which is why this piece is sometimes seen for sale without it. She stands 14” tall and was a declared edition of 500 in 1983 at $1425. By 1993 her Cybis price was $2850.
The standard retail colorway (blue bodice with white trim, pink underskirt, and lavender ribbons) is on the right. The lavender version is an artist proof/test piece; in addition to the different color, she wears a ring on her left hand and the bows at her sleeve were omitted. The standard-color example carries a slightly different mirror (white/gold instead of the usual all-gold.)
Here we have the famous lovers Tristan and Isolde. The source of the medieval legend is unknown but the first recorded version was the Prose Tristan in the mid-1200s and they later appear in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in the late 1400s. This was a declared limited edition of 200 in 1985 at $2200; in 1988 it sold for $2750 but does not appear on any Cybis price lists thereafter. It is rarely seen on the secondary market. In fact, I have only found two and both had been “separated”…. in one instance Isolde was offered as a standalone sculpture by a seller who misidentified her as ‘Tristan’! The complete sculpture is composed of three pieces: Tristan, Isolde, and the base they are both attached (glued) to. The cup, of course, is a fourth piece. The overall height of the complete sculpture is 14.5″.
Elaine, Lady of the Lake is a case of Cybis erroneously conflating two different characters of Arthurian legend. Elaine appears in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and also in Le Morte d’Arthur as ‘The Lily Maid of Astolat’ who died of unrequited love for Sir Lancelot and floated downstream to Camelot on a funeral barge with a lily in her hand. Perhaps Cybis was attempting to connect the “water” element with the proper terrestrial lily by using waterlilies in the sculpture.
However, the problem is that in literature ‘The Lady of the Lake’ is an entirely different character! This was the title of the water goddess who presented Arthur with Excalibur and later received him after death into Avalon. In several versions of the legend her actual name is given as Vivianne or Nimue. The name Elaine was hardly ever used in connection with the Lady of the Lake and so it’s puzzling that Cybis would choose the least-familiar name if they intended to portray the mystical character instead of the human one. Appearance-wise, Cybis’ version of Elaine could be interpreted either way: either as the water goddess or as the lovelorn lady. My guess is that the sculpture was intended to represent Lancelot’s admirer and for some reason Cybis thought ‘Elaine, Lady of the Lake’ sounded better than ‘Elaine, the Lily Maid of Astolat.’ Personally I think the latter name would have been more appropriate as well as less confusing! Why not “Elaine, the Lily Maid”? By any name, she is 13” tall and had a declared edition of 350. She was introduced in 1987 at $2100 and was $2375 by 1993. Elaine was sculpted by Lynn Klockner Brown.
Cybis’ earliest Arthurian portrait was Guinevere and was the first of two depictions of her. She was produced between 1967 and 1971 while Laszlo Ispanky was the head artist at the studio and his distinctive style is clearly seen in this sculpture. It is 12” tall and was a completed edition of 800, closing at $275.
Queen Guinevere is the 1983 full-figure portrait of Guinevere which was issued as a separate “companion piece” for King Arthur. This sculpture is 10” tall and was a declared edition of 500 for $1650; Cybis’ price for her in 1993 was $2750. Like the Lady of the Lake above, Queen Guinevere was also sculpted by Lynn Klockner Brown. This colorway is the normal retail edition.
This is a one of a kind artist’s proof. The lavender-pink tones have been changed to a light reddish brown, and green has been brought subtly into areas of the design as well. Her throne coloration has been changed from ‘wood’ to a gilded ivory, and her hair is more red than blonde.
The model for Queen Guinevere was Barbara Beans, a young jockey who had recently burst upon the racing scene with a remarkable string of wins riding ‘longshots’ on the East Coast circuit.
King Arthur, 14” tall and 10” front to back, is a limited edition of 350 introduced in 1984 for $2350. In 1993 he was $3750, and during that year was offered as a pair with Queen Guinevere for $5850 (a discount option that disappeared not long after.) Arthur, too, was designed by Lynn Brown. I hope to one day update the second photo with a larger one that better shows the workmanship on the back of his cloak. The sword he carries is notorious for coming unglued over time (as is the sword carried by Sir Henry who is examined elsewhere.)
Robin Hood, although not a limited edition, is being included not only because he appears so often in legend and literature but also because it is a 1960s sculpture that is very rarely seen on the secondary market. The first time I found him having been available for sale, he was incorrectly identified by the seller as being “Peter Pan!” (Cybis did make a Peter Pan somewhat later and it’s true that both are dressed in green and have a red feather in their cap; but they are two entirely different sculptures.) Robin Hood is 10” tall and was made in both the green version shown first and also in plain white bisque. The white version was made only from 1964-1966 at $75-$80, and the color version from 1964-1967 at $95 throughout. I have never seen the white bisque one but obviously a few must still exist somewhere, so if anyone reading this happens to have a photo of it, I would be happy to include it here. There is a contact form link at the bottom of this post. The second photo shows a colorway wearing a light brown jerkin instead of the traditional color of “Lincoln green.” I do wonder, though, why he is shown with a sword instead of the legendary bow and arrows! Robin Hood was initially included in the studio’s Portraits in Porcelain category even though he was not a limited edition.
Scheherazade from The Arabian Nights. I have seen two examples of this sculpture with a somewhat unusual signature: They both had the letters LE (meaning Limited Edition) preceding the # sign and the sculpture number. I do not know if this atypical signing method is consistent on all of them, however. She is 13” tall and was introduced in 1989 as a limited edition of 500. Some of these will have the 50th Anniversary stamp indicating that they were physically made during that year. Her introduction price was $2400 which ultimately rose to $2775 by the end of the 1990s. It is unlikely that the full edition was completed.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s daughters who were so charmingly immortalized in The Children’s Hour were depicted by Cybis in three separate but related sculptures profiled in their own post.
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