The art porcelain market has at times been as volatile as Wall Street – bullish one decade and bearish the next. Although the bears and bulls were both represented in the Cybis studio’s output, one clearly outnumbered the other throughout their seven decades of existence.
Bull, ‘God of the Thunderbolt’ was designed by Laszlo Ispanky, introduced in 1960 and completed in 1965. Although a 1963 price list shows this as being a limited edition of 1000 (for $150), this was a typo; the edition size was only 100. His closing price was $200.
It is 13” long and 10″ high (sculpture only) and was attached to a wood base approximately 2″ high and 14″ wide. (The Cybis literature gives the overall size including the base.) The sculpture name refers to the Greek god Zeus who, in the form of a white bull, kidnapped the Phoenician maiden Europa and brought her to Crete where he made her its Queen; the thunderbolt was the traditional weapon of Zeus/Jove/Jupiter.
An unusual example was among the 2019 liquidation-sale lots. This bull’s horns are decorated with gold, and almost look as if they were wrapped in thin gold wire; they seem too perfectly straight to have been brushmarks. The hooves are also glazed white instead of being gray. The base is not the one that the retail piece was sold with; although the same color, it is longer.
One online seller claimed that this piece represents the “Wall Street Bull” despite the fact that it is not anything like the famous Arturo DiModica bronze sculpture. Another apocryphal claim is that President Lyndon Johnson bought virtually the entire edition in one fell swoop, to give as gifts to ambassadors and friends. That story is debunked in its own separate Archive post.
But getting back to the Cybis bullpen, their 1963 price list also includes Europa and the Bull as a limited edition of 200 selling for $350. The color was shown as white bisque only, and the height as 18″. Was this the same Bull shown above, but with a female figure added on his back? It’s impossible to know without ever seeing a photo. This piece does not appear on the next price list I currently have (1967), nor is it included in the 1979 catalog Appendix (which does not include most of the earlier sculptures anyhow.) However, the fact that the 1963 list gives both dimensions of Bull (12.5″ x 13.5″) whilst merely citing 18″ for Europa seems to make the ‘sharing’ less likely.
The Carousel Bull ‘Plutus’ was the third Cybis bull. It was issued in 1981 as an edition of 500 that was subsequently reduced to only 325; the edition was either completed or closed before 1988. It is 12” high including the wood base to which it is attached via a bolt through the gilded pole; without the base it would be 10” high including the pole or about 6” without. The sculptor was Susan Eaton and the issue price was $1125.
Although not a bull (male), this is a bovine and so it makes sense to include it here. This 1985 Cow is 4.25″ high and went directly into the Nativity Series in two colorways: plain white for $125 and color for $175. The third colorway (white with gold horns and hoofs) was added in 1989 at $150.
The Bull, measuring 5.5” high and 8” long, was introduced in spring 1991 as design #676 at $475. That name was later changed to Taurus.
Here are two test colorways of Taurus that did not make it into production.
Cybis produced three times as many bears as bulls, and believe it or not… not even one of them is a “teddy”!
By all indications the studio’s first bear study dates from the 1950s and was called Woodlands Bear Scene. Like many of the Cybis pieces from that era it has a glazed finish. It is 5″ high, 8″ wide, and is unusual in a couple of respects — not least because of the rather precarious position of the mother bear being offset from the main portion of the piece, seeming to invite accidental breakage. However, as seen in the fourth photo, the feet were attached with ‘slip’ and fired in place, rather than with glue. The white pigeon also seems a bit incongruous for a woodland scene; it’s the same mold used in Saint Francis with Doves seen in the Religious post. The bears themselves were probably cast from commercially purchased molds (Holland, Atlantic, etc.)
Several of the 1950s pieces incorporated rocky “chunks” of porcelain as part of the base’s design, as shown in this photo comparing the Bear Scene’s base (at right) with Bluebird ‘By the Garden Wall’ (at left) from the same time period. They also appear on some of the ca-1950s Nativity Murals.
The very first bisque (non-glazed) bear was mentioned in Cybis in Retrospect, although not pictured, but I recently found this early-1960s newspaper clipping showing the Polar Bear. According to Retrospect, it was made only from 1961-1963 and was about 4″ wide. The mold was later tweaked to produce a similar bear several years later.
Clearly, this could be called “son of polar bear”! Minor tweaks to that mold’s head, neck, and legs resulted in the Bear, an open edition made only in 1968 and 1969. It is 4” high, 8” long. Although the black and white Cybis catalog illustration shows it with an accompanying base, it also gives the size as 6” in the text and does not mention a base. There have been several instances where the ‘official’ Cybis photograph does not match the actual retail edition, and this is probably one of them. Although on most Cybis sculptures the mold impressions and signature are adjacent to each other, this piece is signed in the underbelly area while the mold impressions are underneath the right front paw. It has sometimes also been referred to as the Grizzly Bear, although the Cybis catalogs do say simply ‘Bear’. The retail price was $85 during its two years of production.
These are two test pieces, one in gray and the other in brown, with a glazed finish. The retail version was bisque (matte) porcelain.
In 1975 Cybis introduced this brown circus-themed bear as Bear, Barnaby. He is 7” high. The following year, as part of Cybis special one-year Bicentennial issues, a white version was made under the name of Barnaby, the Bicentennial Bear. At the same time, the brown version was renamed in some advertisements as Circus Bear, Barnaby. Both versions were retired in late 1977, which means the brown version was made for three years (1975, 1976 and 1977) but the white version for only one (1976). However, all of the bears have the legend 200th (for the Bicentennial) on the trumpet!
Another bear which is often assumed to be a circus piece is Bo Bo the Musical Bear. He was issued in Spring1987 at $225, as part of a nonlimited series of animal musicians shown in Music and Opera. He is 4.75” high.
Mother Bear with Three Cubs was an issue of only 100 sculptures in 1983, an artist’s proof of which was presented to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited California that year. At least two of the cubs were also issued as nonlimited edition pieces.
Here is the “frontmost” of the aforementioned cubs, produced as an non-limited edition. He was introduced as Bear Cub in Spring 1983 as design #6026 but was retired after only one year. He was resurrected 10 years later (1993) under the name Bear (brown, black, tan, or white) and offered in three colorways: the white version was $350, but the other colors were $395.
The black colorway had already appeared in 1988, as part of a short-lived series of black sculptures called the “Midnight Collection”. At that time he was given the separate name of Black Bear ‘Brendon’ and priced at $275. When it returned as the black colorway of Bear, in 1993, the price was increased to $350, just like the other colors were.
The open-edition Bear Cub Sitting is the middle one, position-wise, from the Mother Bear group. It is 6″ tall, introduced in 1993 in three color options: $495 for the brown or tan colorway, and $395 for white.
It was also available (starting that same year) as Tan Bear Cub with Holly or White Bear Cub with Holly for $475 regardless of color.
They also offered (yes, there were way too many bears introduced in 1993) this sitting bear in a golfing version, titled Bear Cub Golfer, in white ($495), tan or brown ($595). I have never seen a photo but it’s likely he is holding a golf club inside his forelegs, much like the “golf bunnies” seen in the Bonanza of Bunnies post. Not content with that, the studio also made a holiday version of each color, titled Bear Cub Golfer with Holly. All of these golfing bears were retired sometime between autumn 1996 and spring 1999.
Cybis does not seem to have produced the third (shortest and rearmost) bear cub as a separate open edition.
However, this test piece (not released at retail) combines the previous two bear cubs atop a small base that is probably a portion of the larger Mother Bear with Cubs bottom section. A sensible title for this would beTwo Bear Cubs. This piece is 6 1/2″ high and 8″ wide.
This is Woolie Bear who was first introduced in Spring 1984 but retired in Fall 1985. The studio resurrected him in 1997 with a $395 price point. He is a bit over 5.5″ high and was originally called Polar Bear ‘Woolie’ when first issued but was renamed Woolie Bear when he was brought back into the line.
A special edition of Woolie was created for an early-1990s charity event on behalf of the Chi Chi Rodriguez Foundation, of which Joseph Chorlton was a member. This piece was given the name of Chi Chi and the Bear (the “bear” in this case referring to Jack Nicklaus, and is why Woolie is a golden color here!). It’s too bad that this one has some damage (chips and marks) to the hat. The hat addition makes this piece 6 3/8” tall.
The two different Cybis carousel series both include a bear. This is the closed limited edition Carousel Bear ‘Bernhard’ in 1981, an edition of 325 issued at $1125. Like his bullish companion Plutus, Bernhard was either completed or closed before 1988.
And what list of bears would be complete without pandas?
In 1973 when Cybis introduced their Goldilocks sculpture they chose to depict the bears of the fairytale as pandas. Rather than create a single piece showing all three bears, or having all three separate, they divided the group into two separate open editions: one titled Goldilocks and Panda ‘Bear’ for $145, and a companion piece called Panda ‘Bears’ for $45. Both were made and sold for only three years (1973–1975).
The panda pair is 3.5”high and composed of two different pieces attached with glue; the standing panda is stamped in the mold CYBIS ©1972 (another instance where mold copyright is the year before the actual retail release) on the bottom of one foot. The painted Cybis signature and copyright symbol appear on the sitting panda’s foot.
The only other Cybis panda sculpture was the Panda with Cub, a nonlimited edition measuring 4.75” high and 5” wide. This sculpture was introduced in 1989 (at $275) and thus pieces actually produced during that year have the special 50th Anniversary backstamp on it.
A bear appeared as a design element in three Cybis sculptures.
The Eskimo Mother holds a polar bear cub in the crook of her right arm.
The 1980 Holiday Child is accompanied by a stuffed panda, which was repainted for the 1981 version as a teddy bear.
Even the Cybis studio at one time connected their bull and bears sculptures with the financial industry, as shown by this excerpt from their 1982 catalog: “And for the collector/investor who thinks the stock market’s ups and downs are as endless as a carousel ride, we have Bernhard the Carousel Bear…and Plutus the Carousel Bull.” So it is not really such a fanciful idea after all. 🙂
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