After the retirement of their first nativity set, the Cybis studio did not offer anything in this genre until the 1982 introduction of a new series called The First Christmas. These are entirely different sculptures than the circa-1950s Porcelain Murals. Unlike the original (first) series, these new figures are individual sculptures and have a bisque (unglazed) finish. Three or four new sculptures were released each year. There is also a related Hall of Fame piece shown at the end of this post.
When this series was first introduced in 1982, each piece was offered in a choice of two colorways: Either plain white bisque with no color at all, or a “full color” version. In 1989 a third “golden anniversary” colorway was added in which gold paint accents were added to parts of the white bisque version. Thus there were now three colorway pricepoints: plain white bisque, white/gold, and full color. The plain all-white bisque colorway was later discontinued and so the choice became either full-color or white/gold. At some point between 1995 and 1999 Cybis eliminated the previous $50 price differential between the full-color and the white-with-gold colorways, pricing both options at a single (higher) level. In the notes below, “1999 pricing” means the Cybis price regardless of the colorway chosen.
Mary is 7.25” high and was one of the first three introductions in 1982, originally priced at $245 for the white/gold version and $295 for the color (pale tints and lacking any gold accents) as shown. 1999 pricing $395.
Joseph has the same price history as Mary. The white/gold versions of both pieces have thin gold trim lines on some of the clothing edges, as seen in the photo of the white/gold Holy Family group shown later in this post. Joseph is 9.5” high.
The Christ Child with Lamb rounded out the set’s introductory year, and is 2.5” high. The first pricings were $275 for the color (top photo) and $215 for white with gold. 1999 pricing was $298. Like the original 1950s Holy Family, the baby is removeable to accommodate the tradition in some Catholic families of not placing the child into the manger until Christmas Eve.
All of the Three Kings were introduced in 1983, and all had the same introductory prices for white ($315) and color ($445). 1999 pricing for each king was $695. The “gifts” they hold may be deliberately removeable but this too is unconfirmed although several pieces have been seen for sale without them.
This is Melchior who is 7” high. According to legend he was the King of Arabia and his gift is gold.
Caspar is 9.5” high. He was the King of Sheba and his gift is frankincense.
And finally Balthasar who is also 9.5” high. As the King of Tarsus and Egypt, he brought myrrh.
Three pieces were introduced in 1984. This is the Shepherd; he is 9” high and started at $275/white, $395/color; 1999 price was $695.
This was the first of three camels to be issued for this nativity set. Originally titled Camel which was later changed to Camel I when the others began appearing, it is 10” high. First issued at $425 white/$625 color; 1999 pricing was a whopping $1195 (I doubt that very many were purchased at that price!)
This is the first of four eventual angels associated with this second Nativity set and is called Nativity Angel (kneeling). She is 6.5” high. This kneeling angel was $275 and $395 originallly, and $799 in 1999. (All of the Cybis angels can be seen here.)
The Lamb is 4.75” high and is the larger of two lambs that would ultimately find their way into the nativity series. The only difference between the “color” and white/gold version is that the hooves of the latter are decorated with gold rather than grey. Issue prices are unknown but in 1993 the color version was $215 and the white/gold $175. Their 1999 price was $250.
The nativity Donkey is 6.5” high. The 1988 price list shows him at $210 for the color version (the white/gold not having been released yet) and the 1999 price was $350 for either of these colorways.
This sculpture appeared in the Cybis web storefront simply as Cow and I believe that it was a new release in 1985 although I can’t confirm that. It is 4.25″ high. Like the Burro and Donkey, the bisque version is all white except for gold applied to the visible hoof and – in this case – the horns (some females do have horns; it depends on the breed.) In 1988 the color version was $185, and in 1999 both colorways were $295.
The second angel in this First Christmas series was the Nativity Angel II (standing) introduced in 1989 for $475 in all white, $525 in white/gold, and $575 in color as above; 1999 price was $750. She stands 9.75” high. In design she appears to be adapted from the same mold as a contemporaneous non-nativity angel named either Angel Annunciation or Angel of the Annunciation (shown in the Angels post) except for some details of dress and the position of her right arm which I think is very awkwardly placed on this one.
1990s and 2000s Introductions
Camel II is the second camel in the series and is 8.75” high. It was issued during the first three years of the 1990s because it is on the Fall 1993 price list at $750 for white/gold and $795 for color. 1999 price was $999.
The third and last camel in the series, Camel III appeared between 1996 and 1998. It is on the 1999 price list for $1075. Even a cursory examination shows that this sculpture is simply the body from Camel I with the standing legs removed and replaced by kneeling ones. There are some small decorative changes: the hanging fringe has of course been removed, there are one or two tiny tweaks to the saddle/trappings, there are no tassels on the bridle and of course some colors are different, but otherwise this is essentially Camel I kneeling. It is probably between 4” and 5” high overall.
This is another “composite” piece that was added to the nativity set, in 2000 or later. This image of the Nativity Angel III (standing) is taken from a photo of a white-and-gold set and enlarged several times; it is the only picture I have found of this piece. The top half of this angel is obviously cast from the Nativity Angel (kneeling) and then combined with the lower half is probably from the Annunciation/Nativity Angel II. She does not appear on the 1999 price list but she was on the 2008 Cybis website for $1195 for either colorway.
This is the final angel in the set, named Guardian Angel which is strange because Cybis previously produced a Guardian Angel sculpture during the 1950s-60s. However, they bear no resemblance to each other. This one is 12.75” high and sold for $895 on the late 2008/early 2009 website, where she was described as “the latest addition to our Nativity collection.” Frankly I’m surprised that Cybis brought her into the nativity set because designwise she does not relate in any way to the other pieces. I’m curious to find out what the copyright year is on this piece but have never seen one come up for sale; it’s possible that none were ever actually sold.
Three previously-released standard retail editions were drafted into this nativity set at various times.
This 5.25” high sculpture was first released by Cybis in 1983 as Burro ‘Benjamin’ who appears in the Into the Woods with Cybis post.
Then in 1985 he suddenly appeared as Burro, Reclining within the nativity series, available in either plain white or in the color version identical to Benjamin. In 1989 he was in the nativity set in either color or white/gold; the 1993 price list shows those at $250 and $195, respectively. In any case, Benjamin was retired as a named edition. 1993 pricing for both nativity burro colors was $375.
This 3.25” sculpture was originally introduced in 1981 as Muffy Fluffy white sheep – or Fluffy Muffy white sheep, depending on which Cybis brochure you read – and presented as a separate companion piece to the Baa Baa Black Sheep child sculpture also introduced that year, as shown in the Nursery Rhymes post. After both of those pieces had been retired Cybis resurrected Muffy/Fluffy, angled the head slightly upward from its original position, and brought it into the nativity series as the Small Lamb in 1989 at $100 for the plain white bisque, $125 for the white/gold version above, and $150 for the naturalistic “color” which is the same except for having grey hooves identical to those of Muffy/Fluffy. Its 1999 price was $195.
Little Angel, who was originally issued in 1986 as part of the “Children to Cherish Collection”, eventually showed up in the Nativity Collection during the 2000s under the exact same name. However, the copyright impression on both colorways is 1986. She was priced by Cybis at $395 for either the color or white/gold (which I have never seen) and is 7” high.
The Stable, a/k/a the Creche in Rustic Wood
Also offered was The Stable; measurements are 19” high and 30” wide. Its original retail price is unknown; however, a 1989 brochure states “Wooden stable available only if special ordered” but no price indicated. On a November 1993 pricelist there is The Creche in Rustic Wood with “$395 cost price” in the price column (I have no idea what “cost price” was supposed to mean.) It appears again on a Fall 1995 price list for $495. The 1999 price list shows it as “price upon request” and on the 2008 website (now as The Stable) as “special order only” but no price given.
There appear to have been two slightly different versions of The Stable, and I am assuming that the one shown above was the first because this is the one that appears in the official Cybis photograph.
This version is similar but not exactly the same. Notice the lower position of the upper front section and the different location of the diagonal cross-pieces on the sides. It is also slightly narrower, being 26.5″ wide, although it’s about the same height. This version disassembles into five pieces for storage. It is possible that the one in the official photo was only a prototype and this was the actual production item.
Although the stable shown in this partial nativity set that was offered for sale a few years ago is also made of wood, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was sold by Cybis. Because neither this nor the “official” Stable are marked Cybis, there is no way to know. I’m including this photo here just in case the studio did switch suppliers of the Stable at some point between its introduction and the end of production. Did the change of item name from “The Stable” to “The Creche in Rustic Wood” indicate a change of actual item as well?? The sculptures in the partial set shown above are, from left to right: Camel I, Melchior, Caspar, Nativity Angel Kneeling, Christ Child with Lamb, Joseph, Mary, the retired 1979 Lamb ‘Mandy’ which has never been part of the nativity set, Cow, Balthasar, (larger) Lamb, Shepherd, and Donkey.
This bisque-with-gold set is almost complete, having 17 pieces; it lacks the Guardian Angel and The Stable. The pieces are, from left to right: Nativity Angel III, Camels II and II, the Donkey and Burro, Caspar and Melchoir, Joseph, Mary, Christ Child, Nativity Angel I, Balthasar, Shepherd, Cow, Lamb (just visible behind the Cow), Camel I, and Nativity Angel II.
The Holy Family (redux)
Cybis complicated things a bit further by issuing – as they had done in the 1950s – a “holy family” grouping at the same time as their nativity set. This piece is called Nativity, Holy Family and was introduced as part of their Hall of Fame series in the 1990s, sometime between Spring 1994 and Fall 1995. It uses the first three individual pieces from the First Christmas series (Mary, Joseph, and Child with Lamb) and attaches them to a porcelain base suggesting straw; however, the three pieces are downsized versions of the molds used for the nativity set pieces. The overall height of this grouping is 6.5” including its base, which means that Joseph (the tallest of the three) is probably 6” high. The nativity-set Joseph is 9.5” tall without any base. Thus, what Cybis has done is the Upsize, Downsize trick, just as they do for all the Hall of Fame series pieces… downsizing by approximately 3” per cycle. This is a single-cycle downsize from the nativity set individual pieces, and so all that was needed was to create the base for the group.
On the Fall 1995 price list the white version is $495 and the color $575. On the 1999 price list these colorways are combined at $595 because it was considered a “nativity piece.”
It is interesting that although all the other Hall of Fame pieces are downsized exact replicas of closed limited editions and retired open editions, this one is not taken from either the original 1950s Holy Family Porcelain Mural in the first nativity set or from the Pillar of Families sculpture of the same era. The reason is probably because neither of those originated with Cybis but instead were cast from molds bought from and copyrighted by the Atlantic Mold Company. This is why Cybis departed from their HOF habit of adding the Roman numeral II to the name of the replica; they could not call it “Holy Family II” because it is not taken from the 1950s Holy Family mold, and so they named this new piece the Nativity, Holy Family instead. Ah, semantics!
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