Fairytales proved a fertile field for the imaginations of the artists of Cybis for the first two decades of the modern studio’s existence, with many of the best loved tales by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm being represented by them in porcelain. They were a mixture of limited and non-limited editions; the non-limited editions are shown first.
The very first Cybis fairytale character was Thumbelina who was introduced in 1957 at $25 and retired fifteen years later in 1972 at $45. She is 4” high. There are four known, very-slightly-different, versions of Thumbelina which I have only recently been able to sort out.
The various Thumbelinas can be roughly divided into “earlier” and “later” via the format of the Cybis signature, as shown above. Please note that the green felt circles on the earlier one were added by a subsequent owner; none of these came from Cybis with those on the underside.
This Thumbelina’s dress has a straight hemline with a (not very neatly painted) blue edge, and matching blue sleeve edges. Her hair is a light brown and she has the early (stamped) Cybis signature.
Here is another early-stamp, original-hem version but with decidedly brunette hair.
This blonde Thumbelina still has the original dress hem style but her signature is the later (hand painted) version.
And here we have the final version of Thumbelina whose hair is still blonde but the hem of her dress is now not only scalloped instead of straight, but also embossed. This is a mold change rather than simply an alteration in paint. All of the scalloped-hem Thumbelinas have the later (hand painted) signature.
The only photo of Thumbelina that appears in Cybis catalogs is a black and white one. The lighting used in the photo resulted a lot of glare against her hair, making most of it appear white but other sections quite dark from shadow. However, her dress hem is definitely straight. My guess is that the Thumbelinas with either light or dark brown hair plus the stamped Cybis signature are probably from the first five years of production. The transition from brown to blonde hair occurred before the final revision which was from the straight-hem dress to the scalloped-hem one. The blonde scalloped-hem Thumbelinas were definitely made during the last few years of production.
Although I have never seen a photo of her, I do know that a special 100-piece edition of Thumbelina was done exclusively for Armstrong’s Gallery in Pomona, CA, during the 1970s. She has a book on her lap that is inscribed Merry Christmas. I do not know if her dress color also differs from the standard retail edition. If anyone happens to have one of these, I’d love to include a photo; there is a contact-form link at the bottom of this post.
Another interesting info-bit about Thumbelina is that she and Wendy were the first two ‘child’ designs that came out of the Cybis studio; both made their debut in 1957. That is why some Wendys have the 1950s-era stamped Cybis name, just as some Thumbelinas do.
Alice in Wonderland, engrossed in her book, is 5.5” high and was introduced as an open edition in 1964. This was also offered in a white bisque version which was only made for one year (1964-1965) at $40; this piece is quite rare. The color version shown here was made from 1964 to 1969 and rose in price from $50 to $60 during that time.
As with Thumbelina, there were at least two — and possibly three — Alice in Wonderland versions. The black-and-white Cybis photo above is the one appearing in their catalog publications but there are three differences between that piece and the two known retail versions: (1) there is no lace on her pinafore bodice, (2) there is a lace trim on the edge of her sleeves, and (3) the hem of her skirt is trimmed in lace. It’s not known if any of these were actually produced for retail or if this was a photographer’s artist proof.
Was this one of the very first retail Alice sculptures? She was produced for no more than two years and so if these were sold at retail there couldn’t have been many of these. Notice that in this version the lace trim on her sleeves and hem is gone (and it would remain so), but now her pinafore top has acquired lace around the outer edge. To be honest, I think this neat, understated lace trim is more attractive than the larger flowers they subsequently used. Many thanks to the Cybis collector who supplied the above picture and tipped me off to its existence!
Cybis made three very different versions of Cinderella. All were open editions. Cinderella, shown here resting a moment from cleaning the hearth with her broom, is 7.5″ and was made from 1960 to 1968. It was offered in both a plain white bisque version (which I have never seen) at $60, and the standard colorway with a blue blouse at $75.
The unusual red-blouse colorway shown above supposedly had a production run of only 30 pieces. There was also a third colorway in which her blouse is yellow but reportedly only three of those were made; those certainly must be the rarest of the first Cinderella!
This photo appear in Cybis’ very first (1965) catalog and may depict a prototype colorway. It differs from the examples above in regard to her blouse (which seems to be shaded light and dark), her skirt which is clearly a dark color, and her apron which has a pattern of tiny flowers rather than being plain white. Her broom also appears to be a darker brown than either of the production versions. It would be interesting to know if any of these were actually produced for retail sale.
After the retirement of the first Cinderella sculpture there were none in the Cybis line for twelve years until the introduction of Cinderella at the Ball in 1980. Her issue price is unknown but she was $525 by 1982, and was retired before 1988. She is 8.5″ high.
The next Cinderella has a tricky history. Her copyright-year mold impression is 1988 but she was not introduced in that year, nor in February 1989 either. However, the studio’s text-only ‘Spring 1990 Order Form’ includes a Golden Anniversary Edition Cinderella issue of 1000 at $795. At first I thought perhaps this was a gold-and-white re-issue of the retired 1980 Cinderella at the Ball… but the 1990 piece is shown as being design #05068.
That design number matches this sculpture which is a non-limited edition called Cinderella, Belle of the Ball. She appears on their 1993 price list as a non-limited piece priced at $850 – which is very high for an open edition, so I’d like to see the signature area on one of these to make sure. I have never seen a photo of the Golden Anniversary version but assume that her dress is probably white with gold accents. If anyone has the Anniversary Cinderella, I would love a photo! There is a contact form link at the bottom of this post.
The first photo is the one that appeared on Cybis’ own website, and that piece is damaged; one of the ‘tails’ of the bow at her waist is broken off. This was one of very few photos on the Cybis website that were not merely scans of old product literature from 70s and 80s, but why they would choose to use a photo of a broken sculpture is beyond me. The other example was sold during the liquidation of the studio’s backstock.
Cybis tweaked the Goldilocks story by transforming the three bears into pandas! Goldilocks and Panda ‘Bear’ was made for only three yrs (1973-1975) at $145 throughout. The companion piece Panda ‘Bears’ was sold separately during that same period for $75. The standing panda is stamped in the mold CYBIS ©1972 (the year priot to the retail release) on bottom of one foot. The painted Cybis signature and copyright symbol are on the sitting panda’s foot; thus if they should accidentally be separated both are still marked Cybis.
Hansel (9” high) and Gretel (7” high) were made for only two years (1974-1976) but had a healthy price increase during that short time. Gretel began at $155 and finished at $225; Hansel went from $165 to $235. Gretel was sculpted by Marylin Chorlton and Hansel by William Pae. They were always sold as two separate sculptures, never as a pair.
This artist’s proof of Gretel is more of a match for Hansel’s earthy brown tones.
Heidi is 7.5″ h, Although Cybis in Retrospect lists it only in this decorated (color) version, the official Cybis catalog Porcelains that Fire the Imagination™ states that it was first offered in only a white bisque version, from 1962-1965 at $40. I have never seen a white one. The color version was introduced the year after (1966) at $55, and was eventually retired in 1973 at $165.
This unusual red-haired Heidi was sold during the studio’s liquidation; she is probably one of a kind. Notice the ombre shading effect on her dress.
A bit of trivia: The first versions of Heidi did not include the tree stump/branch behind her. It is not there in the official Cybis photo of her…
Nor is there one in this 1960s retailer advertisement. Because the price is shown as $55, this must be the color version which was introduced in 1966 at that price. There is no stump on this one either. Therefore, my guess is that there were probably three versions of Heidi: a white bisque one without stump (1962-1965), a color one without stump (1966-196?), and a color one with stump which is the version almost always found today. If anyone has a “stump-less” Heidi, I’d love to see a photo! There’s a contact-form link at the bottom of this post.
The story of The Little Match Girl was one that always made me very sad as a child; Cybis’s portrayal from 1983 (5.75″ high) was a nonlimited edition that was retired before 1988. Pricing details are unknown at present.
And of course no fairytale collection could be complete without Little Red Riding Hood! Sculpted by William Pae, she is 5” high and was made from 1973 to 1975. Her price ranged from $75 to $110 during that time. However, this was not exactly the way she was originally intended to appear.
This early press photo of Little Red Riding Hood also appears in black-and-white in the 1979 Cybis catalog. It shows her with brown hair and with the bow as red, to match the cloak’s lining. Apparently this is a similar case to Alice in Wonderland, where the production piece differs from the prototype that was photographed for the advertising literature.
Speaking of her clothing, I have never understood why Cybis departed from the traditional depiction of Red Riding Hood as wearing a solid red hood/cloak and chose to instead dress her in a white cloak with only a red lining and gloves. The blonde hair color does correspond to the earliest illustrations of the character from the late 1800s and early 1900s though.
After vacillating a bit about where Pandora should belong (mythology or fairytale?) I am showing the standard retail version of her here. The others can be seen in the Pink and Blue post. Introduced by Cybis in 1967 at $75, she is 5″ high. This version continued into the early 1980s (by which time it was $265) but was retired before 1988.
Turning now to J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan, Cybis depicted all four of the mail characters; one of them was also produced in different iterations.
One of the the first three Cybis fairytale characters, Peter Pan was produced in color and in white bisque. Both appeared in 1958 but the white version was retired in 1967 (having retailed at $60 throughout) while the color one continued until 1970, having risen only from $75 to $80. He is 7” high. Many thanks to the Museum of American Porcelain Art for sharing a photo of their white bisque version.
Tinkerbell is 7.5”high. She was also made in both color and white bisque, and was introduced in 1959, the year after Peter. The white version was retired in 1965 (priced at $50); the color one continued until Peter was also retired (in 1970) and finished at $80. The example in the purple dress may be an artist’s proof.
Michael was not introduced until 1984 – a long time after both Peter Pan and Tinkerbell had been retired. However, Wendy was still being made and so Cybis apparantly decided to give her a companion. He is 6.5” tall which makes him the same height as Wendy; his issue price was $235, but see below.
Here is Wendy who was actually the first of the Peter Pan characters, an open edition in 1957 originally priced at $35. Even a decade later (1967) she still sold for her issue price but jumped to $115 by 1979. Three years later (1982) Cybis almost doubled her price (to $225) and then she inexplicaby vanished from their lineup, not appearing at all in a 1988 price list although Michael was still there at $295. Then in the mid-1990s Wendy suddenly reappeared on Cybis’ price lists along with Michael, both at $395.
Wendy was produced in multiple special variations for dealer events during the 1970s and 1980s.
The standard retail Wendy (at left in photo) has a plain white dress with a pink ribbon at the waist, pink pigtail ribbons, pink shoes with a blue rosette, and carries a ragdoll dressed in green and blue. As with Thumbelina, a Wendy that has a stamped (rather than hand painted) Cybis signature is an indication that she was produced during the late 1950s or very early 1960s rather than later.
Although most Wendys were produced with both of the waist-ribbon ‘streamers’ as part of the body mold, on some the shorter streamer was hand-formed and attached (as was the single ribbon loop at the top.)
Betsey Bobbin (at right in photo) was an issue of 300 for the Fall 1982 introductions event at Marks Gifts in Paramus, NJ. Her price was $295, an upcharge of $75 versus the price of the standard edition Wendy. Her dress is trimmed in pink and green and unlike the earlier Brielle Galleries event version shown below, Betsey’s bodice has only a single spray of flowers and her skirt is plain. Her green belt is accented with a pink rosebud and she carries a beribboned flower in her hand instead of a doll. The store’s newspaper advertisement describes this special issue as “Betsey Bobbin, a nursery rhyme favorite and Dorothy’s companion in the Land of Oz.” Betsey does not appear in the original Wizard of Oz story, however, but instead in a later book entitled Tik-Tok of Oz. Unlike Dorothy, Betsey does not return home but remains in Oz and is made a Princess.
Wendy in Blue and Floral Decoration was an issue of 300 for a Cybis event at Brielle Galleries during the late 1970s and was priced just under $200. Her dress is trimmed with blue instead of pink, and is decorated with flowers on both sides of the bodice. It isn’t readily apparent in the photo, but pale pink ‘rosebuds’ are scattered here and there on the skirt as well. The shoe colors are reversed (blue shoes with pink rosette) fro the standard version, and her doll is now dressed in two shades of blue.
This Wendy in Apricot with Flowers was undoubtedly a gallery-event edition also, although it’s not known for whom or when. The color is a very pale peach, definitely lighter than the apricot that was used for the 1975 Rapunzel shown below. It is not the same as the standard Wendy’s pink. The red pigtail-ribbon is rather a jarring note, and would have been better done in a darker version of apricot, or even in leaf-green.
Supposedly an additional retail-gallery special edition of Wendy was a black-and-orange version which was probably for another year’s Fall Introductions event – but I have not found an image of that one. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if there were other variations as well!
The first two limited editions in this retrospective are from the same fairytale – well, more or less, because the naming of these two pieces was a bit muddled. Both were introduced in 1986 as editions of 750; the circa-2000s Cybis website incorrectly shows these as being open (non-limited) editions. Rose Red is 5.5” high; her issue price was $595 which in 1993 rose to $695.
Rose White is 8.5” high and was originally priced at $675. Like her sister, she was a limited edition of 750. In 1993 she was $975 but on that same price list one sees a discounted price of $1550 for the two sisters as a pair. That option disappeared shortly thereafter. The names confusion arises from the fact that in the actual Grimm’s fairytale the sisters are “Rose Red” and “Snow White”….the Snow White in that story having no connection whatsoever to the Snow White of evil queen/seven dwarves fame. Cybis probably feared confusion on the part of collectors if they used the correct character name and thus, Rose White she (incorrectly) is!
Jack and The Beanstalk is one of less than a half-dozen limited edition fairytale designs. Designed by Lynn Klockner Brown and introduced in 1984, he had a declared editon of 750 priced at $575. He does not appear on their early-1988 price list which means the edition was closed before completion. (I suspect that there were production problems galore with this one; I have seen only one come up for sale and that was #98.) This piece is 8.5” high.
Although it is the same colorway as the production version, there is an important difference in this artist’s proof: Jack is much farther away from the beanstalk! Jack is only attached to the beanstalk at two points rather than four as in the retail version.
Sleeping Beauty was introduced in 1982; notice that Cybis has replaced the traditional tale’s spindle with an embroidery needle. This sculpture is 7.5” high overall. An edition of 750 initially priced at $695, she sold for $1075 only six years later. Cybis continued to raise her price throughout the 1990s and so I doubt the full edition was completed before the studio shut down.
A curiosity is this unfinished example which shows a Sleeping Beauty after it was bisque fired and then airbrushed all over with a flesh tone, after which additional paint tints and colors would then have been added. You can see in the photo of the completed sculpture that the chair was left in this first airbrushed-all-over color. The only element missing from the airbrushed stage is the lace part of her headdress, which would have been done separately and attached with glue after all the other painting was completed. The very slight but detectable satin-finish appearance is from the airbrushed paint layer; a piece having come directly from bisque firing would be bright white and have no sheen at all. This initial overall airbrushing was something the studio began doing in the 1980s as a cost-saving measure for the human-subject pieces.
Fleurette is based on a much lesser-known fairytale from the early 1900s. Slightly over 8″ high, she was introduced as an edition of 1000 in 1981 at $725 and was closed in the mid-1990s before being completed. Her “unfinished tale” is related in her very own post!
One Rapunzel, Three (actually four) Ways
Cybis made four somewhat different representations of the Rapunzel character. The first three Rapunzels were all cast from the same mold but differed in various decorations. All three are 8” high, and each color was an issue of 1000. All three were issued at different times during the 1970s (not all in 1975 as one error-prone price guide has it.) The three versions, prices, and ways in which they differ are as follows:
Pink Rapunzel’s right hand holds an ornate mirror just below her lap as her left hand hovers slightly above. The top of her hair is caught in a decorative round net. Her hairstyle has no braids. Introduced in 1972 at $375, this edition was completed in 1974 at $425.
Apricot Rapunzel has the addition of a long braid coming forward on her righthand side into her lap, as well as one that hangs down her back. The front braid is decorated with a dark apricot ribbon and a spray of small orange flowers. Rapunzel’s hands hover slightly above this braid/bouquet. The top of her hair is a coiled braid decorated with flowers and pearls. Introduced in 1975 at $475 and completed in 1979 at $525.
Lilac Rapunzel’s hair hangs down her back (no front braid). Her right hand now holds a nosegay of flowers with long lacy ribbon streamers. A chatelaine of keys topped with a bow hangs from her belt. The bodice and hem of her gown are tinted lilac and have decorative accents, unlike the first two Rapunzels in which those areas are plain. She wears a pointed headpiece decorated with roses and feathers. Introduced in 1978 at $525, her edition was completed in 1982 at $675.
One thing I hadn’t realized until very recently (and many thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for pointing this out!) is that there are two slightly different versions of Lilac Rapunzel’s headpiece, depending on whether a given sculpture was made in the earlier or later part of her production run. Although all of the headpieces contain 3 feathers, in the earlier pieces the center feather was upright, as shown in the photos below with the arrow pointing to the relevant feather.
The problem was that this feather was extremely prone to breaking off in transit or handling, because of its precarious position, often ending up lost in the powdery stryrofoam snow within the packing box. That feather’s position was just an accident waiting to happen.
Eventually, after getting multiple sculptures repeatedly sent back to the studio due to the broken feather, its position was lowered so as to make it less vulnerable. This photo shows the altered position of the central feather; the sculpture number of this one is in the 300s (although as we know, that number isn’t always an accurate indication of production position, as explained here.) But pieces with the upright central feather were definitely made earlier in the production run than those with the lower one. When shopping for this Rapunzel online it is important to make sure the central feather is actually there and has not been broken off entirely, especially if there aren’t multiple photos of the headpiece from all angles.
Here’s a Rapunzel with a perfectly-created, mint-condition, completely-upright feather!
The 1990s Hall of Fame Rapunzel edition named Rapunzel II is just about 7” high and was an edition of 1500. She is included on the late-1993 Cybis price list for $675 and although she was listed on their circa-2000s website there was no photograph of her, so I had no idea what color this edition was. Therefore, I was very happy to be contacted by a helpful private collector who sent me photographs! This piece was offered on eBay in 2008 during the year or so that Cybis was selling there. She is a downsized version of the third (1978-1982/lilac) Rapunzel but without the embossing on her bodice or hem, and decorated in a blue coloration.
Three more-subtle differences are that instead of feathers atop her cap, there are leaves; the two “applied” components of her chatelaine have been omitted; and the fingers of her left hand are not separated as in the earlier versions.
The one puzzling thing about this specific piece is that there is no sculpture number; it is signed simply Cybis U.S.A. in brown paint, with no other designation. There are three possible explanations for this:
(a) This was a colorway-test and/or prototype piece that the studio forgot to add an A.P. to before offering it for sale;
(b) The studio did not make or sell any other Rapunzel II pieces (they did have a disclaimer on the 1990s and 2000s price lists that sculptures were “made to order” upon purchase and thus would take weeks to complete) and so this was the only one they made, i.e., they had no orders for any of this HOF series and thus there was no need to number the only one they had; or
(c) They did make at least a few of them, but the studio forgot to add a sculpture number to this one before sending it to the buyer.
Given the essentially-shut-down status of the studio during the 2000s, with no production staff except on an on-call basis, any of the above scenarios are equally possible. I’m going to assume that, in the absence of any other Rapunzel II examples having come to light, this blue decoration was in fact what was chosen for this edition. Even if the studio did make or sell more than just this single piece, it is unlikely that there were many. I did ask Theresa Chorlton in 2015 what the Hall of Fame Rapunzel edition looked like, and specifically whether it was blue, but her answer was that she “had no idea” and that “there were no photos taken.” Obviously there were at least a couple of photos taken for the eBay listing from which this one was purchased, but Theresa had nothing to do with their eBay experiment. Again, many thanks to The Smyth Collection for enabling the addition of a Rapunzel II to the Archive!
Here is an unusual Rapunzel that is probably a 1970s one-of-a-kind colorway: This Rapunzel is a redhead! Her mold and decorative elements correspond to the 1975-79 apricot Rapunzel, although it is difficult to tell from the photograph exactly what color her dress trim is (apricot? salmon pink?) The sellers description did not mention a sculpture number, nor was a photo of the signature area provided. The only description was “House cleanout find. Vintage Cybis figurine. Signed piece. Rapunzel about 8″ in height.” However, if this was a one of a kind piece it should have been marked A.P. even if done on request for a customer, so it’s a shame the seller didn’t provide a photo of that area. Unless/until another example turns up (or this one is resold, with additional photos) the redheaded Rapunzel must remain an enigma.
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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.