Although known far less for their plaques and decorative plates than for sculptures, the Cybis studio nevertheless did produce a few during every decade of their operation. Most date from the 1970s and 1980s. (The early-1970s series of Limnettes® have their own separate post.)
The earliest mention of Cybis porcelain plaques is in the 1970-71 museum exhibit catalog Cybis in Retrospect. There were three, although only one was physically in the show and none have any photos in the catalog. They are all cited as being made between 1942 and 1948.
The Floral Bouquet in Relief plaque is described simply as 12”, so we don’t know whether that means diameter or 12” square. The only other descriptive word is “glazed”, giving no clue whether it was plain white or color or both. This is the plaque that was part of the museum exhibit.
A Peony Flower plaque described as 10” (again, no clue as to shape) and having “glazed decoration” (color) is also noted as being a “prototype for future release”—which never happened.
The third 1940s plaque was Bird with Pink Shell Azalea, also a glazed, 10” prototype.
The plaques that Cybis produced during the 1950s were all religious themed items that were cast from commercial molds rather than being original designs. These included the well-known Durer ‘praying hands’ and also several holy water fonts that incorporated a plaque. (I should mention here that although the praying-hands plaque is sometimes seen on eBay as a framed item, the studio did not sell them that way.) There were at least two angel/cherub plaques from that era as well.
I have found a record of only one porcelain plaque from the 1960s and that was during the “Ispanky era”. Cybis in Retrospect mentions but does not illlustrate a Branch with Apples plaque as having been made in 1964 but has no other information other than a size of 8.5” which again tells us nothing about its shape.
As mentioned above, the 1970s plaque-items were the Limnettes®.
The next plaque series is from the 1980s and was collectively called The Four Seasons although each was individually named. The porcelain plaque is mounted on green silk faille and framed behind glass. Originally a declared edition of 100, reportedly only 60 of each ‘season’ were made, and they all sold for $875 each. The editions were all either completed or closed before 1988.
The circular plaques are a bit more than 7.5” diameter; the frames are 11.25” square. They are among the relatively few Cybis pieces that have the Phoenix logo painted on instead of being a mold impression.
Spring Promise (upper) and Summer Dreams were both issued in 1982. Cybis released new sculptures twice a year (spring and fall) and if I recall correctly these were issued separately during that year. (The detail photo of Summer Dreams is from a different plaque than the one in the full photo, to show the differences that can occur during the painting process.)
The following year (1983) brought Autumn Glow and Winter Song. For some reason the shape of the painted Phoenix is different on these two: on the summer plaques it is painted in profile but on these it is drawn as if looked at from either above or below. All of the other painted Phoenix I’ve seen on sculptures have been in the ‘profile’ orientation.
1983 was also the introduction year for the non-limited Flower Plate at $195. Although Cybis retired it only a few years later, they “resurrected” it in the mid 1990s again (something that was not supposed to happen once an item had been retired) for $395. Theh plate is 6.75” in diameter and sits about 7/8” inch high on the leaf-shaped ‘feet’. The phoenix is the normal mold impression on these. Each of the eight flowers depicted on the front has its name and traditional association within the “Language of Flowers”. Clockwise from the 1 o’clock position in the front photo:
Rose = Love (although for “love” the rose should be red, not pink)
Poppy = Consolation
Lily of the Valley = Sweetness
Pansy = Thoughts
Chrysanthemum = Truth
Violet = Faithfulness
Heliotrope = Devotion
Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) = Purity
The Berry Plate, issued in 1984, was billed as the “companion” to the Flower Plate which it matches in size and overall style. This too was “resurrected” from retirement in the mid-1990s along with the Flower Plate and at the same pricepoint. Unlike the Flower Plate, the plants are simply identified by name on the plate’s reverse. Clockwise from noon in the front photo: blueberry, snowberry, raspberry, sea buckthorn, currants, blackberry, gooseberry, and wild strawberry. All are edible except perhaps the snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), upon which opinions differ: some say they are poisonous to humans – though not animals – while others maintain they are edible although certainly not tasty because they are high in saponins.
The Mothers Day Plate was introduced in Spring 1987 as a limited edition of 2500 at $275; it is 8” in diameter. Originally titled A Mother’s Love, the edition is unlikely to have been completed before production ended.
The very elaborate framed limited edition Moses Plaque was introduced in Spring 1981 at $4500. The original declared edition of 50 was reduced to 25 in 1982, and was either completed or closed before 1988. The actual plaque is about 16” high and 12” wide; framed dimensions are approximately 24” x 20”. The design is based on the 1960s sculpture Moses, the Great Lawgiver. Additional detail views of the plaque and of the original sculpture can be seen in Old Testament Characters.
The equally elaborate Holy Child of Prague Plaque also appeared in 1981. This was an edition of only 25 from the start, and like the Moses Plaque was based on a previous Cybis sculpture. Its dimensions are virtually identical to that of the other plaque as well. Additional views and information are in the Holy Child of Prague post.
The 1987 rose plaque Nature’s Beauty was advertised as depicting a pink rose on a completely flat rectangular porcelain plaque. It has its own post because it was so different from anything the studio had offered before.
The Victorian Santa Plate was introduced in 1987 and in 1989 a white-with-gold option was added, which in 1993 was $475 versus $575 for the color one shown above. It is 11.5″ high and 9″ at the widest point.
The Holy Family Plate appeared in 1989 and thus some will bear the special 50th Anniversary stamp if they were made during that year. It uses the same mold as the Victorian Santa Plate but in a “flipped” orientation. This too eventually received the color vs white/gold option; in 1993 this was priced slightly lower than the Victorian Santa plates: $450 and $475.
The oval Unicorn Plaque was a nonlimited edition from 1990 at $150. It is a very dainty 4” high and 3.25” wide.
Another small plaque issued in the very early 1990s was Heavenly Music. It is 5.5” in diameter and was available in two versions: full color as shown, or white with gold accents like their Nativity series. In 1993 the white/gold was $275 and the color $395.
Five ‘mystery plaques’ appear on the Spring 1993 list from Cybis, all with no information except a title and a design number. No dimensions, no prices, no indication of whether they are meant to be limited or non-limited editions. Four of them are related as to theme; the fifth is probably a holiday item, but who knows???
The Summer Plaque is listed as design #20809; the Autumn Plaque as design #20810; the Spring Plaque as design #20811; and the Winter Plaque as design #20812. Is it possible that these were unframed re-issues (or additional examples) of the 1980s closed edition Four Seasons plaques? Perhaps…but I do not think so. Not only because the titles are different, but the design numbers as well. Still, stranger things have happened – and so, if anyone has any of these ‘phantom’ 1990s seasonal plaques, please let me know via the contact form link at the bottom of this post.
The fifth unknown 1990s plaque was titled Bell Plaque, with design #20948. I can think of only two possible subjects for a plaque depicting a bell: the Liberty Bell (in which case you’d think they’d have called it the Liberty Bell Plaque instead) and a holiday/Christmas bell. This one should be easy to identify, if any were indeed actually made.
This oddity showed up in one of the 2019 auction lot sales of the Cybis studio’s backstock; it is a small (given its size relation to the other items in the same lot) Lion Head Plaque done in relief. This is clearly a test piece for something that was never brought into the retail line.
Another piece from the same source, and frankly I had a hard time deciding how I should classify this; it’s probably closer to a plaque than anything else so let’s call it a Tree Plaque. It is approximately 5” high and wide, and the remaining slip and glue in the center of the back indicates that it was once mounted – probably as a test – on the front of something, perhaps like the Lion’s Head, or a wedge of wood. It was never offered at retail in any form and may even be a casting of a ‘found’ item from another source. The gray felt circles were added by the studio later and frankly, make it look rather like a trivet! [photos courtesy of the Museum of American Porcelain Art]
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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.