After sorting through all of the various Cybis porcelain animals by genre (cats, dogs, bulls and bears, horses, woodlanders, denizens of the deep, carousel creatures, et al.) there were still a few that refused to fit into a category….and so here they are.
One of the most impressive Cybis sculptures was the Dall Sheep. A limited edition of only 50, it was introduced in 1982 at a price of $4250. I do not know whether the edition was subsequently reduced before closing sometime between 1988 and 1993. It stands 19.5” high on its wood base and was probably sculpted by Charles Oldham. The Dall sheep is Ovis dalli and is found in the high mountains of the American northwest and Alaska. They are also known as “thinhorn sheep”. They live for about ten years in their wild mountain habitat and are found in two colorations: white and grey. The colored subspecies is Ovis dalli stonei, usually called Stone’s Sheep. The female Dall sheep has much smaller horns, as you would expect. The male’s curled horns take 80% of their typical decade’s lifespan to fully develop. The age of a ram can be counted by the number of horn rings, just like a tree. Dall sheep populations in Alaska are declining due to hunting, and in 2015 there was discussion as to possible changes to the existing laws; about 800 of these sheep – mostly rams – are killed each year.
Another impressive Cybis animal was the Elephant, produced from 1968 to 1972. It was a limited edition of only 100 and was priced at $600 throughout. It is 13.5” high and 27” long, and was produced for the retail market in white bisque only.
Ten years after the retail edition had been completed, this grey artist’s proof was presented to then-President Ronald Reagan. The Ronald Reagan Library website contains a copy of the President’s daily schedule; the entry for December 7, 1982 includes this:
4:55-5:00pm. The President met with Senator Paula Hawkins (R-Florida); Marilyn Mennello, personal friend of Senator Hawkins and presentor of a piece of Cybis sculpture; Joseph W. Chorlton, President Cybis Porcelains, Trenton, New Jersey; David Swanson, Special Assistant for Legislative Affairs. The purpose of the meeting was to present the President with a piece of Cybis sculpture, entitled “The Elephant” presented by Ms. Mennello.
In the photo, Senator Hawkins stands next to the president as Mrs. Mennello looks on.
Another gray Elephant from the studio’s backstock that was never a retail offering in this color.
A later and much smaller pachyderm is Elephant ‘Willoughby’ who is 5.25” tall and about 5” long. He was designed by Susan Eaton. Although he was placed into Cybis’ circus category there is nothing in particular in his decoration to indicate that he is a circus elephant. He was introduced in 1985 which was the same timeframe as the two other white bisque young African animals shown below. His issue price was $195 and he was $250 in 1993. (Notice the gray Willoughby in the photo of the gray Elephant; that one, too, is probably a test piece!)
The very first Cybis elephant, however, was the Woodlands Elephant Scene from the 1950s. No photo is available but it was probably in color and glazed, much like the Woodlands Bear Scene shown in Bulls and Bears.
Other African wildlife found their way into the Cybis zoo as well. This is Baby Rhino ‘Monday’ from 1985 who is 4.5” high and 7” long, a nonlimited edition that sold for $110 in 1988. During the mid-1990s he was given the subtitle “After the Party” on several price lists. Designed by Susan Eaton.
Two years later (1987) Cybis introduced the variation Baby Rhino ‘Love is Blind’ who sports a blue rosette and a red heart embossed with “Love me” for $130. He eventually sold for $175.
This Baby Rhino with Butterfly sports the same butterfly that originally appeared in the early 1970s on the Cybis pansies China Maid and Crinoline Lady. This was probably a retail-gallery-event piece.
This is Hippo ‘T.G.I.F.’ (Thank Goodness It’s Friday) from 1986, a nonlimited edition issued at $95. He is 5” tall and was designed by Susan Eaton. Notice too that, unlike the two retail versions, he is realistically painted: In nature, hippos are grey. There is no such thing as a (real) white hippopotamus. Having done a ‘Monday’ animal the year before, Cybis of course produced a companion piece for Friday! On a 1993 price list he was offered together with Rhino ‘Monday’ for a discounted price of $250 for the pair; by the mid 1990s such combo-offers were eliminated.
The Hippo with Butterfly was almost certainly a gallery-event promo piece. At least one of them has been found with Joseph Chorlton’s autograph on the underside:
Although blurry in the photo, the date looks like 3/11/87. This would easily correspond to a typical pre-Spring-new-introductions Cybis retailer event.
This spinoff was titled Hippo, Baseball Fan ‘Play Ball’. He is probably between 5.5” and 6” high due to the cap add-on. His issue price was $195. For some unknown reason this piece was temporarily drafted into a ‘New Jersey Collection‘ during the 1990s.
There is a story behind this piece. One day during football season, Cybis designer William Pae had a slow afternoon and decided to dress up one of the standard hippos by creating a green cap (because he’s a NY Jets fan) and of course the obligatory arena munchies: a container of popcorn. When Joseph Chorlton saw it, he said “This is great! We are going to produce this as a separate open edition” …. which they did. Bill Pae’s NY-Jets-green cap was retained for the retail edition, although the studio later gave buyers the option of a different color cap to match their favorite sports team’s color. Thus, Play Ball was a product of two Cybis designers: Sue Eaton for the animal, and Bill Pae for the sports concept and accessories.
The artists at Cybis often had fun experimenting with existing designs that were being produced, and the piece above is no exception. We can credit William Pae for this as well: One day on a whim he decided to make one of the Play Ball hippos as a pencil holder, by opening a hole in the back and using enough additional porcelain ‘slip’ in the casting process to make a heavier, slightly less fragile piece. It were a bit hit with his fellow Cybis employees, and a number of these were made using the person’s favorite-team color and/or logo on the cap. This example was part of a group of items that were sold at auction in connection with the sale and liquidation of the Cybis studio in the autumn of 2019. Although we don’t know which Cybis employee this formerly belonged to, we can tell right away that he or she was a Philadelphia Phillies fan! Notice too that he is realistically colored, unlike all of the retail versions.
Moving from the savannah to the farm we find three different pig sculptures, all from the 1980s. The first was Percy the Blue Ribbon Pig in 1981 at $195. He is 5.5” high and was an open edition that was retired prior to 1988. Designed by Susan Eaton.
This is Pig ‘Plato’ from 1983, also by Susan Eaton. He is the same size as Percy, at 5” high. Selling for $225 in 1988, he continued to be produced through the 1990s.
And last we have Three Little Pigs although not, apparently, intended to be of the fairytale kind. Introduced in 1989, this piglet trio is 3.75” high and retailed for $225 in 1993. Pieces actually created in 1989 will have the special 50th Anniversary stamp.
Cybis produced several different sheep/lambs although one of them has been known by two different names.
The very first of these dates from the early days of the studio and was one of their “folklore animals”. According to Cybis in Retrospect, this is the Baby Sheep with papka decorations that look just like Cheerios! This little fellow is 8” high and dates from 1942–1945. (Other papka creations can be seen here.)
Another argument against the foregoing being a sheep is this larger version which was clearly made from the same mold design. However, Retrospect describes this as being a Large Llama! I must say that a llama fits the description of this most far more accurately than “sheep” does.
There were several different Cybis lambs. The earliest ones were cast from molds purchased from other companies such as Holland Mold and Atlantic Mold during the 1950s.
The Baby Lamb on Base was made as a stand-alone piece from 1960 to late 1962. It is the same lamb that can be seen on the 1950s Saint Francis with Doves and Lambs, which was the only remaining saint piece in the Cybis lineup as of their Spring 1963 price list. The lamb does not appear on that list which means it was probably retired at the end of the previous year. Pricing is unknown but since this is a small piece (about 3″ high) it was probably less than $10.
The Two Lambs were likewise produced between 1960 and late 1962. As shown above they are 5.5” high including the wood base. The lamb mold was part of the 1950s nativity sculpture called Pillar of Families. That nativity piece continued to be made until 1964.
After those early lamb retirements there were none in the Cybis line until 1979’s Lamb ‘Mandy’ which was issued as a separate companion piece to Little Bo Peep who is seen in Nursery Rhymes. This lamb’s issue price was $90 and she was retired to pasture, along with Bo Peep, in 1982 at $125. She is 4.5” high and was designed by Susan Eaton.
Although the 1981 nursery rhyme piece Baa Baa Black Sheep includes a black sheep (naturally!), Cybis also produced a separate 3.5” high companion sculpture white sheep during the same year. The only difference between the two sheep is a slight difference in head position: The black sheep is looking slightly upward while the white sheep is not. Other than that they are from the same mold.
Although the 1981 introduction brochure gives the white sheep’s name as Muffy, fluffy white sheep it was later shortened to just Muffy Fluffy (or “Fluffy Muffy” as some retailer ads had it!) When Baa Baa Black Sheep was retired a few years later, Muffy Fluffy was then renamed Small Lamb and brought into the second Nativity series as the “color” version, with a new “white embellished with gold” version added as an alternate colorway.
The other, larger, nativity lamb is named simply Lamb; it was introduced in 1985….. probably prior to the drafting of Muffy Fluffy onto the team. This lamb is 4.75” high and is shown here in the white-with-gold colorway.
The next two animals are test pieces that were never released for retail sale.
The Zebra is very similar to the Pinto Colt and is from the same era (mid-1970s.) In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if both were sculpted by the same artist and/or used the same head with a repositioning of the ears. (The lower part of his right rear leg is missing.)
I have always wondered why Cybis never produced a lion or other “big cat” and now have my answer: They did, but not for retail sale. This reclining Lion was only a test piece. It is 4 1/2″ high and 8 3/4″ long.
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