Despite the fact that the Cybis studio produced numerous religious studies since the early 1950s, they only produced one papal portrait: a bust of Pope John Paul II. There was only a single design/mold but it was produced in four separate editions and sizes at different times, eventually comprising four different colorways and offering various options as to whether or not it came on or with a wood base. All four editions were simply titled The Pope and differ in only in physical size, edition size, and color/price versions.
The largest Pope bust is approximately 14” high x 12” wide and was issued either in the fall of 1988 or the spring of 1989. Theoretically, this should have been released during the earlier year because supposedly this was commissioned as a 10th Anniversary commemorative of John Paul II’s accession which occurred during 1988. If it was released during 1988, then any examples found will not have the studio’s special 50th-Anniversary stamp in the signature area.
This version was offered as either a full-color edition of 100 or a plain white bisque edition of 200, both with (or on?) a base. On the November 1993 price list from Cybis, the white version is listed at $1000; this rose to $1200 through the 1990s but it was no longer available on Cybis’ ca-2000s website. The color edition was $1750 in 1993, $2275 in 1995, and $2995 thereafter.
The only way to distinguish this piece from the one shown next, is by size. The height of the base was not disclosed, but assuming that it is 1″ thick, that means the porcelain itself must be no taller than 13″ without it.
The next edition was downsized to 12” high x 10.25” wide, which is consistent with the size reduction described in Upsize, Downsize. This second edition of the bust was issued in 1989 and the Cybis 50th Anniversary backstamp appears on any that were physically created during that year; it was part of Cybis’ special “50th Anniversary Biblical Collection” and the sculpture itself titled in that brochure as the The Pope, 50th Anniversary Commemorative. Upon introduction it was offered in two colorways: A color edition of 100 for $1300 with a base, or $1200 without one; and a white bisque edition of 200, at $950 with a base and at $850 without one.
However, the November 1993 price list from Cybis includes this exact same bust in the following two versions only: plain white, no base, an edition of 200 for $895; and color, no base, an edition of 100 for $1500. So they had, within four years of its introduction, eliminated the wood-base option and raised the price. Both of these no-base editions continued to be available into the early 2000s.
The third edition of The Pope was also another downsize and was offered only in the single colorway shown, which the 2008 Cybis site described as The Pope — “gold on white”. It is 10.5” high x 9.5” wide, does not have a base, and was listed as an edition of 100 for $895 on the 1993 list. This was most likely introduced in 1990.
The smallest version of this bust is 8” high x 7” wide, and was an edition of 2500 selling for $395. Titled The Pope – (white) (tone on tone) on the early-2000s Cybis website, there was no accompanying photo. This example, which was among the pieces in the studio’s liquidation sale, is the only photo I have seen of an actual piece. This was the final iteration of their Pope bust, and it’s not known if any were actually sold to customers; it’s likely that this was their sample piece. Like most items in their 2019 liquidation auction lots, this piece is rather dirty from poor storage conditions; it’s possible that the areas which were gold in the other versions may be lightly glazed in this one (hence the “tone on tone” description) and the brown areas may simply be accumulated dirt and grime.
This photo shows the original 1988 Pope bust being presented. The Cybis caption reads Theresa and Joseph Chorlton (CEO of Cybis) present Pope John Paul II with a commemorative anniversary bust at the Vatican. Although this is the only Cybis portrait of an actual Pope, the studio has personally presented other sculptures to two other Popes as well. A one of a kind enthroned Saint Peter was presented to Pope Paul VI in 1964, and Moses ‘The Great Lawgiver’ was presented to Pope John XXIII.
The other religious-themed Cybis pieces can accessed through the “Religious/Biblical” category link.
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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.