The Cybis Comanche Chief Medallion

The small white bisque medallion originally designed to accent the facing page of the Cybis Folio One collection of Native American lithographs was given several subsequent ‘second lives’ as a separate retail item.

INDOMITABLE SPIRIT Comanche chief portrait by Cybis Folio OneFolio One medallion original white bisque 1970This medallion design is a rendition of the Comanche ‘Indomitable Spirit’ portrait drawing by Boleslaw Cybis. At the time of issue of the Folio, the medallion was not given a name, nor is it included in the 1979 catalog appendix of Cybis porcelain issues. The presence of the year (1970) in the mold clearly indicates that its purpose was to accompany the Folio One which was introduced in that year and by all indications was completed by the end of 1972. The medallion is approximately 2.5″ in diameter. This is one of the few Cybis molds that were cast in lead rather than in the usual clay.

QUANA COMANCHE INDIAN CHIEF framed medallion by CybisThis stand-alone medallion issue appears in a 1973 retail price list issued by a major Cybis dealer, Armstrongs in Pomona, CA. The image above is from that price list. As you can see, it shows the same medallion mounted and framed. It is described as Quana Comanche Indian Chief Plaque, completed limited edition of 100, $125.  (Quanah Parker was the last Comanche leader; he was born in 1848 and died in 1911.) This appears to be a white bisque version but it’s difficult to tell from a black-and-white photo.

I have only one official 1970 price list that was issued by Cybis; it is dated July 1970 but does not include this item. If anyone has a different 1970 price list that does show it as a retail piece and would be kind enough to furnish a copy, there is a Contact Form link at the bottom of this post. Many thanks!

UPDATE: Until recently, I had assumed that the example offered in the Armstrong’s list had been framed by the purchaser. However, the appearance of these two identically-framed examples at the same time in early 2023, on two different venues by two sellers in different parts of the country, makes it likely that all 100 were originally sold framed in this way. These may well have been a retailer-event exclusive (either network-wide or just for one retailer) for 1970, especially if it was tied in with the introduction of the Folio One series.

framed color Comanche chief medallion by Cybis

I have seen two other framed medallions come up for sale online in recent years, both in color rather than bisque: one in 2014 in New Mexico and another in 2020 from a New Jersey estate. Although identically framed (same wood frame, same linen backing mat, and glass front) the medallions themselves are slightly different, as can be seen above.  This suggests that perhaps the studio also issued this color version as a gallery-event piece at some point (after the brown-matted bisque version) because it is unlikely that two different collectors decide to mount their loose medallion in exactly the same way (unless someone acquired several and decided to frame them for resale.)

All of these medallions were included in an auction house lot as part of one of several stock-liquidation sales in 2019 after the closure of the Cybis studio. Unlike the linen-mat examples these are either monochrome or mostly so.

Cybis Collectors Society 1996 Indian Head medallion frontCollectors Society medallion reverse 1The final retail appearance of the medallion was in the 1995 when Cybis brought it into their short-lived Collectors Society line as a members-only item for $75.  The gold-paint signature of “Cybis USA” sometimes had “Trenton NJ” added as well. Notice that the 1970 year has been removed from the front of the casting, leaving only the Cybis name. By 1999 it was no longer available.

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