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 stand-alone porcelain edition.
This 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.
The first stand-alone medallion issue appears in a 1973 retail price list from 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.) Because no such item appears in any of the Cybis literature covering the period up to and including 1979, I assume this was a special-event item made in a limited quantity for a Cybis event hosted by Armstrongs; this was common practice during the 1970s, and such items were typically in produced as a run of 200 or less. As described more fully in Making Sense of the Editions, sometimes such issues were individually numbered but most were not. The most interesting thing about this item, to my mind, is the framing because Cybis issued very few framed pieces. In fact, there were only three: the Holy Child of Prague plaque, the Moses plaque, and the botanical series called The Four Seasons (illustrated in Plaques and Plates.)
A retail price of $125 for the Quana special issue seems a bit low for a framed item but then again, the medallion itself is quite small. Most likely the entire run of 100 event pieces did not sell at time of issue, and so Armstrongs continued to offer it themselves as late as 1973. (If Cybis had decided to offer it as a retail piece to the general public after the closure of the Folio One issue, it would appear in Cybis catalogs and price lists during the 1970s…and it does not.)
While the Armstrongs item is clearly plain white bisque, this framed medallion in a color version came up in a 2014 auction sale in New Jersey. The second photo shows a typewritten paper that was affixed to the back of the frame, no doubt by a past owner because this isn’t the sort of thing that Cybis would do. The use of the name “Cybis Art Studios” instead of “Cybis Porcelain” suggests that the writer did some research into the history of Cybis, because that was the name that Boleslaw Cybis originally gave to his atelier in 1940, decades before items such as these were produced. This item may have been donated to an auction intended to raise money for the crafts cooperative cited, but it’s doubtful that Cybis created it for that purpose. Perhaps this was originally another special-event promo issue for a major Cybis retailer, as the white bisque one at Armstrong’s. It’s not known if this one was given a specific name.
The final appearance of the medallion was roughly 20 years later, when Cybis brought it into their short-lived Collectors Society line as a sign-up item. This one can be precisely dated to 1995, and it was available to club members only. 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.
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