This sculpture is the only instance of a modern Cybis Studio porcelain that was based directly upon an original Boleslaw Cybis painting. Although the name of both works was simply The Bride, most collectors typically refer to it as “The Polish Bride.”
The original portrait is an oil on canvas, painted by Boleslaw Cybis in 1937, showing a peasant girl on her wedding day, surrounded by female friends and relatives, wearing a massive (one might even say explosive!) crown of flowers atop her headpiece. The painting itself is quite large, measuring 47 3/8″ high and 32 3/4″ wide. Unfortunately I cannot find any color photos of it; this one comes from the 1970-71 exhibit catalog Cybis in Retrospect. At the time of that exhibit, the painting was in the collection of the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio who loaned it and also Cybis’ ‘Peasant Heads’ to the exhibit. For the complete history of this painting, see Boleslaw Cybis Paintings.
In the spring of 1980 the Cybis studio issued a limited edition porcelain sculpture also called The Bride, in an issue of 100 priced at $6500. The edition was completed in 1982 at $7250. Unfortunately some online sellers have picked up on an incorrectly-claimed issue price of $16,500 instead and it has been propagated virally as so often happens. But in fact, that actual $6500 issue price in 1980 was by far the highest retail price that Cybis had ever set. Before that, the most expensive limited edition issues had been the color owl Koo Koos Koos (edition of 50) at $3250 in 1979 and the $3500 North American Indian Great Spirit ‘Wankan Tanka’ (edition of 200) that same year. The $6500 introduction price of the Polish Bride was, although a high water mark for any single Cybis retail piece (the Commemorative Chess Set was higher but that was 32 pieces and a smaller issue to boot), nevertheless in line with their historic prices and also with the existing art porcelain retail market. Setting a retail price of $16,500 in 1980 for an issue of 100 would have been completely out of step with the times, even for the “age of conspicuous consumption”!
There is a early-2000s published price guide that does cite the original issue price correctly at $6500. I have no idea why one online seller cited it in their listing as being $10,000 more than that figure. Unfortunately that error has been picked up and promulgated by at least two subsequent online sellers of other examples of this sculpture.
The Bride is 18″ tall, 11″ wide, and 12 1/2″ deep front to back. All of the individual flowers, leaves and berries in her headdress were shaped, applied, and painted by hand.
The jewel-toned decorations on her dress were painted by George Ivers, art director at the studio. (There is a ‘pearl’ missing from the applied necklace on the example shown above.) Overall the sculpture is quite a faithful rendition of the subject of the original painting, although with only a black and white photograph I have no idea whether the colors themselves differ.
An artist’s proof was given to Pope John Paul II in 1979, the year before the retail release, in recognition of his Polish ancestry (he was born Karol Józef Wojtyła.) The decoration of that piece differed from the retail edition in at least one respect: a newspaper account reported that “the Bride’s dowry chest bears the symbol of Krakow Province, the Pope’s birthplace.” Because the retail edition’s decoration does not match that symbol, it must be assumed that a portion of that artist’s proof was specially modified.
In an eerie coincidence, the retail release of The Bride occurred at almost the same time as the rediscovery of the orginal Boleslaw Cybis painting upon which it is based! The painting had been in the collection of the Dayton Art Insititute for decades, but in early 1980 they decided to sell consign it to an April 1980 auction in New York. The Cybis studio had no idea the original painting was to be sold until the day before the auction began…. almost immediately after they had designed and introduced the limited edition porcelain sculpture reproduction of it.
Update, November 2017: A particularly nice example of the Polish Bride sculpture is currently on display at the Ellarslie Museum which is part of the Trenton City Museum at Cadwalader Park. Ellarslie is a lovely circa-1800s mansion that has been converted into a museum; the porcelain displays are located on the 3rd floor.
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