The final week of October seems an appropriately spooky time for a discussion of the ‘body snatching’ that occasionally occurred within the design process of Cybis porcelains. Despite my fanciful terminology, it wasn’t always an entire sculpture body that was appropriated for use in another; sometimes it was only certain parts.
Because most porcelain sculptures are composed of multiple separate molds, it’s not all that difficult to borrow a piece or two from one design to use on another. For example, the hands originally sculpted for Ophelia (produced from 1966-1974) were attached to the arms of Beau Brummel who may have originally been designed in the early 1980s but apparantly wasn’t released until 1990 or later. Because both figures are the same size – 13″ or so – the hands remain in proportion.
Larger body sections were also re-used, even for sculptures much closer in retail timeframes than the decade or more that separated Ophelia and Beau. The entire lower body (waist downward) of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1971-1975) was used for Berengaria four years after Eleanor’s edition was completed. The skirt and robe are identical except for the colors and more elaborate decoration on Berengaria’s. I’m not sure whether the entire torso (from neck to hem) was re-used with various sculpting tweaks, but even that is possible. The lower bodies are identical, however.
The most extensive re-use of an earlier human body mold for a later sculpture is Dawn (1962-1966) morphing into Queen Titania who was introduced in 1977. The only structural differences between them are the heads, the position of the arms, and the addition of a longer skirt on Titania.
A sharp-eyed reader has pointed out another adaptation/re-use; in this case it is only a section of the original piece. The head and torso of the madonna in the 1957 introduction House of Gold, designed by Harry Burger, was used again in 1968 for the bust that most collectors call the ‘Madonna with Blue Veil‘ even though a white version was made as well. For several other interesting colorways of the House of Gold, see the 1950s Cybis Madonnas.
A virtually concurrent three-way element-snatch is the branch structure from the Goldfinch (1960-1963 or 1961-1964 depending on which Cybis publication you read) being re-used in its entirety for the Magnolia introduced in 1963. If the Goldfinch was retired in Spring 1963 and the Magnolia introduced in Fall 1963, the clones just barely missed each other in the retail line. And look what happens in 1964:
This is the Rose (sometimes referred to as the Yellow Condesa) and while the branch may not look the same as the other two at first glance, just mentally flip it back to front and voila! Branch snatch.
A triple bird-snaring occurred during the 1960s as well. The same bird appeared on no less than three sculptures within a 10 year period.
Its first appearance was in 1953, on the Madonna with Bird which is said to have been designed by Laszlo Ispanky before he formally joined the Cybis studio.
It next appeared as the female Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, one of a limited edition pair of bird studies issued in 1961. The only difference is the orientation, color, and the addition of legs.
And finally the third appearance in 1964, as the avian accent on the monumental one of a kind Flower Bouquet of the United States created for the New York Worlds’ Fair.
I strongly suspect that both of the Blue Gray Gnatcatchers (seen in Later Birds) were probably created at the same time during the early 1950s but only one of them was re-used. It may even have been the original intent to have two birds on the Madonna piece!
Here is a “body part” that went from a bird sculpture to a floral one. The vertical component of the Blue Headed Vireo Building Nest (1960 introduction) was re-used for the Windflower in 1963. Both pieces were retired in 1965.
Another flower study actually does have the same mold piece used at the same time for two different sculptures. The branch upon which the American Rose (issued in 1987) sits also serves the same purpose for the Mountain Laurel with Butterfly…whose introduction date is unknown at present but likely to have been the early 1990s. They use the identical ‘branch base’ mold except that the topmost part was “cut off” for the Mountain Laurel because it wasn’t needed. Both of these were open editions on the Cybis site but with a significant difference in price: the Mountain Laurel at $395 and the American Rose at $895 during the early 2000s.
Cybis’ second Nativity set contains three camels, two of which were issued in the 1980s and the third in the 1990s. Camel I was a 1984 introduction whose entire body (other than the legs) was recycled into the kneeling 1990s Camel III with a shortening of part of the neck. This is another example of both pieces being available at the same time.
Sometimes the repositioning of a single element enables the re-use of the entire body mold. This was the case with the 1987 Unicorn ‘Lord Bentley’ who has his neck arched downward. When Cybis decided to launch a short-lived mini-series of all-black sculptures called the “Midnight Collection” in 1988, one of the first was Black Beauty who uses Lord Bentley’s body but with his neck in a normal position (looking forward) instead of arched. When the Little Foal was introduced during the 1990s he was simply a downsized version of the by-then-retired Black Beauty, in a different colorway. All three of these were nonlimited editions.
The flower that decorates the special circa-1980s gallery-event edition Funny Face with Daisy was plucked from the 1976 flower basket ‘Felicity.’ In that basket the flower was described and painted as a Black Eyed Susan, the official flower of the state of Maryland. This flower, as well as the single dogwood bloom later used on the Wood Wren and the ‘Majesty’ flower basket, was originally created for the 1964 one of a kind Flower Bouquet of the United States shown above.
This next instance is more of a “sideways snatch”, involving two 1950s religious pieces that Cybis produced from molds they purchased from the Holland Mold Company.
This is a Christ child in crib/manger; it contains mold elements from three different sources.
The manger itself is the main part of this Holland Mold. However, Cybis chose not to use the baby that Holland supplied with it.
Instead they took the baby mold from another Holland purchase, a seated madonna and child to which Cybis had assigned their design number 223, and substituted it for the Holland baby. The slight difference in scale between the two Holland babies is why the Cybis Child in Manger looks as if he’s already outgrowing his crib! His halo is one of several that Cybis sometimes added to various madonnas, angels, crucifix corpi, etc during the 1950s.
Another religious-genre ‘borrow’ was the body used on two very different crucifixes. For Corpus Christi the entire two-piece Holland Mold body-and-cross kit was used; but Cybis also utilized the body for their Redeemer of the World with a brown wood cross instead, and added one of their halos to boot. The stark difference in the crosses – substantial porcelain versus slim, almost modernistic, wood – makes the shared body mold far less obvious.
Yet another “bird snare” was the eagle originally placed atop Tranquility Base, Apollo 11 Moon Mission in 1970. It flew off to become the subject of Eagle Atop the Palisades, a special issue to commemorate the 1976 New Jersey State Bicentennial. A photo of the entire Palisades piece appears in Later Birds along with details on how this piece was later resurrected as a non-commemorative item.
This “borrow” took place 20 years after its first appearance. The upper photo shows the fan held by Good Queen Anne, a limited edition from 1978 to 1982. Fast forward to the early 2000s and the Fan Place Card Holder shown in the second photo. These were on the Cybis website in the early 2000s for $50 each and came in three colorways and surface decorations, all of which can be seen in the Giftware post. What I don’t know is the size of the circa-2000s item; if it’s the same size as the one in Anne’s hand it must be very tiny, and so it may have been upsized in order to hold a place card without tipping over.
Instead of “body snatching”, here’s a case of butterfly-catching! This small butterfly first appeared on the two pansy studies, the yellow China Maid in 1972 and the purple Crinoline Lady in 1975. It was re-used a decade and more later on the Mountain Laurel with Butterfly shown earlier in this post, and also on the Pink Dogwood with Butterfly which itself was the 1970s Wood Wren with Dogwood reissued in a different color and sans wren. They also perched this butterfly upon the nose of their Baby Rhino in the late 1980s/early 1990s as well for a short-term, possibly unnamed variant of that original sculpture (see the Menagerie for a photo.)
Here’s a double bird-snatching (snaring?) but with a wing twist. In 1986 Cybis introduced the Dove which has upright wings (upper photo). The following year (1987) saw the issuance of the Bridal Centerpiece in which the upper dove is the same mold but with the wings now at a 45-degree angle and a wedding ring added in his beak. The lower dove is the same mold but with the wings outspread and straightened, and the head angle very slightly changed. In the 1990s Cybis began to offer the spread-wing dove as a separate item, which in the absence of price lists I’ve dubbed the Dove in Flight. They are all the same bird which was originally designed in the mid 1980s by Lynn Klockner Brown.
Yet another ‘branch snatch’ dating from the very early 1960s. The circa-1958 Maryland Yellowthroat‘s branch was re-used in 1960 for the Cerulean Warbler with Azalea to perch on, albeit with some slight modification to the upper branch extensions. But the main structure is still the same. Cybis was still selling the Yellowthroat until 1961 (or 1963, depending on which Cybis publication you read) while making the Warbler.
Bird-snaring in two decades: the 1952 Bluebird by the Garden Wall flew over to an azalea branch in 1960 and became the Cerulean Warbler after a new paint job. This means the only “original” element in the latter piece is the flowers and foliage.
Two different Cybis females gazed into the same mirror: first, Camille in 1983 and then Daddy’s Little Girl in 1989.
Another early branch-snatching case is so subtle that I missed it entirely until recently (August 2019); many thanks to a sharp-eyed friend for spotting it!
The branch that was used for the Wild Duck between 1957 and 1962 was also used for the first iteration of the Wood Wren with Dogwood in 1963. This first iteration differs from the later ones (although I have no idea what year the change took place, it seems to have been fairly early on) in two respects: The first one has only three flowers while the later ones have four, and Cybis made a change to the front part of the branch’s base:
It’s possible that the change was made to provide greater stability (a larger front ‘footprint.’) The majority of Wood Wrens made were produced after the switch.
Here’s a first: Snatching half of each of two earlier sculptures to create a new one. Technically this was a “copy-and-snatch” and it went down like this:
In 1986 the studio issued an angel titled Annunciation which they seem to have offered for only a couple of years before retiring it. When in 1988 they wanted to add a second angel to the Nativity Set that was in ongoing production, they simply took the Annunciation mold and tweaked it a bit with a new hairdo, modified collar treatment that lost the hoodie effect, blended most of the sash into the angel’s robe, and stuck her right arm on at a slightly different (and very awkward) angle. Enter the Nativitiy Angel II in 1988. This was not so much a body snatch as a remodel/rebranding. But wait, there’s more!
A couple of years later the studio wanted to add a third angel to the Nativity set but didn’t want to go to the trouble and expense of having it designed. No problem! Just take the upper half of the very first (1984) Nativity Angel and stick it onto the bottom half of the second Nativity Angel (which was originally Annunciation but who’s counting?) and voila! again: A “new” piece titled Nativity Angel III. Three minor modifications were made to the snatched body halves: the sash and ‘bandolier’ (?) were removed from the 1984 bodice and the rope belt on the 1988 skirt was changed to a flat sash.
This composite angel is the first piece I’ve found in which pieces from two different earlier sculptures were combined to create a third (“new”) sculpture, without any original elements being used. In the other pieces we’ve seen, the borrowed element was combined with one or more newly designed components, or was used simply to accent a new piece; but not this time.
Does a body-snatch “count” if the newer piece was never (to my knowledge) released as a retail item? That’s the question I asked myself several times before deciding that it depends on the piece. In the following case the answer was “no and yes.”
This unreleased cherub on a cloud with heart was among the leftover stock that the studio liquidated in late 2019.
The base (a cloud with heart decoration) practically screams 1980s/1990s, but the cherub mold was snatched from the arms of the 1957 House of Gold and had a pair of wings stuck onto his back. However, I have found no indication that this Jesus-turned-cherub piece was issued at retail, unless they offered it briefly on eBay.
The studio then took this same mold, tweaked it by adding a small sash, and put it on their website in the late 1990s/early 2000s as Cherub Ornament in two “editions”: pink or blue. The image on their website was extremely tiny and difficult to make out, but when I saw the cherub on the house with the heart, I immediately realized that it was the same mold. This 400% (I told you it was tiny!) enlargement of the Cybis site photo makes the form and sash visible. However, the first of these had been made in the early 1980s within the studio as a decoration for one or more of their Christmas trees; see the end of the Angels post for a 1982 photo of one of these in its original white bisque. The studio did not decide to sell these until a decade later.
I do differentiate between “body/element snatching” and named variations that differ only in decorative elements compared to the original piece. For example there was a plethora of “spinoff” bunnies, each with their own name and pricepoint, such as Bon Bon wearing a top hat and a boutonniere and rechristened Puttin’ on the Ritz. It’s perfectly clear that those were simply decorative variations on the original theme, especially since the original was still part of the retail lineup. And those were all open editions; however, I do find it a bit surprising that Cybis would ‘borrow’ elements for their limited-edition designs. But compared to the total number of Cybis designs over the years they are a relatively small percentage….not anything close to an “invasion of body snatchers” at all. 🙂
Images of Cybis porcelain sculptures are provided for informational and educational purposes only. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner as indicated via watermark. Please see the copyright notice in the footer and sidebar for important information regarding the text that appears within this website.
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.