The items that were offered as 1940s retail pieces by Boleslaw Cybis’ studio were almost all done in conventional porcelain rather than the clay/plaster ‘papka’ material seen in 1940s Part One. The retail designs were in many cases a mixture of traditional Old World European and artistic interpretation (albeit not as ‘unusual’ as much of his studio pieces.) During this time period (1942 onward) the Cordey line coexisted with the “Cybis branded” one; after all, they were all being created in the same place until the early 1950s. Inevitably there ended up being much design overlap between the two.
If all of the 1940s retail items had been advertised and marked as either Cordey or Cybis, sorting them out would be much simpler – but unfortunately Boleslaw Cybis didn’t choose to do it that way. Some pieces were sold with Cybis marks while others were either marked with the Cordey name or with the Cordey numbering system but no name. As will be shown below, examples of the exact same piece have been found with one being marked Cybis and the other being marked Cordey, although in most cases the duplication wasn’t quite that extreme.
Compounding the confusion are some surviving 1940s department store newspaper ads showing pieces that appear to be Cordey designs… but do not mention that name at all. This ad from Bonwit Teller appeared in the May 10, 1942 Philadelphia Inquirer. Notice that it says the horse is “by the artist Cybis” rather than saying it is a Cordey horse. (It also misspells the word “mantel” but we’ll let that go.) The sketch very much resembles one of the pieces listed in the ‘Folklore Animals’ section of the book Cybis in Retrospect; it’s probably the item described there as an 8″ high “Horse With Mane, porcelain, stained glass decoration ca. 1942-1945.”
Notice how similar the ad drawing is to this papka Pegasus candlestick in attitude, even to the open mouth.
This April 19, 1945 NY Times ad from another major department store, B. Altman, also says “the artist Cybis” rather than “Cordey” – even though the bust on the left is almost identical to the vintage Cordey pieces regularly offered on eBay currently. One would assume that if the pieces being sold by the department stores were marked Cordey, they’d have been advertised as such… so why weren’t they?
The answer is that they were probably marked the same way this hatted lady bust was, which is with the blue-painted M.B. Cybis signature even though she is very much a typical Cordey in design, construction, and decoration. It is 14″ tall and about 8″ wide.
Here’s another M.B. Cybis signed piece, but this time leaning more toward the papka pieces seen in 1940s Cybis, Part One and also placed into a lamp base to convert it to a lady bust lamp. However, although lamps were definitely a feature of their Cordey line, this is the only one I’ve so far seen that has a Cybis signature on it instead. It doesn’t appear to be a later conversion, because the base shape so closely matches that of the lower part of the porcelain. Another oddity is that it is numbered as #105 but that refers to a mold or design number because the studio did not begin the concept of limited editions until the 1960s.
The seller of the lamp described the base as being a brass-finished metal and the overall height as 16″. Unlike the typical Cordey lamps which include a vertical ‘pipe’ leading to the bulb and shade above, this one has “an opening on the top of the head for the light to shine out….when the light is on, the face has a beautiful glow to it.” The seller also cited it as having “a lot of gold plating and lavender coloring” although this isn’t immediately obvious in the photograph.
I’m quite curious as to how the Cybis pieces came to be sold in two (perhaps more) major department stores in the first place. Frankly, Boleslaw Cybis doesn’t sound like the type to have held business meetings with Manhattan buyers, so it’s likely that the negotiations were done by someone else – probably one of his two investor/partners in the Cordey brand line, Harry Wilson and Harvey Greenburg.
Here’s a case of a Cybis-signed design being identical to what was offered in the actual Cordey wholesale catalog. This Asian couple is 22″ and 24″ high; both are signed M.B. Cybis. (Note: both were cited as having losses and repairs by the auctioneer.)
These photos appeared in a 1940s Cordey salesman’s catalog, captioned as “Mandarin Man” and “Mandarin Woman.” They are identical to the pair above that were signed M.B. Cybis but not signed as Cordey.
Another example of a Mandarin Woman that has an M.B. Cybis signature instead of Cordey.
This Asian man was cast from the same mold as the Mandarin Woman, escept for the head; it is signed M.B. Cybis on the inside of the mold.
Here’s a pair that have dual signatures: both Cordey and M.B. Cybis (the first example shown in the 1950s Madonnas post also has a dual signature.) This couple is smaller, at about 11″ high, and is very much in their ‘olde world European’ style. These were clearly cast as a pair, shown by the design numbers being 200A and 200B. Note the lavender and gilt color scheme which probably is the same appearance as the seller of the lady-bust lamp above described. Because of the posture of the two figures I’m going to dub them the Dancing Man and Woman Pair.
An entirely different 1940s style genre is seen in this pair of folk toys in glazed porcelain, cited in Cybis in Retrospect as being ca. 1944-1948. Both are 14″ high and are described as Folk Toy, Girl with Red Flower and Folk Toy, Boy with Red Hat.
The following 1940s items are known to exist but no photos are available at the moment. They can be divided into the categories of animals and human figures.
Most of the known 1940s animals were equines. The Pegasus Candlestick shown above seems to have had an early and a later version. The one pictured is circa 1940 and is described as being “papka with fresco decoration.” However, in the mid forties (1942-1945) a “porcelain, glazed and decorated” version was made that had red and green flowers added.
There were two versions of an 8″ Winged Horse (ca 1942-1945), one of them being a Winged Horse with Black and Gold Wings. (How a “winged horse” would differ from a “Pegasus” I have no idea.) In addition to the 8″ Horse With Mane which was probably the one in the 1942 Bonwit Teller ad, there was also a 9″ high Horse in the same stained glass decoration. There were also as least three unicorns, apparantly between 8″ and 9″ high: a plain White Unicorn, a Black Unicorn, and a third listed simply as Unicorn. These were definitely different pieces because all three appeared in the 1971 museum show although none were pictured in the exhibit catalog.
There was a glazed porcelain Large Llama at 14″ high, which leads one to assume that there was also a smaller llama although its existence has not been chronicled. There was also a 9″ high Goat in the same stained-glass finish.
The late 1940s seem to have been when the studio began to shift a bit more away from the highly glazed stained glass pieces into a combination of bisque (matte) porcelain with some glazed decoration. This would eventually evolve into pieces that were entirely bisque – except for any gold – by 1960. The human pieces appear to have been the first to show this change. Cybis in Retrospect lists several “Girl with…” pieces such as a 12″ high Girl with Roses (“bisque with glazed decorations”), a Girl with Violets and Roses, and a Girl with Pearls, the latter two being 10″ high. There was a piece called Mother and Child Heads as well, which was 14″ high (perhaps it had a pedestal component.)
An outlier was a 13″ high Woman’s Head in Terra Cotta; was this actual terracotta, or simply that color decoration/finish? This was cited as being actually dated specifically 1949 but see the Unusual 1960s Cybis post for a photo and discussion of a similarly sized and named bust that may or may not be the same piece (or later copy thereof.)
Three human studies were entirely in the now-familiar bisque porcelain in “color”: a Green Girl at 12″ high, a Gray Haired Girl of the same height, and an Old Man With Beard which was 14.5″ high (was this a bust or a full figure?)
And lastly there are two known tea sets. Although those were more the province of their Cordey brand, it’s possible that these may have had the M.B. Cybis signature like the ‘Cordey-copy’ Asian figures above. Both sets were cited as being from the late 1940s. It’s possible they were cast from the same molds and differed only in color and pattern.
A set comprising two cups, two saucers, a teapot, sugar bowl, creamer and cookie jar had a Black Glaze with White Floral Decoration and dates from 1947. Another set, described as Yellow Glaze with Brown Leaf Decoration, had the same pieces except that a service plate replaced the cookie jar; this set was cited as being from 1948. Neither of these sets are the spatterware or lusterware reproductions which the studio was also producing during the same timeframe; these will be examined in a future Archive post.
And finally we have a pair of child busts which are most probably not 1940s Cybis but were sold as such because of their ambiguous markings. Both are signed with what appears to be the double-C signature that Cybis used between 1942 and 1950. This is probably why the seller offered them as Cybis, but their style is quite different from any Cybis pieces we’ve seen from that era or any other. They are quite small, only 6″ high, and if I hadn’t seen the marks photo I’d have assumed they were from Germany, Switzerland, etc. (the seller was based in the UK, another nontypical venue for vintage Cybis pieces.) However, I couldn’t find this same mark on any of the online European china marks websites. Neither the style, paint colors, or decoration “fit” with the Boleslaw Cybis style; if these did come out of his studio, perhaps they were cast from a commercial mold and painted as an experiment? Because of that extremely slim possibility I’m including them here but with the caveat that there is absolutely nothing other than the similar double-C mark that would lead one to believe that they came out of the Cybis studio.
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