A Rare Cordey-to-Cybis Madonna and Child

As shown in the 1940s Cybis Retail post, occasionally items from that era are found with either a dual signature (Cordey plus Cybis) on the same piece and, in a very few instances, a standard Cordey design item has been found bearing the “M.B. Cybis” signature instead. There aren’t many of these “duals” and “duplicates” but one thing they all have in common is that they were produced concurrently, i.e., during the same timeframe. This isn’t surprising in view of the fact that both brand-lines were being produced inside the same studio and essentially by the same artisans, until the two companies parted ways. Whether this took place before Boleslaw Cybis’ death in 1957 is uncertain; there are court documents dated 1953 that show him as one of the Cordey principals at that point. In any case, after Cybis’ death Cordey did continue on as a separate business under the ownership of his former partners but only as a lamp manufacturer.

What I had not found was any Cordey-branded item that transitioned directly to being a Cybis-branded item and continued to be in the Cybis retail line after 1957. And, until early 2017, I had not seen any Cordey-branded items in the religious genre. The supposition has been that there was a decision made during the 1940s that the religious items would be produced under the Cybis branding rather than the Cordey branding.

This apparent separation of the religious pieces by brand name  is one facet of what made the first sculpture shown below so unusual. The other factor is that we know who actually designed it, and it wasn’t Boleslaw Cybis. The designer was Harry Burger Jr – the same artist who designed the 1972 Cybis ‘Moscow Summit’ Chess Set.

Madonna and Child, design #4149, signed Cordey

Cordey House of Gold madonna and child view 1Cordey House of Gold madonna and child view 2Cordey House of Gold signatureThis seated madonna and child is clearly signed Cordey and also bears a design number of 4149. Normally the Cordey name was either impressed into the mold or was applied with a blue-paint stamp; a few Cordey pieces have been seen bearing both. Cordey design numbers ran in general groups; their busts, torsos and full-figure human designs had numbers in the 4000s and 5000s, with a few 3000-series pieces here and there….so the design number of this one isn’t surprising.

Cordey House of Gold detail 1Cordey House of Gold detail 2Cordey House of Gold detail 4Cordey House of Gold detail 3Despite being a religious study, this piece displays several typical Cordey features such as the dipped lace, very high glaze (which the Cybis studio termed “stained glass” for their pieces but did not use that phrase when referring to Cordeys), gold accents, applied flowers, and a rosebud-mouth face painting style. It is 10.25″ high as shown.

Madonna ‘House of Gold’, signed Cybis and Cordey, with Cordey design number


The sculpture shown below clearly has two signatures: Cordey and #4149 in the mold (because they were using the same mold as for the example shown previously) but also Cybis stamped in blue paint, as was typical for the Cybis pieces during the 1950s.

Under the Cybis branding, this piece was named Madonna ‘House of Gold’ and was given design number 2503. This number reflects the normal Cybis practice for all religious pieces to start with 2. According to Cybis literature, it was introduced as a Cybis piece in 1957.

The main difference between this piece and the one previously shown is the intensity of the paint colors; this one is lighter, the colors more subtle – especially on the faces. This makes the dual-marked one look more natural, in my opinion.

All Cordey pieces were glazed; I have never seen any Cordey item in a bisque (matte) finish. The Cybis retail pieces produced during the first half of the 1950s were likewise glazed; we don’t know the exact year when the decision was made to switch to bisque, but it may well have been after Boleslaw Cybis died (1957.)

The House of Gold on the left is a Cybis piece, done in their glazed ‘stained glass’ finish, brown ‘Cypia’ tonation, and with their ‘old coin gold’ finish on the skin areas. This is a very unusual combination that is seen only on some 1950s Cybis pieces. The cushion-shaped base is painted dark green instead of blue-with-gold. The dipped lace of the dual-marked Cordey/Cybis piece has been replaced by a solid shawl that is part of the molds that make up the Cybis-marked design. In this photo it looks as if the Cordey/Cybis madonna’s face is rounder, but this may be simply the camera angle.

The gold-skinned Cybis example came with a wood base that is not shown here; there is an on-base photo in the full-figure madonnas from the 1950s post. I think it highly unlikely that the Cordey-marked ones originally came with such a base; it was probably a production decision when it was officially brought into the Cybis retail line.

ybis madonna and child HOUSE OF GOLD alternate version example 1This example was offered for sale as being Cybis; unfortunately, there was no photo of the marks and so I don’t know if it also said Cordey. Notice the lack of dipped lace, flowers, and gold accents on the veil and base. The glazing shows that this was made during the 1950s.

If anyone happens to have another example of this piece with a Cordey name or design number on the underside, or a combination of Cordey + Cybis, I’d love to add it to this post. There is a contact form link at the bottom of this page.

 ‘House of Gold’ in bisque (1960s)

Cybis madonna and child HOUSE OF GOLD typical retail versionAccording to the Appendix in the 1978/79 Cybis catalogs, ‘House of Gold‘ was made as an open (non-limited) edition from 1957 to 1965, and available in two colorways: “white” and “color”. To date I have never seen an all-white-bisque one. We also don’t know the exact year that the studio abandoned the 1950s glazed technique, but by 1960 the bisque finish was the standard for all Cybis pieces. Here we see the same wood base but the colors are different and the madonna has acquired a crown. But the molds themselves are the same as we see from the Cordey incarnations.

Update, December 2021: The recent discovery of the mid-1950s Cybis Walking Madonna shows that that piece was actually the precursor to the House of Gold. Only about 50 of the Walking Madonna were made, before the studio decided (for whatever reason) to convert it into a seated piece. The baby and the upper body and hands were modified and put onto a new ‘seated’ body and base section in order to create House of Gold. What we don’t know is whether the re-design was done by Harry Burger or by someone inside the Cybis studio.

My best guess for the manufacture date of the Cordey-marked House of Gold pieces is 1954 or 1955 at the latest.

House of Gold and Madonna with Veil view 1House of Gold and Madonna with Veil view 2But that is not the end of this Cordey piece’s story. As illustrated here, the upper torso of this mold’s madonna was separated out after the retirement of the House of Gold and issued as a separate bust in 1968 in color (appropriately wearing a blue veil, as the glazed ones had, and indeed it is often referred to as the Madonna with Blue Veil) for only a year and then produced in plain white bisque from 1969 to 1970 only. The bust then disappeared from the Cybis line entirely for a decade until 1989, when it was resurrected (sans the base) in plain white bisque and also in “color” meaning a natural face color but white garments with gold accents. All three versions of the spinoff madonna bust are shown in Later Madonnas.

By the way, in Catholic dogma the appellation ‘House of Gold’ (Domus Aurea) refers to the physical body of Mary while she was pregnant; the baby lives inside the the mother until its birth, i.e., it is housed there.

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