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, from 1942 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. Thus any non-lamp Cordey items must necessarily date from 1942-1957 only.
What I haven’t seen until now is a Cordey-branded item that transitioned directly to being a Cybis-branded item and continued to be in the Cybis retail line after 1957. The closest approximation of this to date has been the small madonna bust above. The example at left is dual-signed ‘Cordey’ and ‘Cybis’; the one on the right is signed simply ‘Cybis.’ The 1950s Madonnas post shows several examples of this bust, some of them glazed but none with a halo; all are signed Cybis and one also bears a written design number 2020. One thing we do know for certain is that this mold was not an original Cybis design; it was sold commercially by the Holland Mold Company during the 1950s and possibly even the late 1940s. There’s no indication that Cybis continued to produce this bust after 1957, at least not in this iteration; however, they did use it as a jumping-off point for their Queen of Angels flower-crowned bust on a wood base, which is why this Holland Mold bust is regarded as being the precursor to that named sculpture.
The supposition has been that there was a decision made during the 1940s that the religious items would be produced under the Cybis name rather than the Cordey one, which is why the dual-signed madonna bust is such an anomaly. Still, it did have the Cybis name on it as well….and after all, it was not an “original” design under either branding. And it’s possible that whoever cast or painted the bust may have first stamped it as a Cordey purely by accident!
This apparent separation of the religious pieces by brand name is one facet of what makes the subject of this post 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.
This 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; this piece appears to have the mold impression but also the blue paint as an accent. 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. However, the Cybis designs also had numbers to their pieces during the 1950s (and possibly 1940s as well); the religious ones were all numbered in the 2000s.
Despite 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. Although we don’t know exactly when this piece was produced, or how many of them there were, it had to have been between 1942 and 1957 because after 1957 the Cordey name was only applied to lamps.
So what happened to the molds for all of the various Cordey items that were produced during those 15 years? We have no idea, although they may still be stored somewhere in the current studio’s warehouse. The typical Cordey designs didn’t “fit” with Marylin Chorlton’s vision for the studio going forward into the 1960s and in fact 1957 is when we see the very first of the ‘new-look’ designs created by the modern Chorlton-owned studio with the introduction of the Baby Owl. Certainly the old-world European style that the Cordey items were based on was put aside entirely by the time the 1960 introductions appeared.
Except, apparantly, for this particular madonna and child. This is one of the several examples – all signed Cybis – shown in the first madonnas post. Its name is given in all Cybis literature as Madonna ‘House of Gold’ with a production period of 1957 to 1965, and a design number of 2025. This number reflects the normal Cybis practice for all religious pieces to start with 2. The Cybis version acquired a wood base which increased the total height to about 14″ depending on whether or not the madonna wore a crown (some did, some didn’t.) The 1979 Cybis catalog gives two colorways: “white” and “color”. To date I have never seen an all-white-bisque one and so “color” may refer to an example such as the one below.
I suspect that the first few years of production of the Cybis-branded House of Gold probably resembled the Cordey example in being highly glazed. Examples have been found both with and without a wood base, so that was probably one of the first additions. (Bases may also have gone missing over time.) Although the colorway is similar while not as intense as the Cordey version, there are subtractions too: the appplied flowers are gone, the dipped lace scarf is now sleeves, and the mouth is painted more naturalistically. But the mold(s) are identical to the Cordey version.
Ah yes, the mold…that presents a conundrum as well. This piece was definitely designed by Harry Burger but what we don’t know is whether he was actually working in-house for Cordey/Cybis at the time. He may well have been a freelance artist for his entire career except for a period during the 1960s when he worked at Lenox China as in in-house designer. Therefore it’s quite possible – even likely – that he designed some pieces for one or more of the commercial mold companies (such as Holland) during the late 1940s and into the 1950s. In fact, because the majority of the 1950s Cybis-branded religious pieces were cast from commercially-produced molds, it’s possible that this may be another such… although I have not yet found any of these that are not connected to Cybis.
But 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 Cordey one 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 1981, 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. Those 1980s versions are still shown as available on the Cybis site today, making this Cordey piece – or more precisely, a major part of it – one of the two longest-running pieces the studio ever produced (the other is the Queen of Angels madonna bust.) All three versions of the spinoff madonna bust are shown in Later Madonnas.
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