Although this site focuses primarily on porcelains produced under the Cybis name, we’ve already seen a bit of ‘crossover’ with some Cordey pieces during the 1940s. That said, the majority of Cordey items were so distinct from Cybis as to be an entirely different design genre. Nevertheless, because of the two-decade dual ownership by Boleslaw Cybis and the shared production studios, I don’t think it would come amiss to take a look at some of the more unique Cordeys that have surfaced.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that the typical Cordey style has never been ‘my thing’ – meaning no disrespect whatsoever to Cordey collectors, of which there are many! And I do appreciate the expertise that was involved in creating them. But perhaps my personal preference is why I do notice the occasional Cordey that departs from the expected style whether in design, decoration, or (once in a while) because it’s frankly, well,….strange. 🙂
Figures and Busts
One of the most recognizable characteristics of Cordey human figures is their “dipped lace” – actual pieces of lace that were dipped a liquid porcelain medium before applying them to the figure and firing. I can only imagine that the process must have been incredibly painstaking (and messy!) Then after the first firing the lace sections had to be painted by hand, fired again, and then – as shown above – sometimes finely edged with gold and fired once more. Whether one likes the genre or not, the level of craftsmanship is worthy of the highest respect.
While on most pieces the dipped lace was a trim element, here’s one where it actually forms the entire dress of the figure. Several different kinds of lace were used here.
Although there were a few (probably no more than a half dozen) Cordey ballerinas, this is the only one I’ve seen of a male ballet dancer. The upside-down cup shaped bottom section is also very unusual, especially since the lower part of the figure itself is so typically Cordey in design. I wonder if perhaps a former owner literally glued the Cordey onto the top of something else?
There are many Cordey lady busts of this general type but this one, with her head and neck emerging from a clump of green leaves as if she’s either a woodland nymph or was startled while sunbathing au naturel, is definitely different.
This piece, which is design #4077 (more about Cordey and Cybis design numbers in the future), has got to be a top contender for the Most Awkwardly Posed award. Although I’m sure it was intended to be an Oriental (perhaps Thai?) dancer, the first thought that occurred to me upon seeing this was “dislocated shoulder!”
This pair departs from the usual Cordey Asian figure style in both decoration and colorway. Flowers are in evidence, of course, but the contrast offered by the combination of black and gold gives these an Art Deco flair that’s totally at odds with what we think of as Cordey.
On the other hand, this pair of Asian busts do check all the boxes (and then some!) of the expected Cordey Chinoiserie style.
There’s something about this bust that to me has overtones of what would become what’s known today as the “Cybis look”. Yes there is lace but it looks more sculpted than dipped; her hair is more wavy than ringletted; and the flowers – while in evidence – are not overwhelming. The biggest difference, though, is in the eyes, because they are more finely sculpted than on most Cordey busts. I suspect that this mold may date from the 1950s rather than the 1940s; not quite yet the modern-day Cybis look, but clearly on its way.
Now this lady bust is, to my eyes anyway, just eerie. Although it departs somewhat from the norm in being a stark pure white high glaze, that very lack of paint seems to contribute to the spookiness!
Neither a bust nor a figure, it’s still a “lady head” so I’m putting it here instead of into the next section. The sheer audacious impracticality of creating a box lid like this is only surpassed by the apparent miracle of (supposedly) all of the petals and leaves having survived unbroken. It is 5.5″ high overall and about 5″ wide.
This can-can dancer may just win the prize for “most layer of lace ever on a Cordey!”
Tableware and Decorative Items
The studio produced cups, saucers, coffeepots, etc., under both names (Cordey and Cybis) but not in any appreciable quantity under the latter. The Cybis Giftware post mentions a few, and some Cybis spatterware and historical reproductions were made in the late 1940s to early 1950s. However, the Cordey pieces were made from different molds. This Cordey coffee service was no doubt originally a service for eight.
This naturalistic freeform cup and saucer may have been intended more as a decorative piece than for actual usage. There’s a suggestion of a handle but nothing that can actually be (safely) used as one, and the floral decorations are pretty much begging to be accidentally damaged. The design was clearly meant to evoke a treetrunk shape.
I find this cup and saucer design interesting because it reminds me of the Lomonsov factory’s famous ‘Cobalt Net’ pattern, especially when viewed from above. Although that pattern wasn’t launched until 1949, it was based on a similar design made for Catherine the Great during the late 1700s.
Here are two slightly different versions of the only example of a Cordey display sign that I’ve seen. One has the Cordey name as part of the mold, and seems overall more ‘neatly’ done; it’s possible that the one in the upper photo was an earlier version. The Cybis studio would later produce several different display signs of its own, one of the 1980s versions incorporating some curves just as this one does.
The seller of these small square dishes with a nesting-bird motif described them as “small plates” but they were most likely intended as ashtrays (this was the 1940-50s, after all.)
Given the large number of Cordey bird-on-floral-trees produced both as standalone figures and as lamp bases, I don’t know why I was surprised to see the same motif as a wall clock. The clock face and movement were manufactured by Lanshire during the 1950s. I’d never heard of Lanshire so I did some quick digging and found this from Silverdollar Productions:
Such companies like Lanshire and Sessions produced movements, hands and bezels. These were sold separately to anybody wishing to produce their own line of clocks. They were all assembled, and all you had to do was cut a hole in a piece of wood, stick the assembly in and presto! Your own rare design clock!…. Lanshire in particular was quite famous for not producing their own porcelain cases. I am not sure if Lanshire purchased the cases and assembled the clocks in their plant, or, if the movements were sold and the clocks assembled elsewhere. I do know there were dozens and dozens different style porcelain cases made all using Lanshire parts. Many styles are quite common, some not-so-common.
The studio probably contracted with a local glazier to produce the inserts for ornate mirrors such as this one, which measures 17″ high and 13″ wide overall.
Another “why was I at all surprised” piece is this Cordey decorative shoe. Dipped lace, applied roses, gold accented scrolls….check, yes, they’re all here!
Cordey collectors are probably going to throw rocks at me for this, but these next two pieces have always made me giggle, even though one of them is only the result of an inevitable photography effect. Both results are due to the same leaf/flower design element that was added to the piece. I call these the Plant-Pooping Lamb and the Leaf-Leg Lady.
Here are the side and rear views of a cute little Cordey lamb, posed fetchingly on its base in front of a flowering shrub or tree trunk.
However, when photographed from the front the inevitable first-look effect (especially in thumbnails) is that the leaves and flowers are emanating directly from the lamb’s, err, “hindquarters.” Ergo, it visually becomes a plant-pooping lamb – right?
The same effect is seen in this Cordey lady figure but in this case we can’t blame the photographer, because the leafy branch isn’t a separate mold piece – it really is coming out of the back of her skirt! Or leg. What a rude thing to do to such an obviously well-bred lady. 😉
These last four Cordey pieces surprised me mightily because they are so very unlike what one would expect, while being much closer to what we know as our ‘modern’ Cybis. I have no way of knowing for sure but suspect that these could be some of the last non-lamp products before the two studios (Cordey and Cybis) parted ways in the mid to late 1950s.
A footed, wide bowl that’s very Cybis-esque in both form and decoration. The flowers in particular are very close to the ones that were being used on the 1950s Cybis bird and animal pieces, rather than being typical Cordey rose embellishments. It is 13.5″ wide but no height was given.
Speaking of animals, I would have snapped up this small cobalt blue jar in a nanosecond if I’d had the opportunity! Not only do I love the color but the whole piece is charming. At first I thought ‘hippopotamus’ but then took a closer look and realized that it’s a water buffalo – very appropriate for their Chinoiserie retail line.
Here’s another small gem: A lidded flower jar in shades of pink. It is about 4″ high and wide.
And lastly, if there hadn’t been photos of the marks on this vase I would have said “No way!” to the idea of it being a Cordey piece rather than a Cybis…and a 1960-ish Cybis piece at that. This is about as far from highly glazed rose-bedecked dipped-lace Dresden-style ladies as it’s possible to get!
One More Thing About Cordey
Something that the Cordey line did share with the Cybis one is that many of the human figures were named. The challenge for collectors is that Cordey’s advertising about there being “no two exactly alike” really was true, because of the leeway that the artists and decorators had during production. Nevertheless there were Cordey catalogs that the salesmen would take to retailers and by comparing pieces seen today against those catalog photos it’s possible to identify some by name. Just don’t expect them to be an exact match most of the time. Here are two examples.
The top photo is a Cordey catalog photo captioned Chinese Goddess and the second photo is an actual piece, which is about 12″ high. In this case the two are really close, the main differences being her headdress, collar (the catalog photo has additions not put onto the piece), and the painting/decoration.
Here’s a slightly trickier one. The piece this time is the Winter Girl shown at left in the catalog photo, compared to an actual piece which was produced as a lamp base instead of simply a figurine. The catalog photo has her wearing a very large wide brimmed hat (perhaps even a hood?) and it’s not obvious from the photo that she has a muff over her left forearm. The lamp base example clearly looks ‘wintry’ (except for the flowers at her feet but we’ll just pretend they are “Christmas roses”) but without the caption the catalog photo probably wouldn’t be taken for a winter themed piece. The figure on the right in the catalog photo is the Summer Girl.
Come to think of it, that’s another shared characteristic between 1940s and 1950s Cordey and Cybis pieces: the challenges of the “identification game!” 🙂
(A rare Cordey religious piece, later reincarnated as a Cybis, is profiled here.)
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