Although widely known for their three-dimensional porcelain figures, the Cybis studio did also produce some porcelain plaques from time to time. With the exception of the early 1970s Limnettes by George Ivers, all of the other plaques were “dimensional” to some degree; i.e., they do not have a completely flat surface. Other than the Four Seasons framed plaques which contain hand formed and applied flower petals and berries, all of the other plaques were dimensional via the mold itself. (See Plaques and Decorative Plates for photographs.)
However, one plaque issued during the 1980s departs from any other that the Cybis studio issued. A spring 1987 introduction in their “Constitutional Collection” brochure – because the rose is the national flower of the United States – was the Rose Plaque ‘Nature’s Beauty’. This is the caption beneath the photo of the plaque:
Notice that the plaque is described as being “painted porcelain” and a “new idea from Cybis.” The plaque was advertised as a limited edition of 500, measuring 17″ wide x 20″ high framed, and priced at $1195.
This is the full Cybis brochure illustration. The first thing I noticed was that the design is ‘cut off’ at the lower left edge and at the bottom. This looks odd (and awkward!) and so I zoomed in to see if perhaps there was a white inner mat… even though porcelain plaques are normally never matted directly over a painted area, if even at all.
There appears to be no white matting; the white background texture is consistent throughout, all the way to the edge of the inner gold fillet. And there would be no logical reason to deliberately cover any part of the subject of a painting with a mat, in any event. What this photo suggests to me is more like a typical mass market framed print that can be found in the “home décor” department of most retail stores … or, worse yet, a screen printed t-shirt front.
Nothing about this plaque suggests that it was painted freehand. The major porcelain studios that had done completely hand painted limited edition plaques in the past (Boehm, Connoisseur of Malvern, Royal Worcester) would never have produced a design with such obviously truncated stems and leaves.
It’s possible that the brochure photo is not of an actual Nature’s Beauty plaque at all, but instead of a similar print that a Cybis artist would then copy if any of the plaques were actually ordered. They could have put the paper print into a sample frame and had it photographed for the brochure. But if so, the studio should have noted that the illustration was only a representation of what a buyer would be getting, rather than an actual finished plaque – but they did not.
I have never seen any of these actual plaques for sale, and in fact it’s only through the help of an Archive reader that I have this photo (many thanks, again!). I knew of its existence because it appears on the Cybis price list dated February 1988 but had no idea what it looked like. I was assuming that it either had applied flowers like the Four Seasons series, or was a molded-face plaque similar to the Moses, Holy Child, or Unicorn plaques…. so I was unprepared for the blatantly screen-printed appearance of this offering.
The retail price for Nature’s Beauty on the 1988 price list was $1350 (a $155 increase from the issue price a year before.) It does not appear on their next price list, issued in February 1989. I would bet money on the fact that the intended edition of 500 never came remotely close to being completed, if indeed any were ever produced and sold at all. The studio probably had contracted with an outside freelance artist to paint the plaques on a special-order basis, especially since the studio had no full time in-house artists after January 1990. Perhaps a few were produced in 1987 and 1988 but I doubt there were more than that. If anyone has this plaque, I would love to include photos here; there is a direct contact form on the About the Cybis Archive page.
But in the meantime I think the most likely scenario is that the Nature’s Beauty rose plaque was probably a failed experiment.
(If you would like to see how a true completely hand-painted porcelain plaque was properly done, see the six Fort Royal Galleries plaques shown in the lower portion of this post. The other plaques in that post are dimensional but these were not, and was the sort of thing that Cybis was apparantly trying to do. Boehm of Malvern also issued a number of hand painted non-dimensional plaques during the 1970s; I will be examining those in a future post on my Chatsworth Lady site.)
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