Unlike other porcelain studios such as Boehm, Royal Worcester and Connoisseur, Cybis did not indicate the issue (retail introduction) year on their sculptures; when a date appears on a Cybis piece it refers to the copyright registration year. Cybis and Cordey items produced during the 1940s were not formally copyrighted, and all of the 1950s Cybis religious pieces were cast from molds purchased from (and thus copyrighted by) other companies.
The first record of the Cybis studio copyrighting a sculpture (as found in the U.S. Copyright Office online database) does not appear until March 1965 …. almost eight years after the death of Boleslaw Cybis upon which the studio passed to Marylin Chorlton. This first instance involves two bird sculptures which were described as “Solitary vireo with lilac, male” and “Solitary vireo with lilac, female” and assigned copyright registration numbers GP56553 and GP56554, respectively.
However, these were not introduced at retail until 1967, when they were titled Blue Headed Vireos with Lilac and sold as a pair. Although the sculptures display the copyright symbol stamp in the signature area, as in this male #87, no year is indicated.
The third Cybis copyright registration was for Guinevere, described in its entry as “Guinevere. [Half-length view of girl with long braid over shoulder; statuette]” and recorded as copyright # GP56552 on November 3, 1965. Notice that Guinevere’s registration number precedes that of the vireos who had been registered eight months previously; what occasioned the delay? It may have had something to do with the designer of the piece, Laszlo Ispanky. Ispanky was hired as Art Director of the Cybis studio in 1960 but escalating disagreements over public attribution of his designs for them resulted in his somewhat acrimonious departure in 1965. Unless someone publishes a book called “Scandalous Tales from the Copyright Office” we will probably never know, but it is curious that it was an Ispanky design that was caught up in a bureaucratic delay.
Like the vireo pair, Guinevere did not become a retail piece for two years (1967.) Her declared issue of 800 was completed in 1971. This collage shows the typical Guinevere signature format: hand painted Cybis signature, stamped copyright symbol, and hand painted sculpture number.
Cybis continued to use the copyright symbol, either paint-stamped or hand painted, throughout the 1960s. At the end of that decade we find the first examples of mold impressions in addition to the hand painted signatures. The earliest example I’ve seen of an impressed copyright year is 1969, on the colts Darby and Joan who were issued that same year. Three mold impression stamps are used: the Cybis name, the copyright symbol, and the copyright registration year.
Shown above are the two Cybis pansies; the yellow version ‘China Maid’ was issued in 1972, followed by the purple ‘Crinoline Lady’ in 1975. The second photo shows the signature area of the purple version. Because the same design was utilized for both colorways, the second named edition is still subject to the 1971 copyright.
The 1970s sculptures can vary when it comes to mold impressions: Some had them, some didn’t. A great example is the Carousel Horse, introduced in 1973 and completed in 1979. The upper photo shows the signature area on horse #19; there are no mold impressions. The lower photo shows the same area on horse #209, and not only are there mold impressions but their stamps are convex (raised) instead of concave. The final edition size was only 325, and it’s possible that the convex stamps came into use during the second half of the 1970s. Still, not all 1970s pieces consistently indicated the copyright year: the baby lamb Mandy, issued in 1979 and retired in 1982, has only the painted Cybis signature and copyright symbol.
The copyright year of a Cybis often bears little relation to the sculpture’s issue/introduction year, although sometimes they do happen to match. I’ve never done a survey of the subject but have a feeling that at least 50% of Cybis sculptures probably had a one- or two-year gap between copyright registration year and retail issue year.
The 1980s brought a veritable explosion of mold impressions, one notable addition being two new ones depicting the Cybis logo of a stylized phoenix. Little Miss Muffet was released in 1980 and retired in 1981; the underside of all of them has the painted Cybis signature and copyright stamp, plus the first version of the phoenix-from-flames logo concave impression and accompanying registered trademark symbol (Cybis having recently registered it as their corporate logo.) At least one Miss Muffet also has a copyright-year impression but most seem to have only what is shown in the first photo.
This Adoration, an open edition issued in 1981, has six mold impressions: a more elaborate phoenix logo which is also convex, a convex registered-trademark symbol, a concave Cybis name impression which mimics the usual freehand-painted version, a concave copyright symbol, a concave USA stamp and a concave copyright year stamp. The painted Cybis signature and painted copyright symbol bring the marks total to eight. This is another case where the copyright year and retail issue year do coincide.
The Exceptions to the Rule(s)
Cybis normally did not indicate the actual production year on any individual piece, but there are a few known exceptions. The earliest examples are found on some Guinevere busts.
Here we have three busts to which, for whatever reason, the artist added a production year of 1967 which was also the introduction year. Their sculpture numbers (71, 275, and 350) would lead one to assume that any Guinevere numbered below 350 was created in 1967…except for the fourth example, which has a production date of 1968 but is also #54! Their unusual numbering practices may be why the studio decided not to indicate a creation year on the majority of their sculptures.
A few other Cybis pieces also break the ‘rule’ that a year in the signature area always means the copyright year. One of them is Madonna, Queen of Peace, a 1980 introduction that was offered in color and in white bisque. It was produced for only two years (1980 and 1981) and retired in early 1982. There are at least three known “year formats” for this bust, and I have no idea why.
Here is the simplest variant: painted Cybis signature, painted copyright symbol, convex phoenix logo, convex registered trademark symbol, and painted “Made in USA” (which is itself unusual but that’s discussed in Signatures and Marks.) There is no year shown anywhere.
Here a painted 1980 has been added. One would normally assume that 1980 is the copyright year. Some of these 1980 pieces have the “Made in USA” painted, and others have it as a concave stamp.
And here’s the monkey wrench: a 1981 painted year. Clearly this cannot be the copyright year. The first time I saw one of these I attributed it to either “bad Monday” or “distracted Friday” syndrome, until I came across several others, in both colorways. Because this was an open edition, there is no conflict with sculpture number sequences as we see with some Guinevere busts.
The Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments are the only Cybis pieces that were specifically designed to display their issue year. They were released annually starting in 1989. Nine Ladies Dancing was the ornament for 1997. The copyright symbol and the phoenix logo stamps are in a most unusual place: the “face” or front of the item. Normally these always are on the underside or back side of a Cybis piece.
None of these ornaments display a copyright year. Notice how, on the underside of Twelve Drummers Drumming, “U.S.A.” is placed directly after the copyright symbol and the retail issue year (2000) is kept well away. This is because the entire series of ornaments was designed and copyrighted during the 1980s.
The other exceptions to the copyright-year-only rule are the pieces that were offered during the 1990s to members of the newly launched but short-lived Cybis Collectors Society.
Each figure was restricted a single year of availability: the Golden Princess for the first year (1995-96), the Golden Prince for the second (1996-97) and the Little Princess for the third and final (1997-98) although I’ve not yet found a photo of her underside. Some pieces had the letters C/S added to indicate Collectors Society but some did not. Because of the hyphenated format it’s unlikely that anyone would confuse these with copyright years.
The Golden Princess was newly copyrighted in 1994, as indicated by this mold impression on the back opening of her robe/train. This is expected because she was a new 1990s design. The Golden Prince, however, is simply an alternate colorway of The Prince that Cybis introduced in 1987 after copyrighting it in 1986. (see the full story here) The only difference between them is that the 1987 Prince wears a plumed hat and this one wears a crown. Thus the Collectors Society version should show 1986 after the copyright symbol, but for some reason these are all stamped © 1996 instead. I strongly suspect that the studio simply used a different year stamp in order to make the “recycling” less obvious to customers – a bit silly, because most collectors would already recognize the Society piece from its original 1980s incarnation.
I don’t yet have a photo of the underside of the Little Princess but she too was an earlier-copyright design: She is the Flower Girl from the late 1980s wedding-party series and so by rights her copyright impression year should be in the 1980s. We shall find out, if/when I come across a photo of the bottom of the Collector’s Society piece. The studio discontinued the Society in 1998.
[*Special note: As illustrated in 1940s Porcelain and Papka, when the studio decided in the 1990s to start selling some of their one-of-a-kind pieces made by Boleslaw Cybis they added a modern signature and a copyright symbol (and in some cases also the letters A.P. for “artist proof”) to those sculptures. These marks were no doubt based on the premise that the creator of an original work automatically and immediately owns the copyright to that work, whether or not he or she goes through the paperwork process of formally registering it. It is, of course, possible that the Cybis studio (as Cybis, Inc.) did eventually register these early pieces as the assignee/successor to Boleslaw Cybis, the original artist. If so, they must have done it after 1971 which was when several photos of these pieces were published and none of them had those marks at that time. But because the studies were never reproduced as retail items, it is more likely that the marks were added later simply as a maker-identification method rather than as an indication of actual copyright registration.]
Cybis had a history of using parts (sometimes significant ones) of previous sculptures again in later decades as part of new designs; the Body Snatching at Cybis post shows quite a few examples, some subtle but others rather blatant. However, none of those borrowings caused the newer piece to require its own copyright registration, and neither did the numerous “decorative variants” of previously copyrighted designs; see A Bonanza of Cybis Bunnies for a plethora of examples of this.
I am very curious to discover what the studio’s final copyrighted design was, especially since many (most?) of the pieces that were released during the 1990s and early 2000s bear circa-1980s copyright years. A few of those “new” issues originally appeared in the 1950s or 1960s! This is not surprising, because the studio had no full-time in-house artists after 1990. One of the very few new-to-market designs (rather than variants or retreads of older ones) during the 1990s was Adam’s Vase which appeared in either late 1994 or early 1995 and was renamed the Eden Vase on their ca-2000s website; it is shown in the Giftware post. I have never seen one for sale and so have no idea what its copyright year is, but neither its painting nor its overall style is what one would typically expect from Cybis. It is garish, in my estimation at least. So perhaps this was one of their latter-day copyright registrations. Another may have been the Carousel Reindeer that was advertised on their 2008 website as being their newest introduction. It is so completely different from any of the prior carousel animals that I can only assume that it is either a 1980s design that was passed over and shelved, or the brainchild of a 1990s freelance artist. It suffers miserably in comparison to even their 1988, 1989 and 1990 carousel animals (the Elephant, Buffalo, and Pony ‘Patriot’), all of which were somewhat below par, and is an absolute embarrassment when set beside their 1970s and 1980s pieces sculpted by Susan Eaton.
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