One of the aims of this web site is to eventually catalogue all of the Cybis studio’s designs – a rather daunting prospect when one considers that very few records were kept during their first decade. After Marylin Chorlton took over the studio at the end of the 1950s, things became more organized but their earliest retail price lists include two sculptures whose appearance is still unknown. No photographs of them appear in any of the eventual Cybis catalogs, and only one is mentioned. Let’s see what we know and can deduce about these pieces.
[Update, November 2019: A photo of one of the original three mystery pieces has been found; see below]
All of them appear on the Spring 1963 retail price list from Cybis, which MAY have been the first one they published. If anyone has an earlier price list, please let me know because this is the earliest one I have discovered thus far.
‘Eve In The Garden’
This mystery lady has the best chance of being either exactly like, or very similar to, something else. Shown on the price list under the Limited Editions heading is “Eve in Garden” as design number 418 and with an edition size of 500. She was available in a color decoration only (not in plain white bisque) for $225. By the 1967 price list (which is the next oldest one I have) she has disappeared from their offerings.
Eve’s size is shown as 12” x 16” which is unusual because in most cases Cybis only cited a sculpture’s height as the default. So I suppose that she was 12” high with a 16” wide lower/base section. My guess is that there are other elements next to Eve, such as the trunk of an apple tree and/or a snake slithering along the ground.
It’s a pretty good bet that Eve was a Lazslo Ispanky design, because among the Ispanky literature we find not only a porcelain Eve but also a bronze.
This Ispanky Eve dates from 1958, which corresponds to the time when he was possibly doing freelance work for Cybis. He was hired by Marylin Chorlton as their in-house Master Designer around 1960 and remained there for seveal years. There are several Cybis-branded and Ispanky-branded pieces from the 1960s that are identical or nearly so. Thus the odds of the Cybis Eve in the Garden looking like the one above are pretty good. No doubt Cybis added elements to their piece that resulted in it being wider than tall.
The top photo shows the clay model for the 18” tall Ispanky bronze Eve; the apple and arm-snake have not been added yet. The other is almost life-size (again in bronze) at 48 inches! See the Unusual 1960s Cybis post for more examples of Cybis/Ispanky “twins.”
This is the piece for which a photo was discovered after this post was first written. On the 1963 price list she is listed under Objects d’Art which seems to be a catch-all for non-limited editions that don’t fit into any of the other four category headings (even though one of them clearly does.)
Listed as Ilona (“Serenity”) and as design number 420, she is available in plain white bisque for $60 and in color for $75. She is 18″ long but her height is unknown. This lone known example of the color version has at least two fingers broken off and is extremely dirty. She was in one of several auction house sales liquidating the Cybis studio’s backstock.
The design number (420) is here confirmed; normally the design number was removed from the finished piece but this one was not. This was definitely an open (non-limited) edition and so the # does NOT indicate a sculpture number.
‘First Steps’ (Mother and Child) a/k/a Mother’s Child ‘First Steps’
This piece has a slight identity crisis but at least it’s easy to form a mental picture of! The name discrepancy arises from the only two Cybis publications that mention it. On the 1963 price list is is shown as “First Steps” (Mother and Child) and design 421 … only one design number digit after the elusive Ilona. It is a bit more expensive, at $75 for white bisque and $100 for color; but clearly there are two human figures in this study, not just one. However, the size citation is the same: simply 18” L(ong)! This is too much of a coincidence and makes me think that the same wood base may have been used for both First Steps and Ilona. This piece was put into the Objects d’Art category (one that the studio later eliminated) as well.
It’s easy to imagine this as a mother kneeling whilst encouraging a toddler to take his/her first steps toward her which would make this a low piece in relation to its width. No doubt the mother has one or both arms extended (or at least that’s the way I’d sculpt it, were I ever that talented.)
Fast forward to the 1978 and 79 Cybis catalog Appendix which switches up the name and lists this as Mother’s Child ‘First Steps’ but unfortunately supplies no new information regarding physical size and of course no photo. It does, however, indicate that it was made only for about a year (1963-64) before being retired. Because I have no price lists between Spring 1963 and August 1967, I don’t know if this piece appeared again in the Fall 1963, Spring 1964, or Fall 1964 printings.
If anyone has or knows about ‘Eve’ and/or ‘First Steps’, I would love to be able to add a photo to the Archive database; there is a contact form at the link below.
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The Cybis Archive is a continually-updated website that provides the most comprehensive range of information about Cybis within a single source. It is not and never has been part of the Cybis Porcelain studio, which is no longer in business.