Collectors of circa-1950s Cybis porcelains know that the pieces produced during that decade differ from those produced in 1960 and beyond in two respects: Almost none were original Cybis designs (see this post), and many of them had a glazed finish. (Later pieces were all originals and were never glazed.) But there’s also a sub-group of 1950s Cybis pieces based on their decoration of one or more pink roses.
These rose-decorated pieces have another thing in common as well: They are noticeably accented with gold compared to their non-rosy counterparts produced in the same decade. Clothing is usually plain white, although some pieces also have a pale soft gray-blue tint on certain areas.
The roses (hand-formed, of course) are always pink; the quantity depends largely on the size of the piece: a single rose, a single rose plus a bud, or two open roses.
Both of these small ‘pedestal-bust’ madonnas have the rose decoration plus gold-trimmed dipped lace.
Here is the “rose” versus the “standard” version of the same madonna bust. What’s really interesting is the penciled design numbers which, luckily for us, were not removed from the underside of either piece. The with-roses version is marked design #245, but the non-roses one is #2065.
Many thanks to my friend Don Nelson for these group photos of almost a dozen rose-bedecked 1950s pieces. Notice that the three angels all have blue shading on their wings, and the top of the angel candlesticks is faintly tinted blue as well.
This is a non-rosy example of the seated madonna and child shown in the second group photo.
This standing madonna not only has the rose ‘base’ decoration but she also wears a crown of them. It’s quite possible that a version of this with the rose crown but not the base rose was also made.
Even the Prayer Book got the rose-and-lace treatment!
The fact that we find both Rose and Non-Rose examples of the same item naturally brings up the matter of chronology: Did one style predate the other, or were they decorated purely according to artist whims? (“I’m feeling particularly rosy today.”) The latter is unlikely, so we’re left with the question of when the design decisions took place.
Remember that the Cordey and early-Cybis-brand items had an overlap period: Cordey items began appearing in 1942 but the Cybis line not until the very early 1950s. Even a cursory ebay search for Cordey will show that with very few exceptions – such as their Asian or male figures – pink rose decorations were clearly de rigeur. And of course the dipped lace is another Cordey design hallmark.
Were the rose-decorated 1950s Cybis pieces the first iteration of those particular figures, i.e., were those made in the early 1950s and the non-rose ones made in middle or latter part of the decade? It seems likely that a decision was eventually made that the Cybis pieces would differ from the Cordey line not only in subject (Cordey religious pieces are almost unknown but they make up the bulk of 1950s Cybis production) but in the use of the pink-rose decoration as well.
I mentioned earlier that there is a design-number difference between the Rose and Non-Rose versions of the 7” madonna bust, but there’s also something else: One is noticeably heavier, and in this case it’s the rose-decorated one. The difference is more than can be attributed to the presence of two small flowers and a few leaves; it’s either due to a heavy hand pouring the slip into the mold, or a change in the liquid porcelain formula itself. (The rookie-versus-veteran factor re: the people doing the casting must also be considered, to some extent.) The 1950s Cybis pieces in general are heavier than the products of the post-1958 studio, but if the rose decorated ones were indeed the earliest, that may also indicate an evolution toward both simpler and lighter figures as the decade progressed. It would be interesting to discover more examples of Rose vs. Non-Rose pieces that still retain their design numbers; if all the Rose design codes are three-digit while all the non-Rose versions have four, that will be as much proof as we’re likely to get that the rose-decorated 1950s Cybis items were their earliest.
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