The Cybis studio produced a surprising number of vases in various shapes and sizes, despite not being ‘known’ for that genre of porcelain wares. While the early 1940s examples were, shall we say, ‘artistic’, the later examples were very mainstream in design.
Some of the early-1940s vases reflect the freeform style of the soft clay that Boleslaw Cybis dubbed ‘papka’. An overview of these items can be found in the 1940s Papka and Porcelain post.
This green-glazed vase in the form of a sad face is just about 12″ tall. It is in the collection of the New Jersey State Museum, whom I sincerely thank for sharing this photo.
I honestly can’t decide whether or not this item was intended to be a vase. The extremely wide top opening would seem to indicate that, but the material may not: Is it unglazed terracotta, or is it fired porcelain that has been decorated to resemble terracotta? The studio was working in both mediums at the time, so it’s difficult to be sure. This is 17″ high including the wood base, and so without the base it would probably be about three inches shorter.
The more conventional vases were made during the mid to late 1940s, which is the same period in which we see a style crossover between pieces marked Cordey and those that are marked M B Cybis. Both of the vases below belong to this transitional era.
This very rococo vase adorned with roses would easily be mistaken for a Cordey item if not for the M.B. Cybis signature on the bottom. A curious quirk of some of these signatures is that the final S looks remarkably like the number 5. The red-edged gummed sticker is original to the piece, and what is especially interesting is that the number written on it (8030, or possibly 8036) corresponds to the Cordey numbering convention of using the 8xxx series for home decor items such as vases. So here we have a Cybis vase but in the Cordey style and bearing a Cordey design number. This could have been made as early as the mid 1940s or as late as the early 1950s.
Here’s a really cute pair of miniature vases with rose handles — and I do mean ‘miniature’, because both are less than five inches high (4.5″ and 4.25″, respectively) and the opening is so narrow that one would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps they were intended as holders for very slim candles! The froth of blowsy roses and swirls of gold decoration are pure Cordey-esque, although the numbers (if representing design/mold) do not match either Cordey or Cybis because the 1xx series was not used. At least these are conveniently marked with the year they were made… 1945. The muted purple color is both unusual and attractive.
Many of the vases made by the studio during the 1950s are known only from mentions in the 1971 museum exhibit catalog Cybis in Retrospect and/or from a short text list in the 1974 catalog. These include a Jug Vase; a Modern Vase; a Chinese Vase available in small, medium and large size formats (were all three the same except for the size, or were they all different?); a Chinese Round Bud Vase; a Chinese Square Bud Vase; and a Chinese Hexagonal Bud Vase.
This small bud vase in the New Jersey State Museum‘s collection may be a transitional piece from the Cordey-esque look of the mid to late 1940s, to the cleaner early 1950s style. It does have applied floral accents but they are in the form of small molded medallions rather than the hand-made ribbons-and-roses treatment seen earlier. This is one of several versions of this vase in the Museum’s holdings. They also have a vase described as having “blue spatter glaze” and another with “cobalt blue floral decoration.”
The Cybis name-stamp on this white bisque floral gold-rimmed vase indicates that it is a 1950s piece. Its name – if it did have one – is unknown. It is 11″ high; the top opening is about 3.75″ in diameter. This strikes me as a woodland-plants motif vase, given the fernlike fronds and trillium-like flower design; if I had to give it a name, I’d probably call it a “woodland vase.”
The next group of flared-bottom vases all appeared among the items disposed of in the 2019 liquidation of the studio’s backstock, and are all variations on a theme, i.e., using the same mold. However, the vase itself was almost certainly not made by Cybis, for reasons that I’ll explain shortly.
This pair of flared-bottom vases with applied roses, forget-me-nots, and primroses practically screams “1950s Cybis.”
The same vase but with a more delicate and labor-intensive floral spray decoration as well as a gold-edged rim.
A completely different “look” for this vase: glazed black, glazed white, and bisque gold. This group could, I think, qualify for the appellation ‘Modern Vase’ – but who knows?
Now, as to the age of these vases, I suspect that they are from the 1950s or early 1960s. The only question is whether the studio bought a half-dozen pieces of greenware and then painted/decorated them (my hunch), or whether they bought the mold itself and then ran off a half dozen or so test pieces. This is based on the presence of several mold impressions on the underside of almost all of them, none of which marks have anything to do with Cybis.
Here are the mold impressions on all but one of the vases. This one happens to be on the vase decorated with the sprays of flowers, stems and leaves. The mold impressions, read clockwise starting next to the hand-incised X, are W1052, 3752, 20, what looks like a numeral 1 inside an oval, 77, and 2AA. Again: None of these are marks that are ever seen on a Cybis mold.
This is the gold painted vase. The Cybis stamps (despite the style of the name) were not applied during the 1950s; they are “old-format” stamps that were applied to various leftover new and old pieces during the 1990s or 2000s. The black paint and the Made in USA and copyright symbol stamps are the giveaways. This is the only vase that the studio put the new stamps onto, probably because they immediately saw that the paint was spreading within the material. However, notice that there is no X on this vase.
This is the bottom of the vase with the roses decoration. The marks have been removed but the hand-incised X remains. The black vase has the same mold impressions as the gold one, and the underside is speckled with black dots (something not seen in normal Cybis pieces.) The only vase that has no marks (not even the X) on the bottom at all is the highly glazed white one; and unlike the others, the underside of that one is as heavily glazed as the body. Cybis did not glaze the underside of their items.
Unfortunately, I have only four 1960s price lists at the moment and none of them show a vase among the studio’s offerings. The first and only mention of a vase during the 1970s comes in Spring 1976 when the studio included one (of sorts!) among their new introductions.
To be perfectly honest, I’d never think of (or use) the Egg Vase with Eagle Lid as, well, an actual vase; would you? It is only 5” high and has a top opening so small that one would be hard-pressed to fit more than a single flower inside it. It was an open edition selling for $110.
An oddity about this piece is that Cybis listed it under both their Caprice Collection and Bicentennial Collection headings but added the notation “For orders accepted during 1976 sculptures will be decorated in Red, White, and Blue.” However, because the studio retired the piece at the end of 1976 (it is listed as retired in their Spring 1976 list) no other color versions were ever made… or any other 1970s vase either.
The Chrysanthemum Bud Vase is between 9” and 10” high. It was part of the studio’s new “Heritage Collection” in 1983, and was retired before 1986. It sold for $395 while available. The other five “Heritage” introductions were the Bacchus Vase, Daisy Vase, Iris Compote, Gemini Bowl and the Spring Flowers plate (which is seen in Plaques and Decorative Plates.)
The Bacchus Vase (also described in some Cybis literature as a carafe) is 6.5” high and sold for $295 when introduced in 1983; it was retired by 1986.
The Daisy Vase is a petite 5.5” high. Originally $225 when introduced in 1983, it remained available into the 2000s for $295.
This adaptation of the Daisy Vase but with a lady’s face and crossed hands, was never released for retail; these are test pieces, so we may as well name this the Lady Face Vase. Notice the lily of the valley flowers added to the mold (compared to the Daisy Vase.) I would not be at all surprised if the artist who designed these two vases was the same person who designed the mid-1980s Annual Decorative Eggs. Just a hunch! [photos used by permission of the Museum of American Porcelain Art]
This vase was never a retail release but it is shown here in both white and decorated bisque. My research into the work of Cybis artist George Ivers has confirmed my initial hunch that this is actually a vase version of one of his paintings! Not only is the workmanship ‘pure Ivers’, but all the elements he used in his art are there, including an Iris flower which was an homage to his wife. Mr. Ivers retired from Cybis in 1986 due to advancing Parkinson’s Disease and died in 2001. Based on these facts, I am going to call this the George Ivers Unicorn Vase.
This Iris Vase also had a matching pair of candlesticks and a dish, both shown in the Giftware post. It is 10” high, appeared in 1984 and was retired before 1988. Price history is unknown. It is likely that this was also available in plain white bisque although I have not yet found a photo of one. I am in the process of investigating whether these other iris-motif vases were also designed by George Ivers.
The Bluebird of Happiness Vase is also 10” high. Introduced in 1987 in white for $140 and color for $225. It does not appear on their 1988 price list which normally would indicate that it had been retired (that was fast!) …. but the November 1993 list shows both colorways as available again, probably from unsold stock. On that list the white is $175 and the color is $375.
An ‘honorable mention’ here to something that may or may not be considered a “vase”, a “bowl”, a “basket”, or a “figurine.” Titled Bunnies, A Tisket A Tasket and introduced in 1987, it is a combination of two full-figure bunnies in front of a handled basket which could indeed be used to hold flowers, just like a vase — but could equally well hold jellybeans or other goodies. I personally don’t consider it to be a vase but it can be seen in the Bonanza of Bunnies post if anyone is interested!
The Bud Vase with Doves is also 6.5” high and appeared in 1988 in two colorways. This gold-accented white version remained in their lineup at $95. For a while, Cybis called this the “Wedding Vase.”
This colorway was called Black Vase with Ribboned Doves and was part of a short-lived category called the “Midnight Collection.” It was priced at $85 in 1988 and was retired shortly thereafter.
This pair is slightly different: There are no gold accents. These may have been either test pieces or unfinished (no gold paint or paint firing.)
The New Jersey Vase with Violets, a very minor tweaking of the 1983 Daisy Vase, appeared as part of the studio’s early-1990s New Jersey Collection. This version is painted whereas the Daisy Vase is plain except for the yellow center of the flowers. The New Jersey version sold for $295, which was the same price as its daisy counterpart at that time. The New Jersey Collection pieces have a special stamp in the signature area.
Adam’s Vase was apparently renamed the Eden Vase. It is 12” high. It was introduced either in 1994 or 1995. On the Fall 1995 and Spring 1999 price lists it is shown as “Adam’s Vase” with design number 20964, for $975. However, on their circa-2000s website it was listed (with this photo) as the “Eden Vase.”
I have to say that, in my opinion, with this final vase (Adam/Eden/whatever) the studio pretty much hit rock bottom design-wise. If the name was not on it, I’d never in a million years guess that this was made by Cybis! A couple of the earlier large vases are perhaps a little bit heavy-handed but this design, combined with the simplistic-but-garish painting, much too easily evokes a response of “tacky.” And at the studio’s asking price I cannot imagine that any were ever actually sold. Obviously one was made for photography purposes, but….well, I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that a matching “Eve’s Vase” was never made!
Here is something completely different: A mystery-logo vase that was included in the final liquidation of the Cybis studio’s backstock. This was clearly an item that some company or corporation asked Cybis to make, because it bears no resemblance to any logo that the studio itself ever used. Despite the ®, a search of registered trademark and logo descriptions turned up nothing. If anyone recognizes this logo – part of which oddly suggests to me the handles of a pair of scissors! – do let me know, because admit I’m curious! Perhaps it was a local Trenton company. Dimensions are unknown other than that it is not large, compared to the other items in the same mixed auction lot. [photo courtesy of the Museum of American Porcelain Art]
See the Giftware post for more non-figurine/decorative items.
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