Now that we’ve finished butterfly-catching, why not do some ‘crown-collecting’? Cybis used a crown in 41 different sculptures, plus one honorable-mention piece – but, somewhat surprisingly, only 16 of those items were depictions of royal persons.
We can divide the crowned Cybis sculptures into five general categories: male royalty, female royalty (more or less), ballet studies, religious items, and four that don’t fall into any of those groups. We’re also including diadems and tiaras in the definition of ‘crown’, because those are on pieces depicting a royal personage.
Crowned Male Figures
There are ten in this category, arranged chronologically by introduction year.
The first crowned Cybis male was the King in the Chess Set. The set was designed by Harry Burger during the 1950s and so we must assume that the crown was his also. This is the King from the original 1972 chess set.
This detail photo is from the 1979 retail version of the chess set. There are certain differences from the 1972 pieces but the crown on the King is the same.
There was a “kingly drought” for a full decade until Richard the Lionheart in 1982, sculpted by freelancer Gertrude Fass. The upper photo is of an artist proof, while the detail photo is from the standard retail edition which has a red “stone” in the center.
The second Cybis nativity set, subtitled “The First Christmas” has the three wise men shown as kings. All were introduced in 1983. Each piece was available in either standard-color or white-with-gold; on the white-with-gold pieces the crowns were entirely painted gold. The color versions are shown below.
The following year (1984) saw the debut of King Arthur, designed by Lynn Klockner Brown.
Gertrude Fass’ King David appeared in 1985.
Sir Henry, issued in 1986, was mainly done by Gertrude Fass also, but several in-house Cybis artists added finishing touches such as the chainmail detail and the shield. This is a badly-titled piece and it’s almost certain that Mrs. Fass intended him to be someone else (most likely King Henry.) The mangled nomenclature is discussed (along with more photos) in this post.
King Solomon, another Gertrude Fass design, from 1987.
The Golden Prince, an adaptation of Lynn Brown’s Prince from her 1980s The Prince and The Pauper pair, appeared as a Collectors Society offering in 1996. Lynn’s original Prince does not wear a crown, but instead a feathered cap; the crown replaced it in the 1996 re-use. If you think the crown looks familiar, you’re right: It was taken from the 1983 nativity King Bathasar.
Crowned Female Figures (not ballet nor religious)
There are ten of these also. Two don’t depict royalty per se, but their accompanying headgear is definitely a crown nevertheless!
The first crowned non-religious, non-ballet female study was Queen Esther in 1974.
Lady Macbeth is a bit of a sticky wicket because although she is not wearing a crown and does not depict a royal personage either, she is definitely carrying one and so we can’t omit it. This is the original piece that came out in 1975; the circa-1990s Hall of Fame replicas are identical except for sizes and colors.
Good Queen Anne, from 1978, is wearing a tiara. She depicts an actual Queen of England and so her headgear is regarded as royal.
(Nerd Note: Although today the terms ‘tiara’ and ‘diadem’ are often used interchangeably, traditionally a diadem forms a full circle, like a miniature crown, whether worn atop the head or around it, whereas a tiara is only a half or two-thirds circle.)
The seated Nefertiti, from 1979, wears the unique crown that the real Nefertiti is always depicted with.
Queen Guinevere, from 1983 and designed by Lynn Klockner Brown, wears a golden diadem rather than a crown. Again, her acknowledged royal persona confers “crown” status on headgear such as this. Cybis’ earlier depiction of Guinevere, which is a bust rather than a full figure, lacks the appellation of ‘queen’ – and also wears nothing on her head – and thus can be viewed as the “pre-Arthur” young woman.
Little Miss Liberty, a 1985 piece showing a little girl dressed as the Statue of Liberty, of course wears the requisite spiked crown just like the real one.
Another queen wearing a diadem (it circles her head completely) is the Queen of Sheba from 1987.
The double crown worn by the 1989 Cleopatra Bust is historically accurate: She wears the Solar Disk enclosed by the Horns of Hathor above the Vulture Cap. These had long been traditional attire for the queens of Egypt. The general consensus is that this was a Gertrude Fass design as well, probably one of her last for Cybis.
The Nefertiti Bust, released the following year, of course includes her iconic blue crown.
This piece, titled simply Mermaid, is from the 1990s. She wears a definite crown of shells, so perhaps she is a mermaid queen or princess??
A few ‘housekeeping’ odds and ends about female Cybis pieces that do not wear a crown, and why:
The Chess Set queen wears a medieval double-horn headdress and wimple, rather than a crown; no idea why Harry Burger sculpted her that way. Berengaria, who was the wife of Richard the Lionheart, also wears a wimple, not a crown. The real Berengaria was never crowned queen, which may be why Cybis never gave her that title either. And although Columbia wears a laurel-leaf half-circlet, the idea of a crowned persona was anathema to the ideals of early American independence and thus it is never interpreted as a “crown.”
Crowned Female Ballet Figures
Here we have six, all clearly crowned.
On Cue was Cybis’ second ballet figure and the first to wear a crown. She was issued in 1963.
Little Princess, an open edition in 1968, wears the same crown as On Cue.
The Enchanted Princess Aurora, from 1973, wears a crown adorned with flowers. In most actual ballet presentations the costuming has the dancer wearing a tiara, although some do use a flower chaplet or flower decoration instead.
Cynthia, a Cybis ballerina from 1983.
The massive piece Swan Lake’s Odette came out in 1987. Odette definitely wears a crown, no question there, but Siegfried does not: the feather decoration is only in the front, at his forehead and temples.
In the early 1990s the studio took the Odette mold set and put it out on its own as a stand-alone ballerina named Curtain Call. Otherwise she differs from Odette only in colorway (thus, here the crown is lavender) but because she had her own name and price point we have to count it as a separate ‘crowned’ piece.
Crowned Religious Figures
There are eleven of these that are known, plus the ‘honorable mention’ which is a plaque based on one of those figures. A halo on a madonna piece is definitely not considered a crown, but what about a circlet of flowers? If a Jesus representation during the crucifixion story is described as wearing a “crown of thorns”, should a madonna wearing the same thing in roses be rightly cited as having a crown of flowers? I guess someone has to make a decision and in this case I’m it, so crown of flowers it is….as regards Cybis at any rate.
The earliest known crowned madonna is this large (17” tall!) one whose name is unknown but the temptation to nickname her “madonna gigantea” is almost irresistible. This particular example bears the Eagle mark which supposedly was used between 1947 and 1951 by the studio. Her crown of roses is very Cordey-esque and of course they were producing Cordey figures at that very same time.
This shorter (less than 11” high) and slim madonna with rose crown, is also from the 1950s.
Here is the iconic Cybis rose-crowned Queen of Angels bust that first appeared during the mid-1950s. This was re-introduced downsized as Madonna Angelica in 1981 with the same crown of roses. Both versions are shown in this photo.
Now we come to the same crown on two pieces that were probably contemporaneous. I’m listing this one first only because its name comes first in the alphabet! This is the original version of the Holy Child of Prague, the retail offering of which began in 1956.
This is, of course, a Queen of Angels wearing an actual crown, supported by a pair of cherubs (or perhaps they are lowering it onto her head) and also dates from the mid 1950s. It is possible, but cannot be confirmed, that this version may have been what the studio called Queen of the Universe. It certainly seems logical to me.
Back to the floral crown with Mystical Rose which is also from the 1950s. None of the molds for all these 1950s pieces came with any sort of flower crown by default; the Cybis studio added all the flowers and foliage.
Another mid 1950s crown-wearing piece was the Miniature Infant of Prague. Is it just me, or does this crown look far too oversized for his head?
The evolution of the House of Gold madonna and child is very interesting. The very first known version was done under the Cordey brand and wears no crown. Most of the 1950s Cybis versions don’t have a crown either. This crowned bisque color version appeared in the early 1960s and was the final iteration.
The only male ‘crowned’ religious piece was the enthroned Saint Peter made in 1964. He wears the so-called ‘Papal Tiara’ as part of his regalia. The detail photo is of an unfinished sculpture.
There were no more crowned religious Cybis until 1980 when the Queen of Peace bust was issued. It was produced for only two years.
The final crowned religious piece was the downsized Hall of Fame Holy Child of Prague in 1989. They used the same crown mold as the original but did not do it well (see the final paragraph of this post for my thoughts on this.)
The ‘honorable mention’ goes to the 1979 Holy Child of Prague Plaque which of course wears a crown even though it is only two-dimensional.
Miscellaneous Crown(ed) Cybis Items
None of these four are human figures; two are animals.
The Prince Brocade unicorn head, designed by Lynn Klockner Brown, was introduced in 1981.
The other crowned animal came out in the same year (1981) and is the Carousel Bear ‘Bernhard.’ He is the only carousel piece that wears a crown
In 1983 the studio began what was intended to be an ongoing annual issue of a decorative egg, but it was done for only four years. They took the crown from the 1960s House of Gold madonna mold set, turned it upside down, set the bottom of the 1983 Egg into it, attached them to each other and voila! Instant base!
During the short-lived Collectors Society a yearly promo piece was given when someone either joined or renewed. For 1996 it was the same crown mold from the House of Gold, fired as white bisque and then decorated with gold. That year was the last time that the Cybis studio ever utilized a crown mold in any way, because both this promo piece and the Golden Prince were first offered then.
Old Crowns, New Crowns
Four of the various crown molds were re-used from one piece to another over the years and even decades.
As we’ve seen, the crown first used in the early 1960s on the House of Gold was re-used in 1983 as the base of that Annual Egg, and then again in 1996 as the Collectors’ Club promo freebie… a 35-year spread between its first and last use.
The same tiny crown first used in 1963 for On Cue was used five years later on Little Princess and then finally (with a cherry, I mean orb, on top) in 1981 for the Carousel Bear. An 18-year spread for this one.
As mentioned above, the 1983 wise man/nativity king Balthasar‘s crown was snatched from his head in 1996, thirteen years later, and put onto the Golden Prince in place of that sculpture’s original feathered hat.
But the very first case of crown-snatching occurred way back in the 1950s. It’s a toss-up as to which of the two were made first, but my money is on the cherub-crowned Queen of Angels (Universe??) bust having been made closer to 1955 than to 1960. The other use in the same decade was for the original 1956 Holy Child of Prague. Because the one that went to the Cathedral of the Incarnation was probably originally designed in 1954 or 1955, the crown could have been made (assuming that this was not a mold that the studio purchased, which being a 1950s item is always entirely possible!) and used on both of those pieces at literally same time. Unlike being able to determine which baby of a pair of twins is older based on the moment of birth, it’s probably best to say this particular crown was used on two different Cybis pieces at the same time. The version that was put onto the downsized Hall of Fame Holy Child of Prague in 1989 is a sloppily-cast and carelessly-painted copy….as can be clearly seen in this juxtaposition with the circa-1950s examples.
It is likely that as more examples of 1950s Cybis religious pieces gradually come to light, the list of crowned madonnas will get longer and perhaps we may even find a fourth piece using the “Prague crown” as well!
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