Because my original 1950s-madonnas post has become so extensive, I have decided to spin off the busts and torso (non-full-figure) pieces into this separate post. The same comments apply for these as for the full figures, including that:
- almost all of the 1950s religious pieces were cast by Cybis from molds that they purchased from companies such as Holland Mold, Atlantic Molds, etc.
- none of them were limited editions
- the signature format can vary, from a stamped Cybis or Cybis Fine China on the early-1950s busts, to a hand painted Cybis name in brown paint on the later-made pieces
The pieces below are all either busts or show only part of the madonna’s body. All Cybis madonnas that are a full head-to-toe figure can be found in my original 1950s madonnas post.
My first two Cybis-signed examples show the small bust that was sold simply as Madonna starting in 1950 and has been produced by them in one form or another ever since. It is 4.5” high and 3.75” wide and in the early 1960s sold for $10 or less. Both of these have a “Cordey-esque” decorative style but are both signed Cybis in the proper manner for that time. Notice the wide lace trim on the front of the veil, which is something that won’t be seen again on this madonna for another ten years. The mold number for this lace-trimmed rose-adorned bust was 201 which strongly indicates that this was the first madonna they issued under the Cybis branding (assuming that no other religious piece was assigned mold #200.) All Cybis religious items have always had mold/design numbers beginning with 2. I am deliberately using “mold number” rather than “design number” for the 1950s pieces because few if any pieces made in that decade were original Cybis designs. (Holland Mold) [Cybis design #201]
This particular bust is very interesting because it’s the only Cybis one that I have seen that has a Cordey-format design number (5175)! This may indicate that this particular piece was one of the first produced with a Cybis name stamp. See Decoding Cordey and Cybis Design Numbers for an explanation of the differences between the two.
Thanks to my indefatigable 1950s-Cybis collector friend, I can show a ‘lineup’ of various iterations of this madonna bust. Notice the differences in how the lace was applied and decorated. The studio re-used this mold during the 1980s and 1990s; those are shown in the Later Madonnas post.
1950s footed Cybis madonna bust with ruffled lace and flowers. This is a really unique find which seems to combine elements of several madonnas that Cybis was producing at this time. The mold seems to be the same as the previous bust but the shoulders are missing. The paint and glazing of both are Cordey-esque but the pedestal is not. Of course, one could not put the “wide shouldered bust” atop a pedestal like this and so perhaps this was an experiment in adapting that mold to a different use. Frankly, I find it more attractive than the original version! The seller-cited height of 6.75” makes sense because the original mold is 4.5” high… add a 2.25” high pedestal and there you have it. (adaptation of the Holland mold) [Cybis design #213]
Although this bust dates from the 1950s as per the blue-stamped Cybis signature, it does seem to have a tiny “design holdover” from the late 1940s, i.e. the unusual cutout eyes. As shown in the 1940s Papka and Porcelain post, a very small number of prototype busts were made with similar eyes. However, those were not religious pieces and were done in a different material than this bust. The material and decoration of this bust is closer to the look of the Cordey line and interestingly, the color and pattern on this bust’s veil is very similar to some examples of Cordey lady busts. But I digress…
The designer of this bust was (with 99.9999% certainty) Harry L. Burger who was also the designer of a Cordey-branded madonna and child which was then subsequently released in 1957 with a Cybis mark as the House of Gold shown later in this post. In fact, this head is so similar to that one as to be almost an exact copy, albeit in a different size; this bust is 12.75″ high while the House of Gold’s head is smaller. The main difference is that the head of the seated madonna is tilted.
It was apparently made in two hair colorways: brown and blonde. Because Mr. Burger was a freelance artist, it’s not known whether this bust was originally commissioned from him by Cybis or whether it was originally created for a commercial mold company and purchased by the Cybis studio; however, I suspect the commission scenario is more likely. [design number unknown]
In stark contrast to the ‘candle madonna’ this early 1950s madonna in stained glass decoration, 9” high and 5.5” wide, has a very subtle floral patterning on her veil. Note difference in color intensity between these two examples.
This third madonna is the same, but with hands added… and rather awkwardly, I think. They are apparently the same hands that were used with the Annunciation madonna bust (shown further down in this post) which was being produced at the same time. She has the script Cybis stamp in blue paint and also the block ‘Fine China’ stamp below the name, which is legitimate for pieces made in the 1950s. (The example above also has a broken/missing index finger.) This was probably also a commercial mold, even if not from Holland’s. It was retired before 1963.
This same #2051 bust was also used for a larger Immaculate Heart of Mary (see below for the smaller one which is on a pedestal base). The heart is part of the mold rather than being glued on as was first suspected. This invites speculation as to whether the mold was available in both a plain-front and heart version or whether Cybis recast the 2051 mold themselves and redesigned it with the heart. The smaller IHofM had a companion Sacred Heart of Jesus bust, which invites speculations about whether there was a corresponding bust for this one as well. The version above was done in the studio’s ‘Cypia‘ tonation, and the 2051 bust has it to some extent as well.
This madonna mold became the hugely popular ‘Queen of Angels’ introduced later in the decade. In the 1979 Cybis catalog appendix this is the one listed as “Madonna Bust” with a height of 8 inches, but it has since been identified as having been named Mother Most Admirable. (Heights given in Cybis literature were rounded to the nearest half-inch and so it’s common to find pieces that actually measure slightly more or less than indicated in their catalogs and ads.) This bust was produced from the 1950s (no precise introduction date) until 1965, and in several colorway versions; here is the all-white bisque. This colorway sold for $10 during its entire 1950s-1965 production run. The Cybis mold designation for this madonna was #2020. (Holland Mold)
For this example they combined a white bisque bust with a base which, although it may appear black at first glance, is actually an extremely dark green. Despite the slight reflectance, the base is not glazed but only painted. It is signed Cybis but also bears the mold number in pencil, with the W apparently denoting that the bust itself should remain white although the base is colored. The Cybis catalog does note that this madonna was produced in both W and C colorways. “C” denotes any type of applied color. The color versions all sold for $15 during the 1950s-1965 production run.
This bust would be classified as their “Cypia” (sepia) tonation by Cybis collectors. Notice that a gold edge has been added to her neckline, an element that will reappear in some of the examples of its later conversion to the ‘Queen of Angels.’ The base is the same dark green as seen in the white-bust version but in this case it is highly glazed as well, making the piece a combination of bisque (matte) and glazed. By the way, only some of the 1950s pieces retain their penciled design numbers.
Here are the three color versions shown together, and also illustrating the variations possible in the underside markings.
The same bust but with blue eyes and some blue shading to her veil, on a dark glazed base.
Here are two colorways that were done in Cybis’ proprietary “stained glass decoration”; the deep rich color and high glaze makes the pedestal portion of the mold appear almost like polished wood.
Here is an example with a halo added. This version not only had its own separate design number (2025) but came in two sizes: small (approx. 7.5″) and large (approx. 9.5″), which were differentiated by a letter added to the design number (2025S and 2025L.) It is different from the others illustrated here in several other ways too. First, the painted floral decoration on her shirt — I have never seen that on this piece before. She lacks the typical porcelain-base section. And last but certainly not least, the painting technique is a bit unusual: Can’t say I’m a fan of the red-rimmed-eyes look, nor of the ‘rouge’ effect on her cheeks. I have a suspicion that this might be one of the early versions of Mother Most Admirable, before the studio made her a bit more “refined.” Many thanks to the Museum of American Porcelain Art for sharing these photos of their piece, which is the larger version. [design #s 2025S and 2025L, depending on size]
This Mother Most Admirable is mounted on a wood base, a combination that would later be used for the Queen of Angels. She is done in their “Cypia” tonation and highly glazed.
The ‘genealogy’ of this piece to the subsequent Queen of Angels is unmistakable here.
A rare treat: A ‘rainbow’ of Mother Most Admirable #2020 busts!
And just to make things doubly (triply? quadruply??) interesting: Here’s a Mother Most Admirable with a baby Jesus head and rose decoration added! This is a little more than 8″ high. Since we have no clue what Cybis may have called this (and there is no mold number noted on the bottom), Mother Most Admirable/Baby Jesus Bust is probably the best we can do in assigning a name. The baby head is one that I have not seen before but there are always surprises in store when it comes to 1950s Cybis, so who knows? One can’t help wondering if there was also a color version!
Three rules of thumb can be followed when it comes to ‘dating’ the 1950s madonna busts: (1) If it has a glazed (shiny) finish, it’s from the 1950s. (2) If it’s bisque (unglazed) and the signature is stamped rather than handwritten, it almost always indicates a 1950s piece. (3) If the copyright symbol appears next to the Cybis name, that usually (but not always) indicates the piece was made in 1960 or later. However, don’t apply this rule to any 1940s pieces because when the studio began selling their backstock in the 1990s and 2000s, they added signatures and copyright symbols which the items never had originally.
This is the upper body section of the full-figure Our Lady of Lourdes mold, with the lower body removed and several changes made to the bust/torso. She has no halo, her bodice collar-band is narrower, and she has no front sash/tie in the middle of her waistband. There is also no rosary section added to her right arm. But she does have two horizontal lengths of ‘beads’ in her hair, which the full figure Our Lady of Lourdes mold does not have. Lacking an official name, I’m calling this the Madonna in Prayer bust/torso. She is 7.25” high and 5” wide and has the blue Cybis stamp with the ‘Fine China’ stamp (also in blue) immediately below it. This dates her to the first half of the 1950s. Her pricing history and design number are unknown but she was definitely made in glazed color and in white bisque; it’s very possible that a color bisque version was also made.
This version is the same size (about 7.5” high and 5” wide) but it has one design change that make it a different production piece: She wears a crown/circlet of roses. It is a shame that this piece has damage to both hands and also to multiple portions of the circlet, but I do sincerely thank the helpful Archive reader who supplied photos of her. The Cybis signature on the underside is in the style that the studio began using in the late 1950s/early 1960s which means that this version came after the Madonna in Prayer bust shown previously. Dark marks all along the underside edge also suggest that this one may have originally been fastened to a wood base; however, if so, the positioning of the Cybis signature on the interior, where it would not be seen if atop a base, is puzzling. For reasons that will be explained in the next paragraph, I am calling this the Mystical Rose bust/torso (small). This may or may not be the same piece that was listed on a 1963 Cybis price is as an 8” high Madonna bust, design #2020, available in white bisque for $10 and color bisque (as this one is) for $15. The signature style does indeed match that early-1960s timeframe…but, read on:
The 1978/79 Cybis catalogs contain this black-and-white stock/press photo showing what appears to be the same bust but in white bisque. The caption says Madonna ‘Mystical Rose’ 17” …and this creates a problem because if that is correct, it means that there were two sizes of the Mystical Rose bust produced: One small (about 8” high) and also one that is more than twice that size. And here is where things get really murky:
In the same catalog(s) there is an Appendix that lists the full-figure Our Lady of Lourdes at 19.5” tall, and also the Mystical Rose at 17”. Remember that Our Lady of Lourdes wears a large halo, which makes her taller than the Mystical-Rose version. The Appendix also lists the Madonna bust design #2020 at 8” high, the same one that is on the 1963 price list. But there’s also another 8” high bust called Madonna ‘Spiritual Vessel’ from the same general timeframe about which we know absolutely nothing (but it’s equally possible that this could be the one I’ve dubbed Madonna in Prayer!) Cybis records from the 1950s are basically a horror show, when they even do exist.
But getting back to the black-and-white photo above, I have a hunch that either the wrong photo or the wrong caption was used for it. I suspect this, not because Cybis didn’t make a few 17”-tall Mary and Jesus busts during the 1950s – they did, at least six times, along with many, many small 6″-8″ ones – but because none of the big busts had “matching” full figure pieces of the same name or from the same mold. Because the one in the black-and-white Cybis catalog photo matches the damaged 7.5” version in everything except color and purported size, I’m calling it the Mystical Rose bust/torso (large.) As shown in the next section, the studio did make two size versions of at least one other bust, although not nearly as extreme a difference!
The Annunciation was produced from the early 1950s until its retirement in 1965. It was made in two sizes, and in three known (so far) ‘head treatments’: a veil, a veil with a wood halo, and a veil with a floral crown. The piece shown above, in a 1970s re-sale brochure, was described as 9″ high and in the stained-glass decoration. (Holland Mold)
Here is an example in the studio’s “Cypia” tonation; it is even marked as such on the underside! It is slightly more than 9″ tall.
A fascinating discovery was The Annunciation with floral crown which is similar to the Queen of Angels. This version is 7.5″ high. What we don’t know is whether this version of The Annunciation inspired the creation of the latter piece, or whether it was the other way around. Notice the difference in paint coloring between these two examples.
A newly-discovered The Annunciation with gold skin is shown here with the bisque and Cypia versions. Additional photos of the gold-skin version will be added to this post shortly.
And here is The Annunciation with wood halo. This photo was in one of the Cybis catalogs, which also listed it in the Appendix as being 7.5″ high. However, this seems illogical because the halo (which was actually a made-in-India wooden trivet) clearly makes the piece taller than the flower-crown version…which is, indeed, about 7.5″ high. The only way that the with-halo version could actually be only 7.5″ tall would be if there was a third (even smaller) size of The Annunciation. That is highly unlikely. To make matters even murkier, the 1963 Cybis price list, which does not mention a halo, has this piece as being 7.5″ high and priced at $30 in plain white bisque or $37.50 for color. But their 1978 catalog appendix lists “The Annunciation (with wooden halo)” as design #2118 and 7.5″ tall. Obviously, both entries cannot be true.
Here are the two size versions of The Annunciation compared.
And finally, here is The Annunciation with flower crown compared to the original Queen of Angels and also the later/smaller 1980s Madonna Angelica version. A very subtle difference is that the floral Annunciation has two kinds of flowers in her crown, rather than only roses.
Mater Dolorosa was produced starting in the mid-1950s until retirement in 1964… at least for this white version. Here the bust itself is plain white bisque while the base mold is a glazed dark color. It is cited as being 10” high overall and sold for $15 during the entire production run. This was a non-Cybis mold, possibly from either Atlantic or Holland. The separately-sold but companion Jesus bust named Ecce Homo can be seen in the Jesus Figures post. [Cybis design #2005]
Here is a Mater Dolorosa that is not mounted on a base, though possibly unfinished because it was among the backstock sold during the studio’s 2019 liquidation.
Although the 1979 Cybis catalog only mentions a white version, it is obvious that the studio also made this pair in their glazed “stained glass” decoration as well. (That Appendix does not purport to be a complete list, so this is no surprise.) Production years and pricing for the color version are unknown, other than that it was retired before the Spring 1963 price list came out. It’s not known whether the color version had a different design number than the white.
Similar in style to the foregoing, Mirror of Justice was a product of the 1950s that was retired before 1963, selling for $110. She too had a separate companion Jesus bust (Sun of Justice.) As shown, this is 17″ tall including the halo and 2″ thick wood base. The bits of white in the rear photo are not defects; they are a few of the fine-grained styrofoam pellets that Cybis used as packing material. [Cybis design #2504]
This piece has an unusual feature that I have seen in only one other Cybis madonna so far: Her closed/downward-looking eyes are not painted on, but are open slits. The same effect is seen on the blue (Byzantine?) madonna bust shown early in this post.
This design, too, had a “basic” glazed white version with no halo and no base which may indicate that it could be hung on a wall via a hole in the upper part of the mold. As discussed in the Jesus post, though, the large hole in the bottom of the mold (enabling a toggle bolt to attach it to a wood base) would be very noticeable if used as a wall piece. In this example the eye slits are closed, possibly by the application of the glaze. This is 11″ high and has the impressed eagle mark on the underside as well as the penciled design number 254-W. This indicates that there was a color version #254; they are both different numbers from the halo-and-base #2504.
This interesting faintly-colored piece (can we call this “Cypia Lite”?) was part of the studio’s old backstock in the 2019 liquidation sale. Although it is not too apparent in the photo, the eye slits are open in this one. It has no design number but could this be an example of #254? It may also be a test piece or simply an unfinished #2504.
Update, May 2021: A sharp-eyed collector friend recently discovered that the wood halos seen on the ‘Sun’ and ‘Mirror’ busts – and no doubt on the Annunciation one as well – were actually made in India and may well have been imported carved-wood trivets! At least one of them slipped through the cracks without having the stamped word India sanded off by the studio; once you know to look for it, the different texture of the sanded-off area can quickly be spotted. To show how easily these trivets could be used for this purpose, my friend set up a test photo combining his Cypia Annunciation with a vintage made-in-India trivet of similar style bought for a few dollars on eBay:
What we don’t know is how many 1950s religious busts were produced using these clever (but certainly not of either Cybis or USA manufacture) imported accessories. Perhaps they were only test pieces (I hope) but I do wonder if the purchaser(s) of any India-not-removed examples thought that the entire bust was made in India!
This is the original Madonna ‘Queen of Angels’ (unfortunately the later 1980s upsized replica looks identical; it is examined in the Later Madonnas post) which is approximately 11” tall including the base which is approximately 4.5” high. This means that the porcelain sculpture itself is actually 6.5” or 6.75” tall.
The color version was produced starting in the mid-late 1950s and continued until 1970, which is roughly fifteen years. Her issue price of $40 rose to $90 at retirement. Note the slight difference between the first (blue eyes, solid white collar edge) and second (brown eyes, gold collar edge) examples. The vast majority of these appear to be the blue-eyed version, however.
The all-white-bisque Queen of Angels is on a par with the Baby Owl for design longevity BUT with a difference: In the 1990s Cybis ‘upsized’ the original Queen of Angels so that the sculpture itself became 11” tall instead of this original 6.75” model. At the same time they issued a virtually identical sculpture under a different name; all this is covered in detail in the dedicated Queen of Angels post, including how to differentiate between the various iterations and three very interesting ‘crown oddities.’ In the meantime, it’s enough to know that if the sculpture measures 11” high including its wood base, it was cast from the original (1950s through probably early 1990s) design mold.
This 1950s madonna bust was 7.25” high and is further profiled in the Holland Molds post. If she was given a name by Cybis it’s unknown at present but her design code was 245. This piece seems to have been made in both glazed and matte color versions; perhaps in plain white as well? It does not appear on Cybis’ 1963 price list which means production had ceased by that time. The second photo shows a version with the applied rose decoration seen on quite a few 1950s Cybis religious pieces.
Here are three examples of this bust, all from the 1950s and all produced by Cybis. It is very likely that this same mold was sold by both Holland Molds and Atlantic Molds, or that Holland at some point slightly changed its size. You can see that the central bust is slightly smaller, even though it is decorated exactly the same as the one at left.
The undersides of these three busts, from left to right: unmarked; stamped Cybis plus a painted-on design number 245; unstamped but with the penciled design number 245. The same size differential is shown in a trio of 1950s Jesus busts that are known to have been sold by both moldmaking companies at that time.
The Madonna with Bird on base, made in both white and color, is 11” high including base which is about 1.5” thick. She was another extremely popular madonna, introduced in 1956 (some sources say 1953) and retired in 1986. This design was later re-released as replicas in 1989 for the studio’s 40th anniversary and again in the 1990s as a Hall of Fame replica. Both of those are shown in the Later Madonnas post.
Update, February 2018: A real surprise this month was that although the “collector scuttlebutt” has always been that this was designed by Laszlo Ispanky on a commission basis for Cybis before he came to work for them, at least two hobbyist versions have been discovered, one of which included a photo clearly showing that the mold was made and sold by Holland! So, it appears that although Ispanky designed it, it was for Holland Mold Company rather than for Cybis. It is included by name in a 1980s Ispanky catalog but does not specify for whom he actually created it. A future post will compare more 1950s Cybis pieces with their Holland Mold “sources.”
This is the Immaculate Heart of Mary bust, shown in the plainer and the more ornate (lace veil and rose) iterations. It is slightly more than 6.5″ high and was probably made as a pair with a matching Sacred Heart of Jesus bust, from commercial molds. Both busts were retired before 1963.
This madonna and child head/bust may well have been the smallest one Cybis made; it is barely 3.5″ high as shown. This example has a faint design code penciled on the underside that is difficult to decipher: Depending on the viewing angle is could be 214 or 219 or even, oddly enough, 261. It is possible that this is the “Madonna with Child (bust)” shown on a text-only list within the 1974 Cybis catalog. But then again, maybe not. It is quite possible that a version of this was made without the rose decoration also. It is also possible that this is a ‘tweaked’ version of the 4.5″ high madonna bust shown as the second item in this post. That would account for its smaller size as well. [Cybis design # uncertain]
This 3/4-figure madonna with infant is 8.75″ high and so is probably not the one referred to as “(bust)” in that 1970s Cybis list. This piece has a very nice use of both color and gold accents. The commercial mold from which this was cast did not include the halos, the rose decoration, or the lace trim; those were all Cybis additions. The studio also modified the baby’s hair, which in the original mold rather resembles a mass of Cheerios.
This is yet another 1950s piece whose name (if she was ever assigned one) we don’t know, although her Cybis design number was 293. She bears the typical stamped 1950s Cybis signature and is 7.75″ high overall. This pensive madonna bust has the additional distinction of having also been produced by the Boehm.
Boehm used very few “bought” molds during their history but this was one of them, very likely from the Holland Mold Company. It’s uncertain whether Boehm named their version “Pieta Madonna” or “Our Lady of Grace” but it’s undeniably the same mold that Cybis also used, albeit with a few tweaks — notably the smoothing out of the gathers at the neckline to accommodate the lace and gold embellishments, and also the elimination of the folds at the top of her veil. It’s uncertain whether the original mold included the base section that Cybis used, or whether that was something they added on their own. It’s interesting to compare the very different looks of the rival studios’ treatment of the same mold at the same time.
An unusual ‘madonna bust’ item from the 1950s was this book plaque with madonna and child. The “book” mold was typically used as a tabletop item (as shown in the Religious Items post) but here it has been made for wall mounting. It is 5.5″ x 4.5″ and bears design #243. The large size and paint application of the design number (which was typically applied only in pencil, and much smaller!) is also unusual.
A similar item is this Madonna and Child bas-relief. It is 8.5” high and 6” across at its widest point.
If compared to the Madonna and Infant three-dimensional figure, we see that both have the same roses and gold-trimmed lace cuffs.
There are two other known madonna busts that were introduced during the 1950s and mentioned in Cybis in Retrospect and/or the 1979 Cybis catalog, but are not illustrated in either book.
Madonna ‘Queen of the Universe’ (bust), produced from the early 1950s to early 1960s, 13” high. It was offered in white bisque at $30, and color (possibly stained glass) at $45 in 1963, but disappeared before 1967. One of the oddities in the Queen of Angels post may in fact be this one.
Bust of Virgin Mary, 17” high, made only during the 1950s. It was available in white bisque and color; its companion piece was named Bust of Christ and was the same size. Sizewise these would be the same as the ‘Mirror’ pair from the same era, which invites speculation as to whether these also were on a wood base. During the decade, the retail price of the white version increased from $30 to $65, and the color version from $37.50 to $72.50.
The 1973 Cybis catalog includes a single page of name-only “known” sculptures, but there is no way to know which – if any – of these were busts, torsos, or full figures:
Lady of Grace
Madonna ‘Comforter of the Afflicted’
Mother of Divine Grace
Our Lady of Fatima
If anyone recognizes any of these names or has a piece of 1950s with these names written on the bottom in pencil, there is a contact form below. Also, if you have photos of any Cybis madonna bust or torse that is not shown above or in the Later Madonnas post (which includes all of the madonna figures from 1960 and later) and would like to add them to the Archive, please let me know.
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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.