An interesting characteristic of quite a few Cybis porcelains, especially those that were introduced during the 1950s and 1960s, was the option to purchase them either as white bisque or ‘color’, meaning hand-painted bisque.
Before taking a look at how the white versions compared to their decorated counterparts, I should explain that “white bisque” means that the sculpture is completely white, with no color on it whatsoever.
For example, even though the predominant color of the bunny Mr. Snowball is white, he is not ‘white bisque’ – he is simply white.
The Albino Buffalo is not white bisque either, because his eyes and hoofs have color.
Also, many of the 1950s Cybis items – especially those cast from molds that the studio bought elsewhere – were produced in varying finishes including glazed white, glazed color (sometimes called “stained glass”), a glazed sepia-tone (“Cypia”), white bisque, and color (“decorated”) bisque. Pieces that were made in the early 1950s are more likely to be glazed than examples of the same design that were made in the mid to late 1950s. Some of the items that spanned the 1950s into the early 1960s are listed in the 1978 Cybis catalog appendix as having been made in white bisque only, even though actual examples of that piece have been found in glazed white or glazed color. That catalog also differs from their 1971 Cybis in Retrospect catalog in describing the finishes of some pieces. This situation is especially prevalent when it comes to the 1950s religious pieces which can vary tremendously in their finish and decoration.
The examples below are listed in their genre category by introduction year.
White Bisque/Color Birds (1952-1964)
With only one exception, all of these birds were offered as a choice of either white or color during the same production years. They were open (non-limited) editions.
The white and color versions of the American Eagle Pair sold from 1954 until 1960. They were $60 and $90, respectively. The color version shown here is the ‘Cypia’ tonation; the standard color version had darker feathers except for the white head and neck characteristic of the Bald Eagle.
The first Cybis version of a Great Horned Owl was produced from 1956 to 1968. The price differential was $100 versus $150.
The Cerulean Warbler with Azalea (or, in some lists, Azaleas with Cerulean Warbler but its design code identifies it as a bird study and so the bird’s name should come first) was made from 1960 to 1965. The 1978/79 catalog Appendix gives the pricing at $70 and $75 but that makes no sense; I am pretty sure that it is a typo for $60 and $75!
The Goldfinch colors date from 1960-1963, priced at $60 and $75. The iteration shown above was not the original; see the special Goldfinch post for a look at how this design changed three times during its’ three-year production run. Was there a white bisque version of each of them?
The one exception to the both colors/same years format within the birds is the Wood Wren with Dogwood. The white version was made only in 1963 and 1964, but the color one had almost a twenty-year run: 1963 to 1982. The white bisque one cost $55. The color Wood Wren began at $70 but because of all the subsequent price increases overall, was $395 at retirement.
There is strong evidence that the white example above is not a white 1963/64 piece but is instead simply an unpainted later one. Not only is the white one not signed Cybis in paint, as would have been done for one that was sent out to a retailer, but it has four dogwood flowers; most of the earliest examples of this design have only three. But the photo is useful for showing how an actual retail white bisque Wood Wren would have looked.
The birds shown in this collage all did have a white-bisque version as well, but I have not yet found a photo of any of them. If any reader has any of these in white, I’d love a photo; there is a contact form link at the bottom of this page. These birds are:
(top left) I am particularly fond of the Blue Headed Vireo Building Nest because of the very attractive shade of blue used on the bird – and so am puzzled as to the appeal of an all-white one, but Cybis did offer both from 1960 to 1965. The white was $60 and the color $75.
(top center) This question mark represents the Golden Crowned Kinglets, design #343, which is shown in the 1978 Cybis catalog appendix as a 1962 introduction available in both white bisque ($65) and color ($85). It 10” high and was retired in 1962; I have never seen any photo of this piece at all. Clearly, if a color version comes to light it will be identifiable by the size and the appearance of the bird, so…. fingers crossed!!
(top right) Bluebird by the Garden Wall was produced from 1952 to 1962. The white sold for $30, and the color for $37.50, throughout.
(bottom left) The Maryland Yellowthroat was produced from 1958 to 1963, with the white at $65 and the color at $85.
(bottom center) The Hummingbird had a similar run (1959 to 1963) and the same $20 price differential ($75 versus $95.)
(bottom right) The Carolina Paroquet pair is known only from one black-and-white photo plus one photo of a color male bird. These were made from 1962 to 1965, at $75 for white and $95 for color.
White Bisque/Color Animals (1963-1965)
Only two animals were offered by Cybis in a choice of pure white bisque or color, and only covering a two-year period.
The white bisque Fox was made only in 1963 and 1964, and cost $20. The color version was made for an additional year (1963-1965) and was $30. The fox shown here is not 100% white but is useful for comparison.
Both colorways of the Horse Head ‘Racer’ were offered in 1964 and 1965, for $75 and $90, respectively
White Bisque/Color Flowers (1963-1965)
Only four flower studies are mentioned in Cybis literature as having been available in both white bisque and color. The earliest is one that I have not yet found any photo of: Magnolia with Bird, made in both colorways from 1963 to 1965, for $30 and $37.50
The color production runs of the Magnolia were different. The white bisque one ran from 1963-1965 and cost $45. The color one was produced from 1963 to 1979 and ranged from $37 to $310 at retirement. As seen in the Flowers post, there were some tweaks to the color version during that decade and a half.
I’ve never seen a white bisque Windflower but supposedly they were made from 1963 to 1965 for $35. On the other hand, the color version has been found in pink (the most common), purple, and even one salmon/orange! The color version(s) began in 1963 also, and were still on Cybis price lists heading into the mid-1980s. The 1963 price was $50 and the last documented price (1982) was $295.
The white bisque Rose (design #505) was made only in 1964 and 1965, at $45. Like the Windflower, there were apparently several color versions including pink and yellow, spanning five production years (1964-1969) and ranging from $60 to $80 therein. I do wonder if the “white” in the Appendix description of this piece actually means that only the flower itself is white.
White Bisque/Color Human Figures
The white-bisque-version human figures can be divided into three general categories: religious, secular, and the Classical Impressions. Most, but not all, of the religious figures were made in the 1950s and/or 1960s and offered both white bisque and color pieces concurrently or nearly so. The secular figures are mostly from the 1960s, except for the Classical Impressions pieces which are from the mid to late 1980s.
But I must begin with one long-running and recurring white bisque Cybis piece: the Queen of Angels madonna bust. Her precursor, the 1950s Mother Most Admirable, has been found in several different finishes including plain white bisque. When she acquired a crown of roses and a square wood base, sometime in the late 1950s, she was re-named Queen of Angels and was offered in plain white bisque until 1986 and in color until 1970. This is a rare case where the white bisque version outlived the color one! In 1987 the studio brought back the white bisque mold in an upsized version, which is shown in the final section (White-Bisque-Only) of this post.
From the same general timeframe is the 1956 introduction of the Madonna with Bird which was originally designed by Laszlo Ispanky for the Holland Mold Company (possibly in 1953.) Priced at $30 for white and $37.50 for color, both were retired in 1962.
The Guardian Angel was available in white bisque and in a fascinating, and often quite beautiful, array of glazed color versions. The blue one shown above is one of several found to date. This angel was produced from 1954 to 1963 for $50 (white) and $75 (color.)
The full figure Madonna ‘Assumption’ comes from the same general timeframe, at $30 for white bisque and $37.50 for color. This seems to me like a rather low ‘upcharge’ for that much painting!
This photograph shows a white Madonna ‘Immaculate Conception’ along with two different additional colorways. This too was a 1950s-early 1960s piece.
Some crucifixes came in more than one colorway also, such as Crucifix ‘Redeemer of the World’ shown here in white bisque and in glazed color. All Cybis crucifixes date from the 1950s.
At least two white-or-color Jesus busts are known. This one is Ecce Homo, from the 1950s until 1964. The white version cost $15 but it is not known what the price of the color version was. The color version shown here is glazed color but it was also made in their Cypia tonation.
Sun of Justice was made during the 1950s only. Above are a glazed white (but there is no reason to think there wasn’t a bisque white version as well) and a bisque Cypia version. The white sold for $15. Some examples of these have a wood halo attached to the back; see the Jesus Figures post for more views of these and others.
Mater Dolorosa is a companion piece to Ecce Homo and was produced during the same years and at the same price points. The examples above are white bisque and glazed Cypia.
Mirror of Justice was the same kind of companion piece, but this time to Sun of Justice. This piece had a somewhat longer production time, perhaps because it was a better seller. Like her companion, some examples were made with an attached wood (trivet, really) halo. The examples above are glazed white without base, and glazed color with wood halo and base.
The Kneeling Angels were originally sold as a pair, from 1958 to 1965, in white bisque ($10) and at least three known colorways from $15-$20.
In 1960 the studio took the Holland mold that they had used for their #201 madonna bust, put a wide border of lace on her veil, assigned it design #2080, and issued it as Madonna with Lace Veil in both white bisque (from 1960-1968 at $7.50-$10) and color (for only a couple of years, at $10-$15.)
However, in the early 1990s the studio took that same circa-1960s Madonna with Lace Veil mold, upsized it by two inches, gave it two new design numbers, re-christened it Madonna with Lace, and offered it in white bisque (design #20081 at $95) and color (design #20080 at $125) according to their 1993 price list.
The open edition bust known among collectors as the madonna with blue veil (which is itself the head-and-shoulders portion of the 1950s Madonna ‘House of Gold’) came out in 1968 in color and was retired the following year, which was when the studio brought out the white bisque version shown above. This version was only made for two years also (1969 and 1970.) In 1989 the studio resurrected this mold, called it simply Madonna, and offered it in both “color” (painted face and hair, and gold trim on her veil) and “white” (unpainted face and hair, but with gold trim on the veil that prevents it from being considered ‘white bisque.’)
The Madonna ‘Queen of Peace’ bust was made in both white bisque and color during 1980 and 1981 only; some of them are dated on the underside with the production year.
In 1981 the studio introduced Adoration, an angel/nativity group available in white bisque for $325 or color for $375. It is six inches high.
In autumn 1982 the studio introduced Angel ‘Annunciation’ in both white bisque and color, at $245 and $285 respectively.
These three 1950s religious pieces were also made in plain white but I have found no photos thus far. Sacred Heart is 12” tall, was made until 1963, and sold for $20 in white, $25 in color as shown. The House of Gold madonna and child was made from 1957-1965 although the 1960s ones are not glazed and the madonna wears a crown. The white bisque version’s price ranged from $75 to $100. The white version of the Miniature Infant of Prague was only made during the 1950s and early 1960s ($30) while the color version continued to be produced until 1970.
I have found far fewer white-bisque versions of the secular human figure Cybis pieces, and almost all of them were made only during the 1960s.
Peter Pan was offered in white bisque from 1958 to 1967 at $60, and in color from 1958 to 1970 at $75. Given that the white one was available for nine years, it’s surprising that only one example has turned up so far. One would think that if it had not sold well, it would have been retired before that.
Both colorways of the Ballerina ‘Red Shoes’ were made from 1960 to 1967. Pricing started at $50 and $65, and retired at $65 and $75.
Cybis also offered concurrent colorways of Ballerina ‘On Cue’ in 1963, when the white was introduced at $75 and color at $100. Both were retired in 1969, at $125 and $150.
A piece supposedly introduced in 1963, and appearing on a price list from that year, is Mother’s Child ‘First Steps’ in white for $75 and color for $100. I’ve never seen a photo and it was retired the following year. Based on the sculpture dimensions given, this piece is wider than tall and may represent a baby toddling toward its mother.
This collage shows seven circa-1960s Cybis figures that were supposedly made in white bisque as well, but I’ve never (yet) found any photo of those.
(top left) The white Cinderella has been very elusive. It sold for $60 from 1960 to 1967. The color version remained only one year longer and was priced at $75.
(top center) I’ve never seen a white Tinkerbell, but they were made from 1959 to 1965 at $50. The color ones, made from 1959 to 1970, are easily found nowadays on eBay. Her original price ranged from $60 to $80.
(top right) Heidi is an unusual case of having the white version come out first (1962-1965 at $40) and then after being retired, a color version was brought out the following year (1966, for $55.) The color Heidi continued in production until 1973, when she was retired at $165.
(middle row left) Dawn had a concurrent white/color run, from 1962 to 1966, but was $95 for both colors throughout.
(middle row center) Here is Robin Hood from 1964-1966 at $75 for white, and 1964-1967 at $95 for color. To be honest, I see no sense in making an all-white Robin Hood because isn’t his iconic Lincoln Green outfit his trademark? Without the color, well, he’s just another archer!
(middle row right) Back to fairyland we go, with a white bisque and color Alice in Wonderland appearing in 1964 for $40 and $50. The white one was retired after only one year (1965) but the color one lasted until 1969, retiring at $60.
(bottom) Ilona (Serenity) is an unusual open edition from the early 1960s; the only photo I’ve ever found is of this piece from the studio’s liquidation auctions. The 1963 price list shows her in white for $60 and in color for $75. She is quite long: eighteen inches!
The studio’s second nativity series, titled The First Christmas and launched in 1982, originally offered two colorways: “plain white bisque” (as described in their Fall 1982 brochure) and “hand painted color.” I have never found a photo of the plain white bisque version of any of them, which may mean that very few of those were sold. In order to give an idea of what they looked like, I’ve converted a photo of Mary (which is probably the piece with the least amount of color) to black-and-white.
Several new nativity pieces were added each year. In 1989 the studio added a third colorway called “white with gold”; this was a fully-painted piece other than the base color of the clothing, which was left white but had gold accents added to it. So, in this context ‘white/gold’ means merely ‘white clothing with gold accents’ because there was still color on any visible body parts.
In 1990 the studio dropped the all-white-bisque colorway from the series entirely and only offered the full-color or white-clothes-with-gold. The nativity pieces that were offered in plain white bisque during the 1980s only were: Mary, Joseph, Christ Child with Lamb, Melchior, Caspar, Balthasar, Shepherd, Camel I, Nativity Angel I, Nativity Angel II, Lamb, Donkey, and Cow. These are the pieces that were originally intended to complete the series, in 1985, and that’s how it remained for the next four years, until 1989 when they added a resurrected retired piece, a lamb formerly known as Muffy. Photos of the entire series, and each piece’s price history, can be found in the First Christmas post.
The Classical Impressions series that debuted in 1986 was originally meant to only offer plain white bisque figures that might evoke the Parian marble used by classical Greek sculptors. That good intention lasted for only two years; in 1988 the studio began adding a more expensive color version. I can’t escape the nagging feeling that those were nothing but a money grab. There is a difference between the rationale behind the 1950s and 1960s color options (white being an artistic-preference alternative to the color version) and the 1980s mindset of “hey, we could charge more for these if we painted some, for the collectors who think plain white is boring.” This theory is supported by the fact that the declared edition sizes for color were always smaller within this series, an indication that the “primary” colorway of the piece was intended to be white. This is the reverse of earlier decades, where the white bisque was meant to be an alternative to the color one.
However, a Classical Impressions sculpture that was introduced in both colorways from the very start was Dream of Venus. The fact that she was added to the series in 1988 accounts for this. They were already adding color as an alternative to the original white, so it made sense to begin this one with both: the white bisque edition being 500, and the color being 200. Two years later, they cut the declared edition to 500 total, regardless of the color chosen. I would guess that fewer than 100 (possibly much fewer!) were actually made in either colorway.
Tang Dynasty – Figure III, from 1990-1991, was also offered in both colorways from the get-go. All three Tang martial arts pieces were retired before the end of 1993.
These are the other Classical Impressions figures that were subsequently also available in color, although I have never found photos. If anyone has any of these in color and would share a photo, there is a contact form link below.
(upper left) Leda and the Swan, in white bisque from 1986 at $1450 and in color from 1988 at $2250. Both editions were ended in the mid-late 1990s.
(upper right) Tang Dynasty I, in white bisque from 1986 a $950 and in color from 1988 at $1395. These came with an accompanying base made of black Lucite acrylic.
(lower left) Tang Dynasty II, in white bisque from 1986 and in color from 1987. In 1989 the two colorways cost $995 and $1395.
(lower right) Icarus, in white bisque from 1986 at $1800, and in color starting a few years after that. Both editions were ended between late 1996 and early 1999.
White Bisque/Color Home Décor Items
There were a number of these, and the first five are all cited in the 1978/79 Cybis catalog appendix as being made from the “1950s to early 1960s.” The white bisque and color versions were all made concurrently and differed by only a few dollars in price.
Round Powder Box with Bird in white bisque ($10); the color version was $15. Shown here with the color version ($18) of the Christmas Bell; the white was $15.
Small Heart Box (3” high) in white for $10, or color for $15. Large Heart Box (4” high) in white for $15, or color for $18,
Wedding Bell in white for $10, or color (shown) for $15.
The first modern-day dual-colorway home décor piece was the Rose Jar which was made for two years (1975-1977) in white for $75 or color for $95.
This shows one of the 1984 Iris Candlesticks in white bisque and color. These match the similarly-shaped Iris Vase, for which I currently have no confirmation about colorways but am assuming that came in white and color also. The candlestick is 4.75″ high. The vase can be seen in the Cybis Vases post.
The Iris Footed Dish, from the same mid-1980s timeframe, also came in two colorways. Because I am missing several mid-1980s price lists, their exact production/pricing history is unknown.
These grapevine candle cups are from the same era, and were possibly from the studio’s short-lived mid-1980s “Heritage Collection.” The photography here makes them look cream-colored but supposedly they are white bisque.
Among the 1987 “Constitution Bicentennial” items that Cybis made was the Eagle Bowl in white bisque for $275 and color for $450. The white bisque one would have looked much like the second photo which is an original clay maquette.
Another 1987 introduction was the Bluebird of Happiness Vase in white for $140 or color for $225. It was only available for one year.
Rather than being white-bisque options, a few modern-era Cybis pieces were offered only in white bisque – no decorated versions.
Flight Into Egypt, a limited edition in 1960, originally meant as an edition of 750 but closed in 1970 after only 50 were made. Designed by Laszlo Ispanky.
Exodus, another 1960 limited edition of 50 that was completed in 1966. Designed by Laszlo Ispanky.
The Horse appeared in 1961 as an edition of 100 at $150 that was completed in 1965. This example is missing the wood base that originally came with it.
The Elephant was a limited edition of 100, in white bisque only, from 1968 to 1972. All of the subsequent Cybis elephants had varying degrees of color.
Cree ‘Magic Boy’ (who has a complicated-enough history to warrant him having his own Archive post) began his retail life as a white-bisque-only edition of 100 in 1971 and was completed in 1973. This warrants inclusion in my “white bisque only” category. However, the studio brought out a subsequent new edition, in color, in 1984, claiming that a later color version had been “promised” to collectors originally, as a footnote in one of the 1971 price lists (which unfortunately I do not have.) But whether a color version was “promised” or not, it’s still a fact that nobody could buy a color version of this piece during the 1970s.
The George Washington Bust, an open edition available from 1975-1980, was part of the studio’s Bicentennial series. It sold for $175-$275 during the production run.
Another North American Indians piece, Kateri Tekakwitha, was only produced in white bisque. This was a limited edition of 100 in 1981 that was completed sometime between 1983 and 1988.
As mentioned in the Human Studies section above, the studio had retired its white bisque version of the original Queen of Angels in 1986. In 1987 or 1988 they brought her back as an upsized (to 11” for the porcelain itself) white-bisque-only open edition, still titled Queen of Angels, and – for the first time – offered either with or without a (faux) wood base. This piece continued to be offered until the studio ceased production in the early 2000s. A full overview of this design, from first to last appearance, can be found in the Will the Real Queen of Angels Please Stand Up post.
The Acrobat appeared in the early 1990s and was assigned to the Classical Impressions series despite the fact that it was an open (non-limited) edition. It was only offered in white bisque, and available as a single piece at $675 or as a pair that could be used as bookends, for $1100. Other than the photo from the defunct Cybis website, the only example I have seen is the single one above which was in the studio’s 2019 liquidation auction. That one is, oddly, signed on the wood base instead of on the porcelain itself.
No matter when they were produced, the all-white-bisque sculptures have always been a matter of personal taste. Some people like them, some dislike them, and others simply think they are “meh.” An argument in favor of white bisque is that one’s appreciation of the design isn’t distracted by the studio’s choice of colors: A case of “less is more.” For example, we once owned the George Washington Bust but I wouldn’t have wanted it if it had been a color piece (for a truly jarring example of a test piece based on this and partially painted, see the Born in the USA post.) And at least two of the Classical Impressions sculptures (Leda and the Swan and Dream of Venus) do evoke their Greek-marble inspirations via their original white bisque. On the other hand, I’d see no sense in foregoing the signature colors of Robin Hood or the Blue Headed Vireo Building Nest, in favor of white.
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