Cybis Porcelains in Public Collections

The Cybis studio published three lists that were titled ‘Cybis Porcelains Are in the Following Collections’. The first one appeared on the final page of the 1970 Cybis catalog and contains 24 names of museums and art centers; there are no governmental/state recipients listed, even though several Cybis pieces were presented to foreign leaders as official gifts of state during the 1960s. Their second such list, in their 1973 catalog, did include foreign and domestic governmental collections and had expanded to 99 names. The third list, of slightly more than 100 names, appears on the last page of their final (1986) catalog. All three lists show only the name and location of the holder and give no indication of what, or how many, Cybis sculptures those entities held.

Because much has changed during the 36 years since the publication of that 1986 list, I decided to update it and also identify which Cybis pieces each entity retains, if any. This effort began a year ago (November 2021) by reaching out to every institution that appeared on the 1986 list. The results were…‘interesting’, and are summarized below.

Collections/Holders that No Longer Exist

This is the shortest list, and self-explanatory.

  • American Shakespeare Festival Theatre (burned down in January 2019 due to arson.)
  • Art Center for Southwest Louisiana
  • Haskell Indian Institute (there is no entity by this name; the closest is Haskell Indian Junior College of the 1970s [now Haskell Indian Nations University], which never went by the name Cybis listed and has no record of any sculptures.)
  • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (this is a physical memorial structure, not a collection; it is puzzling that Cybis included this in their lists)
  • Old Courthouse Indian Museum (now the Gateway Arch Museum, part of the National Parks system and no longer an “Indian Museum”)
  • Pavillion Gallery
  • Waterloo Village Restoration
  • Wichita Art Association

Collections that No Longer Contain any Cybis Porcelains

These institutions appeared on one or more of the three Cybis-published lists, but informed me either that they have disposed of any Cybis piece(s) that they once had, or that their records do not show that they ever had any. Four of them do keep records of de-accessioned items and so were able to identify what Cybis they originally held.

  • American Museum of Natural History, NY City
  • Atlanta Civic Center Theatre
  • Atlanta Symphonic Orchestra
  • Bayou Bend Museum of Fine Art
  • Bennington Museum
  • Dayton Art Institute – sold both Boleslaw Cybis paintings (The Bride and Peasant Heads) at auction in 1980; never had any other Cybis items
  • Georgia Department of Archives, Atlanta, GA
  • Heard Museum
  • High Museum – had a white Iris that was de-accessioned in 1997.
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art, Lilly House – had a Unicorn that was de-accessioned in 2012 and a Little Blue Heron that was de-accessioned in 2020
  • Joslyn Art Museum – received a Unicorn in 1973 that was de-accessioned in the 1990s
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
  • Miami Museum of Modern Art, now the Institute of Contemporary Art
  • Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg, FL
  • Mount Vernon
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • Sons of the American Revolution National Society
  • Syracuse University, previously Lowe Art Gallery – The lack of any Cybis pieces in their records is very puzzling because there were newspaper accounts of the Cybis studio giving items to them during the early 1970s.
  • Tennessee Botanical Gardens at Cheekwood
  • Washington Crossing Foundation, Washington Crossing, PA.
  • Winnipeg Art Gallery

Consulates and Governmental Collections

All of the consulates and embassies shown on the 1986 list either did not respond to my inquires, or responded that there was no way to find out whether there are any Cybis on the premises (translation: “This isn’t something that anyone here knows how, or is willing, to do.”) Those were the American Consulate in Montreal, the American Embassy in London, the American Embassy in Rome, the Egyptian Embassy in Cairo and the Government House in Winnipeg, Canada.

Not long ago, I learned that a specially-painted Court Jester that was presented to the US Ambassador in Austria during the early 1980s was tossed into a trash bin outside the Embassy and rescued by a local resident. That piece is undoubtedly what occasioned the American Embassy, Vienna, Austria entry on the studio’s 1986 list.

The 1986 list entry for Governor’s Mansion, Grenada, British West Indies refers to a peripatetic Pegasus whose tale is related at the end of the Gifts of State post.

Any gifts given to the British monarch or members of the Royal family become the property of the Royal Collection Trust (RTC), which serves the same purpose as the Gift Unit of the US State Department/National Archives. However, the RCT website’s search function shows only two pieces of Cybis: a Cree ‘Magic Boy’ and a Sioux ‘Wankan Tanka’.  It makes no mention of an Iris, Abigail Adams, Eskimo Mother, Colonial Flower Basket and Mother Bear and Three Cubs, all of which were known and publicized official gifts to the late Queen Elizabeth or to members of her family but nobody at the RCT seems to know anything about them.

Cybis sculptures were definitely given to one or more Popes, as reported in local newspaper and media outlets. Anything given to any Pope becomes the property of the Vatican Museum, which never responded to any of my inquiries as to which they still might have. Thus, whether the Vatican still has a House of Gold, a Saint Peter, a Moses, a Noah, a Polish Bride, an Infant of Prague Plaque, and a Pope bust is not known.

The 1986 catalog list also mentions “The White House” and “US State Department.” Any item given by any President or First Lady falls under the purview of the Gift Unit of the State Department, and the disposition of any item given to them is determined by law. The Ronald Reagan Library’s website has a good description of this:

The President and First Lady keep for themselves only a small percentage of the gifts that they receive.  […] Most foreign official gifts which the President and First Lady do not retain for themselves are transferred to the National Archives by the Gift Unit, and become part of a presidential library museum collection. Most domestic gifts that the President and First Lady do not keep are given to charitable organizations or other non-Government recipients by the Gift Unit, or transferred to the National Archives for the future presidential library museum.

The story/mystery of the Blair House North American Indians Collection has its own Archive post.

Multiple queries to the following foreign governmental locations that appeared in the Cybis lists elicited no reply:

Elysée Palace, Paris, France
Governor-General’s Mansion, Reykjavik, Iceland
Imperial Collection, Tokyo
Imperial Palace, Peking
Presidential Mansion, Seoul
President’s Mansion, Mexico City
Royal Collection, Vienna, Austria
Royal Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
Royal Spanish Collection, Madrid
The Kremlin, Moscow

Thus, the current location or fate of the Cybis porcelains that were given as official gifts from the USA to those world leaders and/or government officials is unknown; see the Gifts of State post to learn which sculptures are known to have been given to whom, by whom, and when. The locations listed above undoubtedly refer to most of those, although whether they were ever put on display or even retained after presentation is impossible to determine. The other non-responsive entities are listed at the end of this post.

Cybis Porcelains Currently in Public Collections/Holdings

Each holder’s name is also a link to their website; my sincere thanks to all those curators and directors who responded to my query! The source and/or year of acquisition is also shown, when it was supplied.

  • Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NYa Great White Heron
  • Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY – a Dahlia which was the gift of editor Burton Richard Wolf. This is erroneously listed in the Museum’s database as having been made in the 1940s rather than the 1960s.
  • Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, Colorado Springs, CO – currently has a Folio One set, the gift of Mr. James Funk in 1975; their only other item, a Thoroughbred acquired in 1968 as a gift from Cybis to the Bemis Art School, was de-accessioned in 1992.
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC – a Columbia with no year/event plaque, from Cybis in 1969. The Cybis 1978 catalog does not mention this, but said on page 82 that the Corcoran has a Kwan Yin which the gallery does not have now.
  • The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, MI – has a Ticonderoga with a special plaque, from the Cybis studio, originally intended as a Gift of State (see that post for a photo) in 1975; an Elephant given to Mr. Ford in 1977 by the Republican Mayors Association and sent to the Museum in 1987; and an Abigail Adams given to the Museum by Betty Ford in 2007.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT – an Autumn Dogwood with Chickadees, gift from Cybis in 1973 for hosting an American Porcelain Tradition traveling exhibit.
  • Isaac Watson House/NJ DAR Headquarters, Trenton, NJ – a pair of Blue Headed Vireo with Lilac.
  • Mercer County Community College, Trenton, NJ – has 127 confirmed pieces; see this post for a more in-depth discussion of what they have and how/when the pieces were acquired.
  • Museum of American Porcelain Art, Cleveland, Ohio – This museum did not exist in 1986 but as of this writing (autumn 2022) they hold approximately 1300 pieces of Cybis. However, more than 50% of them are duplicates; i.e., they have nine Betty Blues, eleven of the Baby Owl, etc. Quite a few designs have four examples in their collection. So, in terms of how many unique pieces of Cybis they have (not counting duplicates) the total is probably closer to 300.
  • National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception, Washington DC – the originally-commissioned 1950s Holy Child of Prague shown in its own Archive post.
  • New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ – has more than 300 unique pieces of Cybis. Their collection will be discussed in detail in an upcoming Archive post.
  • Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL – a pair of Blue Headed Vireo with Lilac, gifted by Cybis in 1968.
  • Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. – an AP of the 1972 Chess Set, as noted in its own post; the one-of-a-kind Flower Bouquet of the United States, gift of Charles Schwartz in 1968, see post; and Moses, the Great Lawgiver, source unknown. Also, astronaut Edward ‘Buzz’ Aldrin states in his autobiography that he sent his special moon-landing commemorative Columbia to the Smithsonian in 1970, although they could not verify that via their database.
  • Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, Trenton, NJ – the Polish Bride on display in a case on the third floor is on long-term loan from another institution’s collection. Ellarslie supposedly has other pieces of Cybis but a promised list never materialized, despite multiple follow-ups.
  • Winterthur Museum Study Collection, Winterthur, DE – 35 pieces of ca.-1940s spatterware reproductions are in their study collection, which can be viewed online by going to this page of their site and entering CYBIS in the search box (this search will not work from their homepage.) They have no other Cybis items.

Collections/Institutions that Never Responded to Inquiries

I have simply grouped these alphabetically according to type of institution.

Academic and Libraries: Alfred University (see note below), Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Tennessee Knoxville, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Museums: Brooks Art Museum, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, DeYoung Memorial Museum, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Flagler Museum, Frye Art Museum, Ha-arets Museum, Kansas City Museum of History and Science, Louisiana State Museum, Mississippi Historical Museum, Mobile Museum, Monmouth Museum, Montgomery Museum, Moscow State Historical Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Poland, Museum of Science and Industry,  National Museum Warsaw, Polish National Museum, Pueblo Metropolitan Museum, Stowe-Day Museum, Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Witte Memorial Museum

Galleries: Cummer Gallery of Art, George Thomas Hunter Gallery of Art, Oklahoma Art Center,  Philbrook Art Center, Speed Art Center, St. Paul Art Center

Other: Churchill Downs Racing Association, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, Philadelphia Historical Society, Spendthrift Farm, NASA Center Houston

Alfred University’s lack of response is puzzling because, as this photo documents, the studio was established a collection there during the  early 1980s. There was also a scholarship fund (the Marylin Chorlton Memorial Scholarship) endowed by Cybis as well. I was unable to determine whether either the collection or the scholarship fund continue to exist.

The lack of response from the Nixon Presidential Library is especially frustrating because a 2017 Facebook post by the Library showed a photo of their AP of the 1972 Chess Set. One would assume that they would still have that in their holdings, but multiple inquiries to them over the past 12 months went unanswered. This is in stark contrast to the extremely helpful staff at the Gerald Ford Library/Museum, who were a huge help in not only identifying the Cybis pieces in their holdings but also in unravelling the mystery of a perplexing mother-and-children sculpture that had been a thorn in my research-side for several years. All of the Presidential libraries operate under the aegis of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) but clearly, some locations are more organized/helpful than others!

I would also like to publicly thank the staff at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as well. They were invaluable during my 2020 research into the Flower Bouquet of the United States.

The Status of Cybis Collections in the Public Sphere

We can see that there are now only three surviving Cybis publicly-held collections of any significant size; two of them are (no surprise) in New Jersey. The third is the Museum of American Porcelain Art in Ohio.

The reality is that porcelain figures made by studios such as Cybis, Boehm, Ispanky, and others are no longer considered to be ‘art’ by most museums and galleries. The same forces that essentially destroyed the art-porcelain market during the 1990s also downgraded public perception of these items to the level of ‘collectibles’ or even home-décor status. Almost all museums and public collections have limited storage space, which means that culling is inevitable. Frankly speaking, museums are unlikely to retain items that now have a significant presence on eBay.

The two major collections in Trenton, New Jersey (Mercer with 127 pieces and the NJ State Museum with about 300) are exceptions because of that state’s long history of ceramics and porcelain production, and Trenton in particular. Trenton’s dominance of the industry dates back to 1850; that city and state are as closely identified with pottery and ceramics as Maine is with lobsters, Michigan with auto manufacturing, and Idaho with potato farming. The Museum of American Porcelain Art opened in 2019 and was originally based on a combination of the personal collection of its founder, Richard Barone, and also his acquisition of the remaining assets of the Boehm porcelain studio in 2014. In fact, the total number of Boehm pieces (including duplicates) at MAPA is almost 2100. The museum also has almost 300 pieces of Ispanky.

Of the three major Cybis collections, the largest number of the oldest pieces (circa 1940s and 1950s) are in the New Jersey State Museum’s holdings. The Mercer County Community College collection contains only pieces from the 1960s and 1970s, although they do have three items from 1981 and 1982 and three from the late 1950s. The MAPA collection is primarily 1960s-1980s, although they do have some 1950s items as well. Archive posts spotlighting the New Jersey State Museum’s collection, as well as the Museum of American Porcelain Art, will be added in 2023.

Name Index of Cybis Sculptures
Visual Index (for human figures/busts only)

About the Cybis Reference Archive
What is Cybis?

Contact the Archive

Images of Cybis porcelain sculptures are provided for informational and educational purposes only. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner as indicated via watermark and are used here only as reference material. Please see the copyright notice in the footer and sidebar for important information regarding the text that appears within this website.

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.