At the turn of the 20th century, there was a great cultural and societal shift. As the Victorian era ended in 1901, the Edwardian era of King Edward VII and Art Nouveau, ushered in a new era for women. Sharon Hope Weintraub, the author of ‘Bawdy Bisques & Naughty Novelties’ is quoted in a 2008 article saying, “I was fascinated by the wide variety of figurines and the creativity and workmanship that went into their manufacture. I was also intrigued with the way the bathing beauties reflected the loosening of moral, cultural, and sartorial restrictions on women between the 1890s and the 1920s.”
Art Nouveau was a reaction to the academic art of the 19th century. It took inspiration from natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers. This trend was reflected in the fashions of the time as well. Corsets were being discarded. In this atmosphere of Art Nouveau, where nature is celebrated, so too was the human form celebrated.
Social and political change also brought more freedom for women. WW1 saw more single women working as men were on the battlefield. Bicycles gave women a new level of transportation independence. In 1920, women won the right to vote.
Free moving clothing allowed for more athletic endeavors. Changing fashion also meant more relaxed dress of bathers in this period; less clothing that covered a woman’s shape also allowed for swimming. A new appreciation of the female form gave birth to the bathing beauty.
These little bisque pieces of art also represented the growing appreciation of vacationing by the sea. What began in the 1890’s as a naughty item, soon became souvenirs of fun times spent on the beach, or at countless other summer vacation sites. They were purchased by a new generation of adults who rejected the stiff rules and mores of Victorian etiquette. This period lasted until the 1930’s.
Bathing beauties are all bisque figures that have a bathing suit either painted on or are made of fabric. The fabric used was a light netting or lace that often has disappeared over the decades. That is why many bathing beauties are naked. However, these women wear bathing caps and matching ballet type bathing slippers, indicating they also once wore a fabric bathing suit.
The first example is a somewhat rare example. Galluba and Hoffman was a leading manufacturer of these ladies. These figures have a dome head and wear a mohair wig. It is very hard to find the wigs still intact. They are most likely to be reclining and have no base. The poses are more complex, with limbs extended away from the body. A makers mark may be incised on a part of the figure that was covered by the fabric suit. The example shown was most likely manufactured about 1915.
Most of the beauties in my collection have painted swim suits, and painted hair with a bathing cap and matching bathing shoes. The factory of Hertwig & Co., was one of the biggest manufacturers of bathing beauties of this type. They are the most common beauties to be found. Pink pre-colored bisque would be poured into a mold. Hertwig would use one basic mold to make different size ladies, with added or subtracted materials. So, these figures are found with wigs, and a multitude of different bathing suit colors and styles. Some have suits made of the rough “snow” material similar to snow babies. Arms were molded separately, and legs were often manipulated so that they could be sold in several different poses. Some bathers appear standing on a base, often with the name of the vacation spot printed on it. Most of these figures are part of the 5000 series mold mark, and were mostly made in the late 20’s into the early 30’s.
Some of the most difficult bathing beauties to find are ladies emerging from sea shells, or laying on top of a turtle. Most often, they ended up at the bottom of an aquarium, where they languished until the aquarium was thrown out or given away. Many of these are from the 1930’s and were cold painted. This means the paint was added after firing, and the paint easily wore off. Care should be taken when cleaning them. You may inadvertently wipe the paint off along with the dirt.
Other souvenirs incorporated the bathing beauty into a utilitarian souvenir for vacationers to buy. They are found as pin cushions, lamp bases, vases, match holders; or posing on top of candy boxes, pin dishes, powder and trinket boxes. The pictures shows a Bathing beauty created by atop a cushion that creates a porcelain powder box, with the Sitzendorf Porcelain Factory makers mark. Desirability is based on scarcity and quality of the piece. The quality of facial painting is very important. Like pin cushion dolls, the more limbs extended away from the body and the more complicated the pose; means that it required multiple separate molded parts. They are more likely to be broken and damaged.
Thanks to our guest blogger: Miriam (Mickie) Feiden. Check out her web store: https://www.icollect247.com/yesterdaystoys
As a collector myself, I know what it means to feel comfortable in a home (note I did not say a house). My home is decorated with things I love and feel comfortable with. I live with history and things that remind me of a simpler time and memories. The great thing about collectors is that they are a community of people who have the same passion. A passion to collect and live with their collections.
It does not matter what you collector or how you display it or even if it is in a box, your collection is personal and cannot be found in a big box store. I have been very honored to have been invited into many collectors homes to share their passion. These collectors enjoy showing their collection and letting me take photos. I hope you enjoy these collection’s pictures as well as give you some ideas on how to display and enjoy collecting. No matter if you like country, a theme or have a formal home…home is where the heart is!
Lots of holidays are put on your calendar but did not hear of National Trivia Day, celebrated on January 4th. Enjoy some of the Trivia you never knew about!
Did you know…Beer is the most popular beverage in the world, with tea in second place. People collect beer memorabilia and there actually a Breweriana Collector Club. From beer cans to beer bottles, from signs to beer trays, it is a passion for many collectors. Find over 200 pieces of vintage beer advertising on http://www.icollect247.com and start collecting! If you like our post please share and like it! We will keep them coming!
Nobody writes anymore. In fact, kids are not even taught to write anymore and in another generation, we will only talk via computer. In our small rural area, it was not unusual for friends to travel by train to a town 30 miles away and send a postcard back to a relative. We have an old postcard book full of vintage postcards mailed from one small town to another. Postcards were sent, enjoyed and kept. So why should we collect postcards?
They are simply a piece of affordable art that connects us with history in many ways. From a heavy paper to leather and even linen, these were mailed with postage stamps and were delivered as something special. They can be touched, looked at, admired, take up little space, inexpensive and even comical. You can research a lot of history, such as fashion, architecture, historical events, artists and more. Even Santa Claus’ history can be seen in postcards.
Do you remember summer vacations…every stop for gas you went in and got a souvenir postcard. Every place you went there were souvenir postcards. How about your city or town, I bet there were postcards of events and buildings. My small town had stock postcards with their town name printed on the bottom. I know that as there were not meadows and sheep, in the town we lived. In fact, I recently found them in a paper notebook from an elementary school report I had to do on my hometown.
You do not have to be a history bluff to enjoy postcards. You just need to enjoy times past. Why not collect holiday postcards and put them on a postcard display during the season. On icollect247 there are over 2400 different postcards for sale. Here are a few of my favorites which are currently for sale on http://www.icollect247.com. You can use the search function and just type in postcard.