Sunday, April 30, 2017

Steiff in Bloom at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts

Spring has hit with full force here in New England, with new flower surprises appearing daily on front yards, in parks, and around other outdoor spaces. In the Boston area, The Museum of Fine Arts celebrates this time of year with its annual "Art in Bloom" event, which pairs collection highlights with floral arrangements designed to coordinate with the theme of the pieces. Steiffgal took Bitty Bub, a Steiff inspired tiny Teddy baby doll made by the talented artist Elizabeth Leggat, along with her to see "Art in Bloom" and to tour the museum. Of course Bub, known for his mischief, thought the show was called "Art With Bub." As such, he decided to "participate" in the exhibits, as only he can. Here are some of his favorite works - flower related and other - from his visit to the museum today. Can you find him in each of the photos that follow? You can click on them to make them bigger!

Being cut from the finest cloth himself, Bub found this floral arrangement inspired by an original Frank Lloyd Wright textile particularly appealing. 

Bub sez, "I'm tickled pink to be part of this fine gallery room display!"

Bub's just one of the guys when it comes to this perfect pairing of Max Beckmann's painting of Perry T. Rathbone with a tall, dark, and handsome floral arrangement.

Bub sez, "The flower artists really put the pedal to the metal in this colorful arrangement celebrating this great painting by Frida Kahlo." 

Size defies when it comes to these monumental blue and white Japanese vases that are featured in John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit," also shown in the photo. 

Bub is certain that this fine arts patron from Mary Cassatt's "In the Loge" only has eyes for him. 

Bub basks in the glow of this sterling portrait of silversmith and patriot Paul Revere, painted by John Singleton Copley in the 1768-70 timeframe. 

Bub sez, "There's plenty of extra room in that painting for me!" in regards to this 1796 portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

Bub sez, "It's five o'clock somewhere!" to toast this elegant and period sterling silver cocktail tray, martini shaker, and goblets interpreted in flowers. 

Honestly, did you know that Bub has White House connections? This small bronze statue was made from Daniel Chester French's original plaster cast of the seated Abraham Lincoln, which served as the scale model for the larger than life marble version at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Drama... this marble statue called "Meg Merrilies" by Edward Thaxter tried to kidnap Bub!  Mischief attracts mischief for sure!

And finally, if this tour has tuckered you out, that's completely understandable. Here Bub sleepily eyes a c. 1800-30 English Regency bed detailed with two greyhound dogs! Its complementary floral arrangement does a great job in capturing its form in exotic greenery. 

Steiffgal - and Bitty Bub - hope this tour of Boston's MFA has helped to make your day even more beautiful!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Calculating The Importance Of This Rare Steiff Walther Poodle

Do you know the saying, "April showers bring May flowers?" Well, if that's true, than the month of May is most certainly going to be "coming up roses," at least around these parts. It's been raining cats and dogs for the last few days, so Steiffgal has spent some time indoors checking out interesting Steiff eBay auction listings. You never know what you'll find listed on this worldwide marketplace! One Steiff rarity caught her eye and inspired her to learn more about it. Check out this prized poodle and see what makes it so outstanding from the design and manufacturing perspectives. 

This eye catching and unusual dog is a special promotional item made for Carl Walther GmbH. The poodle is head jointed and made from grey mohair and wool plush. His face is made from rubber, which was a popular Steiff manufacturing material starting in the early to mid 1950's  When the Walther poodle left the Steiff factory, he wore a blue "Walther" logo tag hanging off of its blue leather collar.  This customer special poodle design was produced in 17 cm and 40 cm in 1955 only.  This is the larger version; the smaller version used grey velvet in the place of grey mohair in its design.  

The Walther brand has deep and broad roots across Germany and the world.  The company, still in business today, is most associated with firearms production. Walther started out making guns at the end of the 19th century. It expanded its production to office machines, like calculators, starting in the 1920's. They continued their calculator line of business through the 1970's.  The poodle was the company's logo for the office division of the company, although its probably no coincidence that poodles are good hunting dogs, too! Walther's poodle came to life with a few black lines, and showed the dog running on his hind legs and effortlessly juggling numbers. The logo tried to demonstrate how easy dealing with numbers could be when you have a Walther machine on your desk. You can see this poodle logo here on the left.

Despite its obvious condition issues, this poodle listed on eBay is still a prince among Steiff's rare promotional items, and is only the second one Steiffgal has ever seen. It aligns to its period of manufacture in three interesting ways.  

First, poodles were a very big deal in Steiff's line in the early 1950's. In addition to the company's standard line selections, including Tosi and several iterations of Snobby, Steiff also created a number of exclusive poodle designs for FAO Schwarz here in the USA. These included fully jointed wool plush poodles and an 80 cm Snobbylac poodle. The Walther poodle has a French trim and most resembles the body shape of Steiff's 1952 wool plush Snobby. You can see the Steiff Walther poodle featured on the cover of one of their business machines catalogs here on the left. 

Second, Steiff started producing items with rubber heads, instead of traditional felt, velvet, or mohair heads, in the early 1950's.  This was done in part to decrease costs and labor, as well as to add flexibility to production and design options. Mostly dolls were produced with rubber heads; favorites from this period are HorZu's Micki and Mecki; the gnomes Pucki, Lucki, and Gucki; the Maggi chef, and LariFari, among others. Steiff's animals with rubber heads include Koko the Cat for the magazine TV Hoeren & Sehen.  

And third, the Walther poodle was manufactured at a critical juncture in the company's history. After many years of hardship and war-induced shortages, Steiff again had the infrastructure to partner with other world-class companies and to produce absolutely custom, top tier items without constraints. This all ushered in a very auspicious period in the company's history.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Walther poodle has inspired a little puppy love with you!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sending Hoppy Easter Greetings From Our Home To Yours!

Well, the big day is almost here - Easter! And Steiffgal is sending you her "official" greetings via a friend who is more than qualified to handle that public service responsibility. Please say hello to "The Mayor," a perfect ambassador to Spring's most anticipated holiday!

So just who is this impressive Easter-beaster?  The Mayor, a 60 cm boy rabbit doll, gets his name from his impressive size, serious expression, and business attire. His "birth" name, given by Steiff, is Hansili. He is standing on flat cardboard lined feet, head jointed, and primarily made from wool plush fabric. His core body and paw pads are made from a flesh-colored, lightly flocked fabric. The Mayor's face comes to life with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a red hand embroidered nose and mouth, clear monofilament whiskers, and skillfully placed brown and tan airbrushed highlights. His ears are entirely wool plush, lined in wires, and are posable. His all-original outfit consists of blue felt shorts with red felt suspenders, a white polyester, collared, buttoned shirt, a red and white neckerchief, and a floral corsage. This big bunny retains his named chest tag as his Steiff ID. The Mayor was made in this size from 1951 through 1966; a matching 60 cm girl rabbit doll version was also produced at the same time. 

It's easy to see how The Mayor won his leadership role by a landslide vote. He has several noteworthy features that make him quite the man about town.

First is his size.  The Mayor, as far as Steiffgal can tell, is the largest standard line, dressed animal doll Steiff ever produced on a commercial scale.  A Steiff animal doll is different than a dressed Steiff animal; an animal doll has a special, distinctly humanly styled and proportioned body and a traditional Steiff animal head.  A dressed Steiff animal may be any animal in the Steiff line dressed by the company or dressed by a collector.  Steiff produced a fantastic series of animal dolls starting in the late 1920's.  Early versions are highly coveted among collectors. 

Second is his material. The Mayor is made from wool plush.  That in itself is not remarkable, but the timing is. This fabric is usually associated with Steiff's production before, and then for several years after, World War II.  It is often considered a substitute fabric for mohair, and is beloved for its distinctly old fashioned look. The Mayor could have been produced as late as 1966, especially given his shirt is made out of a relatively modern polyester material. It is possible that The Mayor is one of the last, if not the last, mid 20th century item to reflect design elements and materials associated with war-era production.  

The third is his condition.  Despite possibly being over a half century old, The Mayor has managed to keep himself in fine and youthful shape overall.  He hardly has a hare out of place!  His coloring, especially on his head and ears is vibrant, and his materials show a little playwear, but no losses or damages.  It is pretty amazing that he retains his original floral corsage and named chest tag.  These are two very ephemeral items that are lost to time more often than not.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on "The Mayor" helps to govern you towards a delightful Easter weekend!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Getting Ready For Easter With Some Remarkable Steiff Rabbit Auction Highlights!

Hoppy almost Easter to you! Let's celebrate this much-loved holiday with a look at several really interesting and seldom seen rabbits that recently sold at auction in Germany. This sale, held by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion on March 31, 2017, featured about 125 lots of vintage Steiff. Here are four "bunny-honeys" to get you in the mood for next week's celebration of renewal, peace, and all things spring.

This first auction highlight is certainly the wheel-deal. Here we have a delightful rabbit on eccentric wooden wheels. He is cataloged as, "hare on wooden excenter-wheels, with button, long stretched F, white/brown mohair, felt paws and shoe button eyes underlaid with red felt, length: 14 cm height: 11 cm, unusual." According to the website, who hosted the auction online, this rabbit was estimated at 150 to 300 euro and hammered at 800 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 968 euro or about $1,025.

This happy hopper is so appealing in many ways. This wheeled design was made in 6, 8, 10, and 12 cm from 1924-1928 overall. Its hard not to fall for his petite proportions, life-life eye treatment, and patched-in coloration, which is quite typical to his period of production. This model incorporates a standard line Steiff rabbit on all fours which was produced in white and brown mohair or black and brown mohair in 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 cm from 1923-1928 overall. 

Our second rabbit highlight deserves a standing ovation. Here we have a wooden begging rabbit on wheels. He is cataloged as, "wood hare, on wheels, produced between 1922 - 1934, button, with long stretched F, 15 cm, slightly used, unusual." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 120 to 240 euro and hammered at 1,100 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 1,331 euro or about $1,410.

What's not to love about this egg-cellent Steiff rabbit? This ideal Steiff Easter rabbit toy was made in 15 and 20 cm from 1922 through 1934. His colors are bright, fresh, and happy, and his design can't help but make you smile. Although not as well known as their soft plush and mohair dolls, bears, and animals - at least here in the USA - Steiff's wooden toys, scooters, blocks, games, and other playthings were prominent production categories from the late 19-teens through the early 1940's.

Wooden it be nice to add this next rabbit rarity to your Steiff bunny hug? Here we have a delightful and really unusual rabbit cart. He is cataloged as, "Haswag animal car, c. produced between 1927 - 1936, button, with long stretched F, wood paws and tail mechanism are intact, lenght: c. 25 cm, height: 17 cm, depth: 10 cm, unusual, rare." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 150 to 300 euro and hammered at 2,800 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 3,388 euro or about $3,588.

This particular rabbit has Steiffgal moving and grooving for sure. This finely constructed and painted cart was produced in this size only from 1927 through 1936, as noted in his cataloging. What's so cool about this piece is that when he is pulled along, the rabbit's paws and tail move in response to his wheels spinning about. Steiffgal suspects that this movement is triggered by some simple gear connection, located on the underside of the cart. Steiff has a long and interesting history of creating movement associated with wheeled items. These including its beloved arm pumping "Record" animals on Irish mail carts and its head bobbing/nodding examples on wooden wheels, among others. 

If candy is dandy, than this last Steiff rabbit auction highlight is simply sugar heaven. Here we have a very large begging Steiff rabbit that truly looks as if he may be made from chocolate! He is cataloged as "hare, produced c. 1927 - 1937, with button, long stretched F, 44 cm, squirted mohair, in very good condition, nice strong colors, swivel head." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 300 to 600 euro and hammered at 2,000 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 2,420 euro or about $2,563.

There's not a hare out of place in this delightful Steiff bunny! This begging pattern was produced in light brown, white, gold, purple, pink, and light blue in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, 36, 44, 50, and 70 cm from 1926 through 1941 overall. The white versions were produced with outstanding pink and red albino eyes; all left the factory with a big bow and a brass bell. This rabbit's coloration is interesting for two reasons. First, it is the only "non-jellybean" color in the series. All the others produced were lighter, more celebratory, and childlike in hue. Second, his fabric is specifically noted as "squirted mohair."  Steiffgal is guessing that this may mean "tipped." It is hard to tell from his photo if the brown fabric on this example is all brown or brown tipped. If it is indeed tipped, than this detailing aligns quite closely with the production time of other beloved Steiff designs of the 1920's that also feature tipped fabric. These include Happy, Petsy, and Teddy Clown - all who are known for their delightful and interesting brown and white mohair.

Steiffgal hopes you have enjoyed this overview of some of Steiff's more unusual Easter-Beasters.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.
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