Sunday, October 25, 2020

This Life-sized Steiff Dog Will Have Your Eyes - Irish Or Not - All A'smiling!

It's time to set the record straight... no one does dogs better than Steiff!
This is especially true when it comes to the company's outstanding 20th century life-sized pooches. These true-to-scale dogs are usually rendered so authentically that they can be confused for their real-life brothers. Take a look at this amazing Steiff Irish Setter. There's no question he'll have your eyes - Irish or not - all a'smiling!

It's no joke - this big, beautiful boy is Steiff Pranko Setter.
He measures about 33" tall and about 40" long, not including his impressive tail. He is standing, unjointed, and made from deep reddish-brown woven fur. He is solidly stuffed with a mix of excelsior and polyfill, with an interior metal frame for strength and stability. His head and legs are made from shorter fur, while his earl, tail, body, and leg-feathering are made from longer fur. His personality really shines through his face; it is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, a lifelike muzzle, dimensional jowls, a large leather like nose, and airbrushed highlights. He wears his original green collar and retains his button in ear and ear tag with EAN 4060/80. Pranko was made in this size only from 1978 through 1981.

Also in the line about the same time as Pranko was a life-sized sitting Irish Setter named Bosco. Like Pranko, he is cataloged at about 33" tall (officially 80 cm) and has the same general appearance, personality, and construction. He appeared from 1979-1983. These realistic Irish Setter dogs were introduced right at the time when Steiff updated how these life-sized animals were named. Steiff launched the name "Studiotiere" or "Studio animal" in 1979/1980. So life sized animals produced before then are technically "Schautiere" or "Display animals" and those produced at, or after that time, are technically "Studio animals."

Irish Setters are a rare dog breed in the Steiff commercial line.
The first one appeared in 1933 in 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm. He was standing on all fours, made from long and short mohair, and of course, had the breed's distinctive long floppy ears and tail. This model appeared through 1940. These are pretty rare and the only ones Steiffgal has seen trade hands were a 17 and 28 cm version at a Steiff auction at Christies in London in 2010. You can see the 17 cm version here on the left, the photo is from Christies. Also debuting in the early 1930s was a similarly designed riding Irish Setter on wooden wheels. This model was mounted on a metal carriage and appeared in 35, 43, and 50 cm through 1941. This riding Setter made a brief re-appearance postwar, from 1950 through 1954 in 43 and 50 cm. The key difference between the pre and postwar versions was that the postwar version had rubber, not wooden, tires. 

It seems like dog years since an Irish Setter has graced the Steiff catalog. 
A quick online search suggests that within the last 10 to 15 years, the company introduced an utterly charming 12 cm Irish Setter as part of a miniature canine program. Like his forefathers, this petite prince featured authentic Irish Setter coloring and long, floppy ears. You can see this good boy here on the left.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's lovely Studio Irish Setter has given your day a golden glow.

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

My Favorite Martian - Steiff Style!

So what's the wackiest thing in your Steiff collection? Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and Steiffgal would bet there are as many answers to this question as there are collectors. Here's one oddity from Steiffgal's hug that just may put you in orbit with his weirdness. Take a look at this mystery Martian and see what makes him so "out there" from the design and product development perspectives.

It's probably very easy being green when it comes to this "space cadet." This majorly-toothed Martian is Steiff's Gruenes Maennchen, or Little Green Man. He is 35 cm tall and made from green colored trevira velvet. His proportions are much like the company's iconic "lulac" style animals, with their long torsos and dangling limbs. His arms and legs have wire armature so they can be posed in playful ways. 

Gruenes Maennchen's face is utterly charming. He has enormous black and white googly eyes, one thick black strand of "hair" (or possibly an antenna) on his forehead, pert ears, a prominent bulbous nose, and an open mouthed ear-to-ear grin. And of course... a huge set of white felt buck teeth. According to the Sortiment, he appeared in the lie from 1982-1984, and that perfectly aligns with his IDs, body shape, and materials.

Like life on other planets, there isn't alot known about this "Man from Mars." Physically, this guy has some similar body characteristics to Steiff's Steiff's Cappy Schlenkerfrosch, or Cappy Dangling Frog. Cappy also is "lulac" styled with his long unjointed arms and legs and internal wire armature. He is also made from green trevira velvet. This "hoppy" friend is 32 cm and appeared in the Steiff line from 1979 through 1984. You can see Cappy posing here on the left. Gruenes Maennchen also shares a few characteristics with Steiff's 35 cm, open mouthed, google-eyed green trevira velvet Hand Dragon puppet. This silly sweetie was made in 1991 for the Oldenburg publishing house. Oldenburg, which is now part of the De Gruyter group, is headquartered in Berlin; its company history spans more than 260 years. You can see this puppet below here on the left. 

We do know for sure that Gruenes Maennchen was designed by the European author and illustrator Pat Malette. Malette wrote a number of popular books charmingly illustrated with these "little green men" in the 1980s. It is possible that Malette's adorable, quirky alien caught the eye of the Steiff design team who decided to bring it to life, Steiff style!  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on her strange alien Gruenes Maennchen, or Little Green Man, has grounded your day just a bit. 

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

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Best of All Worlds: Steiff REAL and Replica!

Are you seeing double? Usually, this is cause for alarm. But not in this case, in terms of these two very fine Steiff fellows. Produced nearly a century apart, these "hairy canaries" prove that good looks, genes, and and remarkable beards are not only timeless and appealing, but great assets, too! Let's take a look at this original turn of last century Steiff doll and his 1990s era replica and see how they compare.

Things are twice as nice when it comes to Steiff's "Hungarian" doll. The original is shown here on the left, and the replica from 1996 is on the right. The early and original Hungarian doll was manufactured by Steiff from 1912 - 1917. According to the Pfeiffer's early Sortiment reference book, he was produced in 50 cm, although this particular example measures 43 cm and the number on his tag reads "Ung 43." It is very possible that he was produced in a number of different sizes during his manufacturing run; not all early records are perfect.

So let's look at the older guy first. Vintage Hungarian - on the left in this photo - is made from felt, stuffed with excelsior, and fully jointed. His uniform is integral to his body. He wears a red felt jacket that is trimmed with curly, jet black mohair and detailed with metal buttons, black and gold embroidery, and cord and orange felt trimmed cuffs. His tan pants are decorated with red embroidered felt stripes. His knee-high leather boots are trimmed with tan string tassels and orange felt. His "proper topper" is a red felt cap embellished with a metal button, orange felt, and a leather brim. Hungarian has a gold rope whip wound around his left shoulder. His face comes to life with Steiff's signature center seam construction, black eyes, a prominent nose, oversized ears, and a full mustache, beard, and head of hair made from the same curly jet black mohair that decorates the bottom circumference of his jacket.

Now let's check out his doppelgänger. This marvelous Steiff replica doll was produced in the late 1990s as part of limited edition doll and horse set. You can see that dynamic duo in the photo here on the left. Although the replica is cataloged at 43 cm, Steiffgal's example actually measures 47 cm tall. In the late 1980s through the late 1990s, Steiff created a series of replicas based on their 19-teen era Schlopsnies Circus program. These replica dolls included clowns, animal trainers, musicians, and performers, among others. The original Schlopsnies Circus was large scale, dynamic, and extremely popular exhibit designed and created by Steiff creative freelancer Albert Schlopsnies. It consisted of over 30 circus themed dolls and acrobats, based on real life performers at the world famous Circus Sarrasani of Dresden, Germany.

So how do the original and the replica align? Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to recreate something exactly as it was a century onward - given how materials and technology change over time, and how fabrics and fillings oxidize and age. With that as a backdrop, let's compare three factors here: these two doll's detailing and materials, construction, and general aesthetics.

Detailing and materials:
For the most part, the two have a lot in common in these categories. There are a few very minor differences, like the exact embroidery on the back and arms of their jackets and the spacing of the stripes on their cuffs. The original has his button and white paper tag located in his ear, while the replica has his button in ear, and another Steiff button and his white tag located on the edge of his jacket. Clearly, the doll's rope whip and boot tassels cannot be exactly replicated as the materials used for these accessories have evolved over time. The key physical material difference between the early Hungarian and the replica Hungarian is that the replica uses long black plush in the place of long black mohair on the doll's hair, beard, and jacket trim - perhaps as a cost savings measure. 

The original Hungarian doll is entirely stuffed with excelsior from head to toe. The replica's head is softly stuffed, while the rest of his body and limbs are stuffed with excelsior. It is really interesting to note that the dolls are nearly identical in weight, with the replica just 4 grams heavier than the antique one. Both dolls have analogous jointing. Here on the left, you can see an original Steiff advertisement from around 1912 featuring the Hungarian astride a camel; the photo is from Ayers and Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings.

General aesthetics:
It is obvious that the turn-of-last century doll is slimmer, curvier, and more elegantly scaled than the replica. This is especially noticeable in the face; the original has old fashioned facial contouring and a smaller, to scale nose while the newer version has a fuller, flatter, rounder face with a really bulbous nose. This probably has to do with the fact that excelsior stuffing allows greater contouring than simply polyfill. The replica, although still quite handsome and a wonderful addition to any Steiff collection, is simply a bigger, somewhat streamlined, and boxier interpretation.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's original and replica circus dolls has been one hot ticket for you.

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

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