Cordey Porcelain Pilgrim Lady

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Pictured in my last blog post were some items around my house with a bit of green in them. I briefly described most of them but purposely ignored my Pilgrim Lady. She deserves a post all her own.

It’s funny the items we inherit that have been in our homes or our grandparents’ homes all of our lives – knick knacky things with seemingly no more interesting history behind them than a week on the shelf at Hudson’s Department Store followed by the inside of a gift box.

I researched Pilgrim Lady only because my mom said there was a Pilgrim Man as well who was tragically left unpurchased by my grandmother when she bought Pilgrim Lady, possibly at Hudson’s downtown, during a Christmas shopping season sometime between 1946 and 1953. The dates I learned today along with the much more interesting past of Pilgrim Lady.

The history behind Pilgrim Lady began in 1895 Lithuania, when a boy, Boleslaw Cybis was born. Though he excelled as an athlete at his Warsaw school, he was interested in art.

His architect father took the family to Russia to live while he worked there, and by 1915 young Boleslaw studied at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. During the Russian Civil War, Boleslaw left for Constantinople where he worked drawing streetside sketches, theatre advertisements and backdrops.

After the war, he returned to Poland to finish his schooling and later moved about Europe studying sculpture and the works of the world Masters. Eventually, he himself had showings in Europe and America.

His home country of Poland commissioned he and his artist wife to travel to the USA to paint a series of murals for the 1939 World’s Fair.

After the outbreak of the war, unable to return home to Poland, the couple became US citizens and founded the Cybis Studio at an old mansion in New York.

In 1942, they relocated to Trenton and, with help from a couple of investors, opened Cordey China Company.

Remember this is a story about Pilgrim Lady?

A little research proved the marking “Cordey” on her underside is the mark of Boleslaw Cybis’s Cordey China Company.

The firm appears to have ended in 1953 when Boleslaw Cybis moved on to create yet a third studio: Cybis Porcelain, and though Boleslaw died in 1957, his last studio was bought out in 1969 to make lamps using the ‘Schiller-Cordey’ name.

So, my grandmother purchased my figurine no later than 1953. And, since she bought Pilgrim Lady to give to my parents who married the spring after the end of WWII, the purchase would have been no earlier than late 1946.

Cordey figurines – or at least the busts – typically have a rose featured at the front and nearly all the ones I found feature the same base. I long to know if they had only a few artists, as the features on other online examples are so similar to mine.

There were many different Cordey figurines made. Some were in couples, as I believe Pilgrim Lady was, and all different themes: Victorian ladies, Elizabethan, Southern belles and Georgian.

I could find no other pilgrims, though. But most pieces are also marked with a series and piece number.

While Pilgrim Lady is series 5008, she was only number 2 of that series which, I fear, may indicate there were few pilgrims made.

How interesting to know there’s all of this history behind her creation!

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