Monday, June 30, 2014

Muddy Monday: On Za Lips a' Lipizzaner

Muddy Hoofprints Law: There's no knowing when a new curiosity will drop in your lap, or when a random rescue will relate to an earlier pottery mystery.

A non-hobby friend who frequents estate sales found some china horses, one weekend in May. He picked up the only two Hagen-Renakers in the group, and gave them to me. They were a broken Monrovia white small Zara and a DW Lipizzaner.

I was intrigued by the Lip, even though he is, by far, the less valuable model of the two: missing a leg, multiple breaks and chips, and lacking his base and sticker, entirely. He retained small clues about his age. The bottoms of his hind feet had glue residue with woodgrain/wood chips still stuck in it. 

This was after the water boiling technique, to loosen misaligned glued breaks.
There is still some woodgrain debris left on the sole!

This was one of the earliest white Monrovia Lipizzaners, as he had originally left the factory glued on a wooden base. Wood bases were used for the first issue Lips for a short time, as with the DW Hackney, but ceramic bases are found with most examples. He did not have the tri-eyes of Middle Monrovia, but dot-eyes. No lashes, no whites. When I examined his painted pink muzzle, it struck me as familiar, but not something I'd seen on this mold before. 

Here are some variations of eye and muzzle decoration one normally sees on the white Lipizzaners, from several HR factory eras.

Muzzle has gray airbrushing, with pink airbrushed on top.
Lash bi-eyes, close to the age of my little patient, but this Monrovia is on a ceramic base.
Blue rectangle sticker.
Photo courtesy Cindy Dilks.

Another Monrovia decorated as above example, yet with sharper mold detail.
This one has a round gold sticker.
Photo courtesy Cindy Dilks.

No pink nose Monrovia.
Photo Courtesy Val Tudor.

Faint pink airbrushing, but only on this side! San Marcos era.
Photo courtesy Nancy Kelly.

Note pink airbrush overspray, even on the knee of the one on far right.
Photos courtesy Ed Alcorn.

The little broken guy doesn't have eyes or muzzles like any of these.
The photo on the left shows a fellow wood-base age example, without pink.

Another wood-base age example. Again, no pink.
Photo credit: unknown, Pinterest.

What was off about my broken little guy? He had a wood base once, and he has pink that doesn't look normal in hue or application. Pink that, frankly, isn't normally on a gentlemen of his age.

The hard edge of the pink, on both sides, seemed odd. Others had softly airbrushed pink, even extending up the face (or on other parts of the body). This fellow had sharp-edged pink. There are two possible causes for this:

1. An airbrush run. Underglaze can catch on edges of nostrils and lips. It will puddle or pool, leaving a darkened, hard edge as it dries.

2. Hand brushed-on overglaze.

It is not post-factory consumer-applied nail polish, because I chemically stripped him thoroughly, to prep for restoration. The pink is not coming off.

It seems odd that, if airbrushed, why doesn't the pink on the old guy show any overspray on the rest of the muzzle? When I get a run, it happens while I have been applying layers of pink underglaze to the muzzle and face, which places the darker pink run's edge within a field of softly sprayed pink. This next model shows exactly what I'm talking about. One can see pink airbrushing up the sides of the jaws. The hard, darker edges are where the airbrush caught the sculpture and made runs.

Photos courtesy Julie Harris.
Note the airbrush runs connect between the nostrils, no white space.
My computer's color auto-correct made these slightly different, my apologies.

Then it dawned on me where I had seen this watery, edged, dabbed pink before:

Readers may recall that this odd lady was purchased in a legacy collection of Monrovia pieces, boxed up and stored for decades. In that collection was this factory second Lipizzaner, missing some decoration, but with an airbrushed pink muzzle! The plot thickens.

This base is assumed to be employee-made, 
using HR factory materials/glaze, but is not this product's normal base.
It is unknown if this one was ever meant to have a wood base.
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.

Comparing my broken Lip and my odd factory custom(?) Zara.

Side by side, the main difference seems to be one is applied on a glossy glaze. Where the Lipizzaner's nostril interior has a pool of glossier glaze, the intensity of pink matches better than over the matte. This may be due to optics, as overglaze sinks into and takes on the character of the glaze it is applied to... or who knows? His pink looks nothing like the shade on the other Lipizzaners, except for the factory second Lip. There are also uneven patches of white inside the nostrils, as there are in the Zara's. Airbrush application would not leave white. Side note, he is even white between the pink slops on both nostrils. 

The old guy's pink stops dead, as if applied deliberately with a small paintbrush.
No pink pooling between nostrils.

As far as I have found, the employee-custom Zara dates between Spring 1957- Spring1958. 

The earliest (wood base) DW Lipizzaner dates to Spring 1957- Spring 1958.

Could be a coincidence, but it's worth noting.

I've already touched on the use of overglazes in early-middle Monrovia, in the Silver On Her Toes post. What I've learned since then, is that other DW models also received non-metallic detail touches of some type of heat-set lacquer or actual enamel/overglazes. The use of non-metallic over-deco on DWs is less familiar to casual collectors than the common Miniatures line use of overglazes (Circus Ponies, Drafter in Harness, etc.).

For example, the Monrovia DW Bison has a singular hue of brushed-on over-deco on its hooves and horns. The paintbrush strokes can be seen in some. His debut was 1961, which is odd compared to the time of use of hoof extra-deco in the DW horses.

Left: Monrovia with rust-orange overglaze or lacquer on hooves and horns.
Models courtesy Keith Bean.

So, there are Monrovia precedents with over-the-glaze detail pigment, and they were applied not by airbrush, but by paintbrush. The timeframe (in horses, at least) seems to coincide. I'm not ready to say this is a Monrovia overglaze pink-nose Lipizzaner- because artifacts of underglazing can fool the eye- but I'd love to learn of other wood-base Lipizzaners in collector hands, and what their muzzles look like. Do they have any pink? Does it show airbrushing artifacts, or is it more like a hand-brushed accent, on top of the glaze? Do you know of a wood-base Lipizzaner with airbrushed pink, just like the factory second above?

This entire investigation would never have happened, if someone had thrown the broken Lip in the dustbin. Instead, someone saved him from doom, and asked five dollars for him. The humblest little fragment can point out big production differences that we tend to not "see", even when we look at the whole a hundred times.

Gratitude to all who shared photos or let me photograph their models for this post: Ed Alcorn, Keith Bean, Cindy Dilks, Julie Harris, Nancy Kelly, and Val Tudor.


Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Catalogue. Third Edition. Pp. 69, 75, 97. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.

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