Every piece of art can be subjected to analysis, but true art cannot be said to be strictly one thing or another; there are subtleties, intentional or not, that contribute to its visual impact. When one begins to study art, one learns how to recognize the ways in which each part shapes the whole. Lladró is an excellent illustration of this because each component is literally constructed one at a time and then assembled. On the one hand, each part is produced from a mold facilitating mass production, but each one is polished, painted and assembled individually by hand. A particular painter will specialize in certain pieces to afford consistency. The result: a set of works appearing visually identical, yet each subtly different. The typical figurine is composed of 15 to 20 molded parts. However, one particular high-end piece, 18th Century Coach, required about 350 molded parts!
Peggy Whiteneck, in her excellent book Collecting Lladró: Identification & Price Guide (Second Edition), makes the very apt point that Lladró tends toward the feminine and female children are particularly well represented. The fact that all the designers have been men is instructive; they recognize at least some of what visually appeals to us about young girls—not only their physical appearance but their personality and manner as well.
Sometimes when I look at a piece, its existence seems to defy explanation. I am not speaking of the technical difficulty in producing the work but the mere fact of its composition. I find myself asking over and over again, “What possessed the artists to design and actually produce this work and then who would buy it?” To me, Mischievous Mouse is such a piece. At first when I saw it, it seemed like just another cute Lladró, but every time I came across it again, it would catch my eye. Finally, I asked the seller for pictures from other angles to get a better idea of why it appeals so much to me. Most commercial sculptures for home display are only interesting from one angle—the so-called hero’s view—but this one was different.
Overall what is impressive about this piece is that even though the figure is covered head to toe in a mouse suit, it nonetheless shows off the girl’s figure. Notice the curve of her back that can be seen from the side. A compositional analysis is quite easy because there are no tiny elements like flowers and the work can be fully appreciated without an extreme close-up.
The most obvious separate components are the cat and ball and the girl is teasing the cat, hence the name.
The curl of the tail strikes me as sensuous and the almost gaudy bow gives added interest to the rear end to help counterbalance the busy front end. Though visually compelling, constructing such a tail for a life-size costume would seem almost impossible.
Again, the form-fitting suit shows off her frame, especially the calves and straining left foot, but the crinkling at the joints gives the impression of a comfortable fit.
There are three figurines in this mouse and cat series; the second is called Restful Mouse. Because of the figure’s posture, the suit this time shows off the shoulders, chest, thighs and once again the calves and feet. Lladró’s construction methods really hit home when I accidentally knocked this piece over, breaking off a few pieces. One of those was the cat which came off in one piece. In fact, I toyed with the idea of not gluing it back but it created an odd gap and I replaced it.
The third figure, Loving Mouse (#5883), did not quite have the sensuous quality of the other two, so I don’t own this one. I hope you have enjoyed this exhibition of my favorite Lladrós. Others may grace these pages as they apply to a particular theme.
Lladró (official site)