Berta Hummel, who was born in Bavaria in 1909 and trained as an artist, applied to the Congregation of the Franciscan Sister of Siessen in 1931. When she took her first vows in 1934, she became Sister Maria Innocentia. In her spare time at the convent, Hummel continued to paint and draw happy, large-headed, wide-eyed children, often with animals.

Her fellow nuns were wowed by her artwork, and after some convincing, she allowed them to send some of her pieces to publishers of religious art. Emil Fink Verlag printed popular postcards from her paintings, as well as a book called “Das Hummel-Buch” with her drawings and poetry by Margarete Seemann. Ars Sacra Josef Müller Verlag, a publisher of prayer books, religious prints, and holy cards now known as ArsEditions, also began to print many of Sister M.I. Hummel’s images.

Some of Hummel’s Christmas and New Year’s cards caught the attention of Franz Goebel, the head of Goebel pottery, in December 1933. Goebel approached the convent with the concept of turning the nun’s painting into three-dimensional figurines. The letter granting Goebel permission had the caveat that the convent had to approve all Hummel figurine designs before they could be mass produced.

Once the company had permission, Goebel began to experiment with molds and earthenware models. Goebel debuted the Hummel figurines at the Leipzig Trade Fair in March of 1935, where they received much acclaim. By the end of the year, Goebel had added 46 figures to the Hummel line. The profit became a source of income for the convent.

When she released the painting, “The Volunteers” depicting hapless boys being sent off to war with the line, “Dear Fatherland, let there be peace!” in 1937, Hummel drew the scorn of Adolf Hitler, who objected to German youth being depicted as “brainless sissies” with “hydrocephalic heads.” Hummel also didn’t shy away from Jewish imagery, like the Star of David and menorahs, in her religious artworks. The Nazi government let her continue to paint, but they banned the reproduction and sales of her work in the country.

Early in World War II, the Nazis shut down all religious schools in the country, including the school at Siessen. In 1940, Nazi officials took over the convent, forcing more than 200 of the nuns to leave, allowing only 40 to stay as prisoners, with no heat or income and little food. Hummel had gone home to her family, but requested to come back within three months, as she missed the Sisters. By then, the Nazis had made off with half of the money Hummel had earned for the convent. Sister Hummel fell ill with tuberculosis in 1944, and died on November 6, 1946, at age 37.

Goebel’s production of Hummel figurines died down during World War II and, toward the end of the war, halted completely. In the United States, a subsidiary of Ars Sacra, produced...

Between 1946 and 1949, the United States Military Occupation Government gave Goebel permission to resume production. Men in the occupational forces were quite charmed by the Hummel figurines and brought them home as gifts for their wives, children, and extended families. That’s when the popularity of these figurines exploded in the United States.

The talented sculptors and painters at Goebel continued to reproduce original Hummel pieces as well as new Hummel figurines until 2008, when the factory in Rödental closed. However, a company called Rödental, lead by Jörg Koster, took over the manufacturing of Hummel figurines in 2009, after hiring many former Goebel employees who had worked on the Hummel line and receiving blessings from the Siessen convent and Hummel’s family.

Most authentic Hummel pieces bear an incised “M.I. Hummel” signature, with the exception of a few figures that were too small to incise. The oldest Hummel figurines, those manufactured between 1935 and 1950, also feature Goebel’s “crown-WG” mark with a drawing of a crown indicating the company’s loyalty to the monarchy in 1900 and the initials “WG” for founder William Goebel. Between 1946 and 1948, a Hummel piece would also indicate that it was made in the occupied zone, and between 1948 and 1949, in West Germany.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

V&A Porcelain Figures

V&A Porcelain Figures

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s online collection of Meissen porcelain figures includes more than 150 pieces, in… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Large 7.5" Size Goebel Hummel Umbrella Boy & Umbrella Girl 152a & B Figurines9.25” Goebel Hummel Figurine Heavenly Protection #88 Tmk 1Hummel Goebel Figurine 530 Tmk 7 Land In Sight Box & Coa N793 RcLarge Size Goebel Hummel Apple Tree Girl & Apple Tree Boy 10-1/2" SizeLot Of Ten (10) Assorted Hummel Figurines - Beautiful And Great Condition.Hummel Figurine Honey Lover #312 Tmk 7 Mint Club Exclusive 15 Yr Membership NrM.i Hummel Goebel #312/i Honey Lover Exclusive Figurine Mint In Box Tmk7 Hummel Goebel Figurine 339 Tmk 7 Behave! N753 RcLot Of (16) Vintage Goebel Hummel Figures, Bells, & Wall PocketRare Goebel Hummel Disney Mickey Mouse Merry Wanderer Display Plaque 1998 Mint!!Rare Goebel Hummel Disney Donald Duck Little Drummer Boy Display Plaque 2000Howard Pierce Mid Century Stylized Horse FigurineHummel Goebel Figurine 152/0 A Tmk 6 Umbrella Boy N738 RcGoebel Hummel Figurine Premier Edition Icy Adventure Skating Lesson Boy - #234Goebel Hummel Figurine- "spring Dance" , #353/i - Tmk5 - Must See! No Reserve!6” Goebel Hummel Figurine Christmas Angel #301 Tmk 6Vntg Hummel Figurine, "knitting Lesson" #256 Goebel Western Germany W/ Box GHummel 900 Merry Wanderer With Bumble Bee Plaque German Version Mint In Box!!!Vintage Hummel Goebel Proud Moments #800 Millenium Figurine W. GermanyHummel Goebel Figurine 71/i Tmk 7 Stormy Weather N734 RcLtd Toy Stamp & Hummel Figure Tmk-4 Spring Dance ( Big ) 6 1/2 Inchs. Lot 88Vintage Olszewski Pre- Goebel Farmyard Hero Miniature Figurine Barnyard Hero Olszewski Goebel Miniature Hummel Ring Around The Rosie 286-Hummel Figurine Dealer Plaque #187 Tmk-3 Mark Mint In Box6.5” Goebel Hummel Figurine Virgin Mary #214a Tmk 2 No Rsv Artist InitialedHummel Lot Of 3 - Merry Wanderer 7/0 Tmk5 6 1/4 Inches Tall Plus 11/0, 11 2/0Hummel Goebel Figurine 331 Tmk 7 Crossroads N748 Rc"what Now" Goebel Hummel Figurine #422 With Box Lot 9 $0.99 Starting Bid!Hummel Goebel "freind Or Foe" # 461,hum 443, First Issue 1991, Artist SampleHummel Goebel 487 - Let's Tell The World, Children Ringing The Bell, Tmk6 !!Hummel Figures Goebels Germany Lot Of 5 Interesting Pieces 226 15 71 6 345Vintage Goebel Hummel Figurine "saint George" 55 Tmk 2 Full Bee W/ Incised CrownM.i Hummel Goebel 2257 Little Concerto Mint In Box Hummel Goebel Figurine 312/i Tmk 7 Honey Lover N744 RcHummel #2166 Retired "circus Act" 4:25" Mint In Box Rare Blue Version!!!Hummel Star Gazer 132 Tmk 56.5” Goebel Hummel Figurine Crossroads #331 Tmk 7 - No Reserve CollectionHummel Goebel Figurine 353/i Tmk 6 Spring Dance N727 RcHummel #828 "over The Horizon" Fur Daddy Figurine - Tmk 8 Mint In Box5.5” Goebel Hummel Figurine Bookworm Bookend #14/a Tmk 3  no Reserve CollectionVintage Olszewski Miniature Figurine Pre- Goebel Bringing Home The Tree ArtistHummel Goebel 172/ii - Festival Harmony, Angel With Mandolin, Tmk5 !!Hummel Goebel Figurine & Scape 541 Tmk 7 Sweet As Can Be Happy Birthday N743 RcVintage Hummel Goebel Kiss Me #311 Tmk 4 Three Line Mark Doll With Socks M.i. Hummel # 423 Horse Trainer 4 And 1/2 Tall Tmk 6 Mint ConditionMi Hummel Mihc Proclamation Boston 2005 Convention Figurine 2095 Mint In Box5” Goebel Hummel Figurine Sensitive Hunter #6/0 Tmk 1  - No Reserve CollectionVintage Artist Olszewski Figurine Adrienne Pre- Goebel Miniature Lady In Blue10” Goebel Hummel Figurine Millenium Madonna #855 Tmk 8  no Reserve CollectionSpring Dance Goebel Hummel Figurine #353/0 Tmk6 W/ Box Lot $0.99 Starting Bid!Hummel Goebel Figurine 333 Tmk 7 Blessed Event N776 RcVintage 4 3/4" Hummel Goebel Umbrella Girl 152/0 B Tmk 4 Three Line MarkHummel Figurine" Star Gazer" 132 Tmk-6Hummel Goebel Figurine 827 Der Lieben Mama Tmk 8 Daydreamer Plaque Mint In Box7” Goebel Hummel Figurine Wayside Devotion #28 Ii Tmk 3  - No Rsv CollectionHummel Figurine Thoughful #415 Tmk 7 Mint Condition Artist Signed No Reserve5.5” Goebel Hummel Figurine Bookworm Bookend #14/a Tmk 3  no Reserve Collection Lot Of 3 Hummel Figurines Little Sweeper, Wash Day & The Smart Little SisterHummel Goebel Figurine 199/i Tmk 6 Feeding Time N735 RcHummel Figurines Lot Of 100+