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    

Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #152/0 A Umbrella Boy 5" Tall Tmk 3 Hx67Hummel Goebel Figurine 301 Tmk 6 Christmas Angel Box N87 QmRare 1957 Goebel Ring Around The Rosie Hummel Oeslau #348 Tmk-3?Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #71 Stormy Weather 6" Tall Tmk 3 Hx74Hummel Goebel Figurine 620 Tmk 7 Story From Grandma Coa & Box V100 QmVintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #71 Stormy Weather 6" Tall Tmk 3 Hx68Hummel Goebel Figurine 2008 Tmk 7 Frisky Friends Signed R393 DdVintage Hummel Figurine #152 A Large 8" Umbrella Boy Tmk 2 Full BeeHummel Goebel Figurine 2014 / I Tmk 7 Christmas Delivery Box V106 QmGoebel Hummel Figurine Spring Sowing Collectors Set 156061 Mint Condition In BoxVintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #353/1 Spring Dance Large 7" Tall Tmk 5 Hx114Hummel Goebel 2197 - American Spiritboy In Toy Car With Amercian Flag Tm - (Hummel Goebel Figurine 621 Tmk 7 At Grandpa's Coa & Box V101 QmGoebel Hummel Figurine Little Nurse #376 Tmk-6 Missing Bee Retired 1982Hum #376 Little Nurse Tm6 Goebel M.i. Hummel Figurine Germany Retired Tmk6Goebel Hummel Figurine "the Smart Little Sister" Tmk-4, Three Line, #346 *nice!Hummel Goebel Figurine 634 2/0 Tmk 7 Sunshower Box N98 QmHummel Goebel Figurine 721 Tmk 7 Trio Of Wishes Box And Coa Included N77 QmHummel 151 Blue Cloak Rare Seated Madonna Full Bee Goebel Tmk2 Tm2Nicht So Hastig # 2343 Goebel Hummel Hum 2231 Friendly FeedingHummel Figurine. 10/1. Flower Madonna. Tm 3.Hummels Figurines Goebel Lot Of 26 Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #47/ii Goose Girl Large 7" Tall Tmk 3 Hx69Hummel Goebel Figurine #132 Star Gazer 4.75" Tall Tmk 2 Full Bee Hx51Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #99 Eventide 4.5" Tall Tmk 3 Hx73Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #28/iii Wayside Devotion 8.25" Tall Tmk 3 Hx71Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #311 Kiss Me 6" Tall Tmk 4 Hx93Hummel Goebel Figurine 312 / I Tmk 7 Honey Lover Box V119 QmHummel Goebel Figurine 766 Tmk 7 Here's My Heart Coa & Box V104 QmRare 1957 Goebel Ring Around The Rosie Hummel Oeslau #348 Tmk-3?Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #152/0 B Umbrella Girl 5" Tall Tmk 3 Hx66Hummel Goebel Honey Lover 312 #804 With Box 3 7/8"Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #333 Blessed Event 5.25" Tall Tmk 4 Hx101Hummel Goebel Figurine #30/0 A Ba Bee Ring Boy 4.75" Tmk 2 Full Bee Hx54Vintage Goebel Friar Tuck Monk Cookie Jar Biscuit Barrel K 29 1957 9" Tmk5 F8Goebel Mi Hummel Little Guardian Tmk6!! 145, Stands 3 3/4" Tall No ReserveHummel Goebel 2020 - Riding Lesson - (ln)Poultry Seller Goebel Miniature Olszewski 608-p 819141 1992Goebel Hummel Figurine Teacher's Pet Hum 2125 #1753 Mint Condition Signed / BoxHummel Figurine Tmk-5 " Doll Bath " 5 Inchs.tall Lot 7320 Miniature Hummel Figurine Lot. 15 R 1988 First Editions Boxes & Papers GoebelHummel Goebel Figurine 260a Tmk 6 Virgin Mary From Nativity Scene A640 QmLot Of 9 Goebel Hummel Bh10, 143/0 ,330 ,545 ,356 ,479 ,459 ,53 , 203/1Goebel Hummel "puppy Pause" #2032 - Tmk8 - Mint W/ Orig Box! 1st Issue 2001! Goebel Hummel Figurine The Guardian Hum 455 #214 Mint Condition In BoxVintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #396 Ride Into Christmas 5.75" Tall Tmk 5 Hx111Goebel Hummel Figurine Christmas Angel Hum 301/2/0 #1980 Signed / MasterpainterHummel Goebel Figurine 758 Tmk 7 Nimble Fingers Box V108 QmHummel May Dance # 791Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #67 Doll Mother 4.5" Tall Tmk 3 Hx78Hummel Figurine Tmk-5 " The Artist " 5 In.tall Lot 92Vintage Hummel Goebel Figurine #196/0 Telling Her Secret 5" Tall Tmk 4 Hx96Hummel Goebel Figurine 47 / Ii Tmk 7 Goose Girl Box White V117 QmHummel Goebel Figurine 408/0 Tmk 6 Smiling Through A641 QmHummel Figurine"the Photographer"178,tmk-4, 5" Tall,full BeeHummel Goebel 418 - What's New? Girl With Newspaper - (ln)Goebel Hummel Night Before Christmas Set Mark 1122-d & Hum 2234 Signed And DatedPerfect Set Of Goebel Olszewski Three Little Pigs And Wolf MiniaturesM. I. Hummel Meditation Figure. W/flowers In Basket 1935 - 1949 Full Crown Tmk1Goebel Hummel Figurine Stormy Weather #71 Tmk2 6.75" - Umbrella Boy & Girl Y5