These two pairs of bookends are Flat Elephant and Flat Owl. They’re not figural, but they’re very rare. These are of the original German Modernist style, dating back to about 1910, and are from the German workshop of sculptor Hugo Berger, the Goberg Metalwarenfabrik, located in Schmalkalden, Thurengia, Germany.
We purchased the pressed-iron Flat Elephants in the early nineties, in an antique mall in south Florida. We had just begun to collect bookends and could not tell desirable ones from undesirables, but these looked unusual and the price was right – $5.00. A few years later we saw them offered for several hundred dollars at a show in Chicago, although the dealer knew only that they were marked “Made in Germany.” Because the price in the show was high, we kept them for years, knowing nothing about them, but hoping to learn more some day. Last year, we saw them pictured on the Internet, attributed to Hugo Berg, and traced down their Modernist origins.
We purchased the pressed-iron Flat Owls in 2011 at the annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, a high-end gathering. By this time we recognized Modernist items. The dealer knew nothing about them except they were marked Austria, but was asking $150 for the pair. After some pleasant bargaining, we paid $125. Later in the show we saw a pair of candlesticks with the Flat Owls incorporated into them. The candlesticks were marked “Goberg” and this enabled us to trace the bookends to the same workshop as the Flat Elephants. Seeing the candlesticks was a lucky coincidence, of course, but it is nice to be lucky once in a while.