Romantic “Orientalism” scenes of middle-eastern life and people are often depicted on bookends labeled Austrian or Vienna Bronze. The bookends shown here feature a Bedouin carrying a sword mounted on a camel. His saddle is fitted with dangling chains. He is in an oasis with a palm tree nearby. He could be a model for Lawrence of Arabia or even Rudolf Valentino in the 1921 movie “The Sheik.” The bookends are bronze, cast in a detailed low relief, admirably painted, and attached to a marble base. Bookends of this “Orientalism” genre are commonly sold as Vienna Bronzes at relatively high prices.
Vienna Bronze refers to a tradition of handicraft developed in the city of Vienna, Austria beginning in about 1850 and continuing to the present day. Small, cold-painted, bronze figurines are produced by master craftsmen in small factories and private artist studios for sale worldwide. Our pair is bronze, marked made in Austria, and is almost certainly a bronze from Vienna, although it might not have been made in one of the traditional workshops. Since it is marked “Patent Applied For” it was probably designed and made for the American market sometime in the 1910s or 20s, at the height of “Orientalism” fashion in dress and home decor.