A very handsome woman is dressed in an exceptional costume and is reclining among beautiful robes. She could be royalty, perhaps a queen or a princess, but the bookends do not hint at her status or origins. We will call her Exotic Woman.
Author Archives: Bookend Collector
Cowboys riding bucking broncos are not unusual subjects for bookends. Western themes were popular in home decor in the 1930s and 1940s. Driven by the popularity of western movies everything from dinner sets to lamps for children’s bedrooms featured cowboys and bucking broncos. These bookends are notable because they are marked Ronson 1942, and they are the last bookends Ronson produced, as far as we know.
The Philadelphia Manufacturing Company (PMC) issued reproductions of these bookends so collectors must look for the entire inscription on the base.
Whenever possible, we like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style and the popular fashion in which they were created. We do this in order to create the perception that bookends are objects of art, not simply collectibles. Of course, all bookends are art work, created by artists, so there is no doubt here. If the art world accepts bookends as an art form, they will keep their value into the future, not disappear like mere collectibles, such as beanie babies did a few years ago.
For many bookends, the artist worked in a recognizable art style, such as Art Deco or Art Nouveau. For other bookends, the art style is not obvious, but the artist may have chosen subject material which is iconic for an art style that was popular during its design. For example, bookends displaying Dante and Beatrice we would classify as Victorian art style because their story of unrequited love was universally appreciated by the Victorian mind.
Romeo and Juliet: Here we have Shakespearean characters from a period of Elizabethan Revival In the Victorian era.
Altar of Love: Sentimentality and domesticity were deeply felt in Victorian times. In this bookend scene a couple vows enduring love before a mystic flame while the loyal family dog watches and cherubim represent angels.
Hoops and Balls: Geometric figures were prominent in American Art Deco in the nineteen thirties. A number of purely geometric bookends were produced at that time, as were these.
Nude on Fluted Pedestal: A streamlined girl we know to be a flapper because of her bobbed hairdo and deemphasized breasts, sits on a fluted column. Skyscraper setbacks are seen on the building wall behind her. Streamlining, flappers, skyscrapers with setbacks, and fluted columns are all iconic of the nineteen twenties.
Butterfly Girl: Beautiful women with wings nearly always mean the art form of Art Nouveau. In addition to this image the bookends show whiplash markings on the wings, markings associated with Art Nouveau.
Mucha Maiden: Alphonse Mucha, a Czech artist, is closely associated with the art style of Art Nouveau. He is famous for posters which featured beautiful women with whiplash curls. This bookend woman’s appearance is dominated by curls and so reminds us of “Mucha” women.
Man & Woman: This pair of bookends features a man and a woman for beauty’s sake. There is no moral, political or other reason for the presentation so we judge it to be of the Aesthetic art style.
Parrot on Book: The Aesthetic art style gave us beautiful bookends with no story attached. This subject of parrot on book fits the art style.
Roycroft Flower: The Arts and Crafts art style promoted handmade art objects made by artisans who were also the artists. These Arts and Crafts style bookends were made in the Roycroft workshops from sheet copper by cutting, bending, and hammering.
Indian Potter: This Indian brave is fashioning pots from clay, meeting standards for the Arts and Crafts style. Indian crafts and art were displayed prominently in the era of ARTS and CRAFTS.
MId-Century Modern Art Style: from roughly 1946 to the present. This style is more of a collection of certain objects produced by certain artists than a coherent art style. For example, Scandinavian teak objects like these bookends were in demand during these times.
Free Form: Early Mid-Century objects were rounded forms, notable for the absence of angles, and referred to as Fifties Collectibles. These bookends were created by Ben Seibel, a successful sculptor with his own foundry.
Cupid (Eros) is the ancient Roman (Greek) God of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection. He was the son of Venus, Goddess of Love, and either Mars, Mercury or Vulcan. He is winged because lovers are flighty and liable to change their minds. He is a famous archer whose golden arrows cause uncontrollable desire, and whose leaden arrows quench desire and promote aversion. Cupid appears in literature, theater, and art many times over centuries. In paintings and sculpture he appears as a slender beautiful youth and as chubby toddler. The chubby toddler is a popular Valentine’s Day subject. Our Cupid, from the early 1900s, is a lovely depiction of a youth with his quiver of arrows, but no bow. He is standing over a a formal flower bouquet that includes roses, a flower that features in classical tales about Cupid.
There is an abundance of bookends commemorating the historic 1927 flight of Charles LIndbergh across the Atlantic from Roosevelt Field, Mineola, NY to LeBourget Airport, France. Lindbergh is captured in profile, in bust, in flying outfit, in front of the plane,…………..
This bookend, showing the Spirit of Saint Louis, reminds us that the historic significance of the flight was about more than just Lindbergh. It was about a PRIZE and $$$, it was about GLORY, it was about ENGINEERING, and INGENUITY, and IMAGINATION, and it was about CELEBRITY and REPUTATION. And it was a competitive race to be FIRST!
The Orteig Prize of $25,000 was originally offered in 1919 for the first non-stop flight from New York City to Paris, or the reverse, by an Allied Aviator. Offered for 5 years there were no competitors. It was re-offered in June 1925, and since aviation had made significant advances, a competitive field showed up. Six aviators died in their attempts and others were hurt. In 1927 there were several groups prepping for attempts at the prize, including one headed by polar explorer Richard E. Byrd. April and May of 1927 found everyone gathering at Roosevelt Field and Curtis Field testing their planes and waiting for the right conditions for the flight.
An Airmail pilot, Charles Lindbergh, managed to convince 9 Saint Louis, Missouri businessmen to back him; and a small aeronautical firm in San Diego to deliver a plane, to his specifications, in sixty days. He was convinced that a single-engine monoplane using a whirlwind engine could take him to Paris. The “Ryan NYP” (for New York to Paris) was built. On May 10 -12 he flew it to Curtiss Field on Long Island, NY, setting a new North American transcontinental speed record, stopping in St. Louis on the way. Byrd offered Lindbergh the use of the longer Roosevelt Field runway. Lindbergh takes off on May 20 and thirty-three and half hours later captures the Orteig Prize by landing in Paris on May 21.
The plane designed by Donald A Hall and built in San Diego which carried Lindbergh to success now rests in the Smithsonian, while a reproduction built in 1978-79, the Spirit of Saint Louis 3, resides in the rotunda of the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park. Spirit 3 was last flown on the 75th anniversary of the 1927 flight.
Riveted on the front base of each bookend is a metal plate with the inscription “TEMPLE OF ISIS,” which should identify the ruins. Are they Greek, Egyptian, Roman or a Victorian interpretation of the facade of a Temple to Isis? In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, the ruins of the ancient world were of great interest to European and American travelers or tourists. As bookends became popular decorative items in Victorian homes, they often reflected this interest in classical themes, such as this bookend of the Temple of ISIS.
Isis was a very important Goddess in ancient Egypt. Already present in the Egyptian pantheon by 2000 BCE, she became the Goddess of motherhood, and was also revered as a magical healer who could cure the sick and bring the dead back to life.
The cult of Isis spread throughout the greater Greek and Roman world, including the Greek island of Delos, where a famed ruin of an ISIS Temple stands. The island of Delos was a popular early tourist destination. These bookends depict temple ruins that resemble the Delos ruins but not exactly. Perhaps the Bradley and Hubbard artist never saw the Delos ruin.
So…. our first guess was that these bookends were representative of the ruins on the Greek Island of Delos. But the Delos ruins have only 4 columns and are topped by an entablature (the upper part of a Classical design comprising an architrave, frieze and cornice), in other words, a triangle.
However, there was another early and famous tourism site in Egypt, the ruins of Philae. And these ruins drew the attention of the world in the early 1900s (when bookends were coming into vogue) as they were in danger of being swamped by the building of the first ASWAN dam in 1902. The Temple of Isis at Philae is credited with columns that reflect the influence of Greek and Roman occupation of Egypt, such as carvings that resemble bundled reeds. The 5 columns of these bookends appear to have the “bundled reeds” carvings near the top. There are 5 columns along the side of the Temple of Isis at Philae. And our bookends display a Winged Sun Disc on the underhang of the cornice. A very typical Egyptian motif in the early 20th century.
So… our second guess would be that these bookends were meant to represent the Temple of Isis at Philae. We’d like to point out that Theodore Roosevelt visited these ruins in the early 1870s, long before they were moved to higher ground in order to preserve them.
Feminism was very topical in the nineteen twenties. Young ladies wanted the free and easy lifestyle of men, including smoking, gambling, drinking and sexual contacts. In order to look more like men they deemphasized breasts and cut their hair short. Today we remember these young ladies as flappers: The origin of the term is uncertain, however, click here for a Geneva (New York) Historical Society blog post from 2013 with a pretty thorough summary of the etymology.
Issued in the nineteen twenties, these bookend nudes show us the short feminist haircut of the era, called “the bob,” so we know she was a flapper.