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Category Archives: Art Styles

ROBINSON CRUSOE

Robinson Crusoe:  Gray metal. Height 6 inches. Markings: Pompeian Bronze. circa 1930. The image for the bookends was taken from an illustration in a Robinson Crusoe edition adapted for children . Crusoe is shown fully armed and leading a small goat.

When Pompeian Bronze Company copyrighted this Robinson Crusoe bookend design in 1930, the book, Robinson Crusoe,  had excited the imagination and adventurist spirit of readers for more than 200 years.  The 1719 edition’s full title was,  entitled, The LIFE and Strange Surprizing ADVENTURES of ROBINSON CRUSOE, of York,. Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Orgonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, where-in all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by PYRATES,

ROBINSON CRUSOE was published in 1719.  It was among the first novels ever published in England. It is the story of a man shipwrecked on a lonely tropical island who by craft and industry survived and even prospered. The book was well received and has gone through hundreds of editions in the last 300 years. Until recently it remained popular with youngsters, although one might guess that it can no longer compete with comic-strip presentations of superheroes.

In the mid-to-late 1800s it was fashionable to abridge classics and make them more palatable to a young audience. Chromolithographs spiced up the stories. A 1882 edition of ROBINSON CRUSOE in Words of One Syllable by Mary Goldophin (Lucy Aikin) was widely available here in the United States.This is probably the reason that when Robinson Crusoe was first serialized (18 episodes) in film in 1922 and then became a full-length feature in 1927, Pompeian Bronze Company capitalized on the romantic and beautiful drawings of Wal (Walter) Paget in the Goldolphin version to produce their Robinson Crusoe bookends.

A 135 year old chromolithograph illustration from the edition entitled ROBINSON CRUSOE in Words of One Syllable by Mary Godolphin published in 1882.  Wal (Walter) Paget, Illustrator.

 

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FRANKART Beauty: Semiclassical and Streamlined

WPA/AMERICAN MODERNE STREAMLINED LADIES: Grey metal, Height 5.5 inches.  Inscription: FRANKART INC.  circa 1935.

In nineteen thirties America, streamlining was the most prominent feature of Art Deco fashions.  The American/WPA Moderne art style was a subset of Art Deco.  Here we have bookends showing a bust of a streamlined lady on a Deco geometric, stairstep base with a semi-classical face that belongs to  American/WPA Moderne.  (Compare to the faces in our Post from June 3, 2014, entitled WPA Moderne Bookends.)  The bookends are FRANKART’s contribution to both styles at once.

 

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2017 in Art Deco, Streamline

 

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Mystery Birds Bookends

Photo of Mystery Birds Bookends

Mystery Birds:  Grey metal.  Height: 6 inches.  Unmarked.  Attributed to Hirsch Foundry of New York City.  Exaggerated beak of celluloid, Stepped rectangular base of bakelite.  Very deco.  Circa 1931.

We were browsing in an antique shop in 1993 and we saw these bookends.  We bought them for $40. for the house, and later realized that we knew nothing about them – not who made them or when, and we could not identify how they were made, the materials of construction, or the art form. They were our mystery birds. We searched for a book and found there were no books or articles on bookends.  This inspired us to do research and write a book, categorizing bookends by era and we obtained a contract to do so from Schiffer Publishing.

We had a problem because Schiffer wanted at least 400 illustrations and we had only amassed about 250 pairs.  Fortunately, we became friendly with Louis Kuritsky.  He had a large collection and agreed to provide us pictures if we listed him as an author. which we did. BOOKEND REVUE was published in 1996, which, by the way, made bookends into collectibles. We followed it  with BOOKENDS: OBJECTS OF ART AND FASHION in 2012.  We always remember, though, that Mystery Birds was responsible for our odyssey into bookends.

 
 

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Crouching Indian Bookends

Crouching Indian:  Gray metal.  Height 5 inches.  Attributed to Ronson because of the familiar black paint with green highlights. circa 1928. A polychromed variation is depicted on page 63 of Ronson’s Art Metal Works by Stuart Schneider, Schiffer Pub., 2001.

This Indian is crouching over a tree stump and peering into the distance for enemies.. The pose looks realistic.   The exaggerated sweep of the headdress and  very shiny surfaces speak to Art Deco.

The crouching pose is not unique.  An early signed pair, copyright 1911, shows us a crouching Indian peering; into the distance for enemies.  The headdress and the surfaces are more restrained, as we could expect from an earlier date. The artist signed her full name, Nellye Partridge, on the front lip of the bookend.

Indian Ambush:  Bronze plating on gray metal.  Height 7 inches.  Inscription:  Nellye Partridge, Copyright 1911.  Attributed to NAL foundry. Photo from BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, Seecof, Schiffer Pub. 2012.

We know a Nellye Partridge with a Brooklyn, NY address copyrighted 3 bookend designs: this kneeling indian in 1911 and in 1914 “Babe book ends. Statuette of child lying on one book with feet raised to support others” and “Buffalo book ends. Statuette of buffalo bucking.” In 1913 she had copyrights for several postcards. Little else is known of Nellye Partridge. It is possible that she is the 21year old living in Brooklyn and listed as Nelly E Partridge in the 1900 US Federal Census.

Nellye Partridge signature on Indian Ambush Bookends.

 

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Maltese Dolphin Bookends

Maltese Dolphin:  Brass.  Height 4.5 inches. Inscriptions:  Malta, Made in Malta, also marked with a Maltese Cross.  Attributed to F. Abella and Sons brass foundry.  20th century.

Malta is an archipelago of three small islands in the Mediterranean Sea near Sicily and Italy.  The first people reached Malta in about 5000 BCE and it has experienced a rich history of foreign invasions ever since.  The Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John arrived on Malta in 1530 and ruled for  about 300 years.  The Knights were  a Roman Catholic chivalric and military order who adopted the emblem we know as the Maltese Cross in 1126, and which is now associated with the nation of Malta. The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta now has it’s world headquarters in Rome. Malta became part of the British Empire in the early 1800s, and due to the romance of its location, climate, history and culture was a favorite stop-over for wealthy Europeans doing the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dolphin door handles and door knockers are an ancient decorative feature on Malta buildings. Much admired by the tourists and ex-patriates that visited Malta; replicas showed up in England as early as mid-1800s. For example, In an 1869 English publication called NOTES AND QUERIES, some one asked the following: “DOLPHIN KNOCKERS…….Perhaps the Marquis of Bath can account for one of the sets of dolphin knockers from Dean Street, Fetter Lane. A pair certainly figure prominently on the door of his home in Berkeley Square.”  A footnote on that same page noted, “We have reason to believe that Lord Bath’s knockers were modelled from examples at Malta.”

Brass Dolphin Bookends from Malta with Maker’s Mark. The popularity of the Malta Dolphin as a reminder of a pleasant sojourn has inspired the 20th century production of brass dolphin door knockers and bookends by the foundries on Malta.

 

National Arms of Malta, from Independence in 1964 until 1975. The two dolphins indicated that Malta is an island state. Image and information from Heraldry of the World.

 

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Zuni Buffalo Dance Bookends by Freddie Leekya

Zuni Buffalo Dancer and Drummer. 8 .5”, local rock (zuni stone) carved figures, wood base and upright. Sculptor, Freddie Leekya, painting by Edward Lewis. 2011.

This is the perfect time to tell the story behind our Freddie Leekya Bookends. Freddie Leekya is the grandson of renowned Zuni Master Carver, Leekya Deyuse.  The Albuquerque Museum of Art History exhibit, THE LEEKYA FAMILY: MASTER CARVERS OF ZUNI PUEBLO, runs until September 24, 2017. The exhibit features 350 works by the Leekya family gathered from individuals and galleries and from major museums such as the Heard Museum, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the School of Advanced Research, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Click here to see the NEW MEXICO magazine post  “Stories in Stone”.   We are looking forward to visiting this exhibit in a few week’s time.

In 2011, we visited Zuni Pueblo bringing with us our Leekya Deyuse frog bracelet and ring to show. We had arranged our visit ahead of time with the Zuni Pueblo Visitor Center. We had a magical day.

Leekya Frog Bracelet and Ring made of carved turquoise set in silver.

We were introduced to Robert (son of Leekya Deyuse) and Bernice Leekya (masters of silver and gold jewelry) and Sarah Leekya (daughter of Leekya Deyuse) who was still carving a bit at that time and who when she put my bracelet on her arm almost didn’t give it back. Sarah also called us back to her home to share with us some additional carvings by her father and to have her son show us the hand drill Leekya used in carving his figures.

Four treasured carvings purchased from Sarah Leekya in 2011. Badger, Fox, Fox and Bird.

We visited Freddie Leekya at his studio. He was working on two figures which are now in our collection. Our daughter-in-law fell in love with a Zuni rock carved bear by Freddie.

 

That Christmas Bob was gifted with the Zuni Buffalo Dancer and Drummer Bookends. They were specially ordered from Freddie Leekya. The Buffalo Dance is a social dance and is often performed at festive gatherings. Here is a link Dave Hinkle’s youtube video of the dance being performed in Gallup, New Mexico.

 

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Made-in-Japan Mexican Bookends

Japanese Mexican bookends:  porcelain, Height 6 inches. Made In Japan.

Each bookend in this pair shows a Mexican peon sitting against saguaro cacti.  We know he is Mexican because of his characteristic sombrero and his sitting in the desert.  We expect his face to look like the popular conception of a Mexican – swarthy with a mustache, but instead we see a light-skinned, clean-shaven, blue-eyed face, quite caucasian in appearance.  These bookends were made in Japan, so we can guess that the artist had no familiarity with actual look of Mexican peons.

The painted details on this bookend are very nice.

In the late 1920s and into the 1930s and 40s, a popular home decor in the American southwest was a kitschy amalgam of mission, cowboy, and Mexican motifs. Table cloths, table settings, home decorations all incorporated variations of the theme. These bookends fit beautifully into what could be called, “Mexico In The American Imagination”, a phrase taken from the SOUTH OF THE BORDER traveling exhibition mounted by the Yale University Art Gallery in 1993 and 1994.

A vintage Mexican motif table cloth with a page from Mexican Cookbook by Erna Fergusson, published by the Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1934.

Before World War II, Japan was making porcelain decorative items for export to the United States and Europe. These bookends appear to be from that period and made for the American market. They are nicely detailed and hand-painted. The stamp, Made In Japan, is one that could be pre-1941 according to the Kovel’s website. The Kovel’s indicate that 1921 is when the US government began to require the Country of Origin be in English and the Japanese started using Japan instead of Nippon. After the war the stamp “Made in Occupied Japan” was used until 1952. The quality of these bookends would indicate pre-war. We like them even though their light weight doesn’t bode well for holding up books.

Made In Japan mark.

 

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