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Category Archives: Aesthetic

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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Forest Nymph or Dryad Bookends

Spring is here! These bookends are perfect for Spring.

Wood Nymph and Vase Bookends.  Grey metal and glass.  Height 7.5 inches without the vases.  Unmarked.  Early twentieth century.

Each member of this pair is a lovely wood nymph embracing a removable glass bud vase.  Her upswept hair and her softly draped costume add to the picture of a minor goddess or dryad. She stands on a forest hummock next to a tree stump that holds the vase. There is a red flower on the side of the stump that could be a Red Trillium.  The vases are not important in supporting books. The ladies support the books, but the vases are held away from the books.

Side View of Wood Nymph Bookends. The bud vases are in a flower form and quite heavy.

These bookends are quite Victorian in appearance and are reminiscent of the use of nymphs and fairies in the Arts of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Nymphs were popular in poetry, prints, stories, and music.  Jean Sibelius composed and presented in 1895 “The Wood Nymph”, a tone poem based on Viktor Rydberg’s 1882 poem of the same name. An 1872 woodcut,”Die Quelle” or The Source, by the German artist, Kurt von Rozinsky is shown below. This same woodcut was featured in a 1910 edition of “The Bible and Its Story taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons”, a popular book in the United States.

“Die Quelle”. Woodcut by German artist Kurt von Rozinsky. 1872

A Wood Nymph with a vase displaying flowers from the local byways would have been a delightful addition to a 1910 decor.

 

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Indian Encampment Bookends

Indian Encampment:  Bronze.  Height 5.25 inches.  Shopmark:  AC with a line between the two letters, a copyright sign and the number 108.

Indian Encampment:  Electroformed Bronze.  Height 5.25 inches. Circa 1910.  Shopmark:  AC with a line between the two letters, a copyright sign and the number 108.

We saw this pair recently and were very surprised.  We thought we had already seen all the Indian bookends, but this pair was new to us.  It is probably very rare.

An Indian holding his pipe sits with his back against a large tree trunk, with a fire circle at his feet.  Two tipis are in the background.  The scene is enclosed in an art-nouveau or aesthetic style frame. It has the feel of a George Caitlin painting.

Photo of Bookend Shopmark

Shopmark on reverse of Indian Encampment Bookends. Foundry has not been identified.

Tipis were houses for the plains Indians.  Each tipi was constructed from supporting poles, tied at the top to give a cone shape and covered with tanned bison hides.  A tipi could be disassembled and carted away, pulled by dogs or horses.  Portability was very important because these people were nomadic and followed the herds of bison across the plains. The tipi on the bookends is representative of what artists in the early 20th century thought tipis looked like, it does not show flaps for a smoke hole and is therefore referred to as a stylized cone according to the author of “Historic Photos of Tipis” website.

Photo of Indian and Tipi

Indian and Tipi with additional Tipis in background.

 

 

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“Trecking West” Prairie Schooner Bookends

Photo of Trecking West Bookends

“Trecking West”, Painted Iron. 6″. Circa 1930. Cincinnati Artistic.

From the 1840s to the 1860s, wagons called Prairie Schooners, Covered Wagons, Conestoga Wagons, or the Camels of the Prairies provided the transportation of migrating families, merchants, gold-seekers, and more, across the plains and the mountains of the western United States.  This bookend pair is cast in low relief, but it is busy. The artist has managed to include one covered wagon, two pairs of yoked oxen, two people, and the title – “Trecking West”.  The title honors the American “Trek”, a word borrowed from the South African Boers’ depiction of their migration in the 1830s to the more northerly territories on the African Continent.

Photo of Cincinnati Artistic inscription

Reverse of “Trecking West” bookends showing Cincinnati Artistic and Patent Appl. For inscriptions

The foundry that made “Trecking West” is more than likely Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works Co. This company operated from the late 1890s until August of 1995 when as Artistic Wrought Iron it sold off it’s remaining stock with an advertisement in the “antiques” classifieds of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  It was known for it’s quality lamps and other architectural wrought iron items during the 1930s. A lamp from Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works was appraised by David P. McCarron on the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in 2010. Click here to reach that appraisal video.

Several Western bookends feature covered wagons. Hubley made at least 2 different versions, one of which is shown below. W.H. Howell’s contribution to the genre is documented in the BOOKEND REVUE, Fig. 194, Seecof & Seecof, and in Gerald P. McBride’s book, A Collector’s Guide to CAST METAL BOOKENDS, on page 108.

Electroformed bronze Covered Wagon bookends signed by Paul Herzel and attributed to Pompeian Bronze can be found on page 48 of BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, Seecof & Seecof, 2012.

Photo of Covered Wagon bookends

The Covered Wagon. 5.5″, electroformed bronze. Signed Paul Herzel. Attrib. to Pompeian Bronze. Circa 1920.

 

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Bookends as Works of Art

Whenever possible, we like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style 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, sculptures 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, and not slip into obscurity along with collectibles such as beanie babies, cookie jars, and telephone pole insulators.

Our 2012 book, BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, is devoted to promoting bookends as an art form.  Check out some of our favorite bookend works of art in this slideshow:

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Tile Bookends by Ben Prins

There are many pottery bookends available from famous artists or foundries, and these sell for high prices because of demand from pottery collectors.  These bookends are generally in low or high relief or entirely figural.  Instead of these common techniques, pottery bookends using tiles are sometimes prepared by cuenca or cuerda seca, terms which describe modifications of the surfaces to be glazed.  Much less common are pottery bookends that are painted with glaze and then fired with no modifications of the flat pottery surface.  These bookends present as  paintings on smooth surfaces.

Here are bookends painted with glaze on a smooth tile surface by Benjamin Kimberly Prins (1902-1980), a listed artist and illustrator,  According to the Saturday Evening Post website, Prins completed over 33 Cover and Inside illustrations for this magazine.

Photo of Painted Tile Bookends

Stork.  Ceramic tile in copper frame.  Inscription: Prins B.   Circa 1930.

 

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Rare Tiffany & Co Bookends

Lady Knowledge:  Electroformed bronze. Height 8.5 inches.  Two impressed marks. One mark of three circles which may be a foundry mark. The other a mark used by Tiffany & Co.

Lady Knowledge:  Electroformed bronze. Height 8.5 inches.  Two impressed marks. One mark of three circles which may be a foundry mark. The other a mark used by Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. bookends must be very rare.  These are the only bookends we have ever seen with a Tiffany & Co. mark.  Each bookend shows a seated lady with one hand on a world globe and the other on a stack of books.  The bookends are prominently entitled knowledge and each one bears two imprinted marks – The Tiffany & Co. mark and a three circle mark which is probably the foundry mark  but is unknown  to us.

Tiffany & Co. mark:  This mark is documented in Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay, Collector Books, 1988.

Tiffany & Co. mark:  This mark is documented in Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay, Collector Books, 1988.

Three circle mark:  Possibly a foundry mark.

Three circle mark:  Possibly a foundry mark.

We requested Tiffany & Co. Archives to give us  information regarding the marks, the foundry, the designer, the date and so on, but we failed to receive any information, as follows:”

“Thank you for your inquiry regarding your bronze bookends in you personal collection.  Unfortunately, the Archives Department is unable to provide information on any piece of bronze.  Tifffany å Co. has retailed bronze since the company’s beginnings in 1837.  Tiffany & Co. Archives has limited information about the company’s production and sale of bronze art.”

It seems reasonable that Tiffany & Co. commissioned these bookends from an outside  foundry for sale as Tiffany & Co. items.   If any collector has a pair like this, we would appreciate knowing which marks, if any, are present, and any other information about them.

The bookends promote knowledge, which can be assigned to the Victorian era’s widespread concern for eternal values.  For example, there are bookends which celebrate youth, innocence, knowledge, pure love, and so on, pictured in Bookend Revue, which Donna and I wrote in 1996.  In addition, Victorian sculptures frequently bore titles.  These characteristics identify the bookends as Victorian art style.  But, the sculpture has Art Nouveau touches as well – long, wavy hair, almost whiplash in appearance, and a long, draped garment which suggests the base of a plant as it trails below, an Art nouveau image.  We judge these bookends to have been fashionable circa 1910.

 
 

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