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Category Archives: Art Deco

Bookends Reflect Art of Their Times

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.

Dante and Beatrice: 7 inches, electroformed bronze. Armor Bronze, circa 1920.

 

Romeo and Juliet:  Here we have Shakespearean characters from a period of Elizabethan Revival In the Victorian era.  

Romeo and Juliet: 7 inches, gray metal, celluloid. JB Hirsch foundry, circa 1920.

 

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. 

Altar of Love: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Pompeian Bronze foundry, circa 1925.

 

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.

Hoops and Balls: 5.25 inches, copper and brass. Chase Co., design of Walter Von Nessen. circa 1936.

 

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.

Nude on Fluted Pedestal: 7 inches, gray metal. NuArt, Inc., Circa 1930.

 

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.

Butterfly Girl: 6 inches, grey metal. Circa 1923.

 

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.

Mucha Maiden: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Circa 1919.

 

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.

Man & Woman: 7.75 inches, solid bronze. Gorham Co., signed R. Aitken. Circa 1915.

 

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.

Parrot on Book: 6 inches, grey metal. AMW (American Art Works, Ronson). Circa 1927

 

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.

Roycroft Flower: 3 inches, copper. Circa 1934.

 

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. 

Indian Potter: 4.5 inches, Iron. Circa 1925.

 

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.

Scandinavian Abstract: 7 inches, teak. Circa 1974.

 

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.

Free Form: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Ben Seibel, Circa 1960.

 

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The Spirit of St Louis Bookends

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,…………..    

Photo of Spirit of St Louis bookends

Spirit of Saint Louis.  Iron, Height 5 inches. Inscription on the front:  FIRST NON STOP FLIGHT  NEW YORK TO PARIS MAY 21st TO 22nd 1927. TIME: 33HRS: 21MIN.  PILOTED BY CAPT. CHARLES A. LINDBERGH.  on the back:  WM P CO 1120.  circa 1927. (Note – the dates are wrong.)

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. 

Photo of Spirit 3, Air and Space Museum, San Diego

Spirit of Saint Louis 3. Reproduction at the Air and Space Museum, Balboa Park, San Diego. It was flown on the 75th Anniversary of the original flight. The Bookend Collector, Bob Seecof, gives perspective to the plane’s size.

 
 

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Temple of ISIS Bookends

Photo of ISIS Bookends

Temple of Isis:  Height 4 inches, Iron.  Mark-Bradley and Hubbard, circa 1925.  Part of the Egyptian revival throughout the Western world which followed the display of the tomb contents of Tutankhamun in 1923.

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.  

 

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Nude Flapper Bookends

Nude Flapper: Height: 5.5 inches, Gray metal, Attributed to Ronson, circa 1925.

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.

Nude Flapper: Height: 5.5 inches, Gray metal, Attributed to Ronson, circa 1925.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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GEOMETRIC ART-DECO DOG BOOKENDS

Geometric dogs:  Molded Porcelain with green crackle glaze.  Height 8 inches. Weight 2 lbs each. Marked (see below). circa 1935.

Geometric themes were popular In the United States during the 1930’s Art Deco period. Bookend animals were sometimes abstracted with flattened surfaces and sharp angles.  These green ceramic dogs with a crackle glaze show such flat surfaces and the angularity is heightened by whitening the sharpened edges.  It is our assumption that these intriguing Scotties were made in the thirties. However, we have not been able to confirm anything about these bookends.  We do not know the pottery that produced them or the name of the artist.  Each dog bears a small impressed mark on the bottom so identifying the dogs should be easy, but we cannot identify the mark. The bookends are large, heavy and attractive but baffling.

Green crackle glaze on white highlighting on Geometric Dogs Bookends

Enlarged impressed Maker’s Mark on Geometric Dog Bookends

We have spent quite a bit of time trying to unravel the mystery Maker’s Mark – to no avail. We were guessing that it was either Japanese or Chinese. However, a cat fancier and collector, who goes by the moniker, Kait-Kat, contacted The Bookend Collector regarding her geometric Cat bookends. The photos of her Cat bookends are remarkably similar to our Geometric Dogs. The Maker’s Mark, “Made In Japan”, on her bookends is quite clear and most probably dates from the 1930’s.

Porcelain Green Art Deco Cats made in japan, Property of Kait-Kat

Geometric Cats Maker’s Mark. “Made In Japan”, paint stamp under glaze.

 

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FEMALE PHARAOH BOOKENDS: HATSHEPSUT

Hatshepsut Bookends: Material electroform bronze, Height 10.25 inches, weight 4 lbs. each.  circa 1925, Attributed to Paul Mori &Sons foundry.  Part of the Egyptian revival following the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1923.

Hatshepsut (1508-1458 BCE)  was born a princess in the Egyptian royal line and became the regent for the the infant who would become the next king,  Although only a regent , she assumed the title and the trappings of a king with the additional title of Pharaoh.  She then ruled Egypt from 1473 to 1458  BCE, a rare woman to achieve that position in 3000 years of Egyptian history.

Hatshepsut proved to be a successful and important ruler as she restored many monuments and restored trade with western Asia, with Punt, and with the Aegean Islands.  No other female king  appeared until Cleopatra (51-30 BCE). 

Statue of Hatshepsut in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. This statue of Hatshepsut was recovered from her mortuary temple.  The resemblance to the bookends helps to identify the bookends, although there was no other female pharoah that could confuse the identity.

A statue in THE MET in New York City is very similar to these bookends.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian Expeditions in 1926-27 and 1929 excavated bits and pieces of a statue of Hatshepsut near her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri in Thebes.  In 1929 they acquired a fragment that had been excavated and taken to Berlin in 1845. Click here for the link to The Met page  on the Hatshepsut statue.  It is on view at THE MET Fifth Avenue in Gallery 115.

Another bookend depiction of a female pharoah is a bust by Dodge Inc. probably in the 1940s.

Grey metal. Height 6.75 inches.  Inscription: Dodge Inc.  circa mid 1940s.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2018 in Antiquity, Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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MAGNIFICENT CATS: THE LION AND THE TIGER BOOKENDS

Just the type of bookends to hold up your adventure tomes.  Are you a collector of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan”, or Roosevelt’s “African Game Trails”, Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” or Dinesen’s “Out of Africa”?  If so, these are the bookends for you.  Big, beautifully sculpted African Lion and Asian Tiger stealthily menacing as they step from the jungle overgrowth.  

Lion and Tiger: Upright and base – Iron, animals – grey metal. Height 7 inches. Shopmark: Bradley and Hubbard.  Circa 1915.

One bookend shows an African lion stepping forward from a jungle and the other bookend shows an Asian tiger stepping forward from a jungle.The bookends are admirable as sculpture, but perhaps even more admirable because they are massive – 17 pounds per pair.  A photo does not do justice to the power exhibited by these bookends.

Bradley & Hubbard, makers mark.

 
 

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