Category Archives: Art Nouveau

Knights in Shining Armor

“You see, he was going for the Holy Grail. The boys all took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then. It was a several years’ cruise. They always put in the long absence snooping around, in the most conscientious way, though none of them had any idea where the Holy Grail really was, and I don’t think any of them actually expected to find it, or would have known what to do with it if he had run across it.” Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Sir Galahad.   Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Inscription:  Sir Galahad.  Circa 1920.

Knights in armor were a popular subject for bookends in the early twentieth century.  They were prized as reflections of the Arts and Crafts ethos popularized by William Morris and Elbert Hubbard and for their romantic adventures.  Like today’s digitally-based adventure stories where knights and medieval times are often featured, the adventure literature of the late 1800s and early 1900s were rampant with tales of gallant knights.  Even Mark Twain employed a knight as the central character in A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT.  Later on, the movies of the 1920s and 30s made knights a popular theme.   Everyone must have known about knights then, as they do today.  There was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the search for the Holy Grail.  People knew that knights had fought in the Holy Land during the crusades.

The long-lived popularity of knights in the media: literature, movies and Sunday comics (remember Prince Valiant) is reflected in the large number of decorative bookends of knights to be found in antique and vintage markets.  Bookends of knights were fashioned in many types of metal, as well as other materials such as clay.  With a little searching one can find bookends of knights that bear the signature or mark of a known artist or sculptor such as Gregory Seymour Allen or John J. Ruhl.     

The rarest knight bookend pair we know is a knight kneeling between two small castles. His mantle and his shield show a red cross on a white background, the insignia of the Knights Templar.  This was a Christian military order which was active from about 1100 to 1300 CE.  Another Masonic pair from 1916 featuring Knights Templar, shows the Knights fighting in Jerusalem.

There are two pairs of bookends from Armor Bronze which were later copied by Marion Bronze, this pair of knights on horseback and a pair of Knights Kneeling (not pictured).

We know of more than 20 bookend versions of Knights.  Knights in armor, Knights on horseback jousting, Knights with a lady, Knights on a lonely quest.  Here are a few more examples for you to peruse.  The Marion Bronze pair (courtesy of Jane from Galena) of St. George slaying the Dragon is particularly interesting as it is a reproduction of a rare tile by the well-known Arts & Crafts tile master, Batchelder.


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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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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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Pan or Faun or Demi-God Bookends

Photo of Pan Bookends

Mythological Creature:  Grey metal.  7 inches.  Inscribed with the name of the listed artist Louise Wilder (1898-?), twentieth century, foundry unknown.

This bookend figure is a child, but It has the hairy hoofed legs of a goat, tall pointed ears, a small tail, the beginnings of horns on its forehead and it is playing two flutes.  It is a juvenile Pan, satyr or faun –  part human, part goat.  These are ugly, libidinous creatures when grown.  Pan was a proper Greek God of nature, shepherds, fertility, sexuality and music, satyrs were similar in looks and activities, but less than Gods, and fauns were later Roman versions, eventually combining them into a single entity. These particular bookends are probably from the 1920s. This was during a time when “there was an astonishing resurgence of interest in the Pan motif.” Patricia Merivale, author of Pan the Goat-God: His Myth in Modern Times, Harvard University Press, 1969, lists works, from the 1890s to 1926, of poetry, novels, children’s books where Pan is part of the narrative, not the least of those being J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In The Willows.

The artist who rendered this Pan version was a well-known sculptor of children from the sidewalks of New York during the 1920s, Louise Hibbard Wilder. She lost her hearing when she was a young girl. Following an article about her, as a deaf artist, in Time Magazine in September 1928, a number of articles about Louise were published in newspapers across the United States. One such article in The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) in December 1928, quotes her, “Artists, in addition to imagination and technical skill, need extreme concentration on their work. My deafness has given me more chance more than most artists have for this concentration. Being deaf I have learned to work without interruption.”

Photo of Daily Times Article

“The Daily Times, A Clean Newsy Newspaper For the Home”, Beaver, PA. Monday, October 1, 1928.

In late 1931, Louise and her husband, Bert Wilder, also an artist and sculptor, suffered the fate of many artists during the depression. The New York Times published an article entitiled, ARTIST COUPLE FACE EVICTION WITH BABY, attributing their destitution to portrait and commission fees that could not be collected. Shortly thereafter the Associated Press distributed a story of the response of art collectors to their plight. Commissions were paid, bronzes were bought. And from this date the artist couple seem to disappear – We didn’t manage to find anymore information.

Louise Hibbard Wilder received her art training in the free day classes at Cooper Union. She won a number of prizes for her work. One of her best known works is “The Tiny Turtle”, a bronze figure of a child holding a tiny turtle, which was a popular sculpture for garden fountains (I have been unable to find a picture). She is known to have works cast by the Roman Bronze Works and the Brook Art Bronze Co. of Brooklyn, NY. The bookends pictured above do not have a foundry identification.


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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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Fred Brosi Bookends 1927 – 1933

In November 2013 we posted “Old Mission Kopper Kraft.”  At the time we were unaware of Fred Brosi as the craftsman responsible for those bookends.   The 2013 publication, Bay Area Copper, 1900/1950, Dirk van Erp & His Influence, alerted us to Brosi’s time as a metalsmith in California.  His career spanned from Quincy, IL, where he obtained at least 3 patents related to metal working,  to working in a shipyard in San Francisco Bay,  to establishing a series of decorative metalworks craft shops in San Francisco.  Those Bay Area businesses included Ye Olde Copper Shop, Ye Olde Copper Shoppe and Old Mission Kopper Kraft.  Following the folding of the Old Mission Kopper Kraft company (1922-1925), Brosi continued to make beautifully crafted metal decorative objects in his basement.  The 2 pairs of Bookends seen in this post are from this later period of Brosi’s work, 1927 -1933.

Photo of Fred Brosi Bookends

The bookends are 5 inches tall and 5 inches wide.  The shopmark is an arm and hammer with the words MADE BY  HAND.

Brosi is admired for his meticulous handwork on his metal pieces, and this pair of copper bookends, called Nouveau Flower is a fitting illustration of his expertise.   The face is hammered and linear designs are chased into the margins and the edges.  Parts of the edges are curled. A enameled flower with raised edges and with petals painted red, yellow and green is attached to the face.  The overall artistic design was Brosi’s and the flower petals were painted by Brosi’s wife, the former Selma Sidlowski.

The smaller Owl on Branch copper bookends were produced by Brosi in his basement about the same time as the enameled flower ones, and they bear the same Arm and Hammer and MADE BY HAND mark.  They show similar curling at parts of the edges, similar hammering, and similar linear designs.   The ornamental metal owl on a branch is attached to the face of the bookend.

Other related posts are:  San Francisco Bay Area Metalworkers Colony, Jan. 7, 2014 and Ye Olde Copper Shoppe Bookends, Jan 13, 2014.


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Peter Pan Bookends: Part 1

Photo of Peter Pan Bookends

Peter Pan. 9.25”, electroformed bronze. Inscribed “Pompeian Bronze”. Circa 1917.

These Peter Pan Bookends with a lovely lacquer coloring are a version of the figure atop the sculpture in Kensington Gardens.  Having just returned from London where we made sure to visit Sir George Frampton’s rendering of Peter Pan it seems appropriate to showcase these special bookends.

Photo of Peter Pan Sculpture in Kensington Gardens

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London. Sculptor Sir George Frampton. Erected 1912.

The sculpture of Peter Pan, which was commissioned by J.M. Barrie in 1902, is located next to next to Long Water in Kensington Gardens, the spot which Barrie used for his tale of Peter Pan. The line of pilings and birds on Long Water contribute to it’s serenity and beauty.

Photo of Long Water, Kensington Gardens

Long Water, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London.

Photo of Arthur Rackham Illustration

Peter Pan after falling into the Serpentine (Long Water). Illustration by Arthur Rackham in PETER PAN in KENSINGTON GARDENS, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1910

Several castings of the Peter Pan Sculpture were made and are located around the world for the enjoyment of those who are young at heart and love fairies.  It may be seen in the following locations:

Johnson Park, Camden, New Jersey

Sefton Park, Liverpool, England

Queens Gardens, Perth, Australia

Egmont Park, Brussels, Belgium

Bowring Park, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Glenn Gould Park, Toronto, Canada


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Butterfly Girl Bookends

"The Flapper" LIFE Magazine, Feb. 1922 by F.X. Leyendecker

Cover of Feb. 2, 1922 LIFE Magazine

The striking female image on the February 2, 1992 LIFE Magazine cover  created by the illustrator Frank Xavier Leyendecker (1877-1924) was apparently the inspiration for the lovely “Butterfly Girl” bookends.     The cover was labeled The Flapper and bore the date of 1922.  The title and the date suggest an Art Deco image, but Mr. Leyendecker gave us an Art Nouveau image instead.  The date of 1922 was very early in the Flapper era.  Flappers, the bohemian young ladies of the nineteen twenties, became associated with low-waisted dresses and the Bob hair style, but not with wings.  The Flapper cover displays a winged lady and a clinging, diaphanous dress, replicated in the bookends with the addition of whiplash curves in the wings, all iconic  Art Nouveau features.

"Butterfly Girl" Bookends

“Butterfly Girl” Bookends

The bookends are large and heavy – six inches high, seven inches wide and 3.5 inches deep, nine pounds per pair, gray metal, and attributed to Ronson, circa 1923.  We need to classify them as Art Nouveau style, but they give us a wonderful, fantasy, reminder of the bygone nineteen twenties.


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