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Category Archives: Ceramic/Tile

Studious Monk Bookends Revisited

Studious Monks: Hard-Paste Porcelain bookends, each weighing about 2 lbs and 8 inches in height.

We purchased this pair of monk bookends at an antique show in 2016,  They are porcelain, and carry a mark which we could not identify, but we posted them on July 6, 2016, entitled Studious Monk Bookends.  Very recently, we did identify the mark and the  bookends became very interesting.

The factory mark was an A with a B leaning on it  The mark on a monk was identical except the lower part of the B was not completely formed.The bookends were produced by the Amberg factory in Bavaria, Germany.  This factory produced earthenware and hard-paste porcelain from1709 until 1910.  We guess that the bookends were produced in about 1905 when bookends and monk motifs were becoming popular, which would make them among our earliest bookends.

The factory mark and the mark on the monk is shown.  The information about Amberg and their pottery mark is documented in A Dictionary of Marks by Margaret Taylor, Barrie & Jenkins, London, revised edition by Lucilla Watson, 1992.

 

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Bullfrog Bookends

Bullfrog Bookends:  Ceramic.  Height 8 inches.  Contemporary.

Frogs have been frequent subjects for bookends since early times, probably because they are grotesque and interesting creatures.  These pottery frogs are not very remarkable, but they are big so we will call them bullfrogs.

 

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Tipsy Monk Bookends

Photo of Monk Bookends GMB

Tipsy Monk Book Ends: Ceramic. Height 7 inches. 1932. Inscription Gladding, McBean & Co. S.F. Cal. and the artist signature Theo. Tracy.

Presentations of monks are associated with objects made in the Arts and Crafts style, including bookends.  The monk is usually identified by his cowl.  Here is a pair of ceramic bookends with each bookend showing a monk sprawling on a huge book.  One apparently intoxicated  monk is facing us with a silly look on his face.  There is a chalice in his right hand with liquid draining from it.  The liquid is presumably wine and the silly expression indicates the monk has had too much of the tipple.  The other monk is leaning sideways with a distressed look on his face.  His look suggests concern for his supply of wine.

During the middle ages thousands of monasteries in Europe produced wine from their own vineyards for ceremonies, consumption, and sale.  Pairs of bookends showing monks like these, one facing forward and holding an empty cup and the other leaning to the side were popular early in the twentieth century.  Such bookends were issued by leading California potteries, including the Catalina Clay Products Co. and the Malibu Potteries, plus independent potters.  Click here to view the post and photo of the Malibu Potteries version from Oct. 7, 2013. All of these inebriated monk  bookends  are highly collectible today.
The pair shown here was issued by Gladding, McBean & Co in their “Semi-Porcelain” line and called “Monk Book Ends” in the 1932 company catalog.  The spine of the book reads “Gladding McBean & Co., S.F. Cal”. A quick search did not yield information about an artist named Theo. Tracy, whose name is inscribed on the back of the bookends.

 

 

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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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Pre-Columbian Reproduction Bookends

These pottery and wood bookends were issued by the Schering pharmaceutical company in about 1973, to promote Schering products.  Each bookend holds a museum reproduction of a pottery piece from the Colima culture of Mexico. The original clay sculptures are about 1500 years old and show an individual scratching his skin disorders. Presumably, The Schering skin cream, Valisone, could have helped ease the medical condition, so the reproduction pieces were used to promote Valisone.

Photo of Schering Promotional Bookends

“Itch and Scratch”. Pottery and wood, height 5.5 inches. Produced in Spain. Inscription: Brand of Betamethasone Valerate, Valisone, Colima Mexico, ca 200-800 AD. Includes the crest of the Schering pharmaceutical company.

The original ceramic sculpture is pictured in the book, Precolumbian Dermatology & Cosmetology In Mexico, by Dominique D. Verut, M.D., Chanticleer Press. Inc., New York.1973. This interesting volume was also distributed as a promotional item by the Schering company.  Dr Verut, a prominent dermatologist, wrote that the skin lesions could be from tuberculosis, deep mycosis,syphilis, or tumors.

The documentation of the sculpture as featured in this volume elevates the bookends from simple Schering promotional items to unique bookends featuring precolumbian ceramics, and increases their value to all collectors interested in this subject. According to the Medipro (Marketing Company) website, eight dermatological museum reproductions were produced as Valisone promotional items, another 8 reproductions promoted the mental-health drug Etrafon.  As far as we know, none of these other reproductions were bookends.

 
 

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Howard Pierce Bookends

Photo of Howard Pierce Bookends

Each bookend is 7.25 inches tall , 4.25 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep, made of heavy porcelain, Pierce’s name is cast into the bottom of the base.

This is a pair of bookends produced by the noted California artist and ceramicist Howard Pierce (1912 – 1994).  Most of Pierce’s sculptures are familiar as brown and tan birds and mammals. His raccoons and quail are highly collected.  These midcentury modern bookends show Pierce’s whimsical side which is usually seen only in private collections.  An exotic human face colored dark chocolate is topped by a brown speckled tan asymmetric bobbed hair style.

Howard Pierce is remembered by the Joshua Tree, California community where he spent the last 25 years of his life. Click here to read an article from the Twenty-Nine Palms Historical Society on Howard Pierce.

 

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