RSS

Category Archives: Children

VERY VICTORIAN BOOKENDS

Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain from 1837 to 1901.   England was arguably the most successful country in the western world during her reign, and Americans adopted many of England’s values for their own.  We know these values today as Victorian.  They were prominent here during Victoria’s reign and gradually faded as  the twentieth century progressed.

Many Americans still admire Victorian fashions  today and incorporate them into their house decor. We can learn some of these English fashions from American bookends produced early in the twentieth century.  Foundries in the United States produced Victorian subjects on bookends for display in fashionable American homes.

Altar of Love. Gray metal.  Height 5.5 inches.  Marked The Altar of Love and Pompeian Bronze. circa 1920.

The bookends entitled The Altar of Love  are completely devoted to illustrating Victorian values.  The title alone illustrates English devotion to the romantic and sentimental ideal of  enduring marriage as exemplified by the Royal marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  We see the married couple embracing.  Their child, symbolizing reverence for children,  is at their feet.  A putto, popular in Victorian England, is blowing a trumpet to them.  Putti are ambiguous in their usage, but here probably represent peace and prosperity. In keeping with the Victorian penchant for Greek and Roman revival, the sacred flame of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, is shown, and it will support the stability of the marriage.  The family dog is not forgotten, reminding us of the Victorian attachment to animals.

Boy and Snail. Electroform bronze.  Height 8 inches.  Marked Ghiglia (artist).  Foundry: Attributed to Paul Mori.  circa 1910. Very rare bookends.

Children were idolized in Victorian England and they appear frequently on American bookends from this period.   This pair features a charming nude little boy who would appeal to every Victorian.  There is a giant snail at his feet, which matches the Victorian fascination with rare, bizarre creatures.

Dante and Beatrix: Height 7 inches. Electroformed bronze. Marked with the Armor Bronze shopmark. circa 1920.

The story of Dante and Beatrice was very popular during the Victorian era. Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy was widely read during Victorian times.  Dante loved Beatrice all of his life although he never had a physical relationship with her.  This was “pure love” for Victorians and superior to love with physical aspects.  At least it was superior for the English Bourgeoisie and this seems allied to their prudish behavior. We do not know if  the Aristocrats were concerned with pure love or with prudish behavior.  For example, adultery and mistresses were commonplace for them. American Victorians were noted to be prudes.  In any event,  Dante or Dante and Beatrice bookends were very fashionable here in the United States.  They were issued in a variety of poses by several different foundries, and we frequently find them today. We recounted the Dante and Beatrice story in both Bookend Revue and Bookends: Objects of Art and Fashion.  Here is a link to an updated version of the story on a blog devoted to Dan Brown’s novel, INFERNO.  

 

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

JB Bookends: Young Man Reading

Young Man Reading:  Bronze on gray metal.   Height 8 inches.  Weight 8 pounds per pair.  Shopmark  J.B. 2869. Early twentieth century.

Young Man Reading:  Bronze on gray metal.   Height 8 inches.  Weight 8 pounds per pair.  Shopmark  J.B. 2869. Early twentieth century.

Each bookend shows a young man standing and reading.  He wears clothing appropriate to about 1895 – a cap, rolled up sleeves, suspenders, and  short pants..  Perhaps he is reading a newspaper. His disheveled clothing and lack of shoes suggest he is poor.

Beyond these observations, the young man is a mystery.  Does he represent some circumstance from long ago?   Is this a reproduction of a painting or a sculpture or a depiction of a character in a book?  We cannot place the young man so we conclude that he has no special significance other than the bookend-artist’s presentation of a young man from that era.

Perhaps one of our viewers will tell us the significance of this young man.  Until then we simply have a very well cast and finished pair of bookends from Jennings Brothers, a respected foundry.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

BEEP! BEEP! Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner Bookends

 

Roadrunner and Coyote Chinese bookends:  Probably resin, Height 7.5 inches, weight 8.5 pounds per pair. There is a label reading Made in China on the bottom of each bookend.

Roadrunner and Coyote Chinese bookends:  Probably resin, Height 7.5 inches, weight 8.5 pounds per pair. There is a label reading Made in China on the bottom of each bookend.

The first Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated cartoon, Fast and Furry-ous, featuring Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote  was released in 1949 and featured the famous tunnel through the mountain scene.  Coyote wishes to capture and eat Roadrunner, as usual, so he paints an entrance to a non-existing tunnel on a mountainside and expects Roadrunner to knock himself unconcious when he runs into the false entrance.  To Coyote’s frustration, Roadrunner passes through the entrance and runs down the tunnel.  Coyote tries to follow Roadrunner through the tunnel entrance and the tunnel, but he smashes himself on the painted entrance.  The tunnel sequence starts at 3:31 of the  7 minute video.

The embedded Merrie Melodies cartoon is from the dailymotion website.

The bookends are marked Made in China and clearly reproduce the cartoon.  All previous Chinese-made bookends we have seen have carried American nineteen-twenties or thirties realistic bookend subjects.  Here the Chinese maker is appreciating and replicating zany American humor.  Perhaps this presages a new wave of novel Chinese bookends.

These bookends are very substantial – large, heavy, and with eleven accurately-applied colors with paints that are not affected by water, detergent, or wax.  AND ….. it is clear that anyone of a certain age that sees them covets them.

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: