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Category Archives: Mid-Century

Cow with Bell and Character, Dodge Inc.

Caricature  Cow: Height 6 in., Grey metal, Dodge Inc., paper label. Circa 1948.

This Cow is an udderly whimsical bookend.  She is giving you the side-eye look and appears ready to whip you with her fulsome tail or to sneak a quick kick with her oversized hoof if you try to approach those prominent milk teats.  

Cows and cows with bells have been memorialized in the news, fiction, comic, films, and advertising.  The American Dairy Association provides a list of famous cows.  Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow, whose legend supposes she kicked over a lantern and started the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Pauline Wayne, the last cow to live at the White House and who is said to have provide President Taft and family with 9 gallons of milk a day and 25 lbs of butter a week.  Minnie Moo at Disneyland.  None of the 14 Cows listed completely fit a description of our bookend.  She most closely resembles Clarabelle, the Disney cow that was Minnie Mouse’s mostly silent sidekick.  Clarabelle was created in 1928, she wore a bell, she had an exaggerated nose, big ears, sometimes wore a hat or bow, and had a twitchy tail.  However, she was skinny.  

Check out this Paul Terry’s Barker Bill, animated cartoon of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow by clicking here. 

The American Dairy List of FAMOUS COWS OF THE WORLD can be accessed by clicking here. 

 

 
 

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1930s Chalkware Mexican Couple Bookends

Mexican Couple:  Chalk. Height 5.5 in. Unmarked.  circa 1930s.

The sombreros assure us that these are portrayals of Mexicans, but  the slanted eyes on the bookends suggest they were painted by an artist who had no familiarity with the peoples of Mexico.  

Our guess is that they were made in China or Japan for the carnival give-away market during the 1930s.  In the 1930s the Californio / Mexican Revival figures were very much a part of popular design and culture.  These bookends are colorful and represent the period of time between wars when Mexican culture was fancifully depicted.  The clothes are flowing, the man is in a tie similar to a Mariachi costume. The instrument looks like a guitar with a fiddle scroll.  The woman’s dress has a sweetheart neckline.  She wears the large earrings and necklace associated with Taxco artists and she holds a decorated pot.  

Fortunately, their sombreros are not pulled down over their faces like we frequently see  in images from the USA.

 

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CHASE Co. RING Bookends

RING (Hoops and Balls):  Satin Brass and Copper,  Height 5 inches.  Shopmark:  Chase centaur.  Sculptor: Walter Von Nessen, circa 1933.

In our 1996 book, BOOKEND REVUE, we called these bookends “Hoops & Balls”.  That was before we had access to the 1933 CHASE catalog.  Their proper name is “RING”. 

Photo from “THE CHASE ERA: 1933 and 1942 Catalogs of the Chase Brass & Copper Co. Schiffer, 2001. Donald Brian-Johnson, Leslie Pina

“RING (No. 17019): A striking ring design by Von Nessen.  In three combinations – satin brass and copper, English bronze and English copper, black nickel and satin nickel.  Felt covered bottom.  Height 5 inches, with 5 inches.  Packed in an attractive gift box. Price, $5.00 per pair, retail. ” 1933 Chase Brass & Copper Co.  Catalog. 

The Chase Brass and Copper Company in the early 1930s morphed  Art Deco style into a more machine like style.  Decorative items produced in the United States in the nineteen thirties grew very geometric.  These bookends represent the trend perfectly – pure geometry.  They were designed by Walter Von Nessen, a leader in the late 1920’s and the 1930’s in American commercial design.  For more information about Von Nessen click here to visit COOPER HEWITT, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Several years ago  antique shops in the Los Angeles area were flooded with reproductions of this pair, all beautiful, so the collector needs to be wary regarding these pairs when in mint condition.

Chase Brass & Copper Co. Centaur trademark..

 

 
 

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Faux Stone Mexican Mask Bookends

The masks on these bookends appear to be stone, but they are a composition of some kind.  We acquired them believing they might be museum reproductions of an old mask, probably Mexican.  A search of images of ancient masks online failed to find any image which matched the features of the bookend mask, not the eyes or the nose or the mouth.  We conclude that the bookend mask is an artist’s conception and nothing matching an ancient mask at all – too bad.

Faux Stone Mask Bookends: Composition on wood. Height 6 inches. Unmarked. 20th-century.

 
 

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Bucking Bronco Cowboy Bookends

Rodeo Rider:  Gray metal. Height 6.5 inches Inscription:  Ronson, Newark NJ, 1942.

Cowboys riding bucking broncos are not unusual subjects for bookends.  Western themes were popular in home decor in the 1930s and 1940s.  Driven by the popularity of western movies everything from dinner sets to lamps for children’s bedrooms featured cowboys and bucking broncos.   These bookends are notable because they are marked Ronson 1942, and they are the last bookends Ronson produced, as far as we know.

The Philadelphia Manufacturing Company (PMC) issued reproductions of these bookends so collectors must look for the entire inscription on the base.

1942 Ronson’s Makers Mark on Rodeo Rider bookends.

 

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2019 in Art Styles, Mid-Century, Western

 

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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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Philippine Weaver Bookends

Photo of Philippine Weaver Bookends

Filipina Weaving Bookends:  Wood. Height 7.5 inches. Unmarked. Mid-twentieth century.

Once in a while we see a pair of nicely carved Filipino bookends in an antique shop.   They are usually a man or a woman carved from a single block of wood or a pair of horse heads.  This set is more elaborate; each bookend shows an indigenous, perhaps Ifugao, Philippine woman weaving a cloth with a traditional geometric pattern on a traditional Palay hand loom.  Each carving is from a single block of wood, probably native monkey pod wood, which has this appearance and is used for carving sculptures, tourist items, and for making furniture.  The carver has captured the tension required in the legs and feet as the weaver tamps down the weft, or filling, in her weaving.

 

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Old Mexican Bookends

Photo of Carved Mexican bookends

Old Mexican Bookends:  Wood containing iron weights.  Height woman 5.5 inches, man 6 inches. Five colors.  Unmarked.

This pair of bookends is unusual because they are a cut above the usual Mexican tourist bookends.  The bookends show a peasant man and  woman, huddled down under blankets or serapes.  The pair is hand-carved, and the carving is quite well done; the sombrero is given a concave brim and the faces are painstakingly shown.  It is old because all the paint is uniformly faded.

Old Mexican Bookends: the man’s serape is painted with a design reminiscent of Saltillo weavings, he wears a high-crowned hat. The woman’s rebozo drapes nicely down her back and ends in the typical fringe.  Notice the three plugs visible on the base.

Both bookend bases show plugs that have been used to seal borings into the wood. Holes had been drilled and iron weights inserted to make the bookends heavier.  (a magnet sticks to the base of either bookend).  Weights inserted into the bases of wooden bookends made in the USA are occasionally found, usually in Victorian-styled bookends displaying flowers.  But, who made these bookends; when and where were they made; are they folk art or a commercial effort?  Perhaps one of our followers can give us some information.

 

Sit and Sleep: Bookends of this general appearance are commonly seen in antique shops and shows.  The pair pictured here are early tourist fare, probably from the 1930s.  The tilt of the sombreros suggest the subjects are sleeping and eliminates the need to carve a face on the bookend. The hats are hinged and when tilted backwards, reveal a hollow interior containing a gray-metal slug that gives the bookend more weight.  This caricature of a sleeping Mexican, became widely popular in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.

 

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Iwo Jima Bookends

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps. A monument “In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775”.

United State Marine Corps Memorial

The monument, sculpted by Felix W. de Weldon (Navy), depicts the famous photo by Joe Rosenthal of the unposed flag raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

In 1945 American troops were fighting to capture the Pacific island of Iwo JIma.  As the battle progressed, the troops raised American flags over captured Japanese positions. On February 23, 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured an unposed flag raising on Mt Suribachi. A Pulitzer prize photo that became one of the most recognizable war photos of all time and forever linked with the US Marines.

These Iwo Jima bookends depict the photograph in low relief.

Iwo Jima Scene.  Grey metal. Height 6.5 inches. Circa 1970s.  Marked: ALFA Display Co. N.Y.

Follow this link to the National Park Service page that tells the story of the monument and the photo: United States Marine Corps War Memorial.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2018 in Art Styles, Mid-Century, Monument

 

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Zuni Buffalo Dance Bookends by Freddie Leekya

Zuni Buffalo Dancer and Drummer. 8 .5”, local rock (zuni stone) carved figures, wood base and upright. Sculptor, Freddie Leekya, painting by Edward Lewis. 2011.

This is the perfect time to tell the story behind our Freddie Leekya Bookends. Freddie Leekya is the grandson of renowned Zuni Master Carver, Leekya Deyuse.  The Albuquerque Museum of Art History exhibit, THE LEEKYA FAMILY: MASTER CARVERS OF ZUNI PUEBLO, runs until September 24, 2017. The exhibit features 350 works by the Leekya family gathered from individuals and galleries and from major museums such as the Heard Museum, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the School of Advanced Research, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Click here to see the NEW MEXICO magazine post  “Stories in Stone”.   We are looking forward to visiting this exhibit in a few week’s time.

In 2011, we visited Zuni Pueblo bringing with us our Leekya Deyuse frog bracelet and ring to show. We had arranged our visit ahead of time with the Zuni Pueblo Visitor Center. We had a magical day.

Leekya Frog Bracelet and Ring made of carved turquoise set in silver.

We were introduced to Robert (son of Leekya Deyuse) and Bernice Leekya (masters of silver and gold jewelry) and Sarah Leekya (daughter of Leekya Deyuse) who was still carving a bit at that time and who when she put my bracelet on her arm almost didn’t give it back. Sarah also called us back to her home to share with us some additional carvings by her father and to have her son show us the hand drill Leekya used in carving his figures.

Four treasured carvings purchased from Sarah Leekya in 2011. Badger, Fox, Fox and Bird.

We visited Freddie Leekya at his studio. He was working on two figures which are now in our collection. Our daughter-in-law fell in love with a Zuni rock carved bear by Freddie.

 

That Christmas Bob was gifted with the Zuni Buffalo Dancer and Drummer Bookends. They were specially ordered from Freddie Leekya. The Buffalo Dance is a social dance and is often performed at festive gatherings. Here is a link Dave Hinkle’s youtube video of the dance being performed in Gallup, New Mexico.

 

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