A very handsome woman is dressed in an exceptional costume and is reclining among beautiful robes. She could be royalty, perhaps a queen or a princess, but the bookends do not hint at her status or origins. We will call her Exotic Woman.
Category Archives: Themes
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.
Romeo and Juliet: Here we have Shakespearean characters from a period of Elizabethan Revival In the Victorian era.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,…………..
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.
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.
Johannes Gutenberg, German blacksmith, goldsmith, inventor, printer, publisher, entrepreneur, invented metal movable type in about 1440. He adapted the use of metal type to a screw press (already available) to form a printing press that enabled the rapid production of books, the first of which was the Gutenberg Bible. Similar printing presses were built all over Europe, and millions of books appeared and were distributed thereafter. This was the information revolution of that distant age.
The writings and pictures by Martin Luther (1483-1546), Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), and John Calvin( 1509-1564 were printed on Gutenberg presses and their wide-spread availablity was critical to the initiation of the Protestant Reformation.
William Gilbert (1544-1603), an English scientist and physician to Queen Elizabeth I, published Die Magnete in 1600 which was his pioneering work in experimental science. In it he presented the structure and procedures of experimental science for the first time, and this was arguably the greatest invention of secular humanity for all time. The Gutenberg printing press sped the dissemination of the scientific method across the literate world.
These bookends, entitled Ye Olde Printer, depict a Gutenberg printing press. The printer moves a handle which turns a screw, and the screw presses a plate of inked type to a medium of paper or other material. The words formed by the inked type are transferred to the paper this way. The screw is visible at the back of the press. The immensely significant Gutenberg press is certainly a suitable subject for bookends.
UPDATE: Chris Bernhard sent photos of his Ye Olde Printer bookends. They are also sculpted by J. Ruhl and produced by Armor Bronze and are taller and more colorful. And they are a good addition to the post.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.