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Category Archives: Animals

Maltese Dolphin Bookends

Maltese Dolphin:  Brass.  Height 4.5 inches. Inscriptions:  Malta, Made in Malta, also marked with a Maltese Cross.  Attributed to F. Abella and Sons brass foundry.  20th century.

Malta is an archipelago of three small islands in the Mediterranean Sea near Sicily and Italy.  The first people reached Malta in about 5000 BCE and it has experienced a rich history of foreign invasions ever since.  The Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John arrived on Malta in 1530 and ruled for  about 300 years.  The Knights were  a Roman Catholic chivalric and military order who adopted the emblem we know as the Maltese Cross in 1126, and which is now associated with the nation of Malta. The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta now has it’s world headquarters in Rome. Malta became part of the British Empire in the early 1800s, and due to the romance of its location, climate, history and culture was a favorite stop-over for wealthy Europeans doing the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dolphin door handles and door knockers are an ancient decorative feature on Malta buildings. Much admired by the tourists and ex-patriates that visited Malta; replicas showed up in England as early as mid-1800s. For example, In an 1869 English publication called NOTES AND QUERIES, some one asked the following: “DOLPHIN KNOCKERS…….Perhaps the Marquis of Bath can account for one of the sets of dolphin knockers from Dean Street, Fetter Lane. A pair certainly figure prominently on the door of his home in Berkeley Square.”  A footnote on that same page noted, “We have reason to believe that Lord Bath’s knockers were modelled from examples at Malta.”

Brass Dolphin Bookends from Malta with Maker’s Mark. The popularity of the Malta Dolphin as a reminder of a pleasant sojourn has inspired the 20th century production of brass dolphin door knockers and bookends by the foundries on Malta.

 

National Arms of Malta, from Independence in 1964 until 1975. The two dolphins indicated that Malta is an island state. Image and information from Heraldry of the World.

 

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Roycroft Owl Bookends

Photo of Roycroft Owl Bookends

Roycroft Engraved Owl Bookends:  Copper, Height 4 inches. Inscription: Roycroft

In 1895 Elbert Hubbard founded the artistic community of Roycroft in the upper New York state village of East Aurora.  Mr. Hubbard established a print shop in East Aurora after a visit to William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. The success of the print shop and its publications, which defined a burgeoning interest in what is known as the Arts and Crafts Movement, led to the establishment of shops – a bindery, leather shop, metal working shop and furniture shop. Click this link for an excellent summary, The Roycroft Community, by Hilary Davis on The Arts & Crafts Society website.

Roycroft became a collection of workshops dedicated to producing household items according to the principles of the budding Arts and Crafts Movement.  Accordingly, bookends were designed and fashioned by artists working by hand.  Most of the bookends were made in an L shape from sheet copper, and these are the design of Roycroft and other metal workshop bookends from that era that we generally see today.

Most of these early bookends were decorated in low relief, or not decorated at all, but relied on their exposed construction for decorative appeal.  The bookends shown here exhibit curled corners, hammered surface, and exposed rivets that fasten the upright to the base. In addition,  we see an engraved owl against  a background of fine stipples in the metal.  Collectors appreciate the handwork even though the bookends do not stand out at a distance.

 

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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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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.

 

 

 

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“Trecking West” Prairie Schooner Bookends

Photo of Trecking West Bookends

“Trecking West”, Painted Iron. 6″. Circa 1930. Cincinnati Artistic.

From the 1840s to the 1860s, wagons called Prairie Schooners, Covered Wagons, Conestoga Wagons, or the Camels of the Prairies provided the transportation of migrating families, merchants, gold-seekers, and more, across the plains and the mountains of the western United States.  This bookend pair is cast in low relief, but it is busy. The artist has managed to include one covered wagon, two pairs of yoked oxen, two people, and the title – “Trecking West”.  The title honors the American “Trek”, a word borrowed from the South African Boers’ depiction of their migration in the 1830s to the more northerly territories on the African Continent.

Photo of Cincinnati Artistic inscription

Reverse of “Trecking West” bookends showing Cincinnati Artistic and Patent Appl. For inscriptions

The foundry that made “Trecking West” is more than likely Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works Co. This company operated from the late 1890s until August of 1995 when as Artistic Wrought Iron it sold off it’s remaining stock with an advertisement in the “antiques” classifieds of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  It was known for it’s quality lamps and other architectural wrought iron items during the 1930s. A lamp from Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works was appraised by David P. McCarron on the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in 2010. Click here to reach that appraisal video.

Several Western bookends feature covered wagons. Hubley made at least 2 different versions, one of which is shown below. W.H. Howell’s contribution to the genre is documented in the BOOKEND REVUE, Fig. 194, Seecof & Seecof, and in Gerald P. McBride’s book, A Collector’s Guide to CAST METAL BOOKENDS, on page 108.

Electroformed bronze Covered Wagon bookends signed by Paul Herzel and attributed to Pompeian Bronze can be found on page 48 of BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, Seecof & Seecof, 2012.

Photo of Covered Wagon bookends

The Covered Wagon. 5.5″, electroformed bronze. Signed Paul Herzel. Attrib. to Pompeian Bronze. Circa 1920.

 

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Blenko Glass Bookends

As mid-century modern design becomes ever more popular, BLENKO glass bookends are popping up frequently in antique shops.  BLENKO items are well known to glass collectors, as expressed in this Modernism Magazine article, but have not received much attention from bookend collectors.  Here we have two representative pairs of BLENKO bookends, both of them solid and heavy.

Photo of Blenko Abstract Pyramid Bookends

Abstract pyramids:  Cast glass.  Height 4.5 inches. BLENKO glass Company.  Black by reflected light, but green by transmitted light.  A BLENKO factory label is glued to one bookend.  Designed by Wayne Husted or Joel Myers (verbal communication with factory spokesperson).  Issued in 1963, catalog # 6319. A picture of these bookends can be found in the 1965 Blenko catalog.

BLENKO Glass TeePee Bookends

Abstract teepees:  Cast glass. Height 6 inches.  BLENKO Glass Company.  Designed by Don Shepherd (verbal communication with factory spokesperson).  Issued in 1970.

The BLENKO Glass Company, established in 1893 and continuing to produce glassware today, is located in Milton, West Virginia. BLENKO bookends appear frequently on internet auctions and sales.  A person could make an attractive collection of BLENKO’s colorful bookends. A good resource for dating bookends are the catalogs on the BLENKO Project website.  Below is a screen shot of the 1969 Catalog, pg. 13 from that website.

Bookend array from 1969 BLENKO Catalog.  Screen-capture from www.blenkoproject.org

Bookend array from 1969 BLENKO Catalog. Screen-capture from http://www.blenkoproject.org

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Animals, Modernist

 

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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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