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Category Archives: Antiquity

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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Forest Nymph or Dryad Bookends

Spring is here! These bookends are perfect for Spring.

Wood Nymph and Vase Bookends.  Grey metal and glass.  Height 7.5 inches without the vases.  Unmarked.  Early twentieth century.

Each member of this pair is a lovely wood nymph embracing a removable glass bud vase.  Her upswept hair and her softly draped costume add to the picture of a minor goddess or dryad. She stands on a forest hummock next to a tree stump that holds the vase. There is a red flower on the side of the stump that could be a Red Trillium.  The vases are not important in supporting books. The ladies support the books, but the vases are held away from the books.

Side View of Wood Nymph Bookends. The bud vases are in a flower form and quite heavy.

These bookends are quite Victorian in appearance and are reminiscent of the use of nymphs and fairies in the Arts of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Nymphs were popular in poetry, prints, stories, and music.  Jean Sibelius composed and presented in 1895 “The Wood Nymph”, a tone poem based on Viktor Rydberg’s 1882 poem of the same name. An 1872 woodcut,”Die Quelle” or The Source, by the German artist, Kurt von Rozinsky is shown below. This same woodcut was featured in a 1910 edition of “The Bible and Its Story taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons”, a popular book in the United States.

“Die Quelle”. Woodcut by German artist Kurt von Rozinsky. 1872

A Wood Nymph with a vase displaying flowers from the local byways would have been a delightful addition to a 1910 decor.

 

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Lichfield Cathedral Bookends

West Face of Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral: Iron. Height 7 inches. Inscription: Lichfield Cathedral Copyright 1928.

These well-cast iron bookends by Connecticut Foundry are of the West Face of the Lichfield Cathedral in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. LIchfield Cathedral was built during the thirteenth century and stands today as a premier example of Gothic architecture in England. It is the only medieval church in England with 3 spires.  The two spires depicted on the bookends are about 200 feet high. A third and taller spire at the east end of the cathedral is not represented on the bookends. The three spires together are known locally as the “Ladies of the Vale”. It is thought that Anna Seward, a late-eighteenth century romantic poet, daughter of the Canon of Lichfield Cathedral, and called the “Swan of Lichfield”, popularized this appellation through her writings.

There are several pairs of bookends depicting the Lichfield Cathedral.  This pair was cast by the Connecticut Foundry.  Not much is known about this foundry, but they issued numerous bookends in the first few decades of the twentieth century.  Connecticut Foundry bookends are nearly all unpainted iron with a light brown finish and in low relief.  These bookends are a special effort by the foundry because they are cast with great detail and are painted gold.

Connecticut Foundry Makers Mark on reverse of Lichfield Cathedral Bookends

Connecticut Foundry Makers Mark on reverse of Lichfield Cathedral Bookends

These Lichfield Cathedral bookends were a gift from Souvenir Building Collector, Mark Fine.

 

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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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Pan or Faun or Demi-God Bookends

Photo of Pan Bookends

Mythological Creature:  Grey metal.  7 inches.  Inscribed with the name of the listed artist Louise Wilder (1898-?), twentieth century, foundry unknown.

This bookend figure is a child, but It has the hairy hoofed legs of a goat, tall pointed ears, a small tail, the beginnings of horns on its forehead and it is playing two flutes.  It is a juvenile Pan, satyr or faun –  part human, part goat.  These are ugly, libidinous creatures when grown.  Pan was a proper Greek God of nature, shepherds, fertility, sexuality and music, satyrs were similar in looks and activities, but less than Gods, and fauns were later Roman versions, eventually combining them into a single entity. These particular bookends are probably from the 1920s. This was during a time when “there was an astonishing resurgence of interest in the Pan motif.” Patricia Merivale, author of Pan the Goat-God: His Myth in Modern Times, Harvard University Press, 1969, lists works, from the 1890s to 1926, of poetry, novels, children’s books where Pan is part of the narrative, not the least of those being J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In The Willows.

The artist who rendered this Pan version was a well-known sculptor of children from the sidewalks of New York during the 1920s, Louise Hibbard Wilder. She lost her hearing when she was a young girl. Following an article about her, as a deaf artist, in Time Magazine in September 1928, a number of articles about Louise were published in newspapers across the United States. One such article in The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) in December 1928, quotes her, “Artists, in addition to imagination and technical skill, need extreme concentration on their work. My deafness has given me more chance more than most artists have for this concentration. Being deaf I have learned to work without interruption.”

Photo of Daily Times Article

“The Daily Times, A Clean Newsy Newspaper For the Home”, Beaver, PA. Monday, October 1, 1928.

In late 1931, Louise and her husband, Bert Wilder, also an artist and sculptor, suffered the fate of many artists during the depression. The New York Times published an article entitiled, ARTIST COUPLE FACE EVICTION WITH BABY, attributing their destitution to portrait and commission fees that could not be collected. Shortly thereafter the Associated Press distributed a story of the response of art collectors to their plight. Commissions were paid, bronzes were bought. And from this date the artist couple seem to disappear – We didn’t manage to find anymore information.

Louise Hibbard Wilder received her art training in the free day classes at Cooper Union. She won a number of prizes for her work. One of her best known works is “The Tiny Turtle”, a bronze figure of a child holding a tiny turtle, which was a popular sculpture for garden fountains (I have been unable to find a picture). She is known to have works cast by the Roman Bronze Works and the Brook Art Bronze Co. of Brooklyn, NY. The bookends pictured above do not have a foundry identification.

 

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Chuck De Costa: Bookend Collector Extraordinaire

 

Chuck De Costa was a major player in the world of bookend collectors.  He amassed a great collection of beautiful and significant bookends, somewhere north of 2400 pairs.  He was generous in sharing his collection and knowledge with other collectors.  He was the author of the Collector’s Encyclopedia of Bookends.  The following announcement was made on his Antique Bookend Collection website:

“It is with sadness that I must report that Chuck De Costa, the Antiques Bookend Collector passed away on December 4, 2015. This site will remain for a short time to honor his love and knowledge of Antique Bookends. This site has been developed to share with other antique bookend collectors & enthusiasts. Whatever your favorites might be we hope that you enjoy this website and share it with your friends.”

As a tribute to Chuck we hope you all will take time to visit the site before it is taken down.

Chuck De Costa’s Antique Bookend Collection

 

 

 

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Goddess of Abundance Bookends

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. The decorations on many tables throughout the United States will include an overflowing cornucopia and sheaves of wheat. These symbols of plenty, abundance, good harvest, and well-being are derived from depictions of greek and roman goddesses.

Photo of Abundance Bookends

ABUNDANCE: height 7.5 inches, electroformed bronze, entitled ABUNDANCE and signed by the artist M Rotellini.  Attributed to Pompeian Bronze, circa 1915.

Ceres, Copia, Fortuna, Demeter, all known as a Roman Goddess of Abundance, was a popular symbol in the Victorian Era. Here she is shown half naked and sitting with a sheaf of wheat on her right and her cornucopia, a magical enormous goat’s horn filled with fruit and wealth, on the left.  Her nudity is not offensive to Victorians because, after all, she is a Goddess.

Her image is found atop the Missouri State Capitol dome and the Vermont State House dome. A sculpture on the former Clydesdale Bank in Aberdeen, Scotland bears a close resemblance to these bookends.

Photo of Demeter Statue

Ceres (or Demeter) sits n top of a former Clydesdale Bank Bldg in Aberdeen, Scotland. Designed by James Giles about 1840.

The artist, M. Rotellini, is presumed to be Martino Rotellini. Martino Rotellini was a “regular student” at the Yale School of Fine Arts from 1908 – 1911, during which time he received some recognition for his work. In the 1914 issue, “Directory of Living Non-Graduates of Yale University”, he is identified as living in New York City. In the 1920 edition of “Yale Alumni Directory of Graduates & Non-Graduates” he is listed as having changed his name to S. Martin Rotellini. By 1921, he is listed in the Library of Congress, Catalogue of Copyright Entries, New Series, Vol. 16, Part 4, pg. 441, as Rotellini & Bianchi with a number of his copyrighted pieces.

Listing of Rotellini Art Works

List of copyrighted Martino Rotellini art works from 1921. Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Vol 16, Part 4, pg. 441. US Govt Print Office

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Antiquity, Art Styles, Themes, Victorian

 

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