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.
Category Archives: Antiquity
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.
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.
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.
Hatshepsut (1508-1458 BCE) was born a princess in the Egyptian royal line and became the regent for the the infant who would become the next king, Although only a regent , she assumed the title and the trappings of a king with the additional title of Pharaoh. She then ruled Egypt from 1473 to 1458 BCE, a rare woman to achieve that position in 3000 years of Egyptian history.
Hatshepsut proved to be a successful and important ruler as she restored many monuments and restored trade with western Asia, with Punt, and with the Aegean Islands. No other female king appeared until Cleopatra (51-30 BCE).
A statue in THE MET in New York City is very similar to these bookends. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian Expeditions in 1926-27 and 1929 excavated bits and pieces of a statue of Hatshepsut near her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri in Thebes. In 1929 they acquired a fragment that had been excavated and taken to Berlin in 1845. Click here for the link to The Met page on the Hatshepsut statue. It is on view at THE MET Fifth Avenue in Gallery 115.
Another bookend depiction of a female pharoah is a bust by Dodge Inc. probably in the 1940s.
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.”
Spring is here! These bookends are perfect for Spring.
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.
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.
A Wood Nymph with a vase displaying flowers from the local byways would have been a delightful addition to a 1910 decor.
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.
These Lichfield Cathedral bookends were a gift from Souvenir Building Collector, Mark Fine.
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.
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.”
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.