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Foundries that Changed Bookend Styles

States began mandating universal elementary school attendance in the late nineteenth century and Americans became literate. At about the same time, the cost of books began to decline due to technological advances. Less affluent Americans could now buy books to read and display as an indicator of their refinement. As home libraries grew so did the need for bookends.  Wealthy people with libraries and fancy shelving could hold up their books with a single bronze bust or statue.  A family with a modest income could purchase small shelves (book slides) for their fireplace mantles or chest tops.  Even better were 2 pieces that could hold up just one book or a expanding library.   Bookends began appearing as gifts or as decor around 1900 to meet a growing market.

Across America, but principally in the north east, foundries began producing bookends.  Most bookends were  made through sand casting (see our 2012 book for descriptions of casting methods), and bookends were primarily of the same “L” shaped genre.  Foundries utilized topical subjects and artists to decorate these bookends and to entice buyers. 

Three foundries will be given special mention here because they made novel contributions to bookend design or they were especially favored by the public.

KBW. “Admiration”. 9 inches. Electroform Bronze. 1914.

Kathodian Bronze Works (KBW) was active in New York City from about 1900 to about 1916.  They produced  bronze BOOK ROCKS (bookends), generally in Victorian style, by the electroform method, usually marked KBW or ARTBRONZ. Each bookend was clearly a work of art and pleasing to see, but this foundry did not stand out for artistic conception alone. As can be seen in the advertisement below, KBW Book Rocks were carried in fashionable stores all across the United States and its territories, from Boston to Hawaii.   In fact, Gustave Stickley, icon of the early Arts and Crafts movement in America, chose to retail KBW Book Rocks in his New York City furniture shop, The Craftsman.  The Stickley shop “NEW YORK, Gustave Stickley, The Craftsman”,  is listed at the top right among the “List of Exclusive Agencies” in the advertisement shown below.  Today KBW bookends are deservedly desirable.

Photo of KBW Advertisement

The Literary Digest for November 14, 1914

The J B Hirsch Foundry, established in 1907 and active until recently, gave us bookends with celluloid parts.  Celluloid parts mimicked the ivory parts that were used in high-end sculptures. and lent panache to bookends.  Celluloid, also referred to as Ivorine, is often denigrated now because it lacks the qualities of ivory, but all plastics were new and desirable in the early thirties.  Bakelite, for example, was used for jewelery. Best of all, bookends with celluloid parts could be mass produced.

J.B. Hirsch Bird. 6″ Gray Metal with celluloid beak and bakelite base. Circa 1932.

The Frankart company was founded by the artist Arthur Frankenberg in 1921.  The company produced a number of metal items, among which were bookends featuring young ladies of  outstanding appearance.  Prior to Frankart, ladies in artwork were generally modeled in Victorian style  with curvaceous bodies, frequently nude but with some device to avoid obscenity. For example, on the KBW “Admiration” bookends shown above, a watching frog imbues the sculpture with the beauty of nature.   Frankart ladies, by contrast, were slender, elfin nudes, cute, graceful,  and very well-received by the public, yet even here a frog is part of the depiction.  Today, these Frankart bookends are considered for their ART DECO appeal and sell for high prices.   Frankenberg left the company in 1930 and thereafter, Frankart bookends were frequently made from low quality pot metal which has steadily deteriorated since that time. Buyer beware.

Nude and Frog. 10.25″ gray metal. Inscription: Frankart Inc. and 1922 with a copyright symbol.

 

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Knights in Shining Armor

“You see, he was going for the Holy Grail. The boys all took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then. It was a several years’ cruise. They always put in the long absence snooping around, in the most conscientious way, though none of them had any idea where the Holy Grail really was, and I don’t think any of them actually expected to find it, or would have known what to do with it if he had run across it.” Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Sir Galahad.   Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Inscription:  Sir Galahad.  Circa 1920.

Knights in armor were a popular subject for bookends in the early twentieth century.  They were prized as reflections of the Arts and Crafts ethos popularized by William Morris and Elbert Hubbard and for their romantic adventures.  Like today’s digitally-based adventure stories where knights and medieval times are often featured, the adventure literature of the late 1800s and early 1900s were rampant with tales of gallant knights.  Even Mark Twain employed a knight as the central character in A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT.  Later on, the movies of the 1920s and 30s made knights a popular theme.   Everyone must have known about knights then, as they do today.  There was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the search for the Holy Grail.  People knew that knights had fought in the Holy Land during the crusades.

The long-lived popularity of knights in the media: literature, movies and Sunday comics (remember Prince Valiant) is reflected in the large number of decorative bookends of knights to be found in antique and vintage markets.  Bookends of knights were fashioned in many types of metal, as well as other materials such as clay.  With a little searching one can find bookends of knights that bear the signature or mark of a known artist or sculptor such as Gregory Seymour Allen or John J. Ruhl.     

The rarest knight bookend pair we know is a knight kneeling between two small castles. His mantle and his shield show a red cross on a white background, the insignia of the Knights Templar.  This was a Christian military order which was active from about 1100 to 1300 CE.  Another Masonic pair from 1916 featuring Knights Templar, shows the Knights fighting in Jerusalem.

There are two pairs of bookends from Armor Bronze which were later copied by Marion Bronze, this pair of knights on horseback and a pair of Knights Kneeling (not pictured).

We know of more than 20 bookend versions of Knights.  Knights in armor, Knights on horseback jousting, Knights with a lady, Knights on a lonely quest.  Here are a few more examples for you to peruse.  The Marion Bronze pair (courtesy of Jane from Galena) of St. George slaying the Dragon is particularly interesting as it is a reproduction of a rare tile by the well-known Arts & Crafts tile master, Batchelder.

 

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YE OLDE PRINTER Bookends

Ye Olde Printer:  Electroform  bronze.  Height 5 inches.  Markings:  Ye Olde Printer, Ruhl Sc (sculptor) (John Ruhl, 1873-1940.) Armor Bronze shopmark.  Circa 1915.

 

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.

Illustration of a printing press and composing stick from the first edition (1766-7) of the Encyclopaedia Brittannica, Vol. 3, plate CXLVII, Figure 1. https://www.britannica.com/technology/printing-press

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.

 

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Art Styles, Literary

 

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VERY VICTORIAN BOOKENDS

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.

Altar of Love. Gray metal.  Height 5.5 inches.  Marked The Altar of Love and Pompeian Bronze. circa 1920.

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.

Boy and Snail. Electroform bronze.  Height 8 inches.  Marked Ghiglia (artist).  Foundry: Attributed to Paul Mori.  circa 1910. Very rare bookends.

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.

Dante and Beatrix: Height 7 inches. Electroformed bronze. Marked with the Armor Bronze shopmark. circa 1920.

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.  

 

 
 

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THE PURITAN and THE PILGRIM BOOKENDS

The colonial era  in America (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) does not get much attention nowadays, but there are bookends that remind us of those times.  One pair labeled THE PURITAN is a near reproduction of a commissioned  bronze sculpture of Deacon Samuel Chapin (1595-1675) by the illustrious artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens.. The sculpture was unveiled in Springfield, MA on Thanksgiving Day 1887.  

Puritans, were Calvinist immigrants who came to Massachusetts in the early seventeenth century, and were renowned for their strict spiritual regimen.  The sculptural image of a man dressed in seventeenth century apparel, striding along purposefully and carrying a bible remains a popular conception of a Puritan to this day.  

A National Park Service publication, In Homage to Worthy Ancestors: The Puritan, The Pilgrim, states: 

“Created by sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), the Puritan spoke to a family’s pride in a “worthy ancestor” and became an emblem of the city of Springfield, and of the stalwart pioneers who settled Western Massachusetts. The Pilgrim, created later for a committee of city leaders in Philadelphia, was seen as a more general icon of the country’s moral and political strength. For the artist, the demand was so great for this popular figure, that he created reduced versions of the Puritan in bronze for sale to schools, government buildings and individuals.”

In other words, Saint-Gaudens produced two similar sculptures, one is The Puritan, the other is The Pilgrim.  As far as we know the Jennings Brothers bookends, The Puritan shown above,  are based on the Springfield version because the spine of the book does not have “THE BIBLE” emblazoned on it as does the Philadelphia Pilgrim version. 

The Puritan / Pilgrim was a popular and reproduced form that fits in with a colonial-style home decor.  Here is another example by an unknown artist.

The Puritan:  Grey metal, Height 7 inches, There is a light illegible mark within a small circle on the back of each bookend.  First quarter of the twentieth century.

Somewhat similar bookends were produced by Armor Bronze.  Again we have a man in seventeenth century clothing and carrying a bible but under the right arm.  To avoid confusing them with “The Puritan” we  called them “Pilgrim”. However, Gerald P. McBride in “A Collector’s Guide to Cast Metal Bookend (1997)”  called these Armor Bronzes  “Puritan”. 

Pilgrim:  Electroform bronze.  Height 10.5 inches. Circa 1918.  Markings:  Signed by the sculptor Ruhl (John Ruhl, 1873-1940)  Armor Bronze shopmark and label.

In March of 2015 we posted Colonial decor bookends by Chase Inc.  Since that time we have learned that those bookends were made to resemble the hurricane lamps that were used in Colonial times.

 
 

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The Elusive S.C. Tarrant Company

Five years ago, a fellow inquisitive bookend collector, Chris Bernhard, contacted us with the question, “Who are these guys?” He was referring to paper labels that included “The S.C. Tarrant Co. Inc., New York City” above ARMOR BRONZE found on some Armor Bronze bookends.

Pre-1934 Armor Bronze Paper Label showing “The S.C.Tarrant Co, Inc, New York City” above the Armor Bronze in a circle.

The Bookend Collector responded with “We have seen this Tarrant label in the past. Because the label is the same as the Armor Bronze label, we have assumed that the name Tarrant came first and was later changed to Armor Bronze.”

Armor Bronze paper labels in Bookend Collector’s collection, one of which bears the TARRENT name.

We couldn’t answer the question then and still can’t.

Chris has poked us every-so-often with further questions and by supplying his own research into the enigma. He also began to question the role Paul Mori & Co. (Galvano Bronze) played with S.C.Tarrant. He found both a paper label and an incised Maker’s Mark on different pairs of bookends that incorporated both Tarrant and Galvano Bronze.

Recently, Chris gave us another shove! He sent photos of a beautiful Viking Longboat bookend with TARRANT stamped into the side.

Photo of Electroformed Ship Bookends

Viking Longboat Bookends, Electroform, Signed TARRANT

BE_Ship_Tarrant_Chris_MM

Conducting sporadic internet searches we have come across some clues and few hard pieces of evidence. Now we ask, “WHAT IS THE PLACE OF THE S. C. TARRANT COMPANY AMONG BOOKEND FOUNDRIES?” Did Armor Bronze make bookends for S.C. Tarrant or vice-versa? Was S. C. Tarrant a foundry?

But internet searches haven’t given us much in the way of elucidation on these questions.

Here is what we know …………….

  1. The Armor Bronze label on which S.C. Tarrant appears was used pre-1934, per Gerald P. McBride in CAST METAL BOOKENDS, Schiffer Pub.1997.
  2. The term “GALVANO BRONZE”, which was coined by the firm of P.Mori & Son, became a generic description of the electroform process (Gerald McBride and others)
  3. At least one example of the mark “TARRANT” as part of a casting has been found -the Viking Longship Bookends.
  4. Around 1924, the sculptor Elie Nadelman executed a series of figures in what he dubbed, “galvano-plastique” and, according to his grand-daughter, Cynthia Nadelman , in “Elie Nadelman: Galvano-Plastiques”, Salandar O’Reilly Galleries, 2001, the foundry was S.C. Tarrant.

Chris queried The New York Historical Society, asking the following: In 19-teens (perhaps earlier), SC Tarrant’s name was associated with 2 companies engaged in production of decorative household objects: National Metalizing Co aka Armor Bronze and P(aul) Mori & Son aka Galvano Bronze. Armor Bronze and Galvano Bronze were separate and distinct entities (to my knowledge) but SC Tarrant’s name appears on some of identifying foil labels of each company. I wish to know who / what SC Tarrant was. Any information you might discover would be useful and fun for me. Thank you.

Marian Touba, Reference Librarian at the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library of the New York Historical Society replied:

“….. It proved a bit challenging, because, as far as I can tell, Stanley C. Tarrant was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades with many lives in business. He was british-born in 1887 and lived most of his life in the U.S. in Westchester County, New York and , finally in Connecticut, dying in 1950. He had a son of the same name.

“The S.C. Tarrant company shows up in city and business directories a little later than you might think, in the mid – 1920s and early 1930s under Gas and Electric Fixtures”.

“When we look at Westchester directories and census records over the years, we find Tarrant calls himself a statistician, an office manager, an electrical engineer, a dealer in art goods. At one point, before forming the S.C. Tarrant company he worked for the Westchester Lighting Company. He wrote articles in business magazines both about statistics and office efficiency.”

The librarian also provided a copy of a 1932 NY Times Business Records section announcement which listed the transfer of the S.C.Tarrant company to a buyer or creditor.

Bookend Collector found a November, 1921 announcement In the THE MORNING NEWS (Wilmington, Delaware) regarding the funding of The S.C. Tarrant Co, Inc. Manufacture of lighting fixtures, lamps, etc. From these two pieces of information it can be surmised that the S. C. Tarrant Co. was in existence between 1921 and 1932.

In summary: S.C. Tarrant was in existence from 1921 – 1932, and possibly earlier and was a foundry where the Nadelman’s sculptures were cast.  Tarrant had unspecified relationships with both Armor Bronze and Galvano Bronze, as reflected in the name combinations on certain bookends.

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Foundries

 

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Child Writing Bookends

Photo of Child Writing in Book

Child Writing:  Gray metal, Height 5.5 inches, weight 5 pounds per pair, Unmarked.  Attributed to Ronson, circa 1915

There are many bookends that feature children, but we have not seen this pair before. A very young child is sitting on a book with legs outstretched and two books on her lap. The child is writing or drawing on the uppermost  book. There are number of similar pairs that were produced by a variety of foundries, in the first quarter of the twentieth century, in which a young child is reading.

We attribute this pair to Ronson because of the gold and maroon colors and the sturdy construction, with pieces made in molds and then soldered together.  The very bottom of each bookend is heavy gauge metal with only a relatively small, square opening. This bottom design is unique and suggests very early bookends.  The pair is unmarked but could have had a company label early on.

Photo of Child Writing Bookends base

Underside of Child Writing Bookends

These bookends are obviously Victorian in style.  The Victorians had great concern for family and children and these bookends certainly celebrate children.  The Victorian era ended with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, but the Victorian style persisted in the early decades of the 20th century in America and still has a following here today.

Here are some further examples of this genre from our book, BOOKENDS Objects of Art and Fashion, Schiffer Publishing 2012.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Literary, Victorian

 

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Asian Taxi Bookends

Asian Taxi Bookends:  Stone carving of Chinese Sedan Chair.  Height 4.5 inches.  circa 1930.

Asian Taxi Bookends:  Stone carving of Chinese Sedan Chair.  Height 4.5 inches.  circa 1930.

These bookends show a lady, probably Chinese, being transported in an open sedan chair.  A variety of bookends from China were exported to the United States during the nineteen twenties and thirties, and some of these were pictured in  Bookend Revue, (Schiffer, 1996).  These are the first bookends we have ever seen which featured  a sedan chair or any other scene from modern China.  The bookends are further unique in that they are carved as mirror images, and the figures on each bookend match the figures on the other in very careful detail.

Sedan chairs have been used for hundreds of years in Europe and Asia.  Most of them were enclosed boxes that contained chairs within, in order to protect the riders, who were usually wealthy and sometimes aristocratic.  The open chair suggests that the lady passenger had somewhat lower status.

Chefoo-Mrs. Reese being carried in a sedan chair. Source: William H. Jackson, World's Transportation Commission photograph collection. Library of Congress.

Chefoo, China-Mrs. Reese being carried in a sedan chair. Source: William H. Jackson, World’s Transportation Commission photograph collection. Library of Congress.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Chinese

 

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Cowboy and Indian Salute Bookends

Photo of Armor Bronze Cowboy and Indian Bookends

Cowboy and Indian Salute.  Electroformed bronze.  Height 8 inches.  Armor Bronze,  Taunton, MA foundry, Taunton Armor Bronze labels on both felts.  Circa 1935.

There are dozens of Indian bookends and fewer cowboy bookends, but fewest of all are bookends featuring both cowboys and Indians.  This pair of bookends, produced by the Taunton, Massachusetts foundry of Armor Bronze around 1935, is one of the rare pairings.

By 1935 the film industry had thoroughly imprinted the American movie-going public with the heroics of the West. The biggest movie stars were the likes of Gene Autry, Tim McCoy, Tom Mix, Buck Jones, and Will Rogers. Some of these stars were part Indian. The “Indian” in the movies had moved from always being the enemy to being portrayed, in part, sympathetically and even sometimes heroically. Click here to see the New York Times Movie Review, Sept. 1932, of WHITE EAGLE.

As with other bookend sets, these bookends of a cowboy and an indian with their rearing horse salute, reflected the changing attitudes in American culture.

 

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Electroformed Bookends – Bronze or Copper?

Recently we have become aware of a trend to incorrectly label electroformed bronze bookends as copper.  One antiques and collectibles site, Eureka, I Found It,  states unequivocally that “Armor Bronze, Pompeian Bronze, and Marion Bronze” are zinc with a copper coating, produced by the “Electroformed” or “Galvano” method.

The Bookend Collector is always Interested in obtaining more information, and recognizing that actual analysis of metal on electroformed or plated bookends is often missing, we contacted the site and asked for supporting documentation for their statement.  Their response was, “……bronze could not be electroplated so it must be copper.”

They are wrong.  Bronze can be electroplated. Bronze, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, is traditionally an alloy composed of copper and tin, in varying proportions.  In modern times bronze alloys have varied in composition and while bronze is primarily copper the alloy may include zinc, lead, manganese, aluminum.  It’s hardness and strength is improved by the addition of a small amount of phosphorous.   In the excellent treatment of Electroformed / Galvano Castings in Gerald P. McBride’s “A COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO CAST METAL BOOKENDS,” after speaking to the owner of Marion Bronze, he writes ….“The process of electroforming was actually more detailed than it would first appear and required special attention to the amounts of electrical current used and the CHEMICAL COMPOSITION OF THE PLATING SOLUTIONS (my caps).”

So far as we know, the metal in electroformed bookends has never been analyzed, and, as yet, we’ve not found the formulas used by the various bookend foundries, so the identity of the metal is not certain.  We do know that electroformed bookends are not plated on zinc, but are plated or electroformed on a composition material or on chalk, this is one difference between electroformed bookends and plated metal bookends.  Additionally, in the electroformed bookends the plating or coating is thick enough to stand on it’s own if the matrix were removed.  In plated metal bookends the plating is usually very thin and is often reduced or removed by dusting or heavy cleaning.  Click here to read our earlier post on electroformed bookends.  Also, there is a discussion of electroforming in BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion on page 159.

Companies that made electroformed bookends include Paul Mori, Armor Bronze, Marion Bronze,  Kathodian Bronze Works (KBW). These foundries claim bronze and there is no reason to doubt them, so we will continue to regard the metal as bronze until proven otherwise.

Some companies that made 3-dimensional, plated metal bookends are Jennings Brothers, Weidman Brothers, …….. The plating may be copper or bronze or other metal on zinc or other gray metal.

A further observation regarding electroformed bookends versus 3-dimensional plated bookends:  in electroformed bookends there are no seams as the plating is done over a matrix, in plated 3-dimensional metal bookends there are seams, usually polished off,  where electrotyped pieces of the sculpture are joined. Click here to view an excellent video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that shows the process employed in electrotyping – a process that mirrors how bookends from foundries such as Jennings Bros. would have been made.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Art Styles

 

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