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Made-in-Japan Mexican Bookends

Japanese Mexican bookends:  porcelain, Height 6 inches. Made In Japan.

Each bookend in this pair shows a Mexican peon sitting against saguaro cacti.  We know he is Mexican because of his characteristic sombrero and his sitting in the desert.  We expect his face to look like the popular conception of a Mexican – swarthy with a mustache, but instead we see a light-skinned, clean-shaven, blue-eyed face, quite caucasian in appearance.  These bookends were made in Japan, so we can guess that the artist had no familiarity with actual look of Mexican peons.

The painted details on this bookend are very nice.

In the late 1920s and into the 1930s and 40s, a popular home decor in the American southwest was a kitschy amalgam of mission, cowboy, and Mexican motifs. Table cloths, table settings, home decorations all incorporated variations of the theme. These bookends fit beautifully into what could be called, “Mexico In The American Imagination”, a phrase taken from the SOUTH OF THE BORDER traveling exhibition mounted by the Yale University Art Gallery in 1993 and 1994.

A vintage Mexican motif table cloth with a page from Mexican Cookbook by Erna Fergusson, published by the Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1934.

Before World War II, Japan was making porcelain decorative items for export to the United States and Europe. These bookends appear to be from that period and made for the American market. They are nicely detailed and hand-painted. The stamp, Made In Japan, is one that could be pre-1941 according to the Kovel’s website. The Kovel’s indicate that 1921 is when the US government began to require the Country of Origin be in English and the Japanese started using Japan instead of Nippon. After the war the stamp “Made in Occupied Japan” was used until 1952. The quality of these bookends would indicate pre-war. We like them even though their light weight doesn’t bode well for holding up books.

Made In Japan mark.

 

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JB Bookends: Young Man Reading

Young Man Reading:  Bronze on gray metal.   Height 8 inches.  Weight 8 pounds per pair.  Shopmark  J.B. 2869. Early twentieth century.

Young Man Reading:  Bronze on gray metal.   Height 8 inches.  Weight 8 pounds per pair.  Shopmark  J.B. 2869. Early twentieth century.

Each bookend shows a young man standing and reading.  He wears clothing appropriate to about 1895 – a cap, rolled up sleeves, suspenders, and  short pants..  Perhaps he is reading a newspaper. His disheveled clothing and lack of shoes suggest he is poor.

Beyond these observations, the young man is a mystery.  Does he represent some circumstance from long ago?   Is this a reproduction of a painting or a sculpture or a depiction of a character in a book?  We cannot place the young man so we conclude that he has no special significance other than the bookend-artist’s presentation of a young man from that era.

Perhaps one of our viewers will tell us the significance of this young man.  Until then we simply have a very well cast and finished pair of bookends from Jennings Brothers, a respected foundry.

 
 

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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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Sunbonnet Sue Bookends

Sunbonnet Sue:  Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Unmarked.  Attributed to the Hubley Mfg. Co.    circa 1905.

Sunbonnet Sue:  Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Unmarked.  Attributed to the Hubley Mfg. Co.    circa 1905.

This little girl is known as Sunbonnet Sue.  The image was created by the artist and illustrator Bertha Corbett (Melcher) (1872-1950).  Sue became an illustration for the book The Sunbonnet Babies Primer (1900) and for a very popular series of children’s books entitled Sunbonnet Babies  (1902).  You can read an excellent article on Bertha Corbett Melcher in the Minnesota Historical Society publication, Minnesota History Magazine.

Sue has remained a relatively unchanged embroidery and quilt pattern from before 1900 until today.  She also appeared on postcards, dishes, ashtrays and quilts after 1900. Margaret Hobbs Cook, at 104 years young,  has spanned that  century of Sunbonnet Sue’s popularity and Margaret was still quilting at 103.

 

We attribute these bookends to Hubley. Hubley began in 1894 and produced quality painted iron toys, doorstops,  bookends and other products until about 1970.  Because the Sunbonnet Sue image originated and became very popular early on, we guess that Sue bookends were first issued in the first decade of the twentieth century. Many of the Sunbonnet Sue bookends that we see are poorly cast and extensively rusted.  This pair has apparently original paint and in five colors.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Art Styles, Literary, Victorian

 

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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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