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Monk Bookends: We missed out!

Really enjoyed our perusal of the booths at the Portland Expo Antique Show.  However, we missed out on a pair of very attractive bookends that we would have loved to have added to our collection.  When we first passed Silver Bear Antiques’ booth, they were not yet unpacked.  On the second pass they had been purchased just minutes before we saw them.  Just goes to show that luck and early attendance are not always in sync.  Somewhere someone has a really nice pair.

 

 

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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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Bookends as Works of Art

Whenever possible, we like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style 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, sculptures 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, and not slip into obscurity along with collectibles such as beanie babies, cookie jars, and telephone pole insulators.

Our 2012 book, BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, is devoted to promoting bookends as an art form.  Check out some of our favorite bookend works of art in this slideshow:

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Old Mission Kopperkraft Bookends

Photo of Old Mission KopperkraftBookends

Old Mission Kopperkraft Bookends. 5″ by 5″. Hammered Copper.

Here is a pair of bookends which clearly were made by a metal workshop in Arts and Crafts style.  Sheet copper was cut to size and the bookend front cut into shape, stamped with an emblem at the top, bent into an L shape, made convex to the front and stamped with a shop mark.  All this was typical of workshop bookends from the early twentieth century.

The emblem on the face of the bookends features a Crescent composed of two Royal Bengal Tiger claws united with a keystone, used by the Mystic Shrine of the Masonic Order.  This symbol appears on several  Kopperkraft bookends, perhaps one or more of the owners of the shop belonged to this order.

The shop mark is an image of the Mission Dolores in San Francisco with the words Old Mission Kopperkraft above the building and the words San Francisco below it.  This shop was active in San Jose and San Francisco from 1922 through 1925, and this dates the bookends closely.

The Mission Dolores proper name is Mission San Francisco de Asis, and was founded in 1776.  It is the oldest intact building in San Francisco and it makes an appropriate shop mark for the bookends.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Aesthetic, Arts & Crafts

 

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Malibu Potteries Bookends

Take a look at this fantastic pair of Arts & Crafts genre bookends made by the the short-lived Malibu Potteries sometime between 1926 and 1932.  They are to be coveted for artistic merit, subject matter and rarity.  We wish we had them in our collection.

Photo of Malibu Potteries Bookends

Private Collection,Image courtesy of Tile Heritage Foundation,Monk Bookends, Malibu Potteries,1926-32.

Joe Taylor, President of the Tile Heritage Foundation, shared this photo with The Bookend Collector. Thank you Mr Taylor.

Mr. Taylor is an acknowledged, internationally-known authority on California tile production.  He edited the comprehensive California Tile: The Golden Era 1910 – 1940 published by Schiffer Books, 2004.

Malibu Potteries was born of oil exploration on Rancho Malibu, a portion of the original Spanish Land Grant of 1802 known as Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit.  No oil of significance was found but substantial and quality clay deposits were located.  With these antecedents, products of the Malibu Potteries really fit the description of “Old California.”  The beauty and extent of the Malibu Potteries’ production can be appreciated by visiting the Adamson House in Malibu, California.

The tiled outdoor dog bath at the Adamson House usually provokes a desire for one’s own outdoor dog bath.  The view down the Southern California coast from the veranda is spectacular and includes a beautiful tiled fountain.

 
 

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Golden Mission Bookends

Photo of Mission Bookend

Mission bookends, 9.5 inches tall, weight 5 pounds each.

We thought we were buying bookends that showed specific California Missions, but we were mistaken.

The bookend on the right has a number of Mission features:  four mission bells, a wooden door with huge strap hinges, an adobe brick wall covered with plaster, and a tile roof.  Unhappily, not any of the twenty-one California Missions closely match the appearance of this bookend.  It is a combination of features creating a beautifully  romanticized Mission bell tower,  although it is possible that it matches a Mission in Texas or Arizona.  However our research didn’t find one.

The bookend on the left has a partial identity.  The bell tower matches that of Mission San Diego de Alcala, but the staircase from the rear of the tower has been brought forward to the front, and the well and the path have been brought from an enclosed garden to the front of the bell tower.

Photo of Vernon Kilns plate depicting San Diego Mission.

San Diego de Alcala Mission and Bell Tower depicted on a Vernon Kilns plate circa 1940.

The Golden Mission bookends are marked Progressive Art Products, 1967.  Progressive Art Products of California, located in the Los Angeles area, produced decorative bookends in the 1960s and 70s.  All we have seen have been quite large, made of plaster, and very well painted.   We included a decorative pair of large Clown Heads and a patriotic pair of Heroic Eagles by this company in BOOKEND REVUE, published in 1996 by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.

 

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CLAYCRAFT Pottery Bookends

Claycraft Potteries’ decorative tiles are highly sought-after remnants of the California pottery productions that epitomized the Spanish/Mexican Revival designs in the 1920s and 1930s.  The pottery operated from 1921 to 1939 at 3101 San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, about 20 miles south of the San Fernando Mission. The section written on Claycraft by Joseph A Taylor in California Tile: The Golden Era 1910 – 1940 credits George Robertson for much of the design work.

CLAYCRAFT California Mission Bookends.  Heavy ceramic.  6 inches in height.

CLAYCRAFT California Mission Bookends. Heavy ceramic. 6 inches in height.

This bookend pair by Claycraft depicts the most iconic features of the Southern California Missions, San Juan Capistrano’s Bell Wall and San Fernando Rey de Espana’s Fountain.  These Missions were rescued and restored during the early part of the 20th century and by the mid-1920s were significant tourist destinations.

San Juan Capistrano is the third mission in the string of missions from San Diego to Sonoma, California.  It is internationally known for the “Return of the Swallows” on St. Joseph’s Day in March each year.  The bookend shows the bell wall where the bells were hung after the December 8, 1812 earthquake which killed 40 Native Americans as the great stone church collapsed.  Today the grounds of the mission are beautifully landscaped and it is one of the most visited sites in California.  You can watch the bells being rung to celebrate the swallow’s return by clicking here.

San Fernando Rey de Espana Mission is located in the northern section of Los Angeles‘ San Fernando Valley.  It is an active Catholic Church today.  The fountain seen on the bookend is probably the fountain from the central courtyard.  There are two fountains on the property and it is difficult to determine from the old photographs which fountain is represented here. Both fountains were photographed by Henry F. Withey during the 1936 Historic American Buildings Survey.

There is no Claycraft mark on these bookends yet they are easily recognizable.  This particular pair have “HENRY KRIER, TILE CONTRACTOR, MONROVIA” impressed into the clay.  According to Taylor “…. Claycraft Tiles were promoted successfully through established tile contractors and design showrooms….”  So it makes sense that Henry Krier, a noted designer and installer of decorative tile works in southern California, would have had one or more of these sets of bookends available in his Monrovia showroom or would have used them as promotional gifts.  The full article, “The Legacy of Henry Krier: A Contractor In Contrasts” by Lynn A. Downey, in the July-September 1989 issue of FLASH POINT, The Quarterly Bulletin of the Tile Heritage Foundation is available from the Tile Heritage Foundation.

 

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