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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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Faux Stone Mexican Mask Bookends

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.

Faux Stone Mask Bookends: Composition on wood. Height 6 inches. Unmarked. 20th-century.

 
 

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Bookends Reflect Art of Their Times

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.

Dante and Beatrice: 7 inches, electroformed bronze. Armor Bronze, circa 1920.

 

Romeo and Juliet:  Here we have Shakespearean characters from a period of Elizabethan Revival In the Victorian era.  

Romeo and Juliet: 7 inches, gray metal, celluloid. JB Hirsch foundry, circa 1920.

 

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. 

Altar of Love: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Pompeian Bronze foundry, circa 1925.

 

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.

Hoops and Balls: 5.25 inches, copper and brass. Chase Co., design of Walter Von Nessen. circa 1936.

 

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.

Nude on Fluted Pedestal: 7 inches, gray metal. NuArt, Inc., Circa 1930.

 

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.

Butterfly Girl: 6 inches, grey metal. Circa 1923.

 

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.

Mucha Maiden: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Circa 1919.

 

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.

Man & Woman: 7.75 inches, solid bronze. Gorham Co., signed R. Aitken. Circa 1915.

 

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.

Parrot on Book: 6 inches, grey metal. AMW (American Art Works, Ronson). Circa 1927

 

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.

Roycroft Flower: 3 inches, copper. Circa 1934.

 

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. 

Indian Potter: 4.5 inches, Iron. Circa 1925.

 

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.

Scandinavian Abstract: 7 inches, teak. Circa 1974.

 

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.

Free Form: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Ben Seibel, Circa 1960.

 

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Nude Flapper Bookends

Nude Flapper: Height: 5.5 inches, Gray metal, Attributed to Ronson, circa 1925.

Feminism was very topical in the nineteen twenties.  Young ladies wanted the free and easy lifestyle of men, including smoking, gambling, drinking and sexual contacts.  In order to look more like men they deemphasized breasts and cut their hair short.  Today we remember these young ladies as flappers: The origin of the term is uncertain, however, click here for a Geneva (New York) Historical Society blog post from 2013 with a pretty thorough summary of the etymology.  

Issued in the nineteen twenties, these bookend nudes show us the short feminist haircut of the era, called “the bob,” so we know she was a flapper.

Nude Flapper: Height: 5.5 inches, Gray metal, Attributed to Ronson, circa 1925.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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Philippine Weaver Bookends

Photo of Philippine Weaver Bookends

Filipina Weaving Bookends:  Wood. Height 7.5 inches. Unmarked. Mid-twentieth century.

Once in a while we see a pair of nicely carved Filipino bookends in an antique shop.   They are usually a man or a woman carved from a single block of wood or a pair of horse heads.  This set is more elaborate; each bookend shows an indigenous, perhaps Ifugao, Philippine woman weaving a cloth with a traditional geometric pattern on a traditional Palay hand loom.  Each carving is from a single block of wood, probably native monkey pod wood, which has this appearance and is used for carving sculptures, tourist items, and for making furniture.  The carver has captured the tension required in the legs and feet as the weaver tamps down the weft, or filling, in her weaving.

 

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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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FEMALE PHARAOH BOOKENDS: HATSHEPSUT

Hatshepsut Bookends: Material electroform bronze, Height 10.25 inches, weight 4 lbs. each.  circa 1925, Attributed to Paul Mori &Sons foundry.  Part of the Egyptian revival following the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1923.

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). 

Statue of Hatshepsut in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. This statue of Hatshepsut was recovered from her mortuary temple.  The resemblance to the bookends helps to identify the bookends, although there was no other female pharoah that could confuse the identity.

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.

Grey metal. Height 6.75 inches.  Inscription: Dodge Inc.  circa mid 1940s.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2018 in Antiquity, Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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MAGNIFICENT CATS: THE LION AND THE TIGER BOOKENDS

Just the type of bookends to hold up your adventure tomes.  Are you a collector of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan”, or Roosevelt’s “African Game Trails”, Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” or Dinesen’s “Out of Africa”?  If so, these are the bookends for you.  Big, beautifully sculpted African Lion and Asian Tiger stealthily menacing as they step from the jungle overgrowth.  

Lion and Tiger: Upright and base – Iron, animals – grey metal. Height 7 inches. Shopmark: Bradley and Hubbard.  Circa 1915.

One bookend shows an African lion stepping forward from a jungle and the other bookend shows an Asian tiger stepping forward from a jungle.The bookends are admirable as sculpture, but perhaps even more admirable because they are massive – 17 pounds per pair.  A photo does not do justice to the power exhibited by these bookends.

Bradley & Hubbard, makers mark.

 
 

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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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Deco Eagle Bookend

Spread Eagle Bookends:  Solid bronze. Height 4 inches. circa 1930

 

The dominant Art Deco motif in nineteen thirties America was streamline, and all manner of objects were given streamlined exteriors to look modern.  To look modern was to look cool in thirties America.  Along side the streamlining, there was a geometric motif, which began earlier, in the twenties.  Objects were made in geometric shapes or covered with geometric figures.

The eagle Bookends shown here are composed of triangles, rectangles and trapezoids, all geometric angled figures.  Very deco. Angled features were called zigzag deco.

Not all geometric objects were were zigzag.  Some were composed of curving geometric figures, like the bookends shown here entitled Rings and Balls, made up in this instance almost entirely of spheres and circular rings.

Copper or brass?   Height 5.25  inches. Inscription:  Shopmark of Chase Inc.   Attributed to Walter Von Nessen.  circa 1936.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Animals, Art Deco, Streamline

 

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