Bronze bookends, ashtrays, and inkwells were plentiful during the Art Deco era, but bronze figures were the most popular objects made of the copper alloy. In fact, the American affection for figural bronzes began in the 1890s, growing out the Art Nouveau figurative tradition in which female figures appeared to be draped rather than clothed, their hair flowing as if blown by a stiff wind.

By the 1920s, artists such as Demetre Chiparus of Paris were creating small, figurative sculptures designed to grace a side table or mantel. Chiparus’s dancers wore cold-painted costumes suggesting the Ballet Russes. Like many of his contemporaries, Chiparus also paired cast bronze with carved ivory to create what are known as chryselephantine sculptures.

A good example of such a piece is Chiparus’s two-foot-tall rendition of the ancient Assyrian queen Semiramis, whose outstretched ivory arms support curtains of pleated polychromed bronze. Her face is also made of ivory, as is her exposed midriff. The rest of her outfit, what little there is of it, might cause Lady Gaga to blush.

Ferdinand (Fritz) Preiss of Berlin actually began his career as an ivory carver, but he became known for his almost action-figure-like female athletes such as archers and tennis players, who were usually perched on marble or onyx bases. Other Preiss subjects included women in cabarets, some spreading their costume bat wings, others cradling a delicate mandolin.

While Preiss worked in a style that strikes us as cartoony today, Marcel-Andre Bouraine and Pierre Le Faguays were truer to Art Deco. Bouraine’s mythical figures are similar to the Paul Manship sculptures in front of Rockefeller Center in New York City. Le Faguays, who often signed his pieces Fayral, was perhaps more influential than his contemporaries, but the artists he inspired, including Preiss and Chiparus, achieved more success in their careers.

In the United States, upscale shops in New York City such as Alfred Dunhill did a brisk business selling these and other imported bronzes. This prompted U.S. silver manufacturer Gorham to open an entire bronze division in Providence, Rhode Island, to capitalize on the trend. One of Gorham's most successful artists was Harriet Frishmuth, who was known for her small nude statuettes and table fountains.

While many of the best known sculptors from France and Austria were men, Gorham gave women an opportunity to design. In addition to Frishmuth, there was Maude Sherwood Jewett, Ma...

When looking at Art Deco bronzes, make sure it's clear whether the piece is in the Art Deco style or actually from the Art Deco era. Objects from the 1920s and ’30s often show evidence of wear, especially surfaced that have been cold-painted. If the paint looks too new, it probably is. Pieces that are excessively polished are also suspect—real vintage bronze will have a greenish patina.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Art Deco 1910-1939

Art Deco 1910-1939

This Victoria and Albert Museum has a terrific collection of Art Deco objects. On the VAM's website, you can learn … [read review or visit site]



Randy Juster's survey of Art Deco imagery and reference on all things Deco. Includes pages on murals, houses, gov… [read review or visit site]



This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Bronzed Spelter & Glass Art Deco Nude Women Chinese Orientalist Lamp NrAntique Signed A. Titze Art Deco Gypsy Woman Dancer Austrian Bronze SculptureAntique Original A Titze Austrian Bronze Sculpture Art Deco Flapper Dancer WomanArt Deco Nude Bronzed Spelter Lady LampArt Deco, Bronze, "michelle" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteBeautiful Best Quality Deco Bronze Panther Big Cat Signed Bronze Statue 5 KilosArt Deco Bronze Black Woman Hagenauer Styal Figure Modernist SculptureArt Deco Austrian Cold Painted Bronze Signed Barner C 1920 Butterfly Dancer NrThe Vine Beautiful Nude Art Deco Nouveau Genuine Bronze Statue See My ItemsArt Deco, Bronze Statue, "carpet Seller" Signed Bergman Figure FigurineArt Deco, Bronze " Con Brio ", Bronze Statue Sculpture Dancer Figurine FigureAntique Art Deco Egyptian Bronzed Figural Nude Cardholder Incense Burner RonsonAntique 1930's Art Deco Pewter Panther In A Bronze Finish. Art Deco, Colinet " Sun Dancer ", Bronze Dancer Statue Sculpture Figurine FigureDancer Gymnast Pure Bronze Figure Statue Deco 5.2 KgLovel1920's Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Vintage Bronze Statue Nude Signed Rubin Art DecoVintage Mcclelland Barclay Bronze Nude Mermaid Tray/holder Art Deco/nouveau 19311920's Art Deco Nude Man Greek Or Roman Male Figure Bronze Spelter Marble Base Antique 1920's Tiffany Studios Ny Bronze Paperweight Dog Figure Art DecoVintage Art Deco Pair Of Bronze (?) BookendsAntique 1920's Bronze Clad Shepherd Boy Table Lamp Gregory S Allen Art Deco Exotic Art Deco, " Salome ", French Bronze Fugere Dancer Statue Sculpture FigureBeautiful Art Deco Style Bronze Effect Lady Figure Opaline Globe Table LampRare Art Deco French Bronze Medal City Of Paris By DammannInfant Multi-use Deco Extra Tall Walk-thru Gate, BronzeDeco Japanese 6 Cranes 2 Dragon Heads Bulbous Piped Bronze Ribbed Vase Antique Erotic Nude Submissive Figure Statue Art Deco Nouveau Woman Bronze OldBeautiful Deco Nouveau Card Tray Signed Pure Hotcast Bronze No ReserveArt Deco Lamp Le Faguays Alabaster Bronze Dancing Flapper Girl Frankart Era LadySigned Dunhill Paris Tortoise Shell Enameled Bronze Deco Cigarette Cigar Box NrStunning Deco Nouveau Nude Genuine Bronze Statue Figure Figurine Flirtatious, Art Deco, " Crimean Dancer ", Signed, Bronze Statue Figurine FigureFine Old Antique Bronzed Indian Brave Archer Bookends Art Deco Era NrScarf Dancer Pure Bronze Art Deco Dancer Signed C.mirval Lovely Art Deco Nouveau Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Rare 1930s Art Deco French Bronze Medal Comite Francais Des Expositions By TurinSnake Hoop Girl Deco Nouveau 100% Bronze Statue 12kgHuge Nude Art Deco Bronze Statue Genuine HotcastDeco Erotic Coy Nude Bronze Sculpture By German Artist Ferdinand Preiss SignedAntique Bronze Art Deco Figural Nude Maiden Jewelry Trinket Ring Coin Dish TrayGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityStunning Deco Nouveau Dancer Genuine Hotcast 100% Bronze StatueTopless Nude Female Bronzed Art Figurine Miniature Deco Lady Risque Busty StatueFootsteps Art Deco Nouveau Signed Pure Bronze Statue An Antique Art Deco Era Cold Painted Bronzed Spelter Trinket / Jewellery Dish.Art Deco Solid Bronze Sculpture Of Gazelles, Raoh SchorrWonderfully Detailed Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Deco Girl Bronze StatueGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityArt Deco Austrian Bronze Figure Penguin Pin Dish Hagenauer EraA Very Nice French Art Deco Era Solid Bronze Agriculture Medal Or Plaque.Vintage Bronze Deco Door Knob "hotel Piccadilly" New YorkVintage Large Art Deco Dancer Dimitri Chiparus Bronze Sculpture Signed Figure Signed Art Deco Spelter Bronze German Shepherd Alsatian Dog Figure Marble BaseArt Deco Nude Nymph With Skeleton Bronze Sculpture Statue Figurine Sale Hot CastVintage Antique Pair Heavy Bronze Arts & Crafts Deco Nouveau Candle HoldersOutstanding Huge 1920s Art Deco Heavy Bronze Cast Wall Crucifix Corpus ChristHarriet Frishmuth Nude Beauty Stretching Bronze Sculpture Art Nouveau Deco GiftArt Deco Necklace Vintage Harlequin Style Czech Glass Opaque Bead Rainbow 1920sVivid Chinese Old Bronze Handwork Collection Carved Horse Statue Tea Pot Deco