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]

Decopix

Decopix

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]

Modernism

Modernism

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    

Art Deco Large Original Bronzed Spelter Lady LampOld Vintage Bronze Art Deco Swift Bird Classic Car Mascot + Bronze Radiator Cap Art Deco Nude Bronzed Figural Lamp W /clock - Glass Shade - Frankart Era Nr13th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Horse WhwAntique Art Nouveau Deco Victorian Plaques Crafts Art Decoration Bronze Iron LotInfant Multi-use Deco Extra Tall Walk-thru Gate, BronzeA+ Gorgeous Bronze Art Deco Neo-classical 1953 Fisch Co. Centennial Medal By RauBeautiful Best Quality Deco Bronze Panther Big Cat Signed Bronze Statue 5 KilosA+ Bronze Art Deco Neoclassical 1931 Legislative Chamber Centennial Medal By RauLarge Vtg Bronze Brass Metal Greyhound Whippet Dog Art Deco Figure StatueAntique Art Deco Bronze Light Bulb Ceiling Wall Fixture Original HardwareAntique Art Deco Bronze Light Bulb Ceiling Wall Fixture Original HardwareExotic Art Deco, " Salome ", French Bronze Fugere Dancer Statue Sculpture FigureA+ 1953 Rau Belgian Bronze Art Deco Medal Kamers Voor Ambachten En NeringenDancer Gymnast Pure Bronze Figure Statue Deco 5.2 KgGorgeous Art Deco 1953 Pro Musica Unesco Belgian Belgium Bronze Medal By RauArt Deco, Bronze Ballet Dancer Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteArt Deco, Colinet " Sun Dancer ", Bronze Dancer Statue Sculpture Figurine FigureThe Vine Beautiful Nude Art Deco Nouveau Genuine Bronze Statue See My ItemsHuge Nude Art Deco Bronze Statue Genuine HotcastAntique Art Deco Bronze 5 Matching Bulb Ceiling Wall Fixture Original HardwareFlirtatious, Art Deco, " Crimean Dancer ", Signed, Bronze Statue Figurine FigureAsian Chinese Old Bronze Collect Handwork Carved Dog Head Statue Gift Deco ArtScarf Dancer Pure Bronze Art Deco Dancer Signed C.mirval Art Deco Bronze Dancer In Erotic Pose By "d Campagne"Franklin Mint Curio Cabinet Cat Collection Art Deco (bronze Color) *rare*Vintage Art Nouveau Bronze Deco Vase W/ Grapes & Snail Carl Sorensen 1920's Bronze Art Deco Trumpet Vase Verdigris Finish 5 1/4" TallA+ Cool! Bronze Art Deco Charleroi Belgian Mining Industry Related Medal By RauVtg Art Deco Egyptian Scarab Cat Bronze Finish Plaster Sculpture StatueVintage Mid Century Art Deco Bronze Art Elephant Ashtray SculptureLovel1920's Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Snake Hoop Girl Deco Nouveau 100% Bronze Statue 12kgStunning Deco Nouveau Dancer Genuine Hotcast 100% Bronze StatueBeautiful 1920s Art Deco 17'' Bronze Of Sexy Nude Woman Sgd Soding Origl Patina Antique Jugendstil Rare Art Deco Bronze Judd Book Ends Bulldog BookendsArt Deco Bronze Style Lamp 1920s 1930s Vintage StyleArt Deco Lovely Bronze Medal By Thenot, 1924: Ladies & Sports (classens Nr.67)Signed, Bronze Statue, "daydreams" , Art Deco Bronze Figure Figurine Sculpture Pure Bronze Staue Art Deco Dancer Signed Chiparus No Reserve Antique Erotic Nude Submissive Figure Statue Art Deco Nouveau Woman Bronze OldStunning Deco Nouveau Nude Genuine Bronze Statue Figure Figurine Deco 1916's Nude Bronze Track Trophy Statue New York Athletic Club February CupVintage Bronzed Spelter Art Deco Figure 'le Soir'Vintage Ornate Metal Electric Lamp Bronze Tone Art Deco Style Bronze Art Deco Card Tray With Pipe-smoker1920's Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Chiparus 100% Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Bronze Art- Deco Horse Contest Award Medal By CochetBeautiful Deco Nouveau Card Tray Signed Pure Hotcast Bronze No ReserveCollectible Bronze Statue Deal Art Deco Special Patina Two Running Stags ArtRoyal Family Crest Coat Of Arms Lion Crown Shield Gilt Bronze Wall Deco Figurine100% Genuine Real Bronze Sexy Lady Bust Bronze Art Deco Sculpture Statue FigureHot Cast Bronze Sculpture Bas- Relief Woman Figural Wall Plaque Canova Art DecoPier One Imports Deco Beaded Fruit Collection Ceramic Bowl Bronze Stand Lovely 1920's Dancer Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze Art Deco Signed Chiparus Lovely Art Deco Nouveau Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Chinese Old Tibet Bronze Collectable Handwork Carved Buddha Statue Figurine Deco