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    

Xrare Bronze Art Deco Participant Medal By Vannier Olympic Games Athens 1906France Xrare Large Art Deco Bronze Plaque - La Source By Daniel Dupuis 1900's1925 Xxrare Samf Large Art Deco Bronze Medal - Thuziai By P.m. Dammann N° 9France Xrare Large Art Deco Bronze Plaque - Le Nid By Daniel Dupuis Circa 1900 Xxrare Samf Large Art Deco Bronze Medal - Angels & Chalice By P.m. Dammann N° 62Vintage Signed K&o Gilded Bronze Nude Lady Art Deco Statue Bookend Rare 14" Solid Bronze Vintage Crucifix Cross -- Art Deco Beaux Arts W/ Saints & MarySuperb Bronze Art Deco Box: Erhard & Sohne, Wolfgang Von Wersin Art Deco Crimean Dancer Signed, Bronze Statue Figurine Hot Cast Girl FigureMiniature Art Deco Bronze Figure Signed AdolphArt Deco Epergne Table Centrepiece 3 Blue Glass Flutes Bronzed Tree Like StandSummer Infant Multi-use Deco Extra Tall Walk-thru Gate, BronzeHuge Nude Art Deco Bronze Statue Genuine Hotcast Diana The HuntressVintage Art Bronze Sculpture Bird Hunt Dog Pointing Marble Base~rich Deco LookThe Vine Beautiful Nude Art Deco Nouveau Genuine Bronze Statue See My ItemsPr Art Deco 20s Ronson Bronze Tiger Bookends/sculpture -aronson -ex!Frankart Gilded Bronze Art Deco Horse Bookends 1925 Signed Vintage MetalVintage Antique Art Deco Bronze Metal Nude Goddess Isis? Woman Statue FigureStunning Deco Nouveau Nude Genuine Bronze Statue Figure Figurine Lovely 1920's Dancer Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze Art Deco Signed Chiparus Kienzle Table Clock Art Deco Alarm Very Rare Uhrenfarriken Germany WorksArt Deco Bronze Art Pup Dogs Metal Bronzed BookendsExquisite Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Hotcast Bronze Statue Sculpture No ReserveArt Deco, Chiparus Illusion Of Virtue Bronze Statue Figure Hot Cast FigurineRare Pompeian Bronze Company 1925 Egyptian Revival Art Deco Cat Statue BookendArt Deco Loet Vanderveen Bronze Deer Pottery Sculpture Wow!Stunning Genuine Deco Nouveau Hotcast Statue In Pure Bronze Signed MiloNice Chinese Bronze Casting Kylin Statue Buddha Incense Burner Figure Home DecoArt Deco Cheetah Signed Bronze Statue Figure Cubist Cat Hot Cast SculptureArt Deco, Bronze Josephine Signed Statue Figure Girl Figurine Hot Cast StatuetteArt Deco Antique Etched Rose Flower Heavy Pleated Glass Vase Bronzed Collar BaseXrare Bronze Medal French Insurance Company Art Deco Medal / Bee By Delamarre Vintage Art Deco Bronze Tone Crystal Birds Chatelaine Flying Ducks Geese BroochWii Xrare Large Bronze Art Deco Medal Vichy Marshall Petain By F. CogneCurvaceous Art Deco The Vine Signed Bronze Statue Nude Figurine Hot Cast FigurePair Of Reclaimed Brass/bronze Art Deco Lever Handles With KeyholesAntique Nude Lady Bust With Dog Bookend Art Deco ScultureAntique Bronze Art Deco Bookends1937 Xrare Large Bronze Art Deco Medal Philosopher Rene Descartes By P. TurinArt Deco Bronze Awakening Signed D.h.chiparus Statue Figure Hot Cast SculptureArt Deco Bronze Art Pup Dogs Metal Bronzed BookendsVintage Art Deco~blackamoor Heavy Bronzed Standing Man Sculpture Candelabra NrVery Beautifully Detailed Signed Hotcast Deco Dancer Bronze StatueVintage Deco Carved Stone Ashtray W 3.5" Bronze Diver Figure Dated 1936Signed Czechoslov Antique Art Deco Brooch Pin Bronze Tn Leaf Sapphire Glass N14Antique Paul Herzel Musketeer Deco Art Statue Bookend Pompeian BronzeArchangel Saint Michael & Dragon Art Deco Bronze Medal By Fisch FonsonVintage Antique Cgt French Line Liberte Art Deco Bronze Medal By J.vernonVintage Cyma Art Deco Swiss Desk Bed Travel Mechanical Alarm Clock Bronze Vintage Greek Warrior With Bow Bronze Colored Art Deco StatueArt Deco Bronze Signed Little Rouge Statue Chiparus Figure Hot Cast Figurine Art Deco Nouveau Nude Bronze-like Heavy Metal Bookends. Brown Patina/color.Art Deco Silver Crest Decorated Bronze 5 Piece Desk Set Sma Co. Inkwell / OpenerEstate Antique Old Vintage Art Deco Large Cut Amethyst Glass Open Back PendantArt Deco, Bronze Statue Starfish Signed D.h.chiparus Figure Hot Cast SculptureArt Deco Bronze Statue Collectable Original Kassin A Tribute To Erte Detailed Bargain Two Art Deco Cold Cast Silvered Bronze Puppies ( Foundry Stamped )Vintage 1920's Art Deco Bronze Bronze Airplane Plane Table Ashtray1920's Art Deco,arts & Crafts Smith Metal Arts Siver Crest Set,sterling & BronzeVtg Brass 10 Light Chandelier Gothic Revival Tudor Art Deco Light Fixture 1920's