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    

Antique Art Deco Era Bronze Bulldog Dog Bradley & Hubbard Statue Old DoorstopVintage Pair Bronze Toned Metal Deer Doe Art Deco Modern Cubism Bookends StatuesAntique Art Deco D.h. Chiparus Bronze Nude Woman French Le Statue Sculpture Yqz1920's Art Deco Bronzed Iron Standing Ashtray Smoke Stand Dragon & Claw Feet Yqz(2) Antique Aesthetic Period Art Deco Bronze Glass Shade Sconce Style Table LampArt Deco Bronze Car Mascot L'espace By Soudant & Susse Freres FoundryMid Century Bronzed Art Deco Lady Statue Sculpture Aft The Squall Chiparus YqzArt Deco Paolo Soleri 3 Footed Bronze Hanging Bell Eames EraArt Deco, Chiparus " Illusion Of Virtue ", Bronze Statue Figure FigurineRare Iris - Wireless Telegraph Art Deco Medal By DammannArt Deco, Bronze Statue, "dancer Of Palmyra" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure Figurine8th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Prowling CatA+ 1930's Art Deco Silvered Bronze French Angel Medal By Fraisse For Pernod Co.Beautiful Best Quality Deco Bronze Panther Big Cat Signed Bronze Statue 5 KilosArt Deco Figural Bronze Boudoir Lamp~dancing Flapper Girl Under Palm Tree~estateGorgeous Art Deco 1953 Pro Musica Unesco Belgian Belgium Bronze Medal5th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Rocking HorseRare 1925 Wwi Memorial French Art Deco Bronze Medal By Antoine BourdelleBronze Clock Case Art Deco Style Signed WarnerAntique Male And Female Classic Art Deco Bronze Nude Man Woman Bookends Statues4th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Jesus WhwArt Deco, Signed " The Carrier Pigeon ", Bronze Figurine Figure Statue 6th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Kangaroo WhwLovel1920's Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Art Deco, Bronze Statue, "starfish" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure Figurine Art Deco Cold Painted Bronze Figural Male Harlequin Dancer Sculpture Statue YqzArt Deco, Colinet " Sun Dancer ", Bronze Dancer Statue Sculpture Figurine FigureArt Deco Bronze Modernist Nude Female Maiden Statue Sculpture On Marble PlinthBeautiful Deco Nouveau Card Tray Signed Pure Hotcast Bronze No ReserveCastle Creek Victorian Table Lamp Tiffany Style Glass Light Art Deco Bronzed NewFab Pair 1930 Art Deco Bronze Wall Sconces Degue Signed Floral GeometricArt Deco, Bronze Statue, Diana With Gazelle, Amazonian Figure SculptureEdison 10 Socket Light Cluster Chandelier Antique Vintage Victorian DecoScarf Dancer Pure Bronze Art Deco Dancer Signed C.mirval 2nd 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Boy W Axe WhwGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityRare 1920s Art Deco Vienna Bronze Soccer Player Sculpture Vide PocheAntique Art Deco Italian Rouge Marble Bronze Goldfish Inkwell Italy  c1930s Antique Egyptian Revival Art Deco Mummy~lg Mechanical Pencil~bronze & Enam RareLovely 1920's Dancer Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze Art Deco Signed Chiparus Art Deco, Bronze, "brigitte" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteAntique Signed Art Deco Paul Silvestri Susse Freres Paris Bronze Boy Bookends1st 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Sitting BoyStunningly Detailed Signed Hotcast Deco Girl Bronze StatueVintage Art Deco Jennings Brothers Cast Metal Bronze Greyhound Dog Figure Ca1940Lovely Art Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue See My ItemsArt Deco Miniature Bronze Figural Nude Maiden Erotica Bottle Opener Sculpture Nr Hood Ornament Mascot Dash Clock Display Bronze Sculpture France Art Deco 1930 Pure Bronze Staue Art Deco Dancer Signed Chiparus No ReserveBeautiful Art Deco Karl Hagenauer Austria Genuine Bronze Goat Figure 1945/1955Stunning Genuine Deco Nouveau Hotcast Statue In Pure Bronze Signed MiloExquisite Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Hotcast Bronze Statue Sculpture No ReserveGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityStunning Deco Signed Milo Dancer Pure Genuine Hotcast Bronze StatueHuge Nude Art Deco Bronze Statue Genuine HotcastLovely Art Deco Nouveau Signed Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Figure Signed, Bronze Statue, "dreams" , Art Deco Bronze Figure Figurine Sculpture 3rd 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Cupid WhwArt Deco Bronze "relax" , Signed, Preiss Bronze Statue Girl Figurine Figure Stunning Art Deco Colonial Style Bronze African Girl Bust Sculpture Belgium