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    

Spelter Bronzed Stag Deer Figure On Stone Base Stunning Art Deco Period 40 CmLg Vintage Art Deco Flapper E. Jeluca Bronze Nouveau Nude Lady Sculpture StatueArt Deco Bronzed Metal Glass Slip Shade Ceiling Lamp Light Or Wall Sconce1920's Antique Art Deco Bronze Lion Electric Ormolu Flowers Candle Wall SconcesArt Deco, Bronze Statue, "dancer Of Palmyra" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure FigurineArt Deco Bronze And Glass Bowl Supported By Male NudesAntique/vtg. 1940's-50's Art Deco Bronzed Match Set Metal Airplane Book Ends NrArt Deco, " Antinea ", Signed Chiparus Bronze Statue Figurine Figure Sculpture20" Cast Bronze Signed Moreau Art Deco Seated Nude Maiden W Sandals Sculpture NrDancer Gymnast Pure Bronze Figure Statue Deco 5.2 KgStylish Vintage Brass/patinated Bronze Art Deco Style Flying Swan Car MascotSerene Art Deco, " The Wave ", Bronze Preiss Statue Sculpture FigureRare Art Deco 1920's Nude Lady W Bird Bronze Clad Statue Ashtray - Frankart EraWonderful Art Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze StatueBeautiful Vintage Jorma Laine Bronze Pendant Modernist Art Deco FinlandExotic Art Deco, " Salome ", French Bronze Fugere Dancer Statue Sculpture FigureAntique Art Deco Bronze Greek Roman God Figure With Discus As Found(2) Art Deco Era Bronzed Antique Lion Bust Cold Painted Victorian Candlesticks Art Deco, Bronze Statue Mccartan "diana With Hound" Bronze Figure FigurineHuge Nude Art Deco Bronze Statue Genuine HotcastArt Deco Walter Bosse Baller Bronze Brutalist Fin One Eyed Fish Sculpture TrayBeautiful Deco Nouveau Card Tray Signed Pure Hotcast Bronze No ReserveWonderful Art Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue1920's Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Chiparus 100% Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Vintage Solid Bronze Art Deco Eagle BookendsArt Deco, Bronze Statue, "starfish" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure Figurine Lovely 1920's Dancer Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze Art Deco Signed Chiparus Art Deco, Bronze Statue, "first Flowers" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure Figurine Art Deco Cast Brass Bronze? Flying Goose Car Mascot Hood Ornament? 1930sStriking Hollycraft Art Deco Rhinestone Floral Bronze Tone Brooch PinPair Of Art Deco Period Bronze Greyhound Whippet Dog Sculptures - Rf21079Pure Bronze Staue Art Deco Dancer Signed Chiparus No ReserveArt Deco, Bronze, "josephine" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteFootsteps Art Deco Nouveau Signed Pure Bronze Statue Erotic Nude Submissive Lady Deco Figurine Bronzed Art Naked Female 99p Start N/rScarf Dancer Pure Bronze Art Deco Dancer Signed C.mirval Stunning Deco Signed Milo Dancer Pure Genuine Hotcast Bronze StatueStunningly Detailed Signed Hotcast Deco Girl Bronze StatueAntique Art Nouveau Art Deco Bronze Sterling Match Safe Detailed 2 3/8" X 1 1/2"Old Deco Swing Arm Curtain Rods Satin Bronze Finish Antique Cast Iron Lovel1920's Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Bronze Art Deco Photo Frame: Cicada Or GrasshoppersWonderfully Detailed Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Deco Girl Bronze Statue Art Deco, Bronze, "at The Bar" Signed D.h.chiparus Statue Figure FigurineArt Deco, Bronze, "charlotte" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteStunning Genuine Deco Nouveau Hotcast Statue In Pure Bronze Signed MiloAntique Art Deco Bronzed Harlequin Metal Celluloid Headless Bookends Marble Nr!Pair Of Antique Reclaim Art Deco Period Solid Bronze Duck Door Knob Handles Lg Vintage Turi Weinmann Female Nude Art Deco Moderne Statue Sculpture FigureAntique Art Deco Hagenauer Vienna Austria Bronze Tray Weiner WerkstatteRare Bronze Girl Ballet Dancer Mastercrafters Sessions Mantle Clock Art Deco VtgArt Deco Mens & Ladies Restroom Door Signs Vintage Metal Brass BronzeVintage Ronson Metal Wares Art Deco Scottie Dog Terrier Bookends Bronze Finish. Original Art Deco Bronze Elephant On Green Onyx BaseVintage Art Deco Car Mascor Hood Ornament English Brass Bronze C1930s 'a'Exquisite Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Hotcast Bronze Statue Sculpture No ReserveGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful Quality Old Deco Swing Arm Curtain Rods Satin Bronze Finish Color Antique Cast Iron Czech Deco Crystal Festoon Necklace Shades Of Blue & Bronze Patina Needs Tlc