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    

Vintage Bronze Art Deco Cat Sculptures On Plinth After Rembrandt Bugatti YqzOriginal Le Verrier Bronze Frenche Art Deco Car Mascot Hood Ornament SculptureArt Deco Sterling Silver Pirates Parrot Bird On Stump Sculpture Statue FigurineEdgar Britton Small Brutalist Deco Space Age Fountain Bronze Sculpture EamesLarge Solid Real Bronze Amazon Lady Archer Art Deco Style Marble Base Unsigned Beautiful Best Quality Deco Bronze Panther Big Cat Signed Bronze Statue 5 KilosRare Art Deco Modernism Chase Bronze Copper Sliding Bookrack Walter Von NessenArt Deco, Bronze Statue, "dancer Of Palmyra" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure FigurineSolid Brass And Bronze Art Deco Coal Scuttle Bucket With LiningArt Deco French Bronze Medal 1937 Paris Expo Of Art & Technology By Pierre Turin18th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Whw MouseArt Deco, Bronze Statue, Diana With Gazelle, Amazonian Figure SculptureArt Deco, " Girl With Hound ", Lorenzl, Bronze Statue Figurine Borzoi Figure20th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Rooster WhwSet Of 4 Antique Art Deco Polychromed Bronze Electric Wall Sconces Lamps LightsAntique Armor Bronze Pirate Bookends W/ Treasure Chest Art Deco EraArt Deco, Colinet " Sun Dancer ", Bronze Dancer Statue Sculpture Figurine FigureArt Deco, Bronze, "michelle" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteArt Deco, Chiparus " Illusion Of Virtue ", Bronze Statue Figure Figurine Art Deco, Bronze Statue Mccartan "diana With Hound" Bronze Figure FigurineAntique Art Deco Cast Bronze Statue Of A Resting Greyhound Dog SculptureExotic Art Deco, " Salome ", French Bronze Fugere Dancer Statue Sculpture FigureArt Deco Vienna Austrian Bronze Walter Bosse Penguin Figure Ash Extinguisher 2''1930 Art Deco Medal Belgian International Exposition @ Antwerp By Josue Dupon Art Deco, Bronze Statue, "starfish" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure Figurine Art Deco Bronze Leaping Fish Bookends By Micheline BablotVintage Art Deco Lady Nude Figure Light Lamp Bronze Colored MetalArt Deco Bookend Bronze Kneeling Male Figure Water VesselAntique Bronze Mermaid Bookend Doorstop Green Marble Base Art Deco Rare!Antique Heavy Bronze Art Deco Trojan Horse Statue Figure -norsv Equestrian Vintage Silver Plated Art Deco Bronze Cast / Mold Compact CaseThe Vine Beautiful Nude Art Deco Nouveau Genuine Bronze Statue See My Items19th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Leaping DogScarf Dancer Pure Bronze Art Deco Dancer Signed C.mirval Gorgeous 1930s Art Deco Bronze Altar Set Standing Crucifix & Candle HoldersWonderful Art Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze StatueAntique Bronze Colored Cast Iron Art Deco Floor Lamp Bridge Arm Part - Restore Castle Creek Victorian Table Lamp Tiffany Style Glass Light Art Deco Bronzed NewClewell Bronze Clad Pottery Bowl, 9 1/2 Diameter , Nice Art Deco Shape NyFlirtatious, Art Deco, " Crimean Dancer ", Signed, Bronze Statue Figurine FigureAntique Art Deco Nouveau Brooch Pin Amber Orange Glass Flower Bronze Tone 200717th 20 Hagenauer Collection Art Deco Statue Signed Bronze Austrian Rabbit SkisHuge Nude Art Deco Bronze Statue Genuine HotcastCurvaceous, Art Deco, " The Vine ", Signed, Bronze Statue Figurine FigureGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityArt-deco Nude Male Bronze Or Steel ? Bookend/ Sculpture/antique Vintage Gay IntVintage Art Deco Native American Indian Bronzed Cast Metal BookendsMatched Pair Of Vintage Art Deco Brass Door Knobs On BackplatesStunning Genuine Deco Nouveau Hotcast Statue In Pure Bronze Signed MiloArt Deco, Bronze, "josephine" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteArt Deco, Bronze, "a Little Rouge" Signed D.h.chiparus Statue Figure FigurineExquisite Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Hotcast Bronze Statue Sculpture No ReserveStunningly Detailed Signed Hotcast Deco Girl Bronze StatueAntique Art Deco Basketball Player Statue Art Bronze Metal 12inchArt Deco, Bronze, "charlotte" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteVintage Art Deco Horse Foal Bookends Bronze Copper FinishAntique Art Deco Cast Iron Bronze Colored Floor Lamp Light Base Parts - RestoreRare Art Deco French Bronze Medal Virtute Fortunam Resurgere Plaque By C CharlesStunning Deco Signed Milo Dancer Pure Genuine Hotcast Bronze StatueArt Deco Antique Brooch Pin Enamel Bird Belly Rhinestone Bronze Tone Rare 2020