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    

Antique Art Deco Era Bronze Bulldog Dog Bradley & Hubbard Statue Old DoorstopVintage Pair Bronze Toned Metal Deer Doe Art Deco Modern Cubism Bookends StatuesArt Deco Paolo Soleri 3 Footed Bronze Hanging Bell Eames Era1920's Art Deco Bronzed Iron Standing Ashtray Smoke Stand Dragon & Claw Feet YqzHagenauer Sculpture Bronze Nubians Natives Zulus Wood Canoe Art Deco 7.75" SgndRare Iris - Wireless Telegraph Art Deco Medal By DammannMid Century Bronzed Art Deco Lady Statue Sculpture Aft The Squall Chiparus YqzArt Deco Polychrome Bronze Statue "the Good Fairy" Armour Bronze C1916 By JmrExceptional Huge 1930s Art Deco Bronze Altar Set Standing Crucifix & CandelabraBeautiful Best Quality Deco Bronze Panther Big Cat Signed Bronze Statue 5 KilosSuperb 1920s Large Art Deco Bronze Cast Wall Cross Crucifix Carl Sorenson Art Deco Double Duck Lidded Bronze Bowl WowArt Deco, Bronze Statue, "dancer Of Palmyra" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure FigurineAntique Bronze Toned Metal Art Deco Female Face Cigarette Tobacco Cigar LighterArt Deco Bronze Car Mascot L'espace By Soudant & Susse Freres FoundryAntique Art Deco D.h. Chiparus Bronze Nude Woman French Le Statue Sculpture YqzArt Deco Warrior Gothic Risque Flapper Sculpture Frosted Glass Table Lamp NmArt Deco Bronze Modernist Nude Female Maiden Statue Sculpture On Marble Plinth(2) Antique Aesthetic Period Art Deco Bronze Glass Shade Sconce Style Table LampA+ 1930's Art Deco Silvered Bronze French Angel Medal By Fraisse For Pernod Co.Gorgeous Art Deco 1953 Pro Musica Unesco Belgian Belgium Bronze MedalArt Deco, Colinet " Sun Dancer ", Bronze Dancer Statue Sculpture Figurine FigureArt Deco, Chiparus " Illusion Of Virtue ", Bronze Statue Figure FigurineAntique Male And Female Classic Art Deco Bronze Nude Man Woman Bookends StatuesLovely Art Deco Nouveau Signed Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Figure Antique 1920's Solid Bronze Art Deco Lovely Nymph Doorstop! Fabulous Condition!Art Deco Miniature Bronze Figural Nude Maiden Erotica Bottle Opener Sculpture NrArt Deco, Signed " The Carrier Pigeon ", Bronze Figurine Figure Statue Pair Of Antique Art Deco Polychromed Bronze Electric Wall Sconces Lights W/chainBronze Clock Case Art Deco Style Signed WarnerArt Deco, Bronze Statue, Diana With Gazelle, Amazonian Figure SculpturePure Bronze Staue Art Deco Dancer Signed Chiparus No ReserveArt Deco, Bronze, "brigitte" Signed Bronze Statue Figure Figurine StatuetteLovel1920's Deco Nouveau Dancer Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue Gustav Gurschener Original !!!! Deco Maiden Bronce Sculpture LampPr Art Deco Hammered Bronze 2-lite Electric Wall Sconces Gothic Art Deco, Bronze, "a Little Rouge" Signed D.h.chiparus Statue Figure FigurineAntique Signed Art Deco Paul Silvestri Susse Freres Paris Bronze Boy Bookends1885 Bronze Golden Novelty Clock "commerce" Art Deco Lady Liberty Mantel ShelfArt Deco, Bronze Statue, "starfish" Signed D.h.chiparus Figure Figurine Lovely Art Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Pure Hotcast Bronze Statue See My ItemsGeisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityBeautiful Deco Nouveau Card Tray Signed Pure Hotcast Bronze No ReserveCastle Creek Victorian Table Lamp Tiffany Style Glass Light Art Deco Bronzed NewHuge Nude Art Deco Bronze Statue Genuine HotcastStunningly Detailed Signed Hotcast Deco Girl Bronze StatueStunning Genuine Deco Nouveau Hotcast Statue In Pure Bronze Signed MiloExquisite Deco Nouveau Signed Genuine Hotcast Bronze Statue Sculpture No ReserveAntique Art Deco Moe Bridges Bronze Cast Iron Lamp Base Original Paulding SocketVintage Art Deco 1928 "the Thinker" Bronze Brass Bookends, 7" Tall1920s Diana & Dog By Schwab French Bronze Art Deco Medal Greyhound Vintage Art Deco Bronzed Metal Pelican Pipe Rest Holder Or Cigar Ashtray-1940sWonderfully Detailed Signed Chiparus Pure Hotcast Deco Girl Bronze StatueSigned, Bronze Statue, "dreams" , Art Deco Bronze Figure Figurine Sculpture Geisha Girl Pure Bronze Cast Figure Signed Statue Deco Beautiful QualityDeco Bronze Clad Dog Lamp Old Aerolux (?) Glowing Scotty Dog Filament Light BulbCast Metal Bronze Coated Art Deco Trojan Horse Bookends Book EndsCool Pair Of 1920's Art Deco Bronze Iron Disc Thrower Bookends Olympian No ResrvBronze Art- Deco Railroad Medal By Cliquet, African Congo Chemin De FerAntique Art Deco Bastian Bros. Bronze Letter Opener Barbers Intl Union 1887-1931