Art Nouveau & Art Deco Stylish Figures – Until the 19th century, sculpture tended to be large and was bought only by those with houses big enough to accommodate it, but the invention of reducing machines in the 1840s resulted in the production of perfectly scaled-down versions of full-size sculptures. As the century progressed, the popularity of smaller bronze pieces grew as they became increasingly affordable.
The trend continued into 20th century with large numbers of stylish figures manufactured during both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods either as purely decorative objects or as light fittings.
During the Art Nouveau period, particularly in France, series of table lamps were produced by both Raoul Larche and Agathon Léonard, and, later, the tradition was carried on by Max le Verrier and Albert Cheuret.
Gilt and patinated bronze figure by Roland Paris, c.1930
The female form was the most common subject during both periods, with the mystical, ethereal and somewhat tortured heroines of the Art Nouveau period giving way to the stronger, more independent post-World War One woman. The dreamy eyed Art Nouveau maiden, trapped by her swirling hair and draped costume and imbued with symbolism was followed by her athletic and liberated younger sister, depicted playing sport or reflecting the world of entertainment.
F. Preiss: The figure of a seated young woman; c.1933, £2,000-3,000
The famous German Art Deco sculptor Ferdinand Preiss (1882-1943) produced many athletic Aryan subjects, with exceptionally correct facial features and limbs, manufactured at the Preiss-Kassler foundry in Berlin.
The figure of a seated young woman has been patinated and silvered and would have been made in an edition of several hundred, with many craftsmen involved in her production. The body was cast in one piece with the ivory arms and head fixed to the torso by screws.
The face has been exquisitely carved from ivory, the realistic detail enhanced by a subtle and carefully applied wash of paint to give a lifelike appearance. The head was the last piece to be secured to the figure. Her little waistcoat with its stand-up collar hides any evidence of the construction.
From looking at the detail achieved in the small area, the enormous skill of the craftsmen involved in producing a figure like this is immediately apparent. The proportions of the wrist and hand are anatomically correct in every detail and beautifully constructed down to each little fingernail. The precision cut and polished pedestral base of Brazilian green onyx bears the engraved signature ‘F. Preiss’ on the reverse.
Con Brio by Ferdinand Preiss, c1930.
Ferdinand Preiss: Tennis Player, 1930, Bronze and Ivory, 27cm high
The Hagenauer workshop was established in Vienna in 1898, by Carl Hagenauer and passed on to his sons, Carl and Franz. The factory is still in production. The sculptures were of silver, brass, chromium-plated bronze, black-patinated bronze, and sometimes carved and polished wood.
Bronze African Dancer Sculpture by Karl Hagenauer, $1,250
The Austrian sculptor Joseph Lorenzl fashioned a variety of nude and scantily clad female dancers, the young ladies with fashionably bobbed hairs are dressed in a short skirts. His figures have long, slender legs and are often modelled standing on tiptoe with arms held aloft in a dancing pose. The bases are usually small and circular, or octagonal and of a variegated marble cut in an architectural design.
Patinated bronze figures of dancers by Joseph Lorenzl, 1930, £700-1,000
Gilt bronze figural table lamp by Agathon Léonard, c. 1900, 12in high, £2,500-3,500 – This is one of a series of beautifully modelled table lamps by the Art Nouveau sculptor Agathon Léonard, which showed stages from a dance and was inspired by famous American actress and dancer Loïe Fuller. Her celebrated routine, involving the use of flowing silks combined with ingenious lighting effects, entranced audiences as she became, in turn, a lily, butterfly, bird, fire or night.