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Austrian bronze – Vienna cold painted bronze sculpture – in the late 19th Century a number of Austrian bronze foundries situated in Vienna and the Austrian-Bohemian border began to specialise in the technique of ‘cold painted’ processes. This naturalistic finish was created by painting the raw bronze with several layers of special and secretive enamel colours called ‘dust paints’, which resulted in fine life like studies of the various models and sculptures. This process was often applied when the cast was still warm, the natural shrinkage on cooling adding to the permanency of the colour as it annealed the paint firmly into the metal. As the colour was not ‘fired’ this process is referred to as ‘cold painted’.
The tradition of Vienna Bronze can be traced to the middle of the 19th century. Around 50 manufacturers resided in Vienna at the turn of the century, as small Austrian bronze sculpture with its fine detail enjoyed great popularity.
At this time numerous sculptors and modellers were active in selling their work and models to bronze manufacturers, who then reproduced these. This means that a stamp (hallmark) alone shows who the manufacturer of a Bronze is, but not who the creator was. The artists remained largely unknown. Of course there are several artists whose works are also well-known, such as Lorenzl, Zach, etc. But even they did not work on every piece themselves, only the original model. One had chasers for the subsequent reproduction. Thus there are also differences in price for identical models, depending on the quality of the work.
The quality of the final piece depended on how gifted the chaser was and how perfectly he carried out his work. The painting of the final finish too was, and still is, an important factor.
Animal figures can occasionally be found for a few hundred pounds, though sculptures in pristine condition and larger figures can be worth several thousand pounds. Value is affected by condition. The cold painted decoration is relatively easy to damage and worn Enamel will reduce value considerably.
Celebrated for his great attention to detail and wonderful vibrant colours, Franz Xavier Bergman (1861-1936) is the most famous of the Viennese cold-painted bronze artists, delighting in producing Oriental Arab subjects and a plethora of animal subjects, including European wildlife and more exotic animals rarely seen north of the equator .
His father, also Franz Bergman (1838–1894), was a professional chaser (embosser) from Gablonz, Austria who came to Vienna and founded a small bronze factory in 1860. Franz Xavier inherited the company and opened a new foundry in 1900. There he created numerous cold painted (so named because the numerous layers of polychrome paint, applied to the bronze, were not fired to fix them to the metal) figures. Many other bronzes were still based on designs by Franz Bergman, the elder.
Look out for Bergman’s distinctive signature marks: a ‘B’ in a vase shape and ‘Nam Greb’. This latter, which reads ‘Bergman’ in reverse, was often used on his more erotic pieces, which were not to the taste of his more conservative clients or his family.
These include sensuous poses of young women in the Art Nouveau style, disguised by a covering that revealed all when a button was pushed or a lever moved. Carefully sculpted animals, such as bears, could often be opened to reveal an erotic female figure inside.
We have included our current exciting range of Austrian Sculptures above. Please get in touch if you have any questions about a particular piece.