A fabulous Austrian cold painted bronze figure entitled ‘Arab Slave Trader’ by Franz Bergman – of an Arab merchant plying his wares with excellent colour and very fine hand finished detail, signed with the Bergman ‘B’ in an amphora vase
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Height: 33 cm
Condition: Excellent Original Condition
Materials: Cold Painted Bronze
Book Ref Antique Vienna Bronzes by Joseph Zobel
Bergman is celebrated for his great attention to detail and wonderful vibrant colours, Franz Xavier Bergman (1861-1936) is, arguably, the most famous of the Viennese cold-painted bronze artists, delighting in producing Oriental, Arab bronze and animal subjects, including Harem beauties, Arab tradesmen, Scribes and Arab Warrior and almost every animal subject that was known at the time.
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.
The advent of the wide use of electricity, coupled with an interest in the Middle East, spurred the creation of large lamps depicting Arabs in various settings and occupations. These intricately crafted bronzes, which became popular throughout the world, were made to illuminate the depicted scene, not to light up a room. Prices of these lamps have skyrocketed recently, perhaps tripling or quadrupling in the last five years.
From the 17th Century onwards it was customary for the young Victorian gentleman to go on the obligatory tour of the East – the Grand Tour – as an educational rite of passage. Visiting countries and experiencing customs they had only ever heard about in stories, these young men were keen to show their families mementos of their experience, especially the lavish subjects of the Middle Eastern Arab world like the Bergman Arab with his pipe. The return trip would usually include a visit to Vienna, and here the ‘souvenir’ shops supplied a plethora of beautifully crafted sculptures with an Orientalist Arab flavour. These were often acquired to show their friends and families images of their travels. Bergman was noted for his detailed and colourful work and he produced a huge number of Orientalist subjects to cater for this market.
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 Orientalist style, sometimes the erotic nature of the subject was disguised by a covering that revealed all when a button was pushed or a lever moved. Carefully sculpted animals, such as owls, could often be opened to reveal an erotic female figure inside.
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. Restoration can also reduce the value considerably, especially when done in a non-sympathetic manner.
For a further selection of sculptures by this artist click on Franz Bergman Sculptures