Why were so many statues unsigned?

An unsigned bronze attributed to Marcel Bouraine

Many clients ask me why were so many art deco items unsigned? Probably as many as 50% of the statues produced at this time were unsigned.

There are many reasons for this –

1 – The artist would have produced the original sculpture in a plasterline clay type material. And then this statue was sold to the foundry who would pay the artist for the statue and then pay a commission for each statue produced. It is my understanding that not all the foundries were honest with the artist about the amount produced and so many statues went out of the back door unsigned so the artist would not know or get paid his or her full commissions.

If you read the Chiparus book by Alberto Shayo, Alberto interviews Chiparus’s widow and she states that Demetre and her were not entirely convinced he got paid all the commissions he was due.

2 – Many of the top department stores at that time would order statues and would have wanted their own company label on the items and not the name of the artist. They wanted their clients to believe they designed and made the items themselves. These labels were probably paper labels and over time were lost.

An unsigned piece by Uriano

3 – Other companies such as the Ronson Lighter company commissioned artists such as Lorenzl to design statues solely for them and so they were not signed by the artist. Many artist were freelance and worked on commissions for other companies.

4 – Sometimes items had labels affixed which over the years has been lost.

Many of the spelter Lorenzl statues and table lamps were unsigned. A small spelter statue in the day was not worth a fortune so there was not always a need to sign them.

A pair of bronze desk tidies both undoubtedly by Lorenzl but both unsigned

It was not always likely that the artist signed all their own statues – this may have been carried out by a worker at the foundry or the atelier, especially if the signature was made into the marble base.

Finally, over the years larger statues with marble bases have been picked up by the figure rather than the marble, the weight of the marble has stripped the threads holding the metal to the marble and possibly ended up by dropping and breaking the marble – which may have been replaced with a newer, unsigned marble base.

Next Blog: Pol Rab – Creator of Ric and Rac

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