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SPORTS ANTIQUE 

OF THE WEEK

Oct.11th- 17th 2009

Standout items 

by SportsAntiques.com

 

THIS WEEKS FEATURE

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Photographed on location 

All American Antiques Show, Glendale Calif. 

c1880

VIENNA BRONZE

"Two Strikes"

 BASEBALL STATUE

 4" tall

One of the finest baseball statues ever produced

1998 Price $10,000.00

 

Overview by Carlton Hendricks

 

I'm restarting up Sports Antique of the week beginning today after a ten week absence. My dad passed away September 3rd 2009 so I've been getting my head together, plus just plain procrastinating. I decided to start back out with a bang...as this Vienna bronze is one the greatest sports antiques on the planet.

 

Without reservation I can say you're looking at one of the finest baseball statues you will ever see. This is what's referred to as a Vienna bronze. Vienna bronzes were produced in Vienna Austria from the late 19th century to about 1920. They're usually about one inch tall, though they can vary from about one half inch to about four inches. They are usually described as "cold painted" which just simply means they're painted. They come in very wide variety of subjects. Many of the ones you see at antiques shows would have appealed to Victorian era women. Typically you'll see a lot of animals, some doing humorous things like cats playing tennis etc. Often they would be described as fanciful and whimsical. Along with all these attributes, they are foremost recognized for their fine detail and casting. Intuition tells me these little sculptures caught on internationally, and many studios sprung up around Vienna to produce and export them around the world. Probably most commonly they were sold in fine gift and jewelry stores in large cities, and perhaps thru catalogs.

 

ViennaBoxersClose - Copy.JPG (24252 bytes)There weren't many sports themed Vienna bronzes produced. I have a soccer group click here StraightOn.jpg (345919 bytes)and two boxers...and then there was this baseball one...Back when I saw this I didn't know enough to look for markings as to who produced it. However I would be surprised if it wasn't done by Franz Xavier Bergman who is considered the most prolific producer of Vienna bronzes. 

 

And now we come to how I came across this incredible work. It must have been about twelve to fourteen  years ago I went to the Art Deco show in San Francisco....as I made my way around the show looking for anything sports related I came to the booth of Off the Wall Antiques, from Los Angeles. Within the previous year I had bought an incredible c1910 bronze trophy  plaque for a polo match in New Orleans Louisiana. From that purchase they had gotten to know me enough  to know I liked sports sculpture. When I walked up to their booth one of the Dennis' (both owners are named Dennis) told me about a phenomenal Vienna bronze of a baseball batter and catcher they had just gotten. He described it and said it was so finely detailed you could remove the catchers mask. He said it was $10,000.00 and that it was back at a house they had rented for the week, and that if I wanted to see it, for me to come back at nine o'clock after the show closed and they would take me to see it. Both Dennis' are very open about everything. They told me they bought it right in the parking lot of the show for $5,000.00. Later I learned Chuck Morganstein of Woodchuck Antiques in San Francisco was who they bought it from.

 

At that time I was only vaguely familiar with Vienna bronzes from seeing them occasionally at antiques shows. I had never heard of a statue like he described, so I was determined to see it whether I could afford it or not. That meant hanging around San Francisco the rest of the day till nine o'clock. I spent the time going thru used book stores and came back as directed. I followed them back to their house and it was exactly as they described. I was so taken back I literally forgot to take photos. Unable to afford it, all I could do was go home and think about it.

 

About a month later I went to the All American Antiques show in Glendale Calif and Off the Wall was set up there and still had the statue for sale. They said they would let me have it for $8,000.00, but still I was out. But at least that time I took the photos of it you see above. Although that was before digital cameras so the ones you see above are digital photos I took of the hard copies I took that day.

 

Anyway...all I could do is look and learn, it was just to expensive for me. I recall I sent hard copy photos to a couple buddies and they both were very struck by it, but they couldn't see $8,000.00. Now if that was today!!!!!....I think I recall someone, I can't remember who, telling me there is a batter by it's self, but to this day I've never seen another example of the group or a single batter and can't find anyone who has. I've asked Joe Zobel who is probably the most well known Vienna bronze dealer in the United States, and he's never seen an example. Plus anytime I come across an antiques dealer at a show that has a lot of Vienna's' I ask them about a baseball one, but have never had any luck.

 

The next time I saw the Dennis' I asked about the statue and they said they sold it their at the Glendale show the weekend I saw it there. One day I was looking thru a book of photos of  Victorian decors and about fell over to see a photos of a den that had one sitting on the fireplace mantle. It's pretty small to make out but I'm certain it the same Vienna baseball statue from the stance of the batters leg and the dark chest protector the catcher is wearing. See below,

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