by Carlton Hendricks
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.
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.
weren't many sports themed Vienna bronzes produced. I have a soccer
group click here 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.
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.
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.
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.
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,