Amongst the nicest—and heaviest—bookends I've ever carried, these stunners were made by Judd Manufacturing in Wallingford, Connecticut in the 1920's. They are made of cast iron, but refined with a bronze finish, which provides a smoother, more sophisticated surface appearance. And the sculpting is very well done. The handsome chief, shown in full, feathered headdress, is modeled with great skill and attention to detail.
During the American Arts & Crafts movement, Native American culture was often utilized by designers as an historical aesthetic motif—a look back at the founding, ancient culture of the North American homeland. This "cultural appropriation" was not unique to American Arts & Crafts designers. Throughout the world, wherever Arts & Crafts (or Art Nouveau) design was found, artists attempted to "ground" the movement in the national, cultural, literary or historical elements of the ancient past. In England, Medieval Knights and Heraldry were sometimes used. In Scotland, Celtic symbols and motif were popular. In Czechoslovakia, characters from ancient mythology were featured. And in Northern European countries, the "National Style" often incorporated distinct, regional design elements within the vocabulary of decorative elements.
Today, we are sensitive (and cautious) about disrespectful caricatures of minority people and cultures. While it is likely that Native Americans were not a part of the design and manufacturing process of these bookends, I believe that these renderings are beautifully executed, with quality, skill and respect. Most importantly, I believe that the designers of these bookends were attempting to give credit to (and bookmark) the Native American history which founded the North American continent. These bookends were an intentional reminder that Indians were the first people of the continent—and that they deserved some visibility (alongside all the bookends honoring Dante, Shakespeare or Lincoln). To ignore Native Americans (in America) would have been the greater omission.
Please click upon the photo above to learn more about this very handsome pair of bookends.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248