Mad In Pursuit Notebook

Tara diety

Art Deco Bronze: Danseuse aux Boules


3.31.2013. I've been forcing myself to flip through online auction catalogues lately to keep an eye of the marketplace and to help identify mystery items that keep presenting themselves to me. This is a fine recipe for distraction and for generating loose ends and unfinished inquiries. Take this figurine. It sits on the window sill in our bedroom, demanding nothing but an occasional dusting. A 10"-high knickknack with no name.

art deco bronzeSo on Friday, I took a break from watching database videos to scan through the Artfact online auction catalogues that arrive daily. On the last page of an AB Levy auction,there she was--my anonymous bronze with her bobbed hair and her impossible marble balls.

I got her off the window sill, gave her a dusting and began our conversation. Who are you?

The auction provided a name "Max Le Verrier (1891-1973)" but on the metal at her feet was engraved "Denis." Enough to rev up the Google machine.

It turns out that Max Le Verrier's studio in Paris is still turning out bronzes from the original molds and, wouldn't you know, ours is one of them.* They call her "Danseuse aux Boules by Denis." Dancer with Balls? Indeed.

Here I stop to wonder: was our danseuse freshly minted at the end of the 20th century or did she take form in the heyday of Verrier's Parisian Art Deco era, in the 1930s? Who can say?

Another online sale of this figurine says "Denis" refers to Maurice and Marcel Denis, active between 1925 and 1937, but I can find nothing more about them. Apparently, Le Verrier made his mark with life-sized dancing women, holding lighted balls -- lamps. Perhaps other artists in the atelier made the smaller versions for the Parisian home.

The figurine auctioned in Palm Beach is described as "white metal with greenish patina," which may mean it was made with spelter, a zinc-based alloy used for cheaper versions of popular bronzes. Ours is definitely (I think, from its weight) bronze. The auctioned work sold for $2000, at the low end of the estimate. Should I care?

Although I'm now clipping realized prices for relevant items into my digital shoebox, auction results don't represent anything except the excitement of at least two people at a single moment in time. If several auctions are bringing equally good prices, it suggests either (1) a market bubble (overheated enthusiasm by collectors and/or speculators) or (2) the intrinsic value (desirability, rarity) of the specimen. I get philosophical. Yes, you can get things appraised, but really, nothing is worth anything till a buyer hands you the dough... and then it's gone.

Now I have out the books, trying to get a quick orientation to the field. But again... a source of distraction. I was surprised to find that Jim has ten books on Art Deco style and collectibles. (I'm not sure we have that many actual Art Deco objects.) So I'm flipping through the books, but also using this as an opportunity to start my promised list of our books at LibraryThing. Add ISBN and a couple tags... easy enough. But then, how should I mark the books to let myself know they've been catalogued? A Post-It inside the cover will do for now. Oh dear, now I've forgotten all about my ballsy dancer...


*Max Le Verrier set up his foundry in 1922. He was the son of a Parisian goldsmith and inherited a small workshop, which he developed into a firm exhibiting and selling a range of figural decorative sculptures and lamps by a number of artists, including himself. [Art Deco Sculpture by Victor Arwas, St Martins Pr (1992)]