Ask A Worthologist Question: ‘Bronze’ Cherub Lamps
WorthPoint member Jeremy T. picked up this pair of “bronze” lamps at a garage sale last year, but never did anything with them. Now that his garage is in need of a sale, he wants to know if they are worth more than the $42 he paid for them. He contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about pieces, their origin and value.
Jeremy T. has a pair of “bronze” lamps that he picked up at a garage sale last year, but never did anything with them. They’ve been boxed away in his own garage since the day he brought them home. Now that it’s time to pare down his own overstuffed garage, Jeremy has decided to find out what they are and what they are worth before retagging them for the $42 he originally paid. If they turn out to be valuable in any way, they will make a move from his garage to the living room. Jeremy contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about the pieces, their origins and their value. His inquiry was forwarded to me. Here’s his question:
“I bought this pair of bronze lamps about a year ago for $42 and promptly stuffed them into my own already crowded garage, still in the box they came in (price tag and all). I’ve decided my own garage is in need of a sale, as I can scarcely get the car in and open the passenger door now. The lamps have a pair of cherubs, they measure about 20 inches tall, and one is marked “L’amour Vainquerr” the other is marked “L’Amour Vagabond.” I know they have to be worth more than I paid, but it is how much more that I’m curious about. If they turn out to be anything special, I’ll put them in the living room. If not, I’ll put them in the sale.”
Here’s my response:
Your cherub lamps are circa-1900-examples after the style of Emile Bruchon (French, 1806-1895), a very well-known Parisian sculptor. He worked from 1880 through 1910, first training under the famous artist Mathurin Moreau, and exhibited his sculptures at the famed Salon de Paris. Generally, figurines used as lamp pedestals are of two types: those that are custom-made pieces, using existing 18th- or 19th-century figures in their construction; and those that use late 19th- to mid -20th-century, factory-made figures and were “ready made” as lamps.
Your lamps are not bronze, but are actually made of something called spelter*, a zinc alloy that’s often given a bronze patina and is of the second variety which uses factory made components. Most lamps of this type are Continental pieces, made during the first quarter of the 20th century. These bronze and spelter studies by 19th-century sculptors were often based on full-sized examples, the right to copy them in various sizes licensed to foundries by the original sculptor. That said, pieces “in the style of,” or even precise copies, were often produced without license to take advantage of the popularity of an artist without having to share the profits with them.
The authorized/licensed examples generally will have foundry marks, while the unmarked figures tend to be later pieces made for the mass market. Examples similar to these pieces are still being reproduced today by a number of foundries in both North America and China, which has depressed values for older examples.
Lamps comparable to yours now sell in the $600-$800 range for a pair. It looks like you’ll need to find some space in your living room for these cherubs.
* You can test for spelter at home: just remove the base and do the following test. Take a nail file and scratch the underside; spelter will show as a silvery streak under the bronze plating.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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