A wide range of beautiful sculptures of the Art Deco period will be sold at auction tonight at Horta. The rich variety on offer proves that Art Deco sculpture is not a stereotyped kind of art but a dynamic multifaceted style that draws its inspiration from many different sources.
Let’s examine first the animal bronzes. Panthers, think about Cartier’s, are an icon of Art Deco design. Many people would take for granted that Art Deco animal sculptures reproduce endlessly the image of a mysterious stealthy crouching feline. Here, however, the pose (for the cub) and the subject (for the monkey) don’t follow that pattern. The lion cub, by Raymond de Meester de Betzenbroeck (1904-1995), a member of the Antwerp school, is licking itself in a moment of intimate hygiene. The monkey, probably a crested mangabey, by Albéric Collin (1886-1962), a colleague of de Meester’s, was inmortalised in a rather contemplative pose. Both models came probably from Africa, the paradigm of exoticism during the 1920s.
Chryselephantine sculpture also epitomises the spirit of the Jazz Age. These little precious figurines usually represent dancers who convey the longing of the women of the time. It is the case of the acrobatic snake dancer by Claire Colinet (1880-1950), an exquisite example of this genre. There are other multiple chryselephantine representations at Horta. By the indisputable master Demeter Haralamb Chiparus (1886-1947), we have a group of six children absorbed in a funny ball game at the head of this post. Their little dresses look very elegant, their poses are varied and charming (they surely belong to very well-to-do families), but they lack the age, in my opinion, to demand social equality. Another figurine by Colinet, a valkyrie, does not need to complain about her favorable social position because she has already the will and power to make things her way. Last and least, the more traditional chryselephantine by Charles Monginot (1825-1900) depicting a woman wading across a river fits in time and style more in Art Nouveau than in Art Deco.
The prices of these sculptures would probably not be adapted to everyman’s pursue but will be certainly much lower than in London or Paris for the same quality.