Thursday, 29 October 2015

Professor Otto Poertzel - Butterfly Dancers

I think the Art Deco period produced some amazing pieces of art, design and architecture. I had been a fan of those ivory and bronze carvings that celebrated the female form from this period, and have just discovered the work of Professor Otto Poertzel (1876 - 1963). Poertzel created the Butterfly Dancers above. Butterfly Dancers were a popular theme for sculptors of the period, and this name was given to them because the way that the girls' flowing skirts which were attached to their hands when they danced resembled the shape of wings. Although the use of ivory today is quite rightly frowned upon, during that period it was imported in huge numbers from the Belgian Congo, and certain artists were supplied with it free of charge, hence the large numbers of these figurines produced and the popularity amongst the buying public.

Poertzel started out as  a porcelain modeller like his father, then later worked as a freelance sculptor where he gained lucrative commissions for portrait busts from members of the Saxe-Coburg Gotha families. In 2010 a version of Butterfly Dancers realised £42,000 at auction. Poertzel's main rival was Ferdinand Priess (1882-1943) whose work was perhaps better known among the public. He created a private company that specialised in these Art Deco dancing figurines producing them in limited edition series specifically aimed at collectors. Below is one of Priess' better known figurines - Moth Dancer (Champagne Girl).

I just love the way that these figurines are so evocative of their period, as well as the wonderful skills employed by the sculptors in their modelling.