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Criselefantinas

During the second half of the 19th century, the industry of bronze underwent a transformation. The machine design by Achile Collas, which allowed to make reproductions on a small scale, gave a fundamental push to small size works.
The lost wax bronze casting lived a time of splendour, and firms such as Susse Frères or Etling Paris, founded in 1909, gave a precise account of the excellence achieved. The increasing demand for small works to decorate the homes rocketed the production of decorative sulptures, and many artistic bronze firms would negotiate agreements with the sculptors to reproduce their works or they would simply order brand new models. The chryselephantine expression defined, throughout the 19th century, the technique that combines both gold and ivory in a work of art. In the late 19th century , the concept was extended to define any sculptural object in which ivory is used along with other material, such as wood, marble or bronze.


‘Bufones’. Roland Paris. Bronce, marfil y mármol. 17 cm. C. 1930.
Fotografía: Óscar J. González Hernández


The Art Nouveau chryselephantines usually represent mythological characters, oriental stereotypes or female figures symbolically portrayed, halfway between the real world and a world of fantasy. Artists such a Théodore Rivière (1857-1912), Ernest Barrias (1841-1905) or Jean- Léon Gérome (1824-1904), encouraged by the possibilities offered by this material, started to experiment with it in their works. These first approaches to the chryselephantine sculpture carried out by the most established artists of the time were critically acclaimed. The chryselephantines that were created during the Art Déco period reflect technical maturity since the workshops and the machinery were being gradually improved. In addition, editors had experimented masters in ivory carving and modeling artists exclusively dedicated to chryselephantine design. In other words, the work of art was conceived from the beginning to fully exploit the expressive possibilities of each material, to conceal the joints and to achieve a satisfactory aesthetic impact.


Art Nouveau and Art Déco Museum Casa Lis pieces.


The chryselephantine collection of the Museum is one of the few exhibited to the public worldwide. Conformed by 122 pieces, it stands out not only for its large number, but for its diversity, since they represent the most significant artists of the Art Déco and Art Nouveau period. The French chryselephantines are characterized by their hieratic pose: they normally are solemn figures that show a great attention for detail. Bronze is crafted with jewelry-like techniques and their finishes, which have many different textures and reliefs, demanded to be finished by hand, a fact that links these pieces to craftwork. The 20 chryselephantines by Demetre Chiparus and the 5 pieces by C. J. R. Colinet are a very good example of this. The German and Austrian chryselephantines enabled a much more industial process since the finishes made with bronze were simpler, with smooth surfaces containing few details. These works are characterized by the vivacity of their enamels and modern design, as it can be seen in works by Ferdinand Preiss, Otto Hoffman or Joseph Lorenzl. The futurist chryselephantines by Guerdago or the ironic ones made by Roland Paris show the expressive potential of this technique.


‘Tebas Dancer’. Claire J.R. Colinet. Bronce, marfil y mármol. 24 cm alt. C. 1930.
Fotografía: Óscar J. González Hernández

Translation: Beatriz Hernández Gómez

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Claire J. R. Collinet. 'Walkyria". 1920.