Treasures

Bronze statue is by an esteemed German sculptor

 
 
This bronze sculpture represents Zeus (as a bull) abducting Europa.
This bronze sculpture represents Zeus (as a bull) abducting Europa.
HANDOUT / MCT

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q: I am hoping that you might be able to help me with my piece of art. I brought this bronze statue back from Germany and it has been in my family for years. It is signed G. Schliepstein. I have looked it up online but cannot find a value. I would like to insure it. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.

M. H.

A: Gerhardt Schliepstein was born in Brunswick, Germany, in 1889. Sadly, we could find no biographical information about his childhood or where he studied art, but we did learn that he was one of the most esteemed German sculptors during the first half of the 20th century (he died in 1963).

Schliepstein was famous for his building facades, his figurework in porcelain and his busts — particularly of children. From 1926 to 1945, he shared a studio with Fritz Bernuth and from 1925 to 1937 he worked exclusively for Rosenthal of Selb, Bavaria.

Rosenthal went into business in 1879, but according to the company’s website did not start production of porcelain until 1891. They have always been known for their high-quality wares, and today they trumpet their connections to such international artists as Bjorn Winblad (Denmark), Wolf Bauer (German) and Roy Lichtenstein (USA).

But in his day, Schliepstein designed a really interesting line of figures and busts for the company that is very distinctive and highly desired on the current market — particularly in Europe. The look is what many would call “Art Deco” in feel with many representations of bare-chested women dancing or standing with animals such as deer and dog or images with references to neoclassical images such as Diana the Huntress.

In addition to Rosenthal, Schliepstein also worked with the prestigious Berlin firm of KPM (King’s Porcelain Manufactory founded 1763) and Gerbruder Heubach (Heubach Brothers founded 1882) of Lichte (a neighborhood of Thuringia, Germany), among others. Besides porcelain figures, Schliepstein paintings can be found as well as a few alabaster statues of women and some very nice bronzework such as the piece in today’s question.

The bronze belonging to M. H. may have a foundry mark on it such as that of Pirner & Frans, Dresden, which did some of Schliepstein’s work, but not all authentic pieces were marked by the foundry that cast them. This particular piece is a representation of Europa and the Bull — and appears to show Europa placing a large garland of flowers around the Bull’s (Zeus’) neck.

The legend is that Europa was a Phoenician woman — possibly a princess — who was so beautiful that she caught the attention of Zeus, the king of the Greek Gods. Zeus turned himself into a white bull in order to court her. There is a great deal of symbolism involved here, and Europa may be a representation of the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, who was the goddess of joy, feminine love and motherhood.

Zeus turned himself into a docile white bull and when Europa first saw him, she was gathering flowers. Europa was enamored of the white bull and climbed on his back. Zeus ran for the sea and swam to Crete where Europa became the first Queen of Crete and gave birth to legendary King Minos.

Prices for Schliepstein bronzes vary greatly and many do not sell when they are brought up. We did find this bronze offered for sale at a 2010 auction with an estimate of between $6,000 and $9,000. We could not find whether it sold but upon checking other Schliepstein bronze prices we feel the unusually large size of this piece (20 by 8 by 18 inches) makes this estimate about right.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email treasures@knology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

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