Tutorial Tuesday - The work of Josef Lorenzl

Josef Lorenzl – Deco Delight

Will Farmer takes a look at one of the leading lights of the Art Deco era whos work included captivating ceramics and bold bronzes......

Art Deco has been a long standing passion of mine, from furniture to fine ceramics I find it a style that I constantly return to with a long standing love of this most daring and dynamic era in design. Of the many talented artists of the period one of my particular passions is for the work of Josef Lorenzl, a master designer, his bronze statues and ceramic figures epitomise the era perfectly with sensual dancing ladies in dramatic poses. Like Preiss and Chiparus the other great sculptors from this period, Lorenzl was inspired by the female form and the new found freedom that women enjoyed, which he captured beautifully both in his bronze and ceramic designs.

Lorenzl was born in Austria in 1892 and was soon to become one of the most talented sculptors of the Art Deco period working for a bronze foundry in Vienna where he produced a huge range of stunning bronze figures. The majority of his works in bronze and ivory were of singular slim female nudes with slender limbs in dancing poses, almost as if frozen in a moment of expressive freedom. Like his contemporaries Lorenzl work was created using Chryselephantine, a Greek word which refers to the combination of various materials such as bronze, ivory, gold and silver. He signed his pieces in various ways sometimes abbreviating his name to Lor or Enzl but on some of the statuettes you will find an additional signature by Crejo. A talented painter who worked alongside Lorenzl, Crejo would paint decoration onto the statuettes such as flowers and abstract designs to the folds of the dancing girls dresses.

From his designs in bronze and ivory Lorenzl went on to work for the Austrian ceramics company Goldscheider creating a huge catalogue of stunning studies of the female form. Although each piece possess great movement the figures were pared down to simple elegant lines, also many of his figures wore their hair in the boyish bob which was fashionable at the time, making these simplistic and stylish figurines the epitome of Art Deco design.

Lorenzl loved the female form together with the emergence of new dance styles and the bold changes in theatre sweeping the globe. This was enhanced for Lorenzl when he took a trip to Paris and visited the famous Folies Bergere and saw for the first time the exotic dancer Josephine Baker who was on stage with her chorus girls. The group startled audiences with their extremely flamboyant costumes and Lorenzl was captivated by the glamour and outlandishness of the dancers. On his return to Austria he executed a large number of studies of those beautiful dancing girls wearing vibrant coloured costumes.

He was also able to use his skill as a bronze sculptor to use the earthenware to his advantage. Carving delicate fingers and enhancing the female form Lorenzl set about producing some stunning sculptures. Captured Bird (pictured) was one of his most popular and was created in many different colourways and sizes. This particular piece is of a dancing girl with a gossamer winged dress which was inspired by a dance performed by Niddy Impekoven and was also captured onto a lamp base with three figures of this elegant lady dancing around the stand. Other dancing girl figurines created by Lorenzl include Butterfly Wings, Spider-Web Dress and The Arabian Dancer. Not only did all his creations represent the elegant and feminine side of a women but each were also very subtly seductive. Adapting his theme of dance Lorenzl also went on to produce the Egyptian Dancer or Odalisque in 1922. This particular piece was again reproduced with models wearing different coloured shawls and is one of the most recognisable figures today.

By the 1930’s Lorenzl was one of the principle designers at Goldscheider, although there were many freelancers employed by the firm and although he had used the naked female form in much of his bronze and ivory works it was during this period that he started to produce these mildly erotic yet beautiful nude figurines for Goldscheider. Nude with a Borzoi is a perfect example of Lorenzl’s talent for taking the naked female form and making it glamorous yet sophisticated.

Lorenzl is considered the most important Goldscheider artist of the Art Deco period and his distinctive and stunning figurines are highly sought after by collectors. His effortlessly stylish work is easily accessible with examples of his dancing girls starting in the mid hundreds however the large and exceptional examples can fetch upwards of £3000. If it’s the bronzes which have caught your eye well expect to pay £500 to £800 for a small example while the large studies of some of his most famous models can now command as much as £10,000.  

Lorenzl was much admired and well respected in his day, a celebrated sculptor with an eye for design his work epitomised the Art Deco era perfectly making him one of the most collectable and iconic designers of the 20th Century

Do you own one of these Deco delights or are you interested in learing more about this most versitile of designers? If so email will@fieldingsauctioneers.co.uk with your images or questions.






Posted on 14 April 2020 in: Auction life

News story

Meet our people

Mark Hannam
Senior Valuer & Auctioneer

Contact Mark

Be in the know

Sign up for auction email alerts so you never miss another sale at Fieldings!

Register now