Antiques column with Michael Dowse: Timeless elegance of Lorenzl’s ladies

Michael Dowse at the AE Dowse Auction house which will be closing doors at the premises on Scotland Street
Michael Dowse at the AE Dowse Auction house which will be closing doors at the premises on Scotland Street

Josef Lorenzl was an acclaimed sculptor most famous for producing stunningly elegant statuettes of female dancers in animated poses during the 1920s and ’30s art deco period.

His early work began with more naturalistic (clothed) women in conventional poses but he later developed a very stylised approach with female dancers nude or scantily-clad, depicted in animated, dramatic poses.

The women had elongated limbs and are almost always on tiptoes further enhancing the elegance of their posture.

There is usually only one dancer in his statuettes and few include other elements, although dancers can be found holding scarves or other symbols, always integrally cast.

There are famous examples too that don’t fit the mould such as Diana the Huntress who not only carries a bow but has a hound either side of her. The statuettes were made in a variety of sizes and placed on plinths, usually onyx, which combined with the tiptoe positioning of the dancers makes Lorenzl works very fragile and prone to damage.

Lorenzl was born in 1892 in Vienna, Austria and started his life learning the trade of bronze casting.

Most of his sculptures were patinated bronze, most commonly nut-brown or green, with a silvered or gilt finish.Although he also used chryselephantine, first used in Ancient Egypt in the 6th century.

This technique involved a sculpture where the flesh was made of ivory and the drapery in gold. Later Lorenzl dabbled successfully in ceramics, working for Austrian firm Goldscheider. Lorenzl pieces are signed with an impressed signature in their bases; simply ‘Lor’ or ‘Enzl’. Replicas and reproductions have been produced since about 1970 and are often made in spelter.