Celebrated for his great attention to detail and wonderful vibrant colours, Franz Xavier Bergman (1861-1936) is, arguably, the most famous of the Viennese cold-painted bronze artists, delighting in producing Oriental and animal subjects, as well as erotic forms.
His father, also Franz Bergman (1838–1894), was a professional chaser (embosser) from Gablonz, Austria who came to Vienna and founded a small bronze factory in 1860. Franz Xavier inherited the company and opened a new foundry in 1900. There he created numerous cold painted (so named because the numerous layers of polychrome paint, applied to the bronze, were not fired to fix them to the metal) figures. Many other bronzes were still based on designs by Franz Bergman, the elder.
Be alert at auctions and car boot sales for all these different forms. Animal figures can, occasionally, be found in multiple lots for less than £100, though they can be worth several thousand pounds. Value is affected by condition. The cold painted decoration is relatively easy to damage and worm Enamel will reduce value considerably.
Look out for Bergman’s distinctive signature marks: a 'B' in a vase shape and 'Nam Greb'. This latter, which reads ‘Bergman’ in reverse, was often used on his more erotic pieces, which were not to the taste of his more conservative clients or his family.
These include sensuous poses of young women in the Art Nouveau style, disguised by a covering that revealed all when a button was pushed or a lever moved. Carefully sculpted animals, such as bears, could often be opened to reveal an erotic female figure inside.