Cold-painted bronze casket

By Laurie Price

The metals department at West Dean College has recently acquired a small bronze casket, believed to be made by Franz Bergman. In 1860 he founded a small bronze foundry in Vienna where he produced many patinated and cold-painted bronzes. Cold-painted bronzes refer to sculptures produced in Vienna and finished using layers of unfired "dust paint" otherwise known as polychrome paint. He is now renowned for his vibrantly coloured bronzes using this painting technique. Bergman's work is extremely varied but often depicted oriental, erotic and animal subjects, signing his erotic pieces 'Nam Greb' (Bergman in reverse) to disguise himself. Some of his erotic works were of young ladies in an art nouveau style with carefully hidden buttons or levers that revealed all if activated. In the case of the casket, there is a small keyhole concealed under one of the tassels on a cushion on the bed. The key unlatches the lid to reveal the love-making couple underneath the covers of the bed. It certainly is a surprising object and we feel very privileged to have the opportunity to conserve such an interesting artefact.