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Antiques: Finding clues to determine the age of collectibles

Get a clue to the age of an antique from part of the style, like a ball and claw foot on a Chippendale chair of the 18th century, or a hammered aluminum bowl of the 1930s. But sometimes the style is unfamiliar and even the use is a mystery. The most daring designers of the 1920s era were making Art Deco pieces with geometric designs, symmetry and a streamlined look. But some artists created their own styles and even used unique pieces of metal or other unusual materials. Oscar Bach (1884-1957) was born in Germany and studied painting and metallic arts. He became artistic director of a firm winning awards for his designs. He used the signs of the zodiac, mythological figures, grapevines, masks, grotesque figures and other designs from the past. Jewels adorned some special-order boxes and book covers. In 1911, he moved to the United States to join his brother. They formed the Oscar B. Bach Studios and marked almost all of their work with that name. Most of his metal work was made to order. After Bach had an unfriendly split with a partner, not his brother, he was upset to learn the ex-partner continued to use his designs, selling the metal work with no name or a new name. This has caused confusion for today’s collectors. But the quality and originality of Bach’s work can be identified by experts. A strange iron table and chair “in the manner of Bach” sold at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati in the winter of 2015. It has a marble top on an iron cabinet with enamel painted doors and extra tall, thin legs. The front is decorated with brass panels of nudes and a clue to its use. Each figure is holding a telephone receiver. The matching chair with dragons and a spire on the back also is of twisted iron and brass. Another clue, the telephone stand or table is a furniture form that was in use from about 1915 to the 1960s.The piece is not marked, so it sold for only $450, much less than an authenticated work by Bach. Even if the new owner does not need furniture to hold a phone and note pad for a seated person taking a call, the Bach-like stand and chair will be a conversation piece.


Q: I bought two large cups with handles with a shield mark. Inside the shield there is a horn with the words “Porcelaine” above it and “De Sologne, LaMotte” and the number “3” below. The pattern is a pretty splay of pink flowers and green leaves and the rim inside is gold-gilt palmettos. The shield itself is all in gold. I can’t find anything like it. Can you help?

A: Your cups probably were made in the 1960s by Porcelaine de Sologne, which was located in La Motte, France. The company became part of the Deshoulieres Group in Lamotte-Beuvron in 1980. Two similar cups with saucers recently were offered for sale online for $24.

Write to Kovels, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.