Franz Xaver Bergmann

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Franz Xaver Bergmann
Bergmann foundry seal.JPG
Foundry seal. "B" in an urn-shaped cartouche.
Born(1861-07-27)July 27, 1861
DiedJanuary 1, 1936(1936-01-01) (aged 74)
OccupationFactory owner

Franz Xaver Bergmann (or Franz Xaver Bergman) (July 27th 1861–1936)[1] was the owner of a Viennese foundry who produced numerous patinated and cold-painted bronze Oriental, erotic and animal figures, the latter often humanized or whimsical, humorous objects d'art.

Early life and career[edit]

An erotic bronze sculpture cast by Bergmann, c. 1910

Bergmann was noted for his detailed and colorful work. He signed with either a letter 'B' in an urn-shaped cartouche or 'Nam Greb' – 'Bergman' in reverse.[1] These marks were used to disguise his identity on erotic works.

His father, Franz Bergmann (September 26th 1838–1894),[1] was a professional chaser from Gablonz who came to Vienna and founded a small bronze factory in 1860. Franz Xaver Bergmann inherited the company and opened a new foundry in 1900. Many of the bronzes from the 1900s were still based on designs from his father's workshop.

Bergmann is often incorrectly described as a sculptor but he was not; he was a foundry owner. His workshops employed, on a temporary basis, many anonymous sculptors. Bruno Zach employed Bergmann to edit and cast some of his works,[2] with some of the more erotic ones being signed as "Prof. Tuch", a pseudonym used by Zach. At the turn of the 19th century there were about fifty workshops producing Vienna bronzes.

'Cold-painted bronze' refers to pieces cast in Vienna and then decorated in several layers with so-called dust paint; the know-how for the mix of this kind of paint has been lost. The color was not fired hence 'cold painted'. The painting was carried out mainly by women working at home, a typical cottage industry.

Sensuous poses of young women in the Art Nouveau style were disguised by a covering that revealed all when a button was pushed or a lever moved. Often carefully sculpted animals, such as bears, could be opened to reveal an erotic figure inside.

Foundry closure[edit]

The Bergmann foundry was closed in 1930 due to the Great Depression. It was reopened some years later by Robert Bergmann, son of Franz, and operated until his death in 1954 when the remaining stock and molds were sold to Karl Fuhrmann & Co.[1]


The playwright Henrik Ibsen had a small group of such characters which he referred to as his "devil orchestra"; a black boy climbing up a ladder on an elephant, a cat chewing another with rice twigs, singing after sheet music, writing, directing, devils pulling each other in wheelbarrows or carrying inkwells between them, a frog on ashtray playing on banjo . Ibsen used these as inspiration: "There should be Troll in what I write," he said.[3] Some of the characters were reported missing from the exhibitions on October 6, 1980, and has never returned. The rest of the characters are safely preserved at the playwright's desk in Ibsenmuseet in Oslo.


  1. ^ a b c d Berman, Harold (1974). Bronzes, Sculptors & Founders (1st ed.). Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. p. 761. ISBN 0-88740-700-5.
  2. ^ "Bruno Zach". Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  3. ^ Erik Henning Edvardsen: Ibsen-museet. The Ibsen Museum. Oslo 1998, p. 22.

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