Not silver! Cast iron! This piece just captured my imagination and has proven a fascinating research project.
Firstly what it is. It is a 28cm tall cast iron bird that formed a decorative feature to the base of a cast iron table by the Falkirk Iron Company. It is in the Egyptian revival style and I believe is the mythical Egyptian Horus bird. See images for a picture of the table from a c.1880 Falkirk catalogue. The same catalogue images are also with the registered design entry now held at the National Archives in Kew. The base of the bird is marked with the registration mark, the Falkirk casting or model number and the catalogue table number 5. The design registration dates it to January 1875.
The Falkirk Iron Co was one of Falkirk’s leading iron foundries producing a huge range of architectural, domestic and industrial castings. It is well known to have produced designs for Charles Ashbee, Charles Voysey and Henry Wilson from c 1895.
The interesting question is who designed this casting, which by any measure, is modern for the time, almost deco in style. My research has been inconclusive. No one has been able to link Christopher Dresser to the Falkirk Iron Co but there are many pieces produced by this company that exhibit Dresser’s style of design – not least see image of Table 6 in the catalogue registered on the same date as Table 5 (Image produced courtesy of Falkirk Council’s collections managed by Falkirk Community Trust).
I am personally of the view that Dresser must have designed for Falkirk and that this bird is one of his designs. Included in images is a Dresser bird design for a plate with strong resemblance to this sculpture (see Christopher Dresser by Michael Whiteway p 168) together with two bird designs (plates II and XVI) from Dresser’s Studies in Design. The final image design of the hens is particularly compelling.
Irrespective of the designer, this is just a charming piece and, makes a great sculptural decorative object.
I am very grateful to the Falkirk Community Trust for the help with this research and permission to publish images from the Falkirk Iron Co catalogue.
Price range: £850
Maker: Falkirk Iron Co
Designer: Unknown / Christopher Dresser potentially
Marks: See photo
Material: Cast iron
Size: 28 cm high.