Makers & Retailers - Franz Xavier Bergman

Franz Xavier Bergman

Franz Xavier Bergman (1861-1936) was the owner of a Viennese foundry who produced numerous patinated and cold-painted bronzes with a range of subjects such as oriental, erotic, and animal figures. He was probably the most famous Austrian bronze foundry who is widely recognised for smaller cold painted bronzes with an extremely good attention to detail. Signed often with a ‘B’, Bergman or Namgreb (Bergman Backwards) and often with a registration mark. Bergmann was noted for his detailed and colourful work.

His father, Franz Bergmann (1838-1894) was a professional chaser from Gablonz, Czech Republic who came to Vienna and founded a small bronze factory in 1860. Franz Xavier Bergmann went onto inherit the company and expanded the business opening a new foundry in 1900. Many of the bronzes from the 1900s were still based on designs from his father’s workshop. Bergmann owned the foundry and his workshops employed many anonymous sculptors. Bruno Zach employed Bergmann to edit and cast some of his works with some of the more erotic ones being signed “Prof. Tuch”, a pseudonym used by Zach. Similar in fashion the Namgreb signature Bergman used as a pseudonym on his own erotic works.

Bergman was not alone in Vienna and after his success there were a mass following of other workshops. Around the turn of the 20th century there were about fifty workshops known producing Vienna bronzes. Bergman’s bronzes were cold painted unlike other patinated bronzes it refers to the piece having several layers of so-called dust paint applied to the exterior. The colour was not fired hence the name cold painted. Bergman became known for his hidden erotic bronzes that contained sensuous poses of young women in the Art Nouveau disguised by a covering that could be revealed by a mechanical action such as a button or hidden doors. Usually the erotic subjects were hidden from plain view behind sculpted subjects such as a covering hinged dress. This type of Bergman bronze was usually signed with the pseudonym Namgreb mark to conceal the maker from more conservative clients. The Bergmann foundry was closed in 1930 due to the Great Depression however, it was reopened some years later by Robert Bergmann, son of Franz Xavier, and operated until his death in 1954, when the remaining stock and molds were sold to Karl Fuhrmann & Co.