Born in Erbach, Germany, Preiss was orphaned at the age of 15 and was taken in by ivory carver Philipp Willmann, which in no doubt had an influence on his journey into the artistry of sculpture. During his travels outside of Erbach, Preiss met Arthur Kassler and together they founded the Preiss & Kassler company. The pair were a perfect match, as Kassler took care of the practical side of the business, whilst Preiss was free to direct the company under his artistic direction.

By 1910, the company became renowned for their limited edition Art Deco cabinet pieces, stunning works created using painted bronze with ivory presented on plinths of onyx and marble. At the start of World War I in 1914, Preiss & Kassler exported their works to the US and England. A factory was established in England to finish the sculptures in order to avoid import taxes.

Preiss' skill revolutionised ivory carving as he developed the technique of using a dental drill. Preiss & Kassler pieces are widely recognised for their sculpture of 20th century women from the world of theatre and sport.

The Awakening of the Spring, Ferdinand Preiss, circa 1920 Image via Erbach Ivory Museum The Awakening of the Spring, Ferdinand Preiss, circa 1920
Image via Erbach Ivory Museum

At auction in recent years, Preiss pieces have been known to sell in excess of £57 000. Check out realised prices for Ferdinand Priess here.

Nicholas Mellors' sale this month includes two elegant examples of Preiss' work. Click on the lot for more information.

H18783-L89336981 Ferdinand Preiss - gilt bronze and ivory figure of a lightly draped young woman, her upper body naked her arms aloft with her head resting on her left arm, billowing dress and foot outstretched, wire decoration to wrist and front, 22.5cm high overall, base inscribed F Preiss and FEC; on a brown onyx stepped rectangular plinth (faults)
Estimate £2000 - 3000

H18783-L89336984 Ferdinand Preiss - gilt bronze and ivory figure of a lightly draped young woman, her upper body naked her arms aloft with her head resting on her left arm, billowing dress and foot outstretched, 20.5cm high, base inscribed F Preiss and foundry stamp for Preiss Kassler; on a pink marble pedestal, 28cm high overall
Estimate £2000 – 3000

Nicholas Mellors sale will take place on 25th-26th February. Check all lots on Barnebys here.

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