If you’ve ever had occasion to visit our collections storage area, you might have noticed these two gentlemen near the bottom of the stairs:

They are Don Caesar (left) and Don Juan (right), donated in the 1980s by Mary Hardin Bernard. The two Dons were manufactured by the Ansonia Clock Company in the 1880s or ‘90s.  These 22″ tall spelter (bronze-like alloy) figures were made to stand on clocks – singly, or on either side – but were also sold as free-standing garniture, or side-pieces, like our pair here.

These boys are in pretty good shape, although DC is missing the blade of his sword, and DJ’s is a little bent. Their dark patina appears to be original, though in worn and rubbed condition, and showing some mild abuse (DJ, especially, suffers from build-up of polish in some crevices, see below).

For about twenty years, we knew the pair only as “metal statues, 19th century” or, as we described them in our newsletter at the time of donation, “two striking bronze figurines.” There is no maker’s mark anywhere on the statues or their bases, and unlike some examples, there are no nameplates proclaiming their identity. Anonymity seemed to be their fate.

It is a useful thing, in my profession, to have a visual memory. Since these gentlemen are in ‘open’ storage, not in a box, I would glance at them whenever I went into the collections area. A few years ago, while visiting the Laramie Plains Museum (Wyoming), I spotted a large shelf clock adorned with two familiar figures. (I believe I exclaimed, as I usually do, “Hey, I have those guys!”) The LPM curator very kindly supplied information on the clock’s maker, and the identities of its flanking guards. Their Ansonia clock is dated 1881, and features “Don Juan, the dapper gentleman, and Don Caesar, the rough and ready soldier.” Researching “metal statue 19th century” takes up a lot of time; the process is much more straightforward with the addition of a few keywords.  Our gentlemen were anonymous no more.

Why are the two Dons on today’s post? I ran across one of their brethren again recently, this time at an antique store in St. Louis. This one was a shiny brass color and was missing his buddy, but that jaunty pose and feathered hat were unmistakable. I greeted him as an old friend (my actual, human friends know to ignore me when I talk to artifacts) but left him there in the shop as he was, like so much of the stuff I get to play with at work, out of my personal price range.

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