Collect for enjoyment, collect for knowledge, collect for the potential of future windfalls, collect to share and most of all collect because it is a wonderful hobby that lasts a lifetime. I worked at my career for forty years, collected interesting items all that time and have had my first foray into a business venture (an antique shop) in retirement. A hobby that can last a lifetime!
The autumn weather is great, the grass is green, there is rain around, lockdowns have abated and it’s time to get on with life because life is wonderful. The alternative lasts a long time! Make the best of what you can. We don’t get many chances. ANZAC Day reminded us that many didn’t get a chance to reach their potential. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me” – through kindness, respect, empathy and love. From little things big things grow!
Support your local small businesses and tradespeople as they all need your help. They are the backbone of our community.
George Barsony, known for his Barsony Lamps, was born on the 15th November 1917 in Pecs, Hungary. One of his first major sculptures is a 2.2-metre bronze statue of St. Francis of Assisi in Pecs, which he completed when he was 21.
Barsony came to Sydney as a refugee in 1949. Shortly after, he met his future wife, Jean Bird, an immigrant from England who also worked in a pottery in Sydney. They moved to a home in Bankstown in 1955 and opened a small workshop that eventually became Barsony Ceramics.
The company operated during 1950s to 1970s and had a factory on Guernsey Street, Guildford, Western Sydney. Most of Barsony Ceramics’ products were decorative items such as figurines, lamp bases, candlesticks, figure vases, wall hangings, and bookends. They also produced items under Venice and Silver Cloud, but these are rarely seen in the market. The most popular collector’s items are Barsony’s porcelain lamps, often referred to as Barsony lamps. What separates these from other lamps are their highly decorative bases. Barsony lamps are distinctive because of their usual black colour scheme and distinct base: carefully crafted figurines in graceful poses. Some Barsony lamps have a hidden light bulb, while other pieces don’t even have one. Despite not being a functional source of illumination, Barsony lamps are beautiful enough to be displayed as works of art.
In the 1950s, exotic black figures became strangely popular, contrasting with the typical pastel colours of the time. Barsony Ceramics products were quite in demand. But as the times changed, so did tastes. Black figures declined in popularity, so Barsony Ceramics ceased operations in the 1970s.
Fortunately, these exquisite lamps have seen a resurgence in popularity, especially for collectors. Barsony’s black ladies are once again being sought after by art aficionados. Rarer variations in figures and colours command a premium. While Barsony has other popular black figures like the “Little Boys” and “Little Girls”, his black ladies, especially his “Ballerina” series, continue to be the most coveted pieces.
Barsony ladies are known for their soft, rounded edges, rounded breasts, and bright red lips. The black figures are contrasted by splashes of colour on their clothing and accessories. While some might find a few of Barsony’s ladies politically suspect (some of the pieces can be perceived to be more of a black cliché), many pieces are notably elegant and their feminine poses add to their aesthetic.
Each piece was hand-painted, making each piece unique and more desirable for collectors. Some have accents attached to them – for example, Barsony’s ballerina lamps have pearl drop earrings. The shades attached to these lamps come in the bright colours favoured in the 1950s. Jean Barsony herself made the original lamp shades, of which few pieces have survived.
To be sure of their provenance, check if a lamp is marked with “Barsony” or “George Barsony.” In the 1960s, these markers were replaced with a red sticker. Intact Barsony markings ensure that the item will be sold at a premium price.
Genuine Barsony pieces have labels that usually contain the model or mould number and letters that indicate the type of item. So, H stands for head, L for lamp, VL means vase lamp, FL for figural lamp and so on. Unlike other collectable items, Barsony lamps often sell for a good price despite having a bit of damage. The majority of Barsony lamps being sold have their shades replaced or are sold without a shade altogether. Barsony lamps once sold for about $15 in the 1980s, but prices skyrocketed to ten times the amount in the early 2000s. In a 2007 Carter’s Everything Vintage Price Guide, they sold for about $300, and this pricing has increased markedly in recent years. An online search yields price ranges from $250 to about $1200. A red Barsony Ballerina lamp with missing earrings can fetch from $400 to $700 at an auction. A Ballerina in a better condition (with earrings and original lamp shade) could sell for much higher.
Collectors are advised to take extra care in purchasing lamps that are passed off as Barsony. There are items out in the market that are labelled Barsony-style lamps even though they are not authentic Barsony Ceramics products. Other companies use similar labelling systems, which may also cause confusion.
Some dealers who have the lamps for sale sometimes hear from customers how they didn’t like the lamps the first time they came out and how they have changed their mind now. Maybe it has something to do with mid-century items being the rage these days or their exotic appearance may have found a new audience. Whatever the reason, Barsony lamps are quite unique decorative pieces that captivated a generation and may continue to do so for years to come.
We have opened a shop (Antiques and Old Wares) 12 Isabella St, Wingham. Call in and say hello.
I hope that collecting brings you the enjoyment that I have experienced.
If you have items that you are not sure of, I may be able to help with information, appraisals and/or sales. I love the history and stories of old and interesting treasures.
Phone Rex – 0427 880 546.
Take care and stay safe!