Exceedingly Rare Willet
Obediah Verity (1813-1901)
Seaford, Long Island, NY, c. 1880
13 1/2 in. long
A shorebird that is often seen alone in the wild, the willet decoy is far less common than curlew and plover, making it highly sought after by decoy collectors. As a Verity willet, this decoy may be unique. Legendary decoy dealer Bud Ward understood this significance of this important find and placed the decoy with one of his top collectors.
On the topic of Long Island shorebird decoys, author Jeff Waingrow writes in "American Wildfowl Decoys," "Almost any shorebird from the area [Seaford] is highly collectible, for as most advanced collectors will agree there was a consistently high standard set in that small town that knows no equal in the entire world of decoys." The Verity name is literally synonymous with the sporting mecca of Seaford, having at one time been called Verity Town. The virtual absence of willet found in publications makes this decoy of particular note.
Aside from rarity, the form of this willet places it among Verity's best patterns. The elegant design, excellent paint, and raised wings all work in unison. The carver"s raised-wing treatment is broadly known to have an S-curve at the front of the wing and a sharp V-form at the wing-tip resolution.
This rare example is among the finest decoys to survive the intense hunting conditions of the famous sporting destination. The surface is finished with the artist's tight stippled paint and is lightly struck by the Seaford hallmark, shot. Unlike nearly all other Veritys, this decoy showcases the maker"s signature feathering from top to bottom and head to tail. The brown areas are finished with overlaid white and black stippling, and the cream areas on the breast are overlaid with black stippling, giving the bird extra depth. This grand willet is the size of the maker's curlew, with perfect flowing lines, and feels great in the hand. This Seaford jewel may be Verity's only existing willet decoy known.
Excellent original paint with light even gunning wear, hairline crack in tail, slight discoloration around stick hole, replaced bill, and two small holes in tail.
Provenance: Bud Ward Collection
Private Collection, New York, acquired from the above
Literature: Timothy R. Sieger and Dr. Cynthia Byrd, "The Decoys of Long Island," Water Mill, NY, 2010, no Verity willet illustrated.
Robert Shaw, "Call to the Sky: The Decoy Collection of James M. McCleery, M.D.," Houston, TX, 1992, p. 43, no Verity willet illustrated.
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