65 Sharp Street
Hingham, MA 02043
Copley Fine Art Auctions is the world's leading American sporting art auction company. Located in Hingham, MA, Copley specializes in antique decoys and 19th- and 20th-century American, sporting, and wildlife paintings. Principal Stephen O'Brien Jr., a fourth-generation sportsman with a refined colle...Read more
Outstanding Life-Size Flying Mallard Pair
The Ward Brothers, Lemuel T. (1896-1983) and Stephen (1895-1976)
CRISFIELD, MD, 1936 AND 1937
The Wards' ability to capture likeness of species is on full display with this grand pair. Few Ward carvings command the presence of these dynamic "flappers." Each bird features fully outstretched wings with carved feather delineation, applied "peach basket" feathers on the back, turned heads on reaching necks, flared bills, and carved feet. The drake also has three curl feathers above the tail. No other Ward flyers of this design have come to light.
Carved in the mid 30s, these exceptionally early and highly accomplished decoratives show clear parallels to the Wards' classic '36 model gunning decoys which originated at the same time. Important to the legacy of the brothers, these carvings place the Wards among the likes of A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) and Charles "Shang" Wheeler (1872-1949) as two of the earliest makers of decorative American bird carvings.
These important carvings were originally purchased by Fred and Lynn Vogel, early decoy collectors who also owned an antique shop in Dewey Beach, Delaware. In the 1970s Oliver "Tuts" Lawson, a friend and protege of the Wards, often visited Lynn Vogel who also sold Lawson's carvings in the shop. During those visits Lawson remembers seeing just the single hen mallard, though he was aware that a drake had at one time accompanied her. Copley is excited to present these reunited carvings to the public for the first time in over a quarter century.
With their elaborate and extensive carving details, these boldly carved mallards are in very good condition given their age. They represent two of the most important Ward carvings ever to come on the market.
The drake is signed "L.T. Ward, Crisfield, MD -1936-" on the underside. The hen is signed "Lem Ward, Crisfield, Md, -1937-" on the underside of right wing. Original paint with some craquelure and wear, touch-up to some of drake's craquelure. Drake has crack in each leg and restoration to two primary feather tips and left side of tail. The hen is in excellent structural condition with touch-up to top of tail joint. Hen's base has been added to match drake's.
PROVENANCE: Fred and Lynn Vogel, acquired directly from the Ward brothers
Private Collection, Virginia (drake only)
Private Collection, Texas (drake only)
Private Collection, Maryland (hen only)
LITERATURE: Guyette and Schmidt, North American Decoys at Auction, November 12 & 13, 1997, West Farmington, ME, 1997, lot 309, exact drake illustrated.
Guyette and Schmidt, North American Decoys at Auction, St. Charles, IL, April 2009, lot 334, exact hen illustrated.
Guyette and Deeter, North American Decoys at Auction, April 23 & 24, St. Charles, IL, April 2015, lot 414, exact drake illustrated.
Ronald J. Gard and Brian J. McGrath, The Ward Brothers' Decoys: A Collector's Guide, Plano, TX, 1989.
Condition report requests can be made via email or by telephone (firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.536.0030). Any condition statement given is a courtesy to customers, Copley will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition.
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