Preening Goldeneye Drake
A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952)
East Harwich, MA, 1914
14 1/2 in. long
This bird was created during the nexus in Crowell’s career when he was transitioning from working decoys to decorative carvings. The subtleties of the construction, wide body, and carving technique, along with paint application, place this among the earliest of Crowell’s mantle carvings. The carving’s dramatically turned head and crossed wing tips give the goldeneye an animated quality that views well from all angles. Crowell inset hardwood wingtips and then incised primaries in each. This extra treatment is only seen in his best efforts. Crowell used an impasto paint technique that leaves a textured surface, adding an intricate dimension to the already sophisticated paint pattern. It was during this short transitional period from about 1910-1915 that Crowell produced some of his most exciting works, including the celebrated carvings found in the Harry V. Long (1857-1949) and the Dr. John C. Phillips (1876-1938) Collections.
This is one of three preening goldeneye drakes known to have been made by Crowell. A closely related example of this species was carved for Dr. Phillips and now resides in a prestigious collection in the midwest. A Barrows goldeneye, made for John H. Cunningham, also resides in one of the nation’s top collections. This lot has descended in the Nye family for generations and this marks the first time it has ever been offered for sale.
This decoy was originally owned by Everett Irving Nye (1851-1923). E.I. Nye was born on Cape Cod in the town of Sandwich, a town his ancestors helped to found. At age 19 he apprenticed with Herman Sears, a blacksmith from Dennis, MA. He later went on to own an iron works in Wellfleet. He married Georgette Baker, from Wellfleet where the young couple settled. In 1900 he was the town’s postmaster and in 1920 he wrote and had published History of Wellfleet, from Early Days to Present. While in Wellfleet he was documented as a prominent New England duck breeder, perhaps inspiring the gift he would be given. In 1914 Nye was presented with this exceptional Crowell carving at the age of 63. An inscription on the underside documents this transfer.
Original paint with wear, Gigi Hopkins performed minor restoration including: a light cleaning, darkening to bill tip, touch up to area on breast and hairline crack in right wing tip, and 1/2 inch restoration to tip of left wing.
Provenance: Everett I. Nye, Wellfleet, Massachusetts Private Collection, by descent from the above
Literature: Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC, "The Harry V. Long Collection of A. Elmer Crowell Decoys, The Sporting Sale," Boston, MA, 2009, lots 60 and 63, related decoys illustrated.
Donna Tonelli, "Top of the Line Hunting Collectibles," Atglen, PA, 1998, p. 86, related decoy illustrated.
"The Magazine Antiques," September 1989, front cover, related decoy illustrated.
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