Webster Raised-Wing Golden Plover
Nantucket, MA, c. 1850
9 1/2 in. long
Early collectors Donal C. O’Brien Jr., William J. Mackey Jr., and Adele Earnest all believed that the plover from this rig were among the finest works of American folk art they had ever come across. Indeed, Mackey and O’Brien hunted down and acquired fifteen of the seventeen examples that surfaced. Eight still reside in the O’Brien Collection and one can been seen in Mackey and Weiler’s "Classic Shorebird Decoys" portfolio. The group, while cohesive in its distinguished spring plumage, appears to have been made without a pattern. This free-hand approach produced a lively flock with no two birds exactly alike. This is immediately evidenced in the contrast between this decoy and its rigmate (lot 21), which has a smooth body, a split tail, and a dramatically turned head. The form of this decoy, along with O’Brien’s best Webster plover, stands out due to the applied wings that lift clear off of the body with pointed wing tips. The head of this decoy was also applied, as was common for this maker and others on Nantucket. With the exception of the aforementioned plover which remains a cornerstone in the O’Brien Collection, this is believed to be the best example to have survived, offering shorebird, decoy, and Americana collectors a rare opportunity to obtain an iconic form within these fields.
Original paint with light wear and touch-up to a small spot on the back.
Provenance: Franklin Folger Webster Collection, Nantucket, Massachusetts
Dr. Peter J. Muller Jr. Collection, acquired 1981
Literature: Milton C. Weiler, "The Classic Decoy Series: A Portfolio of Paintings," New York, NY, 1969, pl. 2, exact decoy illustrated.
William Doyle Galleries, “Waterfowl and Shorebird Decoys,” New York, NY, April 15, 1981, back cover and p. 61, lot 76, exact decoy illustrated twice.
Joe Engers, “Dr. Peter J. Muller: Bringing a good eye and an artistic approach to decoy collecting,” Decoy Magazine, January/February 2008, p. 8, exact decoy and rigmate illustrated.
Robert Shaw, "Call to the Sky: The Decoy Collection of James M. McCleery, M.D.," Houston, TX, 1992, p. 13, related example illustrated.
Richard A. Bourne Co., Inc., "Very Rare and Important American Bird Decoys from the Collection of the late William J. Mackey Jr. of Belford, New Jersey," Hyannis, MA, 1973, Session III, lot 320, rigmate illustrated.
Jeff Waingrow, “The American Decoy: Folk Sculpture from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Donal C. O’Brien Jr.,” The Clarion: America’s Folk Art Magazine, Fall 1981, p. 30, closely related rigmate illustrated.
Jackson Parker, “O’Brien Classic Decoys on Display at Museum of American Folk Art,” North American Decoys Magazine, Spring/Summer 1982, p. 34, rigmate illustrated.
Laurence Sheehan, "The Sporting Life," New York, NY, 1992, p. 79, two O'Brien rigmates illustrated.
Copley Fine Art Auctions, "The Donal C. O'Brien Jr. Collection of Important American Sporting Art and Decoys, Sessions I-II," July 27, 2017, inside front cover, six rigmates illustrated in O’Brien’s living room.
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