The Earnest Guennol Dropped-Wing Sandpiper A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) East Harwich, MA, c. 1900 8 in. long
This decoy hails from the extraordinary Guennol Collection, built by Alastair B. Martin. The Guennol Collection, named for the Welsh translation of Martin, was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969. Martin acquired this decoy directly from Adele Earnest who subsequently cataloged Martin’s decoys for The Met’s two-volume publication on the Guennol Collection.
“The aim of the Guennol Collection,” writes Earnest, “has not been to search out representative examples of the many categories of folk art but to hunt for superior objects that captivate the heart as well as the eye. Choices have focused on sculptural, three-dimensional carvings in wood.”
She describes this “rare gem” as having come “from Crowell’s best early period. Carved from one piece of wood, each contour conveys the softness of a live bird. The head is raised and gently turned. The wing tips are free, lightly grooved and serrated…”
This decoy was made with the features and detail found in Crowell’s rare and coveted “dust jacket” model shorebirds. The maker individually carved the primary feathers, turned and cocked the head, and applied highly intricate blended feather paint. While nearly all of his best shorebirds have lifted wing tips that come to a point, this bird is one of the very few that exhibits the added feature of dropped wings.
Only a handful of life-size decoys in original paint are known to display this delicate addition, as they were time consuming to create and broke with use. One full-size comparable is a rigmate sandpiper that resides in the Alan and Elaine Haid Collection. Another is the incomparable Harry V. Long rig calling yellowlegs, dated 1910, which displays the only open bill seen in his working birds. Original paint with light gunning wear, one wing tip is reset, and minor chips to the wing tips. Old filler in two holes in underside. Reset bill tip with touch-up.
Provenance: Adele Earnest Collection Alastair Bradley Martin, The Guennol Collection, acquired from the above Herb Wetanson Collection
Literature: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, "The Guennol Collection: Volume II" New York, NY, 1982, pp. 263-265, exact decoy illustrated. Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC, "The Harry V. Long Collection of A. Elmer Crowell Decoys, The Sporting Sale," Boston, MA, 2009, lot 64, pp. 24, 73 and cover, calling yellowlegs illustrated. Alan G. Haid and Brandy S. Culp, "The Allure of the Decoy," Charleston, SC, 2013, p. 26, rigmate illustrated. Stephen B. O'Brien, Jr. and Chelsie W. Olney, "Elmer Crowell: Father of American Bird Carving," Hingham, MA, 2019, exact bird illustrated.
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