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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
The Safford Sleeping Goose
Charles A. Safford (1877-1957)
Newburyport, MA, c. 1920
24 ½ in. long
“It leaps into the pantheon of the greatest American goose decoys ever made, sculpture and function in perfect marriage.” — Gwladys “Gigi” Hopkins, “Massachusetts Masterpieces,” 2016, discussing The Safford Sleeping Goose
Safford's carvings have found their place as some of America's most iconic geese, alongside the Dovetailed maker’s, Captain Charles Osgood's (1820-1886), Nathan Cobb Jr.'s (1825-1905), and A. Elmer Crowell’s (1862-1952) carvings. Robert Shaw notes that “Safford's superbly crafted goose decoys, which for many years were mistakenly attributed to Lothrop Holmes [1824-1899], were designed to be mounted on large, flat, iron triangles and left out all year in the Plum Island marshes where he hunted.” Due to these extreme hunting conditions, finding any Safford geese in good original paint is challenging.
Beginning in 2009, a flurry of exhibitions and publications celebrated the public debut of this decoy and its previously unknown form after it was acquired privately by Cap and Paige Vinal. Curator and historian Gigi Hopkins was among the first to publish her thoughts in a 2009 feature on Safford in which she described this lot as “... a drop-to-your-knees bird” and announced ”It leaps into the pantheon of the greatest American goose decoys ever made, sculpture and function in perfect marriage.”
Hopkins would go on to select this goose for the Massachusetts Masterpieces exhibition at the Museum of American Bird Art in 2013. In her 2016 follow-up “Massachusetts Masterpieces” book, she observes, “It’s a cabinetmaker’s masterpiece, constructed from [over 20] pieces of cross-laminated wood. The feathered edges of the exterior boards have been held snug by tiny, evenly spaced nails, which have done their job flawlessly. The bird’s slightly abstracted form has small surprises all around: the quiet head and neck, the chest treatment, and the raised wing at the beak tip. The accompanying paint is elegant, but so muted it remains almost invisible.”
Original paint with even gunning wear, check in underside from lower breast to under tail, and laminated construction is visible.
Provenance: Private Collection, New England
Cap and Paige Vinal Collection
Thomas M. Evans Jr. Collection
Literature: Robert Shaw, "Bird Decoys of North America," New York, NY, 2010, p. 158, exact decoy illustrated.
Gwladys Hopkins, "Massachusetts Masterpieces," Lincoln, MA, 2016, pp. 20-22 and 78-79, exact decoy illustrated and Safford discussed.
John Clayton, “Massachusetts Masters: Decoys, Shorebirds, and Decorative Carvings,” The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, 2010, pp. 18-19, exact decoy illustrated.
Gwladys Hopkins, "Charles A. Safford and His Canada Goose Decoys," Decoy Magazine, May/June 2009, front cover and pp. 24-29, exact decoy illustrated.
Exhibited: Salisbury, Maryland, “Massachusetts Masters: Decoys, Shorebirds and Decorative Carvings,” Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, LeMay Gallery, October 1, 2010-January 23, 2011.
Canton, MA, “Massachusetts Masterpieces: The Decoy as Art,” The Museum of American Bird Art, May 5-September 15, 2013
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