The Waring Turned-Head Dust-Jacket Plover
A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952)
East Harwich, MA, c. 1910
11 1/4 in. long
This exact decoy is featured on the front dust-jacket cover of "New England Decoys" by John and Shirley Delph.
The form of this grand decoy is striking with the head turned almost entirely around. This design is believed to be unique among Crowell shorebirds. This degree of turn is more closely related to the maker"s most celebrated ducks and goose. In addition to its rigmate featured in this catalog, only one other turned-head comparable is known. That carving hails from the Harmon plover trio. These Crowell plover account for three of the four turned-head shorebird is on the "top one hundred" decoys at auction list. The fourth is a curlew by Thomas Gelston (1850-1924), illustrated on the front of Quintina Colio"s, "American Decoys." This Long Island carving set a world record for the maker when it sold for $467,000 over a decade ago.
This special design forced Crowell to utilize an applied head atop the extended neck. The body has all of the features found in the maker"s best shorebirds, including a tail arching gracefully downward, completing an "S" curve along the bird's lower profile. The carving was finished with raised wings and deeply incised primaries which measure six inches in length along the lower edges of the wings. The raised delineation of each wing is carved all the way around and resolves with a pronounced hollow between the two wing tips.
The paint surface displays the artist's exceptional early feathering with incredible attention paid to feather groups and their seamless integration with his lively forms. The maker employed a dynamic freestyle paint application to capture the high-contrast edge which transverses from the reaching neck along the belly to the rear flank.
Outstanding original paint with light gunning wear. Tight V-shaped age line at back of slightly loose neck seam.
Provenance: Anthony Waring Collection
Michael and Julie Hall Collection, acquired from the above, circa 1985
The Johnson Collection, acquired 2004
Literature: John and Shirley Delph, "New England Decoys," Exton, PA, 1981, front dust-jacket cover and pp 118-119, exact decoy discussed and illustrated(image reversed on p. 119).
Stephen B. O'Brien Jr. and Chelsie W. Olney, "Elmer Crowell: Father of American Bird Carving," Hingham, MA, 2019, pp. 220, 221, and 278, exact decoy illustrated.
Kate Beckerman, "A. Elmer Crowell: Celebrating Cape Cod"s Master Carver," "Art and the Antiques Weekly," August 17, 2018, exact decoy illustrated.
Guyette and Schmidt, "North American Decoys at Auction, April 22 & 23, 2004," Boston, MA, 2004, lot 69, exact decoy illustrated.
Ronald S. Swanson, "The Decoy as Folk Sculpture," Cranbrook Academy of Art Exhibition Catalog, January 1987, p. 16, fig. 22, trio mate illustrated.
Brian Cullity, "The Songless Aviary: The World of A. E. Crowell & Son," Hyannis, MA, 1992, p. 49, pl. II, and p. 59, related plover illustrated.
Robert Shaw, "Bird Decoys of North America," New York, NY, 2010, p. 160, related plover illustrated.
John Clayton, "Massachusetts Masters: Decoys, Shorebirds, and Decorative Carvings," The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, 2010, p. 86, related plover illustrated.
Frank Maresca & Roger Ricco, "American Vernacular," New York, NY, 2002, p. 33, related plover illustrated.
William J. Mackey Jr., "American Bird Decoys," New York, NY, 1965, p. 64, pl. III, and front dust-jacket cover, related plover illustrated.
Loy S. Harrell Jr., "Decoys: North America"s One Hundred Greatest," Iola, WI, 2000, p. 98, related plover illustrated.
Joe Engers, ed., "The Great Book of Wildfowl Decoys," San Diego, CA, 1990, p. 53, related plover illustrated.
Exhibited: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, "The Decoy as Folk Sculpture," Cranbrook Academy of Art, January 27"February 22, 1987.
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