Crowell miniature blue heron brings record $31,050 at Decoys Unlimited An extremely rare miniature great blue heron made by renowned American carver A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) sold for a record $31,050 at a Summer Decoy Auction held July 15-16 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc.
The third decoy to crack the $30,000 mark was a rare upright willet by the noted carver and hunting guide, John Thomas Wilson (1863-1940), from Ipswich, Mass. The circa-1900 bird, an example of a rig of four willets found in Minnesota in 2007, soared to $34,500. It measured 15 ¾ inches in a straight line, from bill to tail, and featured wings nicely carved in deep relief.
A pair of works by Gus Wilson of Portland, Me. (1864-1950), made circa 1880-1900, both changed hands after the sale. One was an iconic preening eider hen with an exceptionally sculpted surface and excellent all-original paint ($25,500). The other was a monumental early merganser drake with finely carved raised wing detail and lightly worn original paint ($22,500).
A greater yellowlegs by William “Bill” Bowman of Lawrence, N.Y. (1824-1906) went for $28,750. The decoy had deeply carved wings and shoulders, with a typical Bowman split tail and individually raised wingtips. Also, a tucked head dowitcher by the carving partnership of Dr. Clarence Gardner and Newton Dexter of Little Compton, R.I., found a new owner for $18,400.
A diminutive green-winged teal drake made circa 1900 by George Sibley (d. 1938, also known as Joe French’s “Mr. X” of Chicago, Ill.) coasted to $16,675. A charming, wonderfully proportioned and petite decoy, it may be the finest example by Sibley. Also, a wonderful pair of hooded mergansers by Harold W. Noland (Cache Bay, Ont., CD), made circa 1925, hit $11,500.
Returning to Elmer Crowell, an early and rare sanderling made around 1910, originally carved for Dr. John Cunningham, one of Crowell’s earliest and best customers, with an animated twist to the head and neck, giving the bird a quizzical upward gaze, fetched $18,400; and a rare “wing-up” preening lesser yellowlegs with some professional restoration work garnered $16,100.
Also by Crowell: a spectacular, life-size mockingbird on a chip carved base, rich and beautifully executed with the original paint, one of the artist’s best songbirds, soared to $13,800; and a miniature screech owl in a wonderful pose with large yellow glass eyes, tufts on the forehead, carved wing-out lines and painted feet on a tall “rock” base, topped out at $5,462.
A black duck by Benjamin Warren Pease (1866-1938, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.), with subtle yet extremely effective painted plumage on an example that appears never to have been rigged, topped out at $6,900; and a pair of ruddy ducks by A.J. King (North Scituate, R.I.), in excellent original condition and a magnificent rendering of these little birds sold for $5,750.
Another carving by King was a wonderful miniature snow goose family in the “blue” phase, with one adult standing alone and one resting with five tiny “babies” on a burl wood base ($5,750). Also, a Mason Factory glass eye dove decoy made circa 1905 in excellent condition, with strong factory swirling and sponged and painted feather detailing, commanded $4,600.
Rounding out some of the sale’s top lots: an early bluebill drake (circa 1880-1890),