Early Crowell bufflehead drake soars to $207,000 at Decoys Unlimited July 28-29 auction on Cape Cod An early bufflehead drake decoy, made around 1910-1912 by A.E. (Elmer) Crowell (Mass., 1862-1952), soared to $207,000 at a Summer Decoy Auction held July 28-29 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc., on Cape Cod.
example of an early pintail drake by Crowell, with wingtips carved in deep relief, again with classic Crowell rasp work to the rear of the head and breast, with carved wing and tail feathers, rose to $13,800; and an incredible gunning split tail black-bellied plover by Crowell, in fine original paint with anatomically correct bill and tack eyes, also brought $13,800.
Other decoys by A.E. Crowell most worthy of mention include:
A miniature running ruddy turnstone with split tail, on a painted rock base ($6,325)
An early example ¾ scale with excellent original paint and feather detail ($4,312)
One lot not carrying the Crowell name as its maker managed to crack the $10,000 mark. It was an important redhead drake made around 1900 by Henry Keyes Chadwick of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The example showed the influence of Chadwick’s mentor, Benjamin Smith. With deeply dished down wing molding in the manner of Smith, the decoy sold for $10,925.
Not far behind was a greater yellowlegs decoy by Joseph Lincoln of Accord Village in Hingham, Mass. (1859-1938). With its elaborate and fancifully painted depictions of the plumage of an actual yellowlegs, the exaggerated tall bird flew off for $8,625. Another decoy by Lincoln – a classic form goose “as found in rig” with zero paint enhancement, achieved $4,600.
A pair of decoys posted identical selling prices of $7,475. The first was a drumming grouse by the Rhode Island carver Allen J. King (1881-1963). It boasted beautifully outstretched and cupped wings, a fully fanned tail, fluted feathers and carved ruff. The other was a folk art carving of a canvas over frame goose, built on a grand scale circa 1902 by Capt. Clarence Bailey.
A rare widgeon drake by one of the Stevens brothers (probably George) of Weedsport, N.Y., made circa 1895-1900 and featuring a masterfully carved banjo tail and strong original paint, breezed to $5,750; and an early bluebill drake by Ira Hudson (Va., 1876-1949), done in his stylish and desirable “football” shape, with original paint and some gunning wear, made $5,405.
An outstanding example of a swing handle friendship purse by the Nantucket master Jose Formoso Reyes, with the top featuring a carved sperm whale on a rosewood type plaque, made in 1971, knocked down at $5,175; and an excellent carving of a sperm whale, carved from the pan bone (the flared rear portion of the sperm whale jaw), mounted on a later backboard, hit $5,175.
A historically important example of a goose by the Ward brothers, Lem (1896-1984) and Steve (1895-1976), both of Crisfield, Md., with its head turned sharply to the right and thrust slightly forward, hammered for $5,175; and a mallard drake by Domingo Campo (1887-1957), with raised wings and tack eyes, a brass tag on the bottom and original paint, gaveled for $4,888.
Decoys Unlimited, Inc.’s next regularly planned auction will be held sometime in early 2014, but so many collections and consignors have presented themselves just since the end of the July auction, the firm may