Freeman's upcoming auction features birds of all shapes and sizes, from the everyday to the fantastical.
11/02/2021 News and Film, American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts
The 17th and 18th centuries were marked by an intense interest in and fascination with the exotic. Two hundred years of exploration, colonial expansion, and far-flung commercial trade triggered public curiosity and serious scientific interest in newfound fauna and flora, and the collecting of specimens for study, classification, exhibition, and amusement was intense. The new species of exotic birds were especially appealing and sensational, and became known through the publication of hand-colored engravings.
Lot 238 | Attributed to the Exotic Scenery Artist, A Schwenkfelder Fraktur: The Crane from Africa, circa 1820 | $3,000-5,000
Two Fraktur works from the property of a prominent Philadelphia collector featured in Freeman’s November 10 American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts auction exemplify this fascination: Lots 238 (estimate: $3,000-5,000) and 239 (estimate: $5,000-8,000), both attributed to the Exotic Scenery Artist. These works, titled A Schwenkfelder Fraktur: The Crane from Africa, circa 1820, picture landscapes in which the titular crane appears front and center, larger than life, rendered in bright watercolor hues—all indicative of an intense fascination with the subject matter.
Lot 239 | Attributed to the Exotic Scenery Artist, A Schwenkfelder Fraktur: The Crane from Africa, circa 1820 | $5,000-8,000
Exotic birds were found on the most fashionable English and European porcelains, fabrics, and wallpaper, and actual feathers ornamented the latest hats. America too was enchanted, and closely followed the English and European scientific studies and style. Exotic birds appear in American-made 18th- and 19th-century needlework, art, and Fraktur. However, America soon became enthralled with a bird native to its shores: the eagle—particularly after the bird was made the symbol of the nation in 1782.
Lot 35 | A 44/13 Star American National Flag commemorating Wyoming Statehood | $20,000-30,000
Lot 132 | A carved ship's figurehead of an American Eagle | $3,000-5,000
Eagles adorn works of all styles and materials in American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts, from furniture to works on paper. A highly unusual flag from the American National Flag Collection of Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn, MD features a hand-painted American eagle on one side of a two-sided flag commemorating Wyoming statehood (Lot 35; estimate: $20,000-30,000), and a carved ship’s figurehead of an American eagle shows the bird in its imposing glory (Lot 132; estimate: $3,000-5,000).
Lot 182 | A Classical silver water pitcher | $5,000-8,000
Lot 206 | The Eagle Map of the United States Engraved for the Rudiments of National Knowledge | $20,000-30,000
Two carved wooden works include a set of six Federal carved mahogany eagle-back klismos chairs, with the birds’ wings spread wide (Lot 175; estimate: $2,500-3,500) and two carved walnut cake boards, one featuring a patriotic eagle over a fruit and flower basket (Lot 265; estimate: $2,000-3,000). The eagle adorns two exquisite Classical works, both a silver water pitcher (Lot 182; estimate: $5,000-8,000) and a carved and giltwood girandole mirror (Lot 205; estimate: $2,000-3,000), but perhaps nowhere is the eagle more representative of the country than in Joseph and James Churchman’s Eagle Map of the United States Engraved for the Rudiments of National Knowledge (Lot 206; estimate: $20,000-30,000), in which the large, magnificent bird is superimposed onto America itself, making them one and the same.
Lot 13 | A Civil War era 34-Star "Union and Liberty Forever" American Flag commemorating Kansas Statehood | $10,000-20,000
While early Americans were enthralled with new, exotic species, and the appeal of the iconic American eagle is timeless, so too is the humble charm of species closer to home. American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts features some of these alongside their flashier cousins, including a highly unusual Civil War era 34-Star “Union and Liberty Forever” American Flag commemorating Kansas Statehood, which is adorned with a blue dove surrounded by blue stars on white background, a design not at all common in commemorative flags (Lot 13; estimate: $10,000-20,000). A gilded and painted copper and zinc Rooster weathervane (Lot 277; estimate: $2,000-3,000) offers a quintessentially colonial charm wherever it’s placed, as does a rare copper and zinc large Gamecock weathervane, circa 1880 (Lot 278; estimate: $7,000-10,000).
Lot 278 | A rare copper and zinc large Gamecock weathervane | $7,000-10,000