Published: May 9, 2017
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Guyette & Deeter, Inc.
ST CHARLES, ILL. – Exceedingly rare, a rigmate pair of hollow carved pintails by Canadian carver Ivar Fernlund (1881-1933) rose to the top at Guyette & Deeter’s April 27-28 auction at the Pheasant Run Resort. Conducted in conjunction with the North American Vintage Decoy & Sporting Collectibles Show, the largest of its kind in North America, this year’s sale grossed approximately $2.2 million, according to Gary Guyette.
Realizing $201,250, the pair was made by the Hamilton, Ontario, carver in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. Both birds have raised necks, with the drake exhibiting a long forked tail and slightly turned head, while the hen has a shorter inserted tail. The auction house wrote in its catalog listing for the lot, “Some seasoned collectors believe this pintail pair is the finest pair of Canadian decoys known.”
They came out of the Peter Brown collection, and are believed to be the only pair known. According to catalog notes, Guyette and Schmidt sold the rigmate drake in July 2007.
Brown, a Vancouver, British Columbia, businessman, amassed a remarkable collection beginning in the 1980s, and, now at 75, has begun divesting his decades-long pursuit. Last year, he donated 1,000 antique duck, geese and shorebird decoys, appraised at $1.5 million, to Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), which in turn offered the majority of the collection to the public by Guyette & Deeter, with net proceeds going back to DUC.
The Brown collection will be further sold in upcoming Guyette & Deeter auctions, as well as the firm’s weekly online auctions.
At the firm’s annual St Charles auction, buyers had an opportunity to choose from just under 600 lots of decoys and related items, including duck calls, sporting art and fish decoys. As the Canadian dollar hit a fresh lows against its US counterpart – even as the sale was being conducted, according to Guyette – Canadian bidders were in the catbird seat throughout.
The second highest selling lot in the sale was also by Fernlund, as was another example in the top ten. The circa 1910 black ducks in the Brown collection were two of the four known blacks – all part of the only Fernlund (Schmid) rig. The two offered in this sale may have been carved as a pair, although there are differences in form and attitude that suggest they may have been carved at different times. The larger one, bringing $47,725, has an upright posture and larger head with a very bold regal attitude, while the smaller example, which was bid to $32,200, exhibited a slightly more relaxed, resting posture. Both exhibited subtle scratch feather paint, raised body feathering and skillfully applied head paint – a “compelling pair,” according the auction house, and bidders agreed.
Born in 1904, Enoch Reindahl always lived in or near Stoughton, Wis., a river town situated just south of Madison. He has a decoy count of about 100, one of which, a mallard drake, went out at $46,000. Hollow carved with a turned head, carved crossed primary wings and fluted tail, the decoy was an exemplar of outstanding paint detail over the entirety of its body. Such incredibly rich realism stemmed from his meticulous wildlife studies in the form of an extensive collection of photographs that he took in his privately owned marsh.
Also taking $46,000 was a rigmate pair of slope breasted mallards, circa 1890s, from the Mason Decoy Factory, Detroit. They were “cover” birds, having been on the front cover of Russ Goldberger and Alan Haid’s pictorial guide of Mason Decoys. Premier grade birds, the hen has a slightly lifted head and both exhibit outstanding paint pattern.
The focus shifted back to Canada in the next run of top-performing lots. Realizing $46,000, a pair of rare shovelers made by John R. Wells, Toronto, Ontario, also came out of the Brown collection. Wells was an accomplished boat builder and decoy maker. The catalog noted that his decoys, both solid and hollow, were carved and painted with a high degree of species-based realism. This pair, two of the six known shoveler decoys by Wells (branded JRW Maker) featured a hen with great feathering and a drake with bold, bright duck-attracting paint. They were made for use in southeastern Manitoba province at the Oak Lake Shooting Club.
The Brown collection contributed perhaps one of the best examples of handcarved diamond pattern decoration in the form of a rare hooded merganser drake by Sam Hutchins, Jones Falls, Ontario, which pulled in $36,800. According to catalog notes, Hutchins was somewhat of a autodidact carver, producing only goldeneyes and hooded mergansers, the earliest of which were a bit naive. No other decoys have been found with the crosshatch or checkering pattern that he may have found inspiration for in the patterning of gun stocks. Some of his rig decoys were sold to local hunters for $4 apiece.
Other sale highlights included a rare hollow carved Canada goose by John Cope Reeves, Port Rowan, Ontario, which sold for $28,750, and a Tom Chambers (Toronto) hollow carved Canada goose that fetched $25,875.
Two additional lots each commanded a final price of $24,725 – a rare rigmate pair of hollow carved “high neck”-style canvasbacks by Ivar Fernlund and a decorative black bellied plover by Elmer Crowell, East Harwich, Mass.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For information, 410-745-0485 or www.guyetteanddeeter.com.
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