Published: June 4, 2019
African American artist and activist David Bustill Bowser was born in Philadelphia January 16, 1820, to fugitive slave Jeremiah Bowser. He would study art under his cousin Robert Douglass Jr, who was an African American student of Thomas Sully at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Bowser’s work stands in a class of its own among the few African American artists of the Nineteenth Century. In a time when African Americans were brutally oppressed — and when their art was never so much as considered — Bowser was earning commissions on merit. He was commissioned to paint the portrait of real estate developer Jacob C White and would also paint John Brown when the abolitionist stopped at Bowser’s house — a stop on the Underground Railroad— in 1858. Over his artistic career, Bowser would paint 21 oil paintings and retouch photographs of Abraham Lincoln, one of which, according to Steven Otfinoski in his book African Americans in the Visual Arts, Lincoln reportedly purchased. It was in 1864 that 11 African American regiments were raised in Pennsylvania through the Union League by the Supervisory Committee for the Enlistment of Colored Troops. These men were both drafted and enlisted. In Otfinoski’s book, it is said that opposition arose to Bowser’s commission to paint the battle flags, but the artist persuaded John Forney, a powerful Republican Philadelphia politician and newspaper owner, to argue that “he is a poor man, and certainly professes very remarkable talent. He has been active in the cause and is himself a colored man, and it seems to me there would be peculiar hardship in taking away this little job from him and giving it to a wealthy house.” Seven of Bowser’s flags were lost in the 1940s when the West Point military museum threw them out — their existence is only known from photographed images. The 127th Regiment United States Colored Troops (USCT) Regimental Battle Flag, which approaches the block at Morphy Auctions, is likely the last remaining USCT battle flag in existence. It joins other top lots from around the United States in this week’s picks.
Sale Date: June 13, 2019
127th Regiment United States Colored Troops (USCT) Regimental Battle Flag
Painted by artist David Bustill Bowser. Text reads “We Will Prove Ourselves Men.” According to Morphy, it is the only known Pennsylvania USCT regimental battle flag in existence.
Sale Date: June 13, 2019
Reginald Marsh, “Lovers Under the El”
Brush and ink and wash with watercolor on paper, double-sided, 1947, 22½ by 31 inches. Signed and dated in ink, lower right recto.
Sale Date: June 13–14, 2019
Carlyle Brown (1919–1963)
“Portrait of Iamae Brown, May 1955, Roma Italia,” signed lower right. Oil on canvas, 11 by 15 inches.
Sale Date: June 15, 2019
Exceptional European Butcher Shop Diorama
Having two carved and painted butchers with aprons, two butcher blocks and rows of carcasses of various cuts of meat, with a painted brick façade with potted plants, 21¾ by 21½ inches.
Sale Date: June 14–16, 2019
Gray Tel-Pay Station Co, Cast Iron Wall Telephone
Cast iron, Hartford, Conn., coat of arms coin box in the form of a shield with US colors, red, white and blue. Aluminum handset, original Label, 8 by 12 inches.
Sale Date: June 17, 2019
A Wucai Flambe Double-Gourd Vase
Qing dynasty, Six Character Mark and of the Period. The exterior is decorated with a thick, lustrous red glaze infused with shades of blue, cream, green, brown and black, thinning to a finely-crackled mushroom color around the mouth rim. The glaze also covers the interior of the mouth, 11½ inches high.
Sale Date: June 11, 2019
British Dukes Ceremonial Crown
Ede and Ravenscroft, London, burgundy velvet with gilt metal frame. Provenance: From the Estate of Raymond Bentley.
Sale Date: June 18, 2019
William Crooks (b 1952)
“Traveling Light,” oil on canvas, 36 by 60 inches.
Sale Date: June 16, 2019
Pre-Columbian Large Mayan Spiked Ritual Ceremonial Pottery Vessel
With Ceiba tree thorn motif, 5 by 10 inches.
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