Posts

Twirling in the Wind: Folk Art Whirligigs

“A little wooden warrior who, armed with a sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle of the barn,” wrote American author Washington Irving in his famous short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, published in 1820. The writer was describing perfectly the workings of a simple whirligig, sometimes called a wind toy.

In the construction of the figure Irving describes, a shaft runs through the shoulders. When the wind blows, the arms carved in the form of broad paddles spin like propellers.

Folk art, polychrome painted, tin, metal and wood whirligig. Features cyclist that races on high wheel around track. 33″ D., 20″ H. Good condition. Comes with base. Provenance: Richard Roy Estate. Sold to a LiveAuctioneers bidder for $1,800 on April 16, 2016.

When mounted on a free-moving shaft, a whirligig can serve as a weather vane, but most often the whirligig is mounted on a post and serves no other purpose than to amuse those who view it. Having at least one part that spins or whirls, a whirligig is a decorative whimsy that holds great appeal with today’s collectors of Americana.

Flying mallard whirligig by upstate New York maker, early 20th century, 29 inches long, carved and painted wood. From the Linda and Gene Kangas Collection, it sold for more than $1,500 at a Slotin folk art auction in November 2015.

Mentioned in Colonial American times, the wind-driven whirligig probably originated with the immigrant population. “Traditionally, the first American examples were models of Hessian solders and were supposedly made by Pennsylvania settlers of German origin in mockery of the German mercenaries employed by the British during the Revolutionary War,” writes William C. Ketchum Jr., in The New and Revised Catalog of American Antiques (1980: Rutledge Books Inc.).

Ketchum acknowledges there is little support for the Hessian-soldiers story. However, folk artists did take delight in spoofing military officers and lawmen. “Their serious expressions and upright poses are undermined by arms that flail uncontrollably in the wind,” writes Beatrix T. Rumford and Carolyn J. Weekley in the book Treasures of American Folk Art: From the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center (1989: Little Brown & Co.).

Pennsylvania carved and painted pine whirligig, circa 1860-1870, in the form of a policeman, original polychrome decorated surface, 22 inches high. It sold for more than $18,000 at Pook & Pook Inc., in 2012.

Because whirligigs were invariably made of wood – usually pine – and placed outdoors, few early examples have survived the elements of harsh weather over time.

As compared to later productions, whirligigs made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have more moving parts and exhibit more complex movements, e.g., a rooster pecking at an ear of corn, a man sawing a log, or a woman washing clothes.

Whirligig in painted tin and wood depicting a washerwoman bending over her tub, 28 inches long by 21 inches high. It sold for more than $600 at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries on Feb. 11, 2017.

Most whirligigs currently available to collectors date to the 20th century and are considered folk art. Unlike antique weather vanes, which can sell for many thousands of dollars, whirligigs are affordable to the great majority of American buyers.

Found at country auctions, barn sales, and online, whirligigs can sometimes be picked up for bargain prices. However, be aware that whirligigs are easily copied. There are fakes in circulation that are being passed off as old to unsuspecting buyers. If the paint appears to be fresh and there is little sign of weathering, it is possible the object is fairly new. Bottom line: buy from a knowledgable trustworthy source.

Find folk art and whirligig treasures in Jasper52’s weekly Americana sales.

Explorations in Folk Art and Americana

Handcrafted tramp art boxes, carved animal figures, and primitive paintings are a few of the folk art treasures found in this week’s curated Americana auction. These artisan objects – more than 100 choice lots – vary from outsider art, ceramics, and more formal Americana.

In keeping with the Memorial Day holiday is a patriotic painting from the turn of the 20th century. The composition includes U.S. flags, cannons, cannonballs and an American eagle. The farmed oil on canvas painting has a $900-$1,200 estimate.

Patriotic painting, oil on canvas of a traditional battle presentation, 27in x 21in including frame. Estimate: $900-$1,200. Jasper52 image

 

Considerable carving skills were needed to fashion the large folk art horse in the auction. The black beauty stands 23 inches tall and measures 24 inches nose to tail. Leather ears and horsehair mane and tail complement the steed, which is estimated at $1,800-$2,000.

Folk art carved wood horse in old paint, 23in high x 24in long, 1920s–1930s. Estimate: $1,800-$2,000. Jasper52 image

 

Workers at sewer tile factories, primarily in Ohio in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sometimes made figurines and vases, which are now considered folk art. A nice example in this week’s collection is a seated dog, which imitates the form of a Staffordshire pottery spaniel. In natural red-brown clay, the dog should fetch between $900-$1,200.

Sewer tile dog, Ohio origin, 1920s, 11 1/2in high. Estimate: $900-$1,200. Jasper52 image

 

A “Old Salt” cast-iron doorstop made by the Eastern Specialty Manufacturing Co. (Boston 1893-1930) weighs in with a $700-$900 estimate.

‘Old Salt’ cast-iron doorstop 14 1/2in tall, Eastern Specialty Mfg. Co., Boston. Estimate: $700-$900. Jasper52 image

 

Tramp art is a form of folk art that is usually made from chip-carved wooden cigar boxes. Examples range from small boxes and picture frames to much larger items, such as the 16-inch high piece feature here. The object consists of a covered box atop a drawer. A carving of a man’s head serves as the handle on the lid. This impressive work is estimated at $1,000-$1,200.

Tramp art box with carved head finial, circa 1900, 16in x 8in x 8.5in. Estimate: $1,000-$1,200. Jasper52 image

 

Sideshows, the tantalizing added attractions that were once an integral part of a circus, have all but disappeared across America. This colorful form of entertainment is recalled in banners and signs that have become collectible. One such piece is a sign by 20th-century show painter Jim Hand. One of his signed works titled “Strange People” is expected to attract a $700-$900 winning bid.

Sideshow carnival signed by ‘Jim Hand,’ 32in x 32in. Estimate: $700-$900. Jasper52 image

 

Peruse the full catalog of creative Americana items here.

American Decorative Arts With a Touch of Spice

Variety is the spice of life. And this week’s American Decorative Arts and Paintings sale is the spice cabinet for your life. Filled with American objects that delight with their elegant simplicity, this auction features a variety of paintings, American art glass, Folk Art & Advertising wares to add whimsy and elegance to your home. Take a look at a few standouts from this curated collection.

The auction catalog features two paintings by the Indiana artist Homer G. Davisson (1866-1957). Davisson studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Art Students League, New York City; and the Corcoran School of Art, Washington, D.C. He exhibited his primarily pastoral landscapes at the Hoosier Salon, Swope Art Gallery, Fort Wayne Art Museum, and the Indiana Artists’ Club. Known for his impressionist landscapes, Davisson regularly summered in Nashville, Indiana, where he became a charter member of the Brown County Art Gallery Association in 1926. Featured in this auction are The Rockribbed Hills and The Pond.

Homer G. Davisson, ‘The Pond,’ oil on board, 16.5in x 14in, 1920, signed ‘H G Davisson’ on lower right. Estimate: $1,800-$3,000. Jasper52 image

 

Egyptian-born artist Maher Morcos is equally adept at portraying scenes from the Middle East as he is the Old West. His 1982 bronze sculpture titled The Fate of the Scout featured in the auction is numbered 7 out of 18.

Maher Morcos, ‘The Fate of the Scout,’ bronze with wood base, 20in x 22in x 14 in, 1982. Estimate: $700-$1,000. Jasper52 image

 

An Art Deco porcelain demitasse or espresso set in this sale was made in Germany by Rosenthal in 1930. This beautiful set is decorated in a stylized floral design and accented with gold trim.

Rosenthal porcelain demitasse or espresso set, Germany, 1930. Estimate: $700-$900. Jasper52 image

 

This auction also includes a pair of Thomas Morgan table lamps with pineapple bases. Perfect for adding a touch of flair and personality to your living room.

Pair of Thomas Morgan table lamps. Estimate: $900-$1,000. Jasper52 image

 

Vintage perfume bottles have a legion of collectors. From Paris is a 6-inch tall bottle of Arlequinade perfume, which dates to 1912-1924.

Arlequinade perfume bottle, 6in high, 1912-1924, Paris, France. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000. Jasper52 image

 

This auction includes even more American art glass, folk art, Asian antiques, a Seth Thomas mantel clock and a handmade Gothic chimney cupboard. Take a look and discover your next treasure.

6 Nostalgic Folk Art Works to Take You Back in Time

Every Americana auction is filled with unique treasures and original finds ranging from tramp art to vintage frames to collectible decoys. This week’s curated collection highlights stellar pieces of folk art and outsider art as well as more traditional Americana. See below for 6 of the most special pieces.

A matched pair of folk art portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are relief carved on sheet rock and painted. Together, these pictures are estimated at $1,500-$1,800.

Folk art portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, relief carved on sheet rock and painted. Estimate: $1,500-$1,800. Jasper52 image

 

An untitled painting by outsider artist Purvis Young (1943-2010) is typically executed on salvaged material. In this piece, Young used the backside of a broken billboard for model homes to make a statement about splintered neighborhoods and lives. The use of thinly applied house paint and vertical brushstrokes bring the splintered edges and grainy imperfections of the wood into the visual story.

Purvis Young (1943-2010) untitled painting on salvaged wood, 40in x 34in, late 1980s-1994. Estimate: $2,400-$2,800. Jasper52 image

 

This 48-star American flag “jack” and 40-inch staff from a mid-20th century pleasure craft is presented in a unique shadowbox frame. A jack is one of the three primary signals flown on a U.S. Navy ship. When at anchor or moored, the jack is flown at the bow (front), the national flag or “ensign” is flown at the stern (back), and the commission pendant is flown from the main mast. When under way, the Jack is furled and the ensign may be kept in place or shifted to a gaff if the ship is so equipped. The American Navy jack is a blue flag with a field of white stars. The design is the mirror image of the canton of an American national flag. In scale, the jack was meant to be the same size as the canton of the corresponding Stars & Stripes ensign with which it was flown. The owners of private yachts sometimes emulated the Navy’s use of traditional signals. This was perhaps especially true when the captain was a former Navy man. This particular 48-star jack was not made for a Navy boat, but for a smaller, private one.

Forty-eight star ‘jack’ American flag and staff, circa 1930-1955, frame size: 49.25in x 34in. Estimate: $2,300-$2,500. Jasper52 image

 

This triple mourning portrait of firemen, while rendered by a child, has great folk attributes. The wax crayon and watercolor artwork dates to the 1870s. Each subject is wearing a numbered parade hat and the man on the right may have been the chief, because his coat is blue instead of black. The portraits are painted on a piece of brown parchment and are recessed behind a piece of mat board with oval windows. Black mourning draperies hang above each window.

Triple mourning portrait of firemen, rendered by a child with wax crayon and watercolor, circa 1870, frame size: 10.75in x 16.5in. Estimate: $1,800-$2,000. Jasper52 image

 

“Votes for Women,” declares this suffragette pennant from the early 20th century. The pennant, made from a length of yellow cotton cloth with applied paper, set in a solid walnut frame, dates to the period between 1860 and 1880.

Suffragette pennant, ‘Votes For Women,’ 1910-1920, yellow cotton cloth with applied yellow paper, frame size: 12.75in x 17.5in. Estimate: $1,600-$1,800. Jasper52 image

 

There are several trade signs included in this collection. One of the largest advertises “Fresh and Smoked Fish.” This sign features an iron bracket made by a blacksmith.

Double-sided trade sign found in northeastern Pennsylvania, circa 1890-1910, 24.25in tall (not including the hand-wrought hooks) x 60in wide x 2in deep. Estimate: $2,000-$2,500. Jasper52 image

 

There is a lot of treasure to be found in this week’s Americana collection. Take a look at the full catalog.

Unique Americana Pieces To Transport You Back In Time

“Made in the USA” was once a familiar phrase, most often referring to factory-made goods produced by American labor. In an age in which so many products are imported, antique Americana – whether handmade or manufactured – is noteworthy and no longer taken for granted. There is no doubt that you will be obsessing over the more than 72 vintage items have been curated in this week’s Americana auction.

Few forms exemplify Americana more than a figural weather vane. While weather vanes were often produced in factories in the 19th century, many others were the work of local metalsmiths. All are now considered folk art. Several examples have been curated in this sale, including one that depicts a locomotive and caboose marked “St. J & LC” (St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad), which operated in Vermont and Maine. This unusual weather vane was handmade circa 1920.

Handmade locomotive and caboose weather vane, circa 1920, 14 inches high by 24 inches long. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500

Handmade locomotive and caboose weather vane, circa 1920, 14 inches high by 24 inches long. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500

No toy of the 19th century represents the American spirit better than the cast-iron mechanical bank, which demonstrates ingenuity and Yankee thrift. A J. & E. Stevens William Tell bank, which depicts the famous marksman, is featured here.

Rifleman, or William Tell, cast-iron mechanical bank, patented in 1896, 6 3/4 inches high x 10 1/2 inches wide x 4 inches deep. Estimate: $450-$600

Rifleman, or William Tell, cast-iron mechanical bank, patented in 1896, 6 3/4 inches high x 10 1/2 inches wide x 4 inches deep. Estimate: $450-$600

Decorated stoneware has not lost its luster among collectors, especially when the hand-decorated design is unusual and nicely executed. A 2-gallon ovoid crock decorated with a large and bold floral design is a fine example. It is marked “William H.E. Warner/West Troy, N.Y.”

Two-gallon decorated stoneware crock, William H.E. Warner, West Troy, N.Y., mid-19th century. Estimate: $300-$400

Two-gallon decorated stoneware crock, William H.E. Warner, West Troy, N.Y., mid-19th century. Estimate: $300-$400

Collectors of firefighting memorabilia will be interested in an early 20th century fireman’s retirement plaque. The large plywood shield was presented to O.E. Berkan, who served on the Newman (Calif.) Fire Department from 1909 to 1939.

Twentieth century fireman's commemorative retirement plaque, circa 1940, shaped plywood, 23 x 23 inches. Estimate: $800-$1,500

Twentieth century fireman’s commemorative retirement plaque, circa 1940,
shaped plywood, 23 x 23 inches. Estimate: $800-$1,500

Another unique item curated in the sale is an oil on board painting titled “Fish Houses” by Long Island, artist Whitney Hubbard.

Whitney Hubbard, “Fish Houses,” oil on board, carved gilt frame, 14 1/4 x 16 inches framed, 8 inches x 10 inches board. Estimate: $500-$800

Whitney Hubbard, “Fish Houses,” oil on board, carved gilt frame, 14 1/4 x 16 inches framed, 8 inches x 10 inches board. Estimate: $500-$800

Additional handcrafted items in the auction include tramp art boxes, patchwork quilts, hooked rugs, trade signs and whirligigs. Click here to view the full Americana sale and be prepared to be taken on a trip back in time.

Why This Americana Auction Charms Bidders

“They don’t make them like that any more.” The remark commenting favorably on handcrafted made-in-America over the past two centuries certainly applies to more than 50 items in this weekend’s Americana auction. Below you’ll find a few standouts from the eclectic collection.
Highlights range from a hand-painted tin sign pointing the way to an office

Tin trade sign, circa 1880, New England. Estimate: $700-$800

Tin trade sign, circa 1880, New England. Estimate: $700-$800

…to a hand-carved pine watch hutch large enough to hold a Big Ben alarm clock.

Carved pine watch hutch, 1880-1900. Estimate: $825-$1,100

Carved pine watch hutch, 1880-1900. Estimate: $825-$1,100

Textiles include an unusual kaleidoscope circular rug and a patchwork quilt depicting row after row of American flags.

Handmade kaleidoscope rug. Estimate: $150-$250

Handmade kaleidoscope rug. Estimate: $150-$250

Twentieth-century quilt with graphic rows of American flags. Estimate: $200-$300

Twentieth-century quilt with graphic rows of American flags. Estimate: $200-$300

Collectors of mechanical cast-iron toys will be entertained by the Punch and Judy bank in the auction.

Punch and Judy mechanical bank, cast iron, late 19th century. Estimate; $500-$700

Punch and Judy mechanical bank, cast iron, late 19th century. Estimate; $500-$700

From a music box playing Christmas carols, to a woodpecker whirligig, these collectibles describe everyday American experiences. They bring a sense of welcome to any home and weave together the threads of rural life.