Ward Brothers duck decoy led flock of lofty results at Copley
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – On February 24 and 25, Copley Fine Art Auctions’ Winter Sale posted a 95% sell-through rate and set several world records yet again. The two-day auction, consisting of 657 lots, surpassed $2.2 million. Categories represented in the sale included antique and contemporary decoys, decorative carvings, paintings, prints, folk art, Americana, bronze sculpture, fish decoys and gunpowder tins.
The top decoy lot of this year’s Winter Sale was the Ward Brothers Humpback black duck, which landed precisely on its high estimate when it sold for $90,000. The top shorebird of the sale, the Harmon Running Curlew by Nathan F. Cobb Jr., reached $78,000.
Though this auction did not have any major working decoys by Elmer Crowell, the late master’s miniature avocet shot above its $4,000 high estimate, reaching $6,000. The Crowell Kingfisher with Yellow Perch landed just shy of its $35,000 high estimate, earning $32,400. Shorebirds from Crowell also excited buyers with the Du Mont early Hanging Greater Yellowlegs blowing past its $20,000-$30,000 estimate before settling at $36,000.
Carvings from the Richard and Dorothy Wheeler collection of Pacific Coast decoys garnered attention. Bidders enthusiastically vied for the Jerry Mastin Canada Goose, carrying the important Pacific Coast work above its $40,000 high estimate to $51,000 and establishing a new world record for the maker. Also, the Sleepy-Eyed Mallard by “Hi” Crandall cruised to $16,800. “It was exciting to introduce collectors to a number of decoys that have never before been seen in the modern marketplace,” said Copley decoy specialist Colin McNair.
Paintings were led by exceptional wildlife art. Richard Bishop’s Prairie Wings flew well above its high estimate, reaching $180,000. This pinnacle oil on canvas is the frontispiece to one of the most important books on waterfowl ever written, which bears the same title. Close but No Cigar by Bob Kuhn landed slightly below its high estimate at $78,000. Works by A.F. Tait continued to enjoy success, with On the Qui Vive!, an oil on canvas depicting four deer with flying mallards in the Adirondacks, reaching $39,000. A bronze of quail by perennial favorite sculptor Walter Matia nearly doubled its high estimate when it sold for $15,990.
Copley Fine Art Specialist Leah Tharpe said, “During the two-day auction, we set at least half a dozen new record prices. Collectors lined up to bid, responding to quality, and we love to see these beautiful works find new homes where they will be lived with and appreciated as part of the sporting lifestyle.”
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