EXTRAORDINARY PATRIOTIC CARVED WOOD FIGURE OF THE “GODDESS OF LIBERTY”. Last quarter 19th century. This rare and important example of American Folk Art carved and polychrome painted. She is depicted standing erect wearing a soft peaked “Liberty” cap, dressed in a full-length white tunic with rolled sleeves, draped in a red robe trimmed in gold. In her proper right hand she holds a sword, in her left a laurel wreath and federal shield, her sandaled feet showing beneath her robe. Carved standing on a square stepped plinth, further raised on a larger box plinth with canted sides, carved with swag draperies and mounted with carrying handles. RELATED EXAMPLE: Columbia, carved and painted wooden figure, Folk Art Center Collection, #1962.701.1, at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia: “The Museum’s woodcarving likely derived from a casting that was created by M. J. Seelig and Company of Williamsburg, New York, and retailed by William Demuth and Company of New York City. Other versions were sold by New York City’s J. L. Mott Iron Works. The Museum’s woodcarving probably functioned much as did its cast zinc sisters, which are known to have been carried in parades and displayed in public or semi-public spaces, where they reminded Americans of not only their commitment to liberty but also (through the symbol of the sword) the cost of maintaining it.” SIZE: 53″ h. of statue. 71″ overall h. 25″ sq. base. PROVENANCE: This figure was originally discovered by Ms. Helena Penrose of New York City who was a friend and colleague of Abby Aldridge Rockefeller in the pursuit of Folk Art during the 30’s & 40’s. Ms. Penrose was an acknowledged authority and dealer on American folk art carvings, assisting in research with A. W. Pendergast in the compilation for “Cigar Store Figures in American Folk Art,” 1953 and also in Tuttle’s et al “Drawing on America’s Past: Folk Art, Modernism and the Index of American Design” pd. 57. When Ms. Penrose sold the figure to a very wealthy, avid antique collector, in the late 40’s/early 50″s for a “significant” amount of money, she informed him that this figure originally resided in Tammany Hall in New York City during the late teens. It was removed and was then present at the inauguration of President Harry Truman. This collector owned it for 50-60 years who then sold it to our consignor only after pursuing the figure for well over seven years and spending countless afternoons and evenings reminiscing with the prior owner. Around the period of 1850 to 1900 there were likely a considerable number of similar patriotic Goddess figures in use throughout the country, unlike cigar store figures which were manufactured in large for purposes of business, these were likely far fewer in number and today only a precious handful of carving such as this in such an appealing subject matter survive. The detail and workmanship here of the drape gowns, the pose together with the graphic shield and laurel wreath all presented on this original carved draped base makes for a most impressive folk art masterpiece. This piece has never been offered at public auction and has essentially has never been published in any previous folk art books. The auctioneer is unaware of who the original carver was, but it was certainly done by a well established artisan of the day, most likely in New York City. Accompanying this lot will be a signed letter by the current consignor outlining the details given to him by the previous owner. CONDITION: The entire surface repainted some time ago, possibly done by Ms Penrose in the 1940’s when she acquired and sold this. Prior to repainting, the checks, cracks and separations were plastered, the largest of which were on the backside draped figure, however there were various other separations (it should have been) and scattered over the figure, most nearly all of which have been re-gessoed prior to repaint. The cross-guard of the sword also probably repainted at that time. The carvings on the base original to the base and the base appears to be original to the carving and has some old modifications on the interior. There are no modern restorations or repaint on any part of the figure. Note: This and other carved figures of their type were designed to be transported in parades and/or displayed in public or semi-public places, thus the reason for the installation of carrying handles on the primary plinth. This also subjected these carved and painted figures to stresses and torque from repeated moving and to extreme and frequent weather changes while out of doors. Any damages and subsequent restorations, including any areas of in-painting or repainting, whether of 19th- or 20th-century origin, were done for cosmetic reasons and not with the intent of disguising any element of this figure. 9-93596 (100,000-200,000)
Please Note: All prices include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium, which is paid by the buyer as part of the purchase price. The prices noted here after the auction are considered unofficial and do not become official until after the 46th day.