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Preening Crowell black duck may lead 100s of decoys

Hundreds of vintage and antique duck decoys are among the 530+ lots in Copley Fine Art Auctions July 24-25.
Black Duck decoy

A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952), Preening Black Duck, c. 1900, Estimate: $200/300,000. (All photos courtesy Copley Fine Art Auctions)

BOSTON - Copley Fine Art Auctions will hold its tenth annual Sporting Sale on July 24th and 25th. The event will be hosted at the Radisson Hotel in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts. This year, with the tenth anniversary, there are some exciting adjustments to the auction schedule. The sale will take place on one day, Saturday, July 25th, with Friday, July 24th given over to an auction preview party from 5:30PM to 7:30PM, a decoy and sporting art dealer show, and other special events.

On Saturday, July 25th, bidding on over 530 lots will begin at 10 a.m., with preview times running from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. Decoys will cross the block first with sporting art to follow. Friday’s events will include an exhibition of new works by the McNair family of bird carvers Mark, Ian, and Colin. Mark and Ian will hold a live carving demonstration at 4PM. The first meeting of the New England Decoy Collectors Association will be held at 1 p.m.

This summer’s sale will include a diverse grouping of decoys, with important works on offer from a wide range of carving regions. A mallard hen by Charles H. Perdew ($80,000-$120,000) highlights the offering, and southern decoys are led by a running curlew ($50,000-$70,000) and swimming brant ($50,000-$70,000) by Nathan Cobb, Jr. from an important Southern collection. Also available are a mallard drake ($20,000-$30,000) and rare long-tailed duck drake ($6,000-$9,000) by the Ward brothers of Maryland and notable carvings by Ira Hudson, including a pintail drake ($12,000-$18,000) and a hissing Canada goose ($12,000-$18,000), as well as a black duck pair by Maryland maker Lloyd Sterling ($8,000-$12,000).

Important New Jersey carvings include two black ducks by Nathan Rowley Horner (each $6,000-$9,000) and a pintail by Clark Madara ($6,000-$9,000). New England is well represented with works by Joseph Lincoln, such as three miniature Canada geese (each $2,000-$3,000), a merganser drake by Orlando “Os” Bibber ($20,000 - $30,000) a merganser hen ($10,000 - $15,000) and canvas-covered canada goose ($10,000-$15,000) created by George Boyd, and a black duck ($4,000-$6,000) carved by Charles Hart, among many others. A boldly carved preening eider hen ($20/40,000) by important Maine artist Augustus Wilson joins the offering. Additionally, over twenty-five shorebirds from an important private shorebird collection and a broad selection of miniature bird carvings will be available.

A significant number of decoys and carvings by noted carver A. Elmer Crowell will be in the sale,

Horse and jockey bronze statue

Isidore Jules Bonheur (French, 1827-1901), Horse and Jockey, bronze, 24-1/8 by 29 by 9 inches, Estimate: $25/35,000.

including an exceptionally fine preening black duck ($200,000-$300,000), a running black-bellied plover ($30,000-$50,000), and a set of miniature bird carvings being sold for the first time since they were commissioned from the artist. These excellent quality birds include two very small carvings of a woodduck and a mallard (each $500-$800).

Copley will also present a range of classic American sporting art including several private collections, with over twenty-five works from a Virginia collection and a large number of pieces from the collection of noted sporting art author John T. Ordeman. The sale includes an original watercolor by Arthur B. Frost, English Snipe, ($40,000-$60,000) which was reproduced in 1895 by Charles Scribner’s Sons in Frost’s Shooting Pictures, a portfolio of twelve chromolithograph prints that are considered one of the artist's most iconic and recognized works.

These works join with a fine selection of paintings by American sporting art notables including Edmund Osthaus, Ogden Pleissner, and Aiden Lassell Ripley. Ogden M. Pleissner’s watercolors The Gorge - Salmon Fishing ($30,00-$40,000) and Fading Light ($30,000-$40,000) each depict fishing for Atlantic Salmon in different settings. The watercolor of Woodcock Hunting by Aiden Lassell Ripley ($30,000-$50,000), with its boldly painted hunters, perfectly rendered cover, and sense of motion created by the hunters, dogs, and woodcock, demonstrates Ripley at the height of his artistry.

Additional paintings by artists including Harry Curieux Adamson, Richard Bishop, Edgar Burke, Roland Clark, Lynn Bogue Hunt, Chet Reneson, William J. Schaldach, Arthur Shilstone, Brett J. Smith, and Milton Weiler will be available, among many others. A fine selection of prints by Frank W. Benson, including three rare lithographs, will also cross the block.

"English Snipe" painting

Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928), English Snipe, 1895, watercolor and gouache, 14 by 21-1/2 inches, Estimate: $40/60,000.

A notable horse and jockey bronze ($25,000-$35,000) by French animalier artist Isidore Bonheur, who won the Gold Medal for an equestrian bronze at the 1889 Exposition Universelle joins sculpture by William J. Koelpin and others to round out the offering of notable sporting and wildlife art.

Online bidding on over 530 items will be available through Bidsquare. The auction will take place at the Radisson Hotel in Plymouth, MA, with a preview on Friday, July 24 from 5:30 to 7:30PM. Bidding will commence at 10AM on Saturday, July 25, with a preview from 8AM to 10AM. For more information, a full schedule of events, or to order a catalog please send an email to, call 617.536.0030, or visit