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Rare Miniature Canvasback Double Mount

A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952)
Cleon Crowell (1892-1961)

East Harwich, MA, c. 1928-30

 

 

Exceedingly rare and possibly unique double mount carving on a gouge carved base.  Including a rare upright standing drake in the scene.  Freshly deacessioned from decendents of the original buyers who purchased this directly from the Crowells.

 

"I don't get much time to make decoys nowadays, though, ..The ladies keep me too busy making the small birds for them; there is better money in them, too.  I make them for schools a lot, and gardens, and houses, and for private collections." 
- A. Elmer Crowell circa 1926 (Songless Aviary by Brian Culity)

 

As the consistent demand for decoratives arose and decoy work faded away, the Crowell's found themselves in the middle of the boom for miniature bird art in New England.  A market that would come to support the careers of over a dozen North Eastern miniaturists behind them... and still does today.  Their double mount style, of which most were likely made after the introduction of the rectangular stamp, was never produced in near the numbers of single miniatures.  Equally, they were not commonly made in the variety of species seen in single mounts.  Mostly double mounts were made as mallards.  More than that, most all had simple 'tiered dome' bases regardless of species.  Making the gouge textured base of the Canvasbacks additionally unique.

 

The rarity of the upright Canvasback Drake:

The iconic pose of the miniature feeding canvasback drake was lifted directly from an 1884 Chamberlain Cartridge Company Catalogue.  It is noted in the Songless Aviary that the Crowell's would trace over the images so much that incidentally they would end up cutting some of them out!  However the inspiration for Chamberlain's image would truly come from a renowned print released some 50 years earlier.  John James Audubon brought North American birds to life through his monumental undertaking illustrating 489 different species of North American birds.  Widely regarded as the most comprehensive representation of North American birds at the time, his striking images would go on to influence print wildfowl art for the next century.  One of these images are of three highly animated canvasbacks, with the leftmost bird striking near similarity to the one in the Chamberlain Catalogue.

 

It's highly likely that the perpetuated animated interpretation of canvasback drakes in the public eye through catalogues such as Chamberlain's, drove this feeding pose to be an in-demand look that Crowell's clients continuously asked for.  Considering the Crowell's were very open to custom orders, continuous client demand for canvasback drakes in feeding pose must be one of the main the reasons so few were ever made in any other fashion.  Few genuine upright canvasback drakes are known to exist.

 

 

Condition:  Original in exceptional condition with a very light coat of varnish adding to the warm patina.  Tight craquelure across the base, most noticeable on the ends.  Pea sized spot of thin clear wax on the drakes back (near the tail).  Very tiny black paint flake missing off the right side of the drakes bill.  Dark spot of varnish on the drakes belly mostly between the legs. 

 

Provenance:

Private family collection acquired directly from Crowell

 

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Rare Canvasback Miniature Double Mount - Elmer Crowell

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