he weathervane, a principal object within the canon of American folk art, can appear at auction in a number of forms. Horses, farmers, fish and fowl – the list goes on. But the Gabriel Weathervane, also known as "Fame," stands above the rest; the archangel is considered the most rare and desirable icon of American weathervanes. Two highly important Gabriel Weathervanes dating from the 19th century will feature in the upcoming Sculptural Fantasy: The Important American Folk Art Collection of Stephen and Petra Levin auction, marking an incredible opportunity for Folk Art collectors.
Forged in the Heartland of the Second Great Awakening
early two centuries ago, the central and western regions of New York state were alight with the religious fervor of the Second Great Awakening. Crown Point, a small New York town nestled along the western shore of Lake Champlain, was caught at the center of the spiritual revival, an occasion which called for the building of a new church. Construction for the White Church was completed in 1822; to crown the achievement, local blacksmith William Henry Forester forged a suitably ecclesiastical weathervane to be fixed atop the steeple. Using several wrought sheets of sheet iron from the same foundry and mine that would, decades later, supply iron for both the U.S.S. Monitor and the Brooklyn Bridge, Forester crafted the present Angel Gabriel weathervane. Parishioners and townsfolk soon nicknamed the large weathervane 'Old Gabriel'.
In the coming decades, the fixture weathered many storms, not to mention several moves. In 1883, the original White Church was leveled, and a new church was built in it's place; once again, Old Gabriel was affixed to the steeple. Sixty years later, the church was struck by lightening and burned to the ground; among the ashes lay Old Gabriel, intact and unscathed. A third White Church was completed in 1946, and Old Gabriel returned to its mast. In 2003, the historical vane was, shockingly, stolen from the third White Church; remarkably, the vane was recovered three years later and returned to its parishioners.
Now, it's time for Old Gabriel to find a new resting place. Measuring 18 ½ in. high, 72 ½ in. long and 14 in. deep, this highly important Angel Gabriel Weathervane is estimated to reach $750,000 – 1,000,000 at auction.
Cast in a Bold Three-Dimensional Form, with a Time-Worn Patina
rafted circa 1872 for the Christian Chapel in Franklin, Ohio, this highly important Angel Gabriel Weathervane is also sculptural, making this vane particularly unique within the category of weathervanes. Measuring 36 ½ in. high, 65 inches long and 8 ¾ in. wide, this sheet copper vane is full-bodied and finely weathered. The artist, possibly of the famed Mott Co. in Chicago, Illinois, skillfully detailed the archangel's wings and robes to make the figure appear caught in flight. The effect is heightened by the verdigris surface, which glimmers with traces of its original gold leaf and paint sizing. As with the Old Gabriel – Crown Point Weathervane, the present archangel is shown with a long horn fixed to his lips, ready to sound out a call. While the Bible never depicts the Angel Gabriel blowing a trumpet, the detail is possibly an interpretation of Luke 1:26, which notes:
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.