Lot 1255
  • 1255

LONG-BILLED CURLEWAMERICAN SCHOOL, 19TH CENTURY | Long-Billed CurlewAmerican School, 19th century

300,000 - 500,000 USD
350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • polychromed wood decoy with wax eye


Dr. John C. Phillips, Beverly, Massachusetts;
by descent to the son of Phillips' personal hunting guide and gunning stand keeper, Wenham Lake, Massachusetts;
Guyette & Schmidt, Ogunquit, Maine, North American Decoys, July 26, 1997, lot 364.


Adele Earnest, "The Art of the Decoy," Decoy Magazine, Vol. 11, no. 6, November/December 1987, pl. 27, p. 8, illus.;
Virginia Bohlin, "Antiques & Collectibles," The Boston Sunday Globe, August 3, 1997, p. F30;
Antiques & The Arts Weekly, July 4, 1997;
Liza Montgomery, Antiques & The Arts Weekly, August 8, 1997 p. 85-D;
Maine Antique Digest, vol. XXV, no. 9, September 1997, p. 9A, illus.;
"Curlew Day," Decoy Magazine, October 15, 1997, pp. 13-15;
"Top 100 Treasures," Art & Antiques, March 1998, p. 74, illus. in color;
Tom Geismar and Harvey Kahn, Spiritually Moving:  A Collection of American Folk Art Sculpture (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998) cat. no. 41, illus. in color;
Rita Reif, "Carved Birds Captured by a Connoisseur's Eye," New York Times, January 9, 2000;
Robert Shaw, Bird Decoys of North America: Nature, History and Art (New York & London: Sterling Publishing, 2010) p. 71, illus. in color.

Catalogue Note

Dr. John Charles Phillips (1876-1938) was a sportsman, ornithologist, conservationist, and natural history author who was also a prominent early patron of the renowned decoy maker A. Elmer Crowell, who managed a hunting camp for him in Wenham, Massachusetts during the first decade of the twentieth century. Phillips, who graduated from Harvard Medical School but never practiced medicine, devoted his life to hunting, studying, and writing about wild animals and birds across the Northern hemisphere. The long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus) is the largest American curlew species and was shot for food and sport throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This decoy is one of a handful of survivors of a shorebird rig owned and gunned over by Phillips. The unidentified master who carved this extraordinary decoy was clearly aware of John James Audubon's depiction (fig. 1) of the species since his bird closely follows the form of one of the two curlews Audubon captured in his painting. The decoy may be intended to represent a female, which have an even longer and more deeply curved bill than males. Other shorebird species from the Phillips rig were part of the collections of decoy connoisseurs Dr. James M. McCleery and Donal C. O'Brien Jr.