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Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags and Painted Furniture - EXCEPTIONAL HORSE AND HOOP WEATHERVANE WITH EXCELLENT EARLY SURFACE, MADE BY J.W. FISKE IN NEW YORK CITY, ca 1875-1890's
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  EXCEPTIONAL HORSE AND HOOP WEATHERVANE WITH EXCELLENT EARLY SURFACE, MADE BY J.W. FISKE IN NEW YORK CITY, ca 1875-1890's
Dimensions (inches): 16.75" tall (21" on stand) x 30.75" long x 14.5" deep
Description:
"Horse and Hoop" weathervane, made of hammered copper, with a hammered copper head and tail and with the hoop, shaft, and grommet made of copper tubing. Truly full-bodied, this is an elegant form, racing and or leaping, depending on the angle of trajectory.

The surface is white paint, attractively craquelured and largely washed by weather from the back, shoulders, head and tail, otherwise covered by green verdigris and traces of the original gilding. The back has aged to a charcoal grey-green, probably from acid rain, which results in a spectrum of dark oxidation. This is a wonderful early surface, attractive and unmolested.

The horse and hoop weathervane is iconic in American folk art. Most collectors are familiar with it by way of a design made by A.L. Jewell & Co.'s, which is especially memorable. Throughout the years, numerous examples have been sold, both real and, most unfortunately, modern forgeries. Where high prices are found, fakes usually follow. The strongest priced among the Jewell horse-and-hoops brought $160k at Skinner in 2007. An early date of manufacture, as well as whimsical form, played a role in the price that this and others like it have achieved. Jewell was in business between 1852 and 1867 and was one of the first prolific commercial makers.

This horse-in-hoop example was made by J.W. Fiske in New York City. Fiske opened its doors in 1862-63. A drawing in a similar style is illustrated in both their 1875 and 1893 catalogues and could have been available prior to this time. Drawings were not always accurate, but the grommet that holds the hoop is very accurately portrayed. The horse in the illustration differs, with its head held far more erect. Head position while running is a key identifier in race horses in general, and particularly so in 19th century weathervanes, most of which were copied from Currier & Ives prints. But in this case I suspect that the sketch of the horse might be inaccurate, for reasons I will explain.

This weathervane presently survives as one-of-a-kind among known examples. Its status is especially significant because the Jewell variety is the only other style with a hoop where actual surviving examples of the vane are known. Several Jewells exist, but only this one Fiske.

While unknown with a hoop, this version of Fiske horse is known both with and without a rider, as well as leaping a fence. Variation such as this was common across weathervane makers, who probably stocked few and made most by order, customizing to their client's requests. Identified as simply "Running Horse and Jockey" in their 1893 catalogue, and probably as "Kentucky and Jockey" in earlier catalogues, the same horse is perhaps represented with less accuracy in both the drawings for "Horse and Hoop" and "Horse Over Fence." In the 1893 catalogue, the exact horse (with a jockey) is illustrated quite precisely on page 11, as well as with a banged tail (also with a jockey) on page 10. The banged tail was simply achieved by cutting it off half way down and capping the end.

In reference text, an example with a rider is documented in "A Gallery of American Weathervanes" by the folk art elder statesman Robert Bishop, and Patricia Coblentz (1981, Bonanza Books, Hong Kong), p. 76, as item 127. A similar horse, probably from a different maker, appears as below it, as item 128, on the same page. An example with a rider and a fence is documented in "The Art of the Weathervane" by Steve Miller (1984, Schiffer Publishing, Exton, PA), on page 72. A similar example without a fence, but with cast heads for both horse and rider, probably by Harris & Co. or some other maker, appears in the Miller book on page 114.

Many weathervane makers copied one-another and sometimes even bought from one-another. Sometimes the artists who illustrated the catalogues seem to have worked for more than one firm and, once again, the drawings might not be exact. Any of the above would explain why the Fiske design called horse and hoop has a more erect head in the sketch. Perhaps it is incorrectly illustrated. Perhaps the horse in question here is "Kentucky-in-Hoop" by special order. Or perhaps it is Fiske's version of a horse and hoop made to copy a design being produced by its New York competitor, Thomas W. Jones, in which the horse had a more streamlined head that was almost precisely like it. While the Jones illustration lacks the grommet, a grommet was likely required for strength and simply ignored by the artist. Very similar horses without hoops were pictured in catalogues by J.L. Mott under the name "Tenny" and by Westervelt under the name "Foxhall". In any event, the exact horse in question here was very accurately illustrated by Fiske in 1893, with the same pose, the same mane, and the same swish of tail, and thus is undoubtedly theirs.

Brief Information on Kentucky (f. 1861, d. 1875):
Kentucky was a successful American Thoroughbred racehorse who won 21 of his 23 starts, including 20 consecutive wins. He was by Lexington, who sired three colts in 1861 (out of Glencoe mares) and would each become one of the best race horses in America: Norfolk, Asteroid and Kentucky. Norfolk and Asteroid went undefeated throughout their racing careers, and one of the few horses who ever defeated Kentucky was Norfolk. Kentucky's dam was Magnolia, by the imported British champion Glencoe, who stood at John Harper's Nantura Stock Farm in Kentucky.

Condition: Hoop re-attached at the grommet.
   
Primary Color: green, white
Earliest Date: 1870
Latest Date: 1895
For Sale Status: Sold
Price SOLD
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com
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