The O’Brien-Nelson Hollow Nantucket Curlew
Charles F. Coffin (1835-1919)
Nantucket, MA, c. 1870
15 1/2 in.
A stately and very early three-piece curlew decoy with intricate stippled paint, Coffin’s skills are on full display with the decoy hollowed bird paper thin. This carving is by the same hand as the curlew from the Donal C. O’Brien Jr. Collection featured in Johnsgard’s “The Bird Decoy: An American Art Form” on page 157. The decoys by Coffin, as well as those attributed to Franklin Folger Jr. (1842-1918), are considered to be the best to have come from the whaling seaport of Nantucket. This iconic curlew form relates closely to the plump curlew weathervane held in the Museum of American Folk Art. Rather ironically, the shape of the body of the bird itself looks like the island. Very few, if any, Coffin curlews are held outside of the O’Brien family, making this a rare opportunity to own one of the island’s masterworks.
Fine original paint with even gunning wear and a replaced bill.
Provenance: Nantucket Hunting Rig
Stephen B. O’Brien Sr. Collection, acquired from the family of the above, c. 1970
Grant Nelson Collection, acquired front the above
Literature: Paul A. Johnsgard, “The Bird Decoy: An American Art Form,” Lincoln, NE, 1976, p. 157, pl. 179, rigmate illustrated.
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