by Carlton Hendricks
found this on eBay back
a few years ago, but the way I got it was a little unusual. At
the time there were some pretty aggressive rowing collectors
going after good rowing pieces on eBay. I speculated this piece
could get out of hand so I offered the seller $2,000.00 to close
the auction. Coincidently the seller who was in France, was
going to be in San Francisco shortly, like about two weeks. I
live in the bay area so we made a deal. He would close it and
bring it to San Francisco and I would meet him and pay cash.
out perfect. The guy did exactly as he said and I met him in the
lobby of his hotel and we made the deal right there. Going in I
was apprehensive about meeting a stranger in the Barbary
Coast with two g's in cash on me...I'd seen that episode of
Bonanza where Little Joe gets kidnapped in San Francisco and was
wise! So I
brought a friend....but no need...the seller and his wife were
most pleasant and we actually had a nice visit...a win
for the piece...well...I wouldn't have paid $2,000.00 if
it wasn't something special. This is the kind of piece you
always hope to walk into an antiques shows and find....but never do. Needless to say it's very rare. Essentially it's
sculpture...they just used the inkwell aspect as an excuse to make
a nice statue of a sculler. As for quality....I wouldn't say
it's tiffany's quality, but it is good quality and well
finished. There isn't a shred of a marking to research. I've
looked in every crevasse, literally with a magnifying glass and
nada...absolutely nothing....not even numbers. All I can go on
to date it is the costume of the sculler. He has on the standard
shorts and sort of tank top type shirt early rowers wore. But it's
his billed cap and period style moustache that impress' me to
date it to roughly the turn of the 19th century. For the sake of
simplicity, I'm going with c1900, but it could be as early as 1880.
As for national origin...well....it was bought out of France.
However it could have migrated there from England. I'd guess
it's French of English.
Based on the
style is clearly Art Nouveau. Inkwells are
an interesting collectible in that they were made in seemingly
endless themes. If you go on eBay and look at the ones under Collectibles > Pens & Writing Instruments > Inkwells,
you'll be amazed at all the different ones.
As for this sculler,
it's very rare. I doubt it's the only example but I've never seen another.
I would place it in the category of being one of the top
decorative rowing antiques in the world. Boy are things like
this hard to find! I've been looking high and low for stuff like
this more than twenty one years and like I say, it's the only
one I know of.