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Hooded Merganser Decoy, Samuel R. Hutchings (1894-1995)

Hooded Merganser Decoy, Samuel R. Hutchings (1894-1995)

Item Description:

Samuel R. Hutchings (1894-1995)
Jones Falls, Ontario, Canada, c. 1910
11 in. long

Samuel Hutchings lived to see his 100th year, but will be remembered primarily for his decoys attributed to his teenage years (c. 1908-1914). He was a carving prodigy inspired by his grandfather who was a master blacksmith. Decoy historians Gene and Linda Kangas interviewed Hutchings as an octogenarian and chose a pair of these exceptional hooded mergansers as the front cover for their “Great Lakes Interpretations” book. They write, “The uniqueness is in their petite jewel-like bodies embellished by intricate cross-hatched diamonds incised into the head and bodies…Each varies in total degree of ornamental surface articulation…Sam reminisced about his fascination with his maternal grandfather’s blacksmithing shop back when he was a child….‘As soon as I could walk there [age three or older], I was up in his shop watching him make things and...would get involved which interested me and got me started making things…’ Known examples of his grandfather’s hand-forged ironwork feature ‘checkered’ decorative surfaces…In the global lexicon of decoy designs, there are no others of corresponding vision.”

Hutchings' creation of great decoys was cut short, after his brief flourish as a young decoy carver he became entirely immersed in the family dairy farm. Reportedly, he made no decoys between 1914 and 1967, and his later works would never approach the bar he set as a youth.

All of the black feather areas on this pair are hatched or cross-hatched, while the white on the head and breast is outlined and left smooth, heightening the intensity of the design. The maker’s passion for surface carving extends under the tails where the live ducks would never see his workmanship. Each has raised wings with delineated primaries. This pair, along with the cover birds on the Kangas book, displays crests in the raised and lowered positions.

This Merganser is Hutching’s raciest model with sweeping lines from tip-to-tail emphasized by the drawn back crest and his complementary hatching. This petite decoy is a full inch shorter than its rigmate, lot 461. The underside is marked with the Roger Young collection mark.
Original and old working paint, much of which has been successfully removed, three-quarter restoration to bill.

Provenance: Henry Darling Smith Rig, acquired from the artist in 1919

Private Collection, by descent from the above

Private Collection, acquired from the above circa 1996

Literature: Gene and Linda Kangas, "Great Lakes Interpretations," Concord, OH, 2011, front cover, pp. 45, 51, 75, related examples illustrated.

Decoys Unlimited Auctions, "Spectacular Summer Decoy Auction," July 28 & 29, 2013, lot 101A, exact decoy illustrated.

Linda and Gene Kangas, “A Bit Racy: The Inspired Diversity of Merganser Decoys,” Decoy Magazine, May/June 2007, p. 25, related example illustrated.

Larry Lunman, “David W. Nichol and the Decoys of the Rideau Canal Waterway,” Louisville, KY, 2003, p. 18, related example illustrated.


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$ 24000.00 ( Sold Price )



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