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Mackey Purnell Cobb Curlew, Nathan F. Cobb, Jr. (1825-1905)

Mackey Purnell Cobb Curlew, Nathan F. Cobb, Jr. (1825-1905)

Item Description:

Mackey Purnell Cobb Curlew
Nathan F. Cobb, Jr. (1825-1905)
Cobb Island, VA, c. 1870
15 in. long

Nathan Cobb Sr. sailed his family south from Cape Cod to the Eastern Shore of Virginia where they settled around 1837. The family brought with them Massachusetts carving concepts, including the refined split-tail carving style adopted by Lothrop Holmes, A. Elmer Crowell, and Joseph Lincoln. Over time, the Cobbs evolved this style into one of their own. A well-balanced decoy, this curlew exhibits pleasing proportions with a gracefully rounded head, full cheeks, and a plump body that resolves with a precise Cobb Island tail-cut. This confident carving, featuring the Cobb’s signature “V” feathering, represents the pinnacle of the Southern standard.

Birds from this important Cobb rig were first discovered by William J. Mackey, Jr. Later, they were brought to the broader public’s attention when Henry A. Fleckenstein, Jr. featured this exact decoy and a running rigmate both from the Purnell Collection in his seminal book Shore Bird Decoys. Even prior to this, however, rigmates had drawn the attention of “the old guard,” landing in the collections of Lloyd Johnson, Dr. James M. McCleery, and Donal C. O’Brien, Jr.

This stunning curlew, with its original paint, crisp clean lines, and original bill, hits the highest level of craftsmanship seen in the decoys that survived the remote island’s storm-wrecked history.

The underside bears the Purnell collection “P” brand and also the “NELSON” collection stamp. Strong original paint with even gunning wear.

Provenance: William J. Mackey, Jr. Collection
William H. Purnell, Jr. Collection, acquired from the above
Grant Nelson Collection, acquired from the above

Literature: Henry A. Fleckenstein, Jr., "Shore Bird Decoys," Exton, PA, 1980, p. 130, back dust jacket cover, rigmate illustrated, pl. 145, exact decoy illustrated.
Joe Engers, ed., "The Great Book of Wildfowl Decoys," San Diego, CA, 1990, pp. 166-167, rigmate illustrated.
Dr. Lloyd Newberry, "The Saga of Cobb Island," Sporting Classics, Spring/Summer 2018, pp. 140-145, related example illustrated.
Robert H. Richardson ed., "Chesapeake Bay Decoys," Burtonsville, MD, 1991, p. 184, exact decoy illustrated.


Condition report requests can be made via email or by telephone ( or 617.536.0030). Any condition statement given is a courtesy to customers, Copley will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition.

$ 60000.00 ( Sold Price )


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Listed price: $60,000.00

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Mackey Purnell Cobb Curlew, Nathan F. Cobb, Jr. (1825-1905)

Listed price: $60,000.00

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