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Preening Black Duck, Albert Davids Laing (1811-1886)

Preening Black Duck, Albert Davids Laing (1811-1886)

Item Description:

Preening Black Duck
Albert Davids Laing (1811-1886)
New York, NY and Stratford, CT, c. 1855
13 1/4 in. long

An exceptional hollow preening decoy by the father of the Stratford school. Laing, originally from New York City, is one of the earliest documented carvers in North America. This decoy was used in the famous gunning rig belonging to Charles E. "Shang" Wheeler.

Like many of the decoys in Wheeler's collection, this black duck was owned by Joel Barber. Upon Barber's passing it was acquired by the family of Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960) and presented to the Shelburne Museum. Having acquired two nearly identical rigmates, the museum deaccessioned this decoy in 1985, selling it at the Bourne Auction Company where it set the world-record price for a Laing. The underside bears the museum's collection stamp.

There is no evidence that Laing ever sold decoys commercially, and it is believed that at the time of his death the one hundred eleven decoys from his gunning rig constituted the majority of his entire output. According to Chitwood, Laing’s entire hunting rig was sold after his passing in 1886 for $45.

Well ahead of his time, Laing’s innovative carving style incorporated several design insights into his craft, including positioning the seam line of his hollow carved decoys above the waterline to prevent water from seeping into the seam. His decoys are carved with long, sleek bodies and a full proud breast. Perhaps Laing's greatest contribution was adding a lifelike quality to his decoys by utilizing a variety of head positions.
In working Wheeler paint with gunning wear.

Provenance: Albert D. Laing Rig
Charles E. "Shang" Wheeler Rig
Joel Barber Collection
Electra Havemeyer Webb Family, acquired from the estate of the above
Shelburne Museum Collection, acquired from the above
Donal C. O'Brien, Jr. Collection

Literature: Richard A. Bourne Co., Inc., "Rare American Decoys & Bird Carvings," December 6 & 7, 1985, p. 43, lot 233, exact decoy illustrated.
David S. Webster & William Kehoe, "Shelburne Museum Decoys," Shelburne, VT, 1961, p. 16, rigmate illustrated.
H. Chitwood, "Connecticut Decoys," West Chester, PA, 1987, p. 27, rigmate 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.

$ 17000.00 ( Sold Price )


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Listed price: $25,000.00

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Preening Black Duck, Albert Davids Laing (1811-1886)

Listed price: $25,000.00

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