Vintage Hand-Carved, Painted and Parcel-Gilded Wood Eagle with American Flag, by George Strapf
Presented is an antique hand-carved eagle by George Strapf. Painted and parcel-gilded, this wood eagle is a stellar example of American folk art at the turn of the 20th century. The eagle clutches a shield in its dexter talon and supports an American flag with its neck. Philadelphia artist, George Strapf, carved this wooden eagle.
A patriotic work, this hand-carved wooden eagle features a stylized eagle with detailed feathers and dates to circa 1890-1918. The long, swooping neck supports a flagpole carrying a 35-star American flag. Each star is carved, rather than simply painted, and the stripes are carved as elegant ripples. The eagle’s sinister talon has a markedly more square shape. Similar to another famous folk artist, John Haley Bellamy, this eagle has an open and curved beak. However, eagle carvings by George Strapf are even more rare than Bellamy.
George Strapf (1862-1958) was the son of a German engineer and active as a carver in Harrisburg and in Philadelphia. In 1890, Strapf moved to Harrisburg with his brother to open a carpentry business. Strapf specialized in carving ornate spiral staircases. His large carpentry jobs were put on hold during the winters, due to inclement weather, which prompted Strapf to carve eagles as a way to supplement his income. Between 1890 and 1918, the Strapf created popular eagle carvings, many of which clutched a shield and had a long, curving neck wrapped around a flagpole such as this one. Throughout his career, Strapf produced large stylized carvings for government buildings and veterans’ halls, including the Grand Army of the Republic, as well as smaller eagles for households. Only in the last few decades has George Strapf’s work been identified, making his decorative carvings exceedingly rare.
The eagle motif in décor and folk art has been widely used throughout our nation's history, most notably as part of our Great Seal. The founders of the United States were fond of comparing their new republic with the Roman Republic, in which eagle imagery, usually the golden eagle, was prominent. On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress adopted the design for the Great Seal of the United States depicting a bald eagle grasping 13 arrows and an olive branch with its talons.
Overall very good condition considering age. Dating to 1890-1918, the eagle is completely hand-carved, painted, and gilded. Some surface-wear. Some old in-painting present. Thin loss of material on the right side of the shield. Hanging hardware present. Dimensions: 22” H x 29 ¾” W x 3 ¾” D.