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1911 Christy Mathewson Signed Louis Van Oeyen Studio Portrait - Original Book Plate Photograph
Starting Bid - $10,000.00, Sold For - $19,975.00
Presented is an extraordinary and unique rarity that ranks among the finest examples in existence in both the fields of early baseball photography and autographs: an original, large-format professional studio photograph of Christy Mathewson, taken by legendary baseball photographer Louis Van Oeyen, personally inscribed by Mathewson to Van Oeyen. The oval photograph pictures Mathewson in a formal studio pose and has been inscribed and dated in black fountain pen directly on his image: "Kindest regards to L. Van Oeyen - Christy Mathewson. 1. 28 1911." The special presentation of this piece by Mathewson to Van Oeyen is related to its remarkable provenance. This photograph is familiar because it is the very image that was used as the photo plate opposite the title page for Mathewson's book
Pitching in a Pinch
(published in 1911 by G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York), where credit to Van Oeyen for the photo is duly noted both at the base of the page and on the photo.
Van Oeyen, unlike many of his contemporary sports photographers, was also a gifted portraitist, so it is not surprising that Mathewson would request a formal portrait for use in his book. This photograph originates from Van Oeyen's estate.
Mathewson and Van Oeyen were both at the height of their respective careers in 1911. Mathewson won 26 games that year and helped lead the Giants to their second consecutive pennant. From 1903 through 1914 Mathewson never failed to win at least twenty-two games, and on four occasions he won thirty or more. At that same time, on the other side of the lines, Van Oeyen was making his own mark in the field of photography. His newspaper career officially began in 1901 with his coverage of President McKinley's assassination. Working for the Cleveland Press , Van Oeyen often covered a wide variety of new stories, but his greatest passion was baseball. By 1908 his reputation as one of the top cameramen in the nation earned him the title of the American League's official photographer, a position he held until 1922. Today, the largest collection of Van Oeyen's work (approximately 3,000 original negatives and corresponding photos) is housed in the Western Reserve Historical Society. Early baseball photographs of Hall of Fame players, especially those taken by one of the top photographers of the era, such as Van Oeyen, have long been highly prized by collectors and constitute an important and distinct field of collecting. The fact that the offered photograph was used by Mathewson in his book and has also been personally inscribed to Van Oeyen by Mathewson distinguishes it as one of the most extraordinary signed baseball photographs that could possibly exist. Mathewson signatures are among the most desirable of all prewar Hall of Famers. They are also very rare, due to the fact that Mathewson passed away prematurely in 1925 at the age of forty-five. Only a few signed photographs of Mathewson are known to exist, and of these, no other has such an extraordinary significance and provenance.
The quality of the photograph is extraordinary in all respects. It is flawless. Both the inscription and signature are virtually perfect and fairly uniform in strength, averaging "9" overall, though certain portions contrast variably against the varying background tones. The photograph, which has been perfectly cut into its oval shape, measures 7 x 9 inches and has been affixed to a brown cardboard photographer's mount. The photograph is in Near Mint to Mint condition. Beautifully matted and framed to total dimensions of 15.5 x 17.5 inches. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $19,975.00
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