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Lot # 810 (of 1594)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Circa 1865 Original Artwork of the Brooklyn Atlantics

Starting Bid - $1,000.00, Sold For - $2,937.50

Offered here is what we believe to be the oldest baseball painting in existence featuring likenesses of actual ballplayers. This incredible find depicts the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics in a traditional team pose and, based upon the vintage inscription on the reverse of the frame, this painting may have once hung in the team's clubhouse. All of the players depicted in the painting can be positively identified based upon a known photograph of the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics. Pictured here, left to right, are Frank Norton, Sid Smith, Dickey Pearce, Joe Start, Peter O'Brien, Charles Smith, John Chapman, Fred Crane, John Galvin, and Tom Pratt. The fact that there are slight differences in the pose of players in the painting compared to a known photograph of this team suggests that more than one team photo was taken during the same shoot, and this painting was based on a currently unknown alternate image. The only hint as to the origin of the piece (the work is not signed or dated) is to be found on the reverse. There, affixed to the top of the frame, is a small strip of white paper that bears the vintage black fountain pen inscription, "The property of the Brooklyn Club." While many photographs exist dating from the earliest days of our national pastime, original artworks simply do not. This is truly a rare piece with an extraordinary historical significance far greater than suggested by pure aesthetics. The 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics were the top baseball club in New York that season, and therefore the country, since New York was the center of the baseball universe at the time. Dickey Pearce, pictured third from the left, was not only the club's best player but also one of the most important baseball figures of the nineteenth century. Fleet afoot and an excellent infielder, he helped revolutionize the game by basically creating the modern-day position of shortstop. Pearce also starred for Brooklyn in the legendary Fashion Course Series of 1858, and was later called the greatest shortstop of the nineteenth century by no less an authority than Albert Spalding. Others concurred with that opinion. In a 1911 story in the New York Journal , the esteemed sportswriter Sam Crane ranked Dickey Pearce eighth on a list of the fifty greatest ballplayers in history. Prior to the discovery of this piece, the oldest known painting to feature actual ballplayers is a painting of the 1867 Unions of Morrisania, followed by a watercolor dating from 1875 by Thomas Eakins titled "Base Ball Players Practicing" that pictures a game-in-progress with Wes Fisler at bat and with John Clapp catching. An 1870 painting of a game-in-progress is also known (Baltic vs. Liberty). The offered artwork, which appears to be rendered in oil, has been produced on a canvas that is stretched over a wooden frame. The painting was then later coated with clear varnish for preservation. A small vertical two-inch tear is evident in the center of the piece and two other minor tears have been repaired by patches on the reverse. The painting is dark in tone and displays light soiling as well. The wooden frame, nails, and all of the other components of the piece appear to be quite old including a manufacturer's sticker on the reverse of the frame that reads "P. J. Ulrich's - Importers of Artists' Materials - Cor. 12th St. & 4th Ave." While there is no way to state with absolute certainty that this piece was created precisely in 1865, we are certain that the team depicted is the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics. That fact, combined with the vintage notation on the reverse and the apparent age of the piece, strongly suggests that this painting is a circa 1865 artistic rendition of the Brooklyn Atlantics, champions of the country, that was produced at the time for display in the team's clubhouse. As such, it merits recognition as the earliest known baseball painting depicting actual players. The painting measures 25 x 18.5 inches and has been stretched over a wood frame, with the sides of the canvas affixed to the frame by numerous vintage nails. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $2,937.50

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