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1899 Original Wee Willie Keeler Artwork by P. W. Costello
Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $823
Original 1899 artwork of Hall of Fame outfielder Wee Willie Keeler, executed in pen and ink on artist board, by well-known master engrosser P. W. Costello. Lettered "William H. Keeler - Right Fielder - Brooklyn, 1899" along the base. Signed by the artist in the lower right corner. Collectors will immediately note that this finely rendered work is nearly identical to that of Keeler's portrait image featured in the M101-1 Sporting News Premium issued in the same year. That is probably not a coincidence, as it is almost certain that Costello used the Sporting News piece as the basis for this work. Costello (1866-1935), in addition to being a highly skilled engrosser, was also co-owner of Costello & Fleming’s Arbor Café, a popular restaurant in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Costello delighted in decorating the walls of the cafe with his famous portraits of local and national celebrities, most of which were drawn from photographs of his subjects. He was also a huge baseball fan and an ardent supporter of Scranton's minor league team. Included among his many known baseball portraits are those of Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Connie Mack, and Bucky Harris. It seems only natural that Keeler too would be included in his portfolio of baseball stars. While we cannot be certain, it seems probable that the offered work of Keeler was one of many such portraits that once graced the walls of his cafe. Supporting that theory is the fact that a vintage pencil notation written on the back of the piece's mounting board reads "Hodgson and Nason - Scranton Pa." (possibly the name of another establishment in Scranton where this piece was once displayed). Original nineteenth-century baseball artworks are quite rare, especially those produced by noted artists and featuring major stars. This is one of the finest such pieces we have ever come across and one that would appeal equally to both art and baseball collectors. The piece (13.5 x 20 inches) displays minor water stains along the right and bottom border, as well as few edge tears along all four borders. In Very Good to Excellent condition. The artwork remains housed in its original wood frame (16 x 22.5 inches); the backing of the frame has come undone and the frame may require the services of a professional framer to firmly secure the piece in the most ideal manner. Reserve $300. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $823
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