20 Reasons To Love Americana, Day 12


Today’s blog in our series showcasing standout examples of Americana that will be offered at the Winter Antiques Show January 19–29 at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory considers how the eagle is such an enduring symbol of Americana.

English Regency giltwood eagle, circa 1820

Specializing in Eighteenth–Nineteenth Century English furniture and decorative arts, Georgian Manor Antiques, Fairhaven, Mass., will bring this Regency carved giltwood eagle to the Winter show. The eagle is frequently seen on top of English Regency carved mirrors but the eagle is a popular symbol of Americana. Think of John Bellamy carved eagles, the Great Seal of the United States, and countless other interpretations of the eagle in Americana and folk art and in antiques in general.

Georgian Manor’s example is carved in a naturalistic style and a good size at 18 inches tall and 23½ inches wide. This piece dates to 1820, at the same time the Federal period was winding down in America and similar examples from this side of the pond could be placed side by side for interesting consideration. One speculates that though the eagle came to be the emblem of this country, the English appreciated the eagle for the same reasons Americans do.

There are differences however between the English and the American interpretations of the eagle. In American carvings, one usually sees the eagle holding symbolic objects in his talon, perhaps a banner a la Bellamy, or holding arrows as a sign of war or symbols of peace.

This Bellamy eagle fetched over $600,000 at Northeast Auctions in 2005.

Carver John Haley Bellamy (1836–1914) is known to have carved hundreds of eagles, and many more unsigned examples are attributed to him or his followers. He usually carved his eagles from four pieces of wood and to capitalize on the eagle’s powerful essence, he focused on its outstretched wigs, its strong neckline and sharp beak. A motif or message would be written on the banner held by the eagle like “Don’t Give Up the Ship” or “Remember the Maine.”

Authentic Bellamy eagles are highly desirable to collectors and most of us in the antiques trade well recall Northeast Auctions’ sale in August 2005 that boasted not one but two Bellamy’s. One plaque sold for $145,000 but a larger and more detailed Bellamy eagle, estimated to fetch $90/120,000, attained an incredible $600,000 plus the buyer’s premium.

For more information, www.georgianmanorantiques.com or 508-991-5675. Make sure to visit the dealers’ booth at the Winter Antiques Show to see this and other fine antiques. For show information, www.winterantiquesshow.com or 212-987-0446.

— Andrea Valluzzo


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