(3) 1880s FRANCISCO VARGAS WAX FIGURINES / SCULPTURES
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Sold Date: 03/24/2008
Channel: Online Auction
Category: Ethnic, Folk & Native American Art
Rare and important!! Lot of 3 Francisco Vargas style Wax Figures, c.1880. These figures are beautifully sculpted and detailed, though we have not been able to find any markings identifying the artist. The first 2 sculptures each measure approximately 10 ½-11" not including the height of their bases. Bases add an additional 2" to total height. Even though these sculptures are not marked, we believe that they may very well have been sculpted by either Francisco Vargus or his daughter Concepcion! They are done in the same level of detail, style, and size as other Vargus pieces, and sit on the same type of circular stepped wood base that other Francisco Vargus sculptures stand on. Both figures are dressed in their original native waxed fabric costumes, and both have glass eyes, and an enormous amount of detail (you can even see the veins in the male figures hands and arms!). The third figure is smaller, measuring around 7" in height. This figure is also beautifully sculpted, but does lack some of the high level detail that can be found on the other 2 figures. This figure is also dressed in its original native waxed fabric clothing, but does not have a base with it. All 3 of the figures have a significant amount of wear and damage. The two larger figures are each missing at least 1 foot, their fingers, some of their hair, have various cracks, and do not have any accessories which look to be present with others of theses type of figures. The third figure has also sustained a significant amount of damage, and is missing both hands, one foot, and her second foot is detached from her leg. She is still equipped with a bundle over her shoulders. Even with the wear that these 3 figures show, they have retained an enormous amount of character, and detail, and remain an important piece of Western Americana. We are not experts and cannot be 100% sure that these figures are by Francisco Vargas or if they were made by another member of his family (the prosuction of similar Wax Figures became a family enterprise with the Vargas) however, the 2 larger Figures are mounted on wooden bases that are identical to those found on signed and authenticated Francisco Vargas works adding further evidence to our belief that these were executed by Francisco Vargas himself. An outstanding lot of three Vargus style wax figures, and a wonderful addition to any collection!!!
Some information about Francisco Vargus, and his family:
Born in 1825, Francisco Vargas Sr. was a native of Mexico who arrived in the United States by covered wagon in 1864 and found his way to New Orleans several years later. By 1875, he had set up shop on Royal Street, making wax sculptures, a trade he had learned as a boy from a Jesuit priest. Though beeswax sculptures had been produced for centuries by various cultures, Vargas was part of a resurgence in popularity for the art form, which had started in Mexico during the mid-1800s. Instead of focusing on religious images, Vargas embraced a wider variety of subjects and found a niche in creating human figures and animals as well as fruits, vegetables and flowers. Among the most highly prized of his works were lifelike sculptures of American Indians, often shown in vigorous activities such as riding a horse or hunting with bow and arrow. Vargas' original sculptures were known for their complexity and intricate detail, which included such minute features as eyelashes, hair and even beads of perspiration. Having become well-known locally for the quality of his wax images, Vargas was commissioned in 1884 to produce a 30-foot-high statue of "King Cotton" surrounded by life-sized black figures, along with a variety of indigenous flora, fruits and vegetables, for an enormous exhibit that was the centerpiece of the Agricultural Hall at the Louisiana World Cotton and Industrial Exposition. This project led to similar commissions for wax sculptures at the St. Louis World's Exposition and the Buffalo Exposition. After his death in 1915, a number of his works were featured at the Louisiana Museum in the Cabildo, as well as the Nation...
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