Ask A Worthologist Question: ‘Piegan Squaw’ Bust


Piegan Squaw” by Charles Marion Russell.

Piegan Squaw” by Charles Marion Russell.

Harris J. had what he believed to be a sculpture by a named American artist—if he was to believe a friend—but didn’t know how to identify it. He engaged WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service, and it was forwarded to me. Here is John’s question:

“I picked this piece up three years ago at a country auction and don’t recall what I paid for it, but it couldn’t have been more than about $20, as I’ve never been one to throw money around. It has no markings on it of any kind that could identify it, but I’ve been told recently this piece was by a well known American artist. This person had seen it in a museum, but didn’t recall the name of the artist or what the piece was called. I don’t plan on selling it, but would like to know who made it and get a value for it in case I need extra insurance coverage for it.”

Mike Wilcox picked up the challenge and informed Harris that while he probably wouldn’t need to insurance it, the piece is worth much more than the purchase price:

Based on the images you sent in, Harris, it’s certainly worth more than $20. This piece was designed by a very famous artist named Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926), who made the original as a plaster model, circa 1909. It wasn’t until the last few months of his life that he modified the plaster model now known as the “Piegan Squaw” for casting in bronze. The first cast of this model was purchased from Russell’s wife Nancy Russell by George Sack in October of 1926. Only five originals were cast during the remainder of Nancy Russell’s life, 17 more sculptures were cast by the Roman Bronze Works Inc., New York, for Charles Russell’s son Jack Cooper Russell after his mother’s death. There were supposed to be 30 in the edition, but only 17 were made, each of these has an edition number, e.g. “8/30.”

Now, here come the “howevers.” Of the originals, nearly all of them are in permanent museum collections. Like much of Russell’s work, this piece has been recast or reproduced in a wide variety of sizes and levels of quality since his death. The lack of any markings on your piece indicates yours in one of the reproductions, but even so, it’s a reasonably good one and worth a good deal more than the $20 you paid for it. Today, comparable quality copies without foundry marks can sell in the $200-$500 range.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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