Elihu Vedder (American, 1836-1923)
Possibly The Sun God/ A Tripartite Fireback
Side panels inscribed "No. 09 COPYRIGHT..." in cast l.c., center panel inscribed
and dated "No. 9 COPYRIGHTED. 188.../...LINGTON AND BURRAGE" in cast l.c.
Cast-iron, side panels sight sizes approximately 30 x 13 1/2 in. (76.2 x 34.3 cm), center panel approximately sight size 30 x 25 1/4 in. (76.2 x 64.1 cm), in a period-style frame.
Condition: Small loss to sunflower head on right side panel, minor areas of oxidation.
Provenance: Through the Estate of Graham Devoe Williford.
N.B. There are four known Vedder fireback designs, including The Sun God, accounted for in Carrie Vedder's salesbook and 'The Digressions of V.' (1) Between 1881 and 1883, Vedder had partnered with John Gardner Low of J. and J.G. Low Art Tile Works, and Charles Caryl Coleman for the manufacture of his decorative art designs. The company referred to on the present work, Wellington and Burrage of Boston, appears to have been agents for the Magee Furnace Company (a cast-iron manufacturer of stoves and furnaces as well as decorative art castings) as well as J. and J.G. Low (art tile manufacturers), both of Chelsea, Massachusetts. (2)
Though the title for the present work is unconfirmed, it may be The Sun God based on a reference by Vedder as well as comparison to confirmed images or descriptions of The Soul of the Sunflower, Faces in the Fire, and The Japanese Dragon. (3). The work strongly resembles the Vedder fireback described and illustrated in Robert Treat Paine's House in Beacon Hill, Boston—'…behind the ashes on the hearth is a large mythical head of cast-iron, designed by Vedder in the spirit of his famous head of Samson…' (4)
(1) Vedder, Elihu. The Digressions of V.: Written for His Own Fun and that of His Friends. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1910. Pg. 481. Also see Soria, Regina. Elihu Vedder: American Visionary Artist in Rome (1836-1923). Cranbury: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1970. Pp. 275-277, 385-387.
(2) Fourteenth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, in the Building on Huntington Avenue and West Newton Street, Boston, September and October, 1881. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, 1881. Pg. 22, 48, 49, 73.
(3) Soria, pg. 161.
(4) [Sheldon, George William] Artistic Houses [being a series of interior views of a number of the most beautiful and celebrated homes in the United States, with a description of the art treasures contained therein]. Vol. II, Part. I. New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc. 1971, pp. 21-23.
Loss to sunflower on right side panel approx. 1 1/4 x 1/4 in., approx. 165 lbs, frame dimensions are 35 x 62 1/4 x 2 1/2 in. Due to the extensive framing, we are unable to remove the wood backing to examine the reverse.