Introducing Mesmerizer

By Marc Banks RM538 and Art DelFavero RM552

Arturo and I have spent the best part of two years searching for examples of the works of this classic carver who gave his characters a trance-like gaze. I had acquired Example 1 in 2018. Later that year Art found a match (2) searching the archives. A carving in Arturo’s own collection (3), a much more finished piece, also had the same staring eye, a similar hat with a crescent-shaped brim and triangular fold at the front of the collar as Examples 1 and 2. Although we felt this carving was the work of the same artist, we continued to search for additional specimens. To date, two more less finished carvings have been identified, Examples 4 with the name "Cohen" scribed across the neck and Example 5 which appears to be either an earlier or hurried work. Neither of these has a collar, but they do have the same hat with the crescent brim, similar ears and the tell-tale gaze. Example 6 was Lot #1 in OHNS Auction 27. We decided to nickname the carver of these pieces "Mesmerizer" in reference to the hypnotic stare on each of these carvings.

Click to view enlargment.
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The carving characteristics for "Mesmerizer" are listed as follows:

  1. The eyes on all five carvings have a triangular outline and a pupil that stares forward as if in a trance. Eyebrows on all five examples; crow’s feet have been added to Examples 1 and 2.
  2. Derbies with crescent-shaped brims, bows with or without hat bands.
  3. Tilt of hat varies.
  4. Oval, well-placed ears with inner detail.
  5. Hair moustache and beard carved either with a knife or graver.
  6. Cheek enhanced on Examples 1 and 2.
  7. Obvious enhancement to mouth on Examples 1, 2, and 3.
  8. Light to moderate modifications to profile.
  9. Fields well-dress with the exception of Example 5 which is somewhat choppy.
  10. Full LIBERTY is visible except on Example 3 hat brim extends into the "LIB".
  11. The carvings with dates span 1913-1915.