HOLMES, LOTHROP T.
a carver of wildfowl decoys, has been celebrated as the “most sophisticated carver of [the] nineteenth century” by decoy specialist Adele Earnest (1901–1993), and asdemonstrating “superb examples of the finest in decoy craftsmanship” by William F.Mackey Jr., a pioneer scholar in the field. Holmes resided in Kingston,Massachusetts, a village in Plymouth Harbor, and is best known for his red-breasted merganser decoys. Earnest extols the “sensitive modeling and brushwork of these birds [which] resembles the exquisite rendering of waterfowl on Chinese scrolls and china.” Mergansers, also known as Sheldrakes, have notoriously rank andunpalatable meat and were not hunted as food, but rather for their feathers and beauty.Biographical material at the Kingston, Massachusetts, public library identifies the carver’s parents as Martin Holmes and Mary Turner Johnson Holmes, and his wifeas Elizabeth Howland Washburn. Holmes worked as a molten-iron pourer at a Kingston foundry, as well as a “molder” at factories in neighboring Rhode Island. Hewas superintendent of the Evergreen Cemetery, which abutted his property. He played the banjo and was a carpenter, and was known locally for his decoys. Holmesdied at the Westboro Insane Hospital in Worcester County, Massachusetts; the cause of death was senile dementia. His estate included guns, fishing tackle, andcarpentry tools. A shooting box and carpentry tools were purchased at his 1899 estate sale by a Kingston neighbor. A ruddy turnstone carved by Holmes was sold for $470,000 at auction in 2000, and a pair of mergansers for $394,500 at auction in 2003.
Adele Earnest; Decoys, Wildfowl; Sculpture, Folk
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Exton, Pa., 1984. ——.
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New York, 1965.Mackey, William F. Jr.
American Bird Decoys.
New York, 1965