Last Spring, an interesting piece of early Mormon Folk Art, pictured above, resurfaced. It appears to be a depiction of Joseph Smith. He is standing on a pyramid of steps, holding a stack of gold plates in his hands like a book. The carved wooden figure has lost a bit of his pants and his right boot, but otherwise remains in fine condition.
Who made it? What does it mean? Where did it come from? When was it made? Let’s try to unravel clues about this unique and interesting work of art.
The auction took place at Fontaines Auction Gallery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on March 23, 2013. The catalog gave a few bits of information about the artist and the artwork, but not much. Here is the full catalog description of Lot 106, “Mormon Folk Art Carved Figure”:
Mormon Folk Art Carved Figure. Figure has carved wood legs, arms and painted embellishments including eyes, hair and bearded face; figure is handmade with handmade clothing and holds a brass Book of Mormon in his hands. Stands on a painted yellow, stepped pyramid with handwritten scriptures on the steps. Seelye was a man of the Morman [sic] church in his will he left his property, including his home in Savannah, NY, to his wife and then to the Church of Latter Day Saints. Piece appears to be all original and in good overall condition, accompanied by a portfolio of research provided by the previous owners. 16 in. high. Estimate $800-$1,200. (The lot failed to sell.)
That’s all we have to go on.