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Lot # 1297 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Circa 1955 Willard Mullin Original "Brooklyn Bum" Statue - Prototype for a Commercial Lamp

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $9,988

In the world of original Willard Mullin artworks this remarkable piece stands alone in terms of rarity by virtue of its one distinctive feature: it is three dimensional. Conversely, it also stands alone in terms of desirability by virtue of what it depicts: the iconi "Brooklyn Bum". This statue, dating from the 1950s, is one of only two known sculptures of the "Bum" ever created by Mullin and represents a prototype for a commercial venture that never came to fruition. In the 1950s Mullin was approached by a lamp manufacturer (our consignor's husband) who had a novel business proposition: he wanted to market a lamp made in the likeness of the "Brooklyn Bum." Mullin was receptive to the idea and the two collaborated on a design for the base and lampshade. The statue offered here, sculpted by Mullin, represents the prototype for what was to be the base. Unfortunately, the three-dimensional representation of the "Bum" demanded too much intricacy in its design and the cost analysis of mass production ultimately doomed the project. At the time of the project's conception, Mullin created two near-identical statues of the "Bum." One was kept by his business partner, which is the offered piece, and the other was kept by Mullin. According to our consignor, who has maintained contact with Mullin's family over the years, the whereabouts of the other example is presently unknown, but theoretically could still exist. However, until that second piece surfaces (if ever), the offered example stands alone as the only confirmed example, and is one of the most unique and desirable of all original Willard Mullin artworks.

Willard Mullin was one of America's best-loved sports cartoonists and is best remembered today as the creator of the "Brooklyn Bum," one of the most iconic images in the field. Over the years, hundreds of Mullin's original artworks have been offered at public auction, all of which are in the form of his standard pen-and-ink drawings. Three dimensional works of art by Mullin, such as this, are the rare exception and we cannot recall having seen any others, let alone one of the "Bum." When we spoke with our consignor about this piece she recalled how difficult it was for Mullin to create it. Sculpting was a totally different art form from that of his normal profession and he was not comfortable with the medium. While he was happy with the finished product, the experience was more laborious than he imagined and he was actually relieved when the project was over. The results, by our standards, are quite exceptional, with Mullin having perfectly mastered the crossover from pen to carving tool. The statue, which captures the "Bum" holding a stack of bats, stands twelve inches in height and measures approximately nine inches across the widest part of its base. It is signed by Mullin on the reverse. Ideally, the statue is accompanied by a number of additional pieces directly relating to its provenance. 1) Original black-and-white photo (8 x 10 inches) of Mullin working on this very piece that is perfect for display with it. 2) Two original sketch drawings intended for use as illustrations on the lampshade. The design features numerous images of the "Bum" dancing and cavorting about, with one of the strips bearing Mullin's signature. Also included are three photographic sheets picturing negative images of the original lampshade design. 3) Original Willard Mullin artwork (8 x 11.5 inches) of the "Bum," inscribed to our consignor's husband: "To Carl - This Aint the Guy - But... Let's Hope - Willard Mullin." This is truly a unique Willard Mullin original artwork, the likes of which has never been seen before. For anyone wishing to add this rare piece to their collection, we offer one simple caveat: do not "wait til next year": there will not be another example forthcoming! Total: 8 items (statue, photo, five lampshade design sheets, and original Mullin drawing). Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $9,988

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