Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Three Giants, Born of Earth and Sky

Leave it to Greek mythology to give one a literary parallel when it is most needed. The three giants that defeated the Titans were the Hekatonheires: Cottus, the Striker; Gyges, the Big-Limbed; Briareus, the Vigorous. I could not have come up with more fitting names for the three giant molds in today's post. They were the children of Earth (Gaia) and Sky (Uranus). These giants are indeed composed of earthenware, and compared to their puny 1:9 scale counterparts, they do seem to be partly of the sky. Or, rather, in it.

This fellow must be our giant Striker, Cottus.

24.25" tall x 15" wide, mold # H-114, photo courtesy D. Whitley.

Here is Gyges, whose limbs are, indeed, thicker than the others.

24" tall x 18" wide, mold # H-11.

Reviewing the April post about the Giant OF Lane Love horses, there was palpable excitement about the confirmation of the existence of both Giant Facing Right and Giant Facing Left (Leg-Out). I had mold numbers, and everything! Within 24 hours of posting that doozy, I found a third Giant mold while surfing the net. It's almost become a tradition that new data appears in my inbox, or is under my nose at the flea market, the day after I click the Publish button, so this Giant didn't utterly destroy my village. I'm used to it.

I dub thee, "Briareus", you vigorous beast.

24" tall x 16" wide, mold # H-114

Hey, that's very familiar. Didn't we just see two slightly different 14" versions of this guy? Yes, apparently the Mustard glaze isn't the only big-and-little set Lane produced. Here are the wee versions, again. The giant has different mane and tail details, foreleg attachment, base, and facial profile. It is a derivation, not a whole new sculpt by Maureen's hand.

The 14" tall mold version is numbered 1155.

What is even more familiar is his mold number. Yes, he has the same mold number incised as the version from which he is derived. The moldmaker forgot to add the next number, perhaps? Or maybe this H-114 replaced the Leg-Out Giant?

To review, the underside of the Leg-Out Giant # H-114.

Now, my big pal Briareus was in an online ad for sale, at a proper price for his size and condition (not mint), but he had also had a giant downside. He was in Fargo, ND and the seller would not ship. Heck, the seller was reluctant to even speak more than a couple words on the phone. How to rescue this piece and bring it to collector awareness?

Enter the awesome power of the model horse collector network. I had just completed a custom glaze commission for collector in a neighboring state. I sent her an email asking if she knew any hobbyists in the Fargo, ND area who might be able to pick up and ship this mighty fellow. To my astonishment, she wrote back quickly and introduced me to MaryJo Rust.

What is even more amazing is that MaryJo, a plastic collector with a self-admitted fear of clinkies, was quick to volunteer. When she arrived the first time at the seller's, she discovered that the horse was not mint. The ad did not mention damage, so she dutifully returned home and described it in detail, via email. When I gave her the go-ahead to purchase, even with the flaws, she went back and bought him without asking me to send funds in advance. When people talk about heroes in our hobby, and the community spirit  that is at the heart of the collecting network, MaryJo leaps to my mind as one of those heroines! Who takes on such a Herculean, or Heraclean,  feat for a stranger, across the country? A model horse collector, that's who!

Meanwhile, I received these photos of a custom glazed hobby mold of the giant Bil-Mar #524 Large Rearing Horse from collector Myla Pearce:

She wrote: "I just can't imagine how hard it must have been to clean these huge pieces when green and then firing them. This guy is glass smooth and the green colors are so pretty and colorful. I just can't believe how BIG he is!
"I'm so glad you have this blog, I would have never known about these pieces otherwise.

"I found it while surfing ebay. At first I thought it was the smaller version then realized the whole piece was different, but there is no denying that head is a Love sculpt. :-) I was thrilled to discover it was the huge version! Since I just lost my Friesian stallion and this was a gorgeous glossy black like my boy I decided to treat myself to this piece in his memory."

And here is an OF Lane 239 version 2 (17") in a glaze that is new to me.

Recalibrate your retinas at your leisure. While you wait, here is the range from Mustard to Caramel on H-1 versions 1 and 2.

More OF colors have come to light, and I'll save sharing those for the next Lane update. I am going to have more time for blogging after BreyerFest!


Pearce, Myla. Pers. comm. 5/4-5/2012.

Yeah, I know it's Wikipedia, but that is it, in a nutshell.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Nataf Flesh and Clay: Part Two

Back in February, I posted some research into the real "Nataf", known among ceramic collectors as a very large San Marcos era Hagen-Renaker Designer's Workshop model. More information has found its way here, via blog readers and recent personal library acquisitions. Cindy Turner even surprised me with an original San Marcos pricelist!

I love the format of a blog, in that I can endlessly add and correct data, and it keeps a running record of when and how new data came to our collective online awareness. Nothing is ever set in stone, we are always learning. You, as collectors and readers, help make this blog happen, with submissions and email notes.

An unusually Toasty Nataf, yellow in tone, photo by author.

Even-tempered as I am, finding this gave me a chill. The text in the middle of this Nataf stud ad variation is very close to my posts' titles. I never saw it before this week; it did not inspire the original Nataf blog post title. I found this in the WMHC Hagen-Renaker Research Materials file just the other day, while pulling xeroxed sales lists for recent post subjects. 

On the same photocopy page from the WMHC file, is this Nataf ad that I had not seen before:

Collector Sally Clow mailed me this fascinating part of a document, the original government sale of the entire herd at Pomona. Here's a little backstory on why the U.S. government even owned Arabians, in the first place. Picking up where that story ends, it doesn't give a firm date of the sale. This document shows the government sale list revision is 9/47, however another source cites the sale as in Fall of 1948. This makes more sense, going by Nataf's 1948 birth year. 

Courtesy Sally Clow.

If you read closely, the lot for Nataf describes him as having markings! At the time, he was still a gray young'un, with a star, pink snip, pink spot on lower lip, a right fore white sock with a white (shell or pink) hoof, and half-stockings on both hinds. These recorded markings are significant because none of the HR Nataf models had so much as a striped hoof! This may be because pale or striped hooves would have been blacked for show, and a white horse would no longer show white markings. A pink snip and lip spot would have been extra labor the San Marcos pottery just didn't elect to reproduce. The muzzle and hoof markings may not have even been made known to the factory. Another portrait model, Swaps, was produced with such extra pink markings, but Swaps was produced at Monrovia and San Dimas, under different direction. Everyone does things differently.

And here is Nataf in the Spring 1985 Hagen-Renaker sales sheet, for contrast.

This was a retail pricelist from former HR dealer, Chris Cook.

Keeping this update short and sweet, let's close with an old show photo of a OF matte Nataf with outstanding shading.

Photo courtesy C. Greene.


Arabian Horse Association

Benuish, Alison, ed. Hagen-Renaker Research Materials: 1949- Present. N. pag. Salisbury, MD: WMHC, 1995.

Clow, Sally. Pers. comm. 2/11-3/15/2012.

Greene, Cheryl. Pers. comm. 4/6/2012.

Hammer, Randy. "Kellogg: A Man Who Loved His Country." University Library. Cal Poly Pomona. Special Collections Home. Collections. University Archive. 3/3/1982: 5/5/2012.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Violette By Any Other Name... Is Called Crusader

It's time to settle in with a cup of tea, and indulge in this long Love letter to two of the ceramic horse world's most beloved sculptures: "Sespe Violette" and "Crusader". 

As discussed in the prior post about Nataf, many of the Hagen-Renaker models were styled after real horses. Hagen-Renaker pottery's Sespe Violette model was a portrait of a real horse, living and working in Southern California. Maureen Love probably sculpted her in 1953, since the first examples were released in Spring of 1954. 

Original HR Sales Sheet for SV, Fall 1954

The real Sespe Violette was foaled on May 11th, 1944, and bears the Belgian Draft Horse Corp. of America's registration #M32116. She was in fact, a mare, despite her rather masculine physical and tacked appearance. As collector Cynthia Perry points out, "I always found it rather odd that 'Sespe' was tricked out in a stallion surcingle, when generally draft mares are shown in a halter only!"

Maureen herself glazed this casting of Sespe Violette, but it is interesting to note that the registered markings for the real SV are quite different.

Photo courtesy collector K. Bean

Photo courtesy collector K. Bean

Photo courtesy collector K. Bean

Horse in background is a regular factory finish Monrovia era example. Photo courtesy collector K. Bean

Owned by K. Bean, photo courtesy D. West.

Below is an example of a factory-produced (OF) SV, which is much closer to the real mare's registered description: "dark sorrel, star, light short stripe below eyes, mane light, black hooves." There is no notation at all about any white leg markings. This probably means that the white color HR used was meant to represent her pangare or pale chestnut hairs on her lower legs, but they stayed true to her black hooves! 

Dark Monrovia version, photo courtesy K. Wellman.

A lighter Monrovia, photo courtesy K. Wellman.

An even lighter Monrovia, photo courtesy K. Wellman.

The Belgian Draft Horse Corp. was very helpful and friendly, but apologized that their electronic records do not yet include the older registered entries, some of which were handwritten. Both of Sespe Violette's parents fall into this category. All I can tell you is that her sire is #S19959 and her dam is #M19287. If you happen to access an old studbook of 1942-1944, I'd love to know their names.

The real SV was first owned by Rancho Sespe of Fillmore, CA. While no information on their Belgian breeding program was readily available, here is an adorable crate label for the farm's citrus, its best-known produce. Imagine standing your Sespe on a printout of that in a Collectibility class at a live show? Or shrinking the image, and having her haul a wagon full of crates for Performance? 

There is yet another potentially accurate performance entry for this sculpture. The story goes that SV was one of the Belgians who pulled the starting gate for Santa Anita. If true, it makes sense that Maureen would have seen her there, as she regularly sketched the Thoroughbreds at Santa Anita, during their morning workouts. The Belgians also had the duty of harrowing the track for the races. There were different Belgian teams employed, apparently owned by different people, over the years. Some of the owner names in personal recollections online are Tom Parks (Charming Alibi) and Dewey burdan. SV's owners are not connected, as far as my research probed. The earliest Santa Anita Belgian reference I found was 1939 and the latest 1974. 

Maybe somewhere in this image is a laboring Sespe Violette?

Found on Google, from Milwaukee Journal, 1939.

There is a little confusion online about the breed identity of the drafters used at Santa Anita, prior to the era of employing tractors. USC's archive patron seems to have misidentified the Belgians in this image as Clydesdales. The Belgians were the first employed, followed by the Budweiser Clydesdales, originally from the nearest Busch attraction. The Clydesdales again made a guest-pull of the 1984 Olympics equestrian events medal podium at Santa Anita. They still make an appearance for Santa Anita opening day each year, but they are no longer pulling the starting gate, just their wagon. 

This is not to imply the Belgians were frail weaklings who needed replacing. A team of Belgian geldings named "Bob" and "Leo" were retired from Santa Anita in 1954 and went straight to the same duties at another racetrack, Rillito, in Tuscon, AZ. The source claims that they "Once won a California pulling contest; at one time were the second largest Belgian draft team in the world." Not exactly pansies, nor shrinking "violettes"!

According to this sports reference, at least some of the Belgians were still employed as of 1956. Gotta love the description, "beer-truck-sized". One look at a Sespe ceramic, and you can imagine it.

Here is a tiny photo and blurb from the Arcadia Tribune, 1964. "Starting Gate Team Sam and Bud Quit Races", a rather tiny print image about the retirement of another pair of Santa Anita's Belgians. When you consider the immense strain and logistics of quickly hauling the starting gate off the track before the Thoroughbreds finished each race, it's understandable that the Belgians were retired with frequency. It was not like plodding farm work!

The closest date I found online for the Belgians' complete replacement is 1974. A longtime employee at Santa Anita informed me that, "The Belgians left in the '60-70's; the Clydesdales left in the early '90's, and they were there for ten years." 

No hard evidence of Sespe Violette's formal employment could be found online, from Santa Anita itself, nor with her registry. Her last recorded owners were Darrell and Jan Livesay of Clinchport, VA; she was last purchased April 25, 1961. Her age and date of death is unreported.

She lives on, in a sense, as a beloved ceramic portrait. I could go on about how beautifully round the draft muscling and silhouette is, and I do, quite often. I love old-type draft horses. Here are several lovely vintage glaze variations of this model, all chestnut or "sorrel", plus some oddities are included here. HR produced the Sespe Violette mold # B-567, in 1954-5, and during the San Dimas era, from Fall 1967 to Spring 1968. 

Monrovia example, photo courtesy D. West.

Monrovia example, factory goof, missing a metallic ring on her surcingle. 

San Dimas example, owned by J. Pook, photo courtesy D. West.

San Dimas factory unique glaze or possible test, photo courtesy D. West.
Note the different tack and braid colors.
This piece came from the estate of former HR decorator Marie Benzango.
This piece was originally mounted to a redwood base, which was a rare means of marketing some HRs in the late 1960's.
The base crumbled in shipping, but the photo below shows the original condition.

San Dimas example, photo courtesy D. West.

Very dark San Dimas example.
Photo courtesy of Hagen-Renaker Pottery: Horses and Other Figurines by Nancy Kelly, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

My observation is that the Sespe mold sculptures are different between the Monrovia and San Dimas factories by the following points: the faces have different profiles; cheekbones have different curves and angles; ears are different; different neck wrinkles. Even a crispy Monrovia SV head is softer in detail than a typical San Dimas SV.

Left: Monrovia SV; right: San Dimas SV, photos courtesy D. West.

Left: Monrovia SV by author. This is considered a very crisp example of Monrovia SV, as even her mane crest hairs are sharp.
Right: San Dimas SV by D. West. My apologies that the angles aren't a perfect match, and it is the unusual glaze one. 

Speaking of mold differences, the later SV mold derivation is titled, "Crusader", and is designated as a Percheron. This appears to not be styled after a specific Percheron. There was a Crusader 1523, gray filly, foaled in 1874, but that is the closest without added words in the name. The name may have come from the breed's origin story, linked with the Crusades.

Original HR Sales Sheet for Crusader, Spring 1959

Crusader is mold # B-706, produced in variably gray-shaded white in the Monrovia era from Spring 1959 to Spring 1960, and then in San Dimas from Spring 1966 to Spring 1967. As with the two eras of SV, the Monrovia and San Dimas Crusaders appear to have different face details. As usual, San Dimas is more angular, narrower in profile, and sharp. 

Monrovia era Crusader.

Some collectors don't like crackle, but how can one not love crackle, when it follows real hair growth patterns?

These two different colored and styled eyes are on the same model above.
Factory goof? I would say so.

Monrovia era Crusader, photo courtesy D. West.

San Dimas era Crusader, photo courtesy D. West.

Maureen personally glazed this Crusader. It is the one shown for the mold's entry in the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Hagen-Renaker.

Just to be double-awesome, here are photos from a photoshoot by K. Bean, a rare moment with both Maureen-glazed molds in the same location. These images make me indescribably happy. 

This chart was meant to give some idea of the mold differences, but resulted in a relationship of casting thickness (thick clay walls = heavier) to the horses' measurements. It's interesting to note the Charlton HR Handbook gives 6" tall for Sespe, and 6.25" tall for Crusader. 

The most notable differences between SV and Crusader are the Crusader's reduced leg feathering, loose mane and tail, and lack of any tack.

Note in each photo, Crusader's heels are free of feathers. Sespe's are webbed with hair.

Hair and braid detail of Sespe's tail.

When the Monrovia Sespe on the left was pulled out of the mold, 
her right legs were tugged slightly, but they were not straightened before drying. 
This is why she has a winging out foreleg and pointing-right hindhoof.
The Crusader is normal.

Mane and crest detail. Note the different neck wrinkles.

Collector values (not necessarily what eBay brings) of vintage Sespe Violette models flutter around $1,000-1,200, and a crisp, vintage Crusader may bring $900. However, condition, glaze free of flaws, and mold detail are key to the high end values. Most of the examples shown in this post are outstanding and some are even one-of-a-kind glazes; their values range 2-5x the collector value of a "regular" SV or Crusader, depending on who glazed it and when.

You may be thinking, "That's it. That's all there is to say about these."

Test San Marcos Crusader, photo courtesy C. Perry.

And then, I blew your mind with the San Marcos Crusaders. Yes, and they almost happened, too! This San Marcos test Crusader was one of the oddities that my friends (with me the tag-along) picked up at Skip's and shipped carefully to a grateful collector, back in the mid-1990's. Cynthia Perry is that original owner, and she shares the following about its origin:

"Color: test gloss rose grey

Production: One of 4 test San Marcos ‘Crusaders’

Before the end of the San Marcos era in 1986, H-R considered re-releasing ‘Crusader’ as a special run for Karen Grimm of Black Horse Ranch. However, the factory decided against it when a single collector complained that a re-release would harm values on original Monrovia and San Dimas era pieces.

FOUR test San Marcos ‘Crusader’ Percheron pieces were produced, this gloss rose grey, a similar rose grey in matte, a gloss rose grey with a dark mane and tail and an unusual “bay” with black mane and tail, but no dark points.

Of those four tests, three were sold by H-R in a group lot to Karen Grimm of Black Horse Ranch. The last piece remained in the hands of a former H-R moldmaker, who sold it privately at a later date."

You have not missed your chance to obtain one of these charming draft horses at a reasonable price. The HR factory reconsidered the above argument of loss of value, and is currently offering the reissue Sespe Violette in a range of colors. It appears to be the San Dimas mold version.

Reissue test glossy chestnut, photo courtesy D. West.

In closing, on Friday, May 11th, don't forget to wish the real "Sespe Violette" a Happy 68th Birthday, wherever she may be! I think I'll ask for a reissue Sespe, in celebration of her birthday. A birthday gift by any other date would be as sweet!

UPDATE 6/9/2015:

It was great to finally see one of the elusive Japan copies of the Crusader mold. There are actually several different ones out there, including a reverse copy with jewels for eyes! In the comments below, a collector included links to their copy, stating it is a direct recast. 

I grabbed one of my authentic Crusader photos, then matched the cropping, and resized to match the collector's image. Then, I overlaid her image to determine if they were same mold. 

The head and jaw is the most obvious difference, followed by stance of legs. Crusader also has different shapes to her light leg feathering, as well as different ear position. If one exams the other angles of the copy, the mane is completely different from Crusader. It is likely that the designer was following a Crusader as their guide, but it is clearly sculpted by another hand. It is a very handsome copy, and I would like to find one, someday!


Anonymous. "Mighty Belgians Get Santa Anita Track In Shape." Milwaukee Journal 10 Feb. 1939: 22.

Belgian Draft Horse Corp. of America.

Benuish, Alison, ed. Hagen-Renaker Research Materials: 1949- Present. N. pag. Salisbury, MD: WMHC, 1995.

Haupt, Steve. Thread: "Army farriers in WWII and Japan." Society of the Military Horse internet forum. Post #17, April 20, 2012.

Kelly, Nancy. Hagen-Renaker Pottery: Horses and Other Figurines. Page 154. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.: Atglen, PA, 2000.

Kelly, Nancy. Hagen-Renaker: Through The Years. Page 76. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.: Atglen, PA, 2001.

Kelly, Nancy. Horse, Bird, and Wildlife Figures of Maureen Love: Hagen-Renaker and Beyond. Pp. 6, 77. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.: Atglen, PA, 2003.

Murphy, Pat. "Hoofbeats" column. Santa Ynez Valley Journal. Feb. 8, 2010. 5/2/2012.

Pers. comm., unidentified Santa Anita Park long term employee, 5/3/2012.

Pers. comm., Jane at The Belgian Draft Horse Corporation, 5/2/2012.

Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Guide. Third Edition. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.

"Scanned Document." Rillito Race Track Final Significance. Page 18. 1986. 5/2/2012.

USC Digital Library

West, Dara. Pers. comm. 4/30- 5/4/2012.