Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Enough Horse for Two Portraits

Today's subject earns the large format I call a "Feature Post", as opposed to the smaller "Muddy Monday" bites. The subject is Ferseyn, an Arabian stallion of no small influence in the breed. To break it down briefly for the generation who doesn't recognize him, he was Khemosabi+++'s grandsire, on his father's side. I will not roll out with a discussion of his pedigree and all the descendants, which has been covered by others more qualified. This post is about the Ferseyn sculpture you know, and the one you may not know as Ferseyn.

The Ferseyn you are familiar with has had no small influence on collectors of both ceramic and plastic horses. He was designed by Maureen Love, and introduced by Hagen-Renaker in matte white and rose gray, from Fall 1958 through Spring 1959. 

Bisque casting from Maureen's waste mold of Ferseyn.
Photos courtesy Tracy Wells. Size graphic added by author.
Although the Monrovia Ferseyn is tipped slightly to the forehand's background, 
the size difference is still discernible.

The matte white had very little gray shading in Monrovia; it is mostly restricted to the face, mane/tail, a breath on the knees, occasionally on the neck, and always on the hooves. Despite being the eldest, Monrovia white Ferseyn seems to be the most common of this mold's vintage ceramic iterations.

NAN 1999 Auction lot; Monrovia white Ferseyn, which sold for $600.
Ah, gone are the days of those high values... 
Photo courtesy J. Kira Hamilton.

The Monrovia white gray and rose gray.
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn, The Hagen-Renaker Online Museum.

Ferseyn's return in San Dimas gained new colors and variations. He was produced in steel gray, doeskin, and white. A variant, "dove gray", looks very much like a doeskin with a different slip (base) color, much as this blog previously discussed about Roan Lady. 

San Dimas doeskin.
Photos courtesy Sally Clow.

San Dimas doeskin.
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn

San Dimas dove gray, steel/ash gray, and white with pink nose.
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn

Roan Lady in two different slip colors.
Models courtesy Jo Ellen Arnold.

As if this similarity between doeskin and dove gray wasn't enough to confuse us, there is another double-identity colourway on San Dimas Ferseyn. Growing up, I had always heard the dark grays referred to as "steel gray", but even in Southern California, there was a collector calling it "ash gray". Ash gray is the term used all over the USA, too. It appears that ash gray is simply steel gray, with significantly less body shading. The odd thing is, for such a small group of horses, no two ash gray are decorated alike. Some have black legs, some have black up to the body, some have naked or just lightly shaded legs. 

Nancy Kelly writes:

I believe I purchased [ash gray Ferseyn] and [ash gray] Sheba in 1970. Ellen Hitchens was selling them directly. I must have found out about them in her club newsletter. We didn't have web or email then. :) She called the pair "ash gray". I just looked at the sales lists on the Purple Mountain website and I don't see a reference to them in the DW sales lists. A mystery!

As for me, the blogger, I'm starting to think ash and steel are the same thing, just different collector nomenclature based on either where you were located geographically, or on the amount of underglaze body shading. What do you think?

Ed calls this "steel gray".
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn

Karen Grimm called this "ash gray".
Photo courtesy Black Horse Ranch/Peter Grimm

Karen Grimm also called this test Wrangler "ash gray".
Clearly, they have completely different slip and underglaze shading colors.
Photo courtesy Black Horse Ranch/Peter Grimm

Nancy calls this "ash gray".
Photo courtesy Nancy Kelly

Ash gray or steel gray?

But, we're not done examining San Dimas colors! The white gray in San Dimas has at least three variations known: the dark nose, the pink nose, and the transition. The dark nose is like the Monrovia grays, having a dark muzzle, indeed. Note the body shading on this example. I have also seen dark-nose white San Dimas Ferseyn with no shading anywhere but on his muzzle and hooves.

Model courtesy Elizabeth Bouras.

The Monrovia vs. San Dimas are easy to distinguish, by the differences in mold detail and the eye decoration: San Dimas has sharp mold detail, and a black-and-rust eye, while Monrovia has a lash eye or full tri-eye (pupil, iris, and sclera). The dark nose is more true to the real horse. The real Ferseyn did not have a solid pink muzzle; in old age, he had very little mottling, but nothing like the San Dimas pink nose.

The original stud ad says this photo was taken when Ferseyn was 21 years old.
No pink nose. Lots of round butt, like the sculpture, though!

For years, people thought the pink nose San Dimas was the rarest of the white grays, but it seems that the dark nose San Dimas white gray (if not a misidentified Monrovia) is actually more scarce. I've been seeking one, for years.

Pink nose, as shown on the cover of the first edition Hagen-Renaker Handbook:

And the exact cover model today, with a little less tacky-wax from his performance showing days:

This piece was previously owned by two of the book's authors, in succession.
He has been with me for 19 years.

The pink is sprayed up from below the chin, with a bit of dark gray sprayed downwards from the top of the muzzle. Pink nose Ferseyn tends to have gray shading all the way up the leg, and, sometimes, into the body.

Typical San Dimas rust and black eye deco.

Another famous-in-the-hobby pink-nose Ferseyn, "Memnon".
He was successfully campaigned in model shows by his former owner, Julie Harris.
Owned by Jo Ellen Arnold, restoration and photos by Sue Thiessen.
This fellow has a typical San Dimas sticker.

An extremely "pink" nose example that I photographed at a show, years ago.
This might just be another angle of the famed "Memnon".

The transition San Dimas white gray is uncommon, and this is the first one I have seen. While I was purchasing him, I actually thought he was an ordinary pink nose, from his photo. He has the leg shading, mold detail, and pink nose of San Dimas, but he also has Monrovia-like eye decoration and an old Monrovia round sticker. Note that the slip color is even whiter than the later San Dimas. He's more like the bright white slip of a Monrovia Ferseyn.

Left: normal San Dimas pink nose, right: transition Monrovia-San Dimas pink nose.

By way of contrast, here is another Monrovia white gray, sporting his age-appropriate sticker. Note the whiteness of the legs and body. Older slip batch for this guy, and the transition one?

Photo courtesy Cindy Neuhaus

The Ferseyn mold was reborn when Breyer leased rights to produce Ferseyn in plastic; he was then known as the "Classic Arabian Stallion", from 1973-2005. Many, many more plastics were made than HR versions of him, so most plastic collectors know the mold as the CAS, and aren't aware that he ever had a proper name. If you are curious about how this design looks in other colors, view this page. Many customs have been made off of the plastics, and at least one bronze fine artist recast him, as "her own". Ferseyn is a pleasing, round, balanced sculpture, and the appeal is timeless.

Getting back to the muddy topic... I think Ferseyn achieves his grandest representation in an enlargement, as the mount for the Hagen-Renaker "Bedouin", mold # B-642. Made from Fall 1956 - Spring 1958, yet still a rare piece, and very hard to find with an intact, original rifle. 

This Bedouin horse is the darker variation, with heavy body shading.
Photo courtesy Val Tudor.

Another dark one.
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn

Variant without body shading.
Shown in mid-restoration. Gray on the rider's shoulder is epoxy putty. 

In a past post, I showed the Wagon Wheel Ranch ad, featuring Maureen Love's stoneware portraits of several Arabian horses. In the middle background of the ad photo, is this unique earthenware custom glaze HR Bedouin, on a white horse. His robe is also a different color than the regular issue. While the exact whereabouts of this custom glaze are unknown to me, I am assured by a friend that the piece still exists, safely treasured in a private collection.

In 2004, Hagen-Renaker reissued the Ferseyn mold in ceramic, in several glossy colors, with decoration that made them distinctive from the older ceramics. The reissues can be ordered today, direct from the pottery.

What if I told you that these Ferseyn models aren't the only Ferseyn portraits in the Hagen-Renaker DW ceramic line? In her sketchbook covers' indices, Maureen identified these sketches, and several more, as Ferseyn. Although the sketchbooks were split up as individual artworks for sale, after Maureen's passing, Dawn Sinkovich photographed each page and sketchbook cover index, in order. Because of this act of preservation of Maureen's original format order, we can go back and research who was the subject of which drawing, in many cases!

Used with permission from Share The Love.

Oh, boy! You know what this means... let's talk about the Hagen-Renaker DW Arabian stallion, "Abdullah".

Original order form.

This sculpture has two mold versions in ceramic. The first, the "large" Arabian, standing, is 6.25" tall, and was produced in white matte from Spring 1956- Spring 1957. The small version, at 6" tall, was produced in both white gray and a flaxen chestnut, from Spring 1968- Spring 1969. 

Model courtesy Janet Hicks.

Ed's measured 6.375" for large, and 5.875" for small.
The bay on the far right is a test color.
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn, The Hagen-Renaker Online Museum.

Of course, this blog isn't going to examine a boring old white one! 

Photos courtesy Sue Thiessen.

This fellow is considered a factory test. He looks almost identical to the test shown as the entry for the mold, in the HR Handbook 2nd and 3rd editions. That test's photo is an old, black-and-white promotional or advertising photograph. This one differs from the book's example in having more tail shading and less jaw shading. His color appears to shift with different lighting, so here are several images of the same test.

The photo above shows how close he is to the one in the Handbook.
Photos courtesy Sue Thiessen.

Yet another change in his coat color.

And of course, because this is Muddy Hoofprints, I'm not just going to show you just one unusual example. 

This is "Crown Jewel", an Abdullah custom glazed by the sculptor, Maureen Love. 

Sometimes, Maureen glazed markings and colors 
that were not of the sculpted portrait horse (her Cutter leaps to mind).
The real Ferseyn didn't have a solid pink nose.
Photo courtesy Joan Berkwitz.

Maureen identified this sketch as Ferseyn, on the cover index of its sketchbook.
Used with permission from Share The Love.

His owner, Joan Berkwitz, wrote this article about him, a few years back. When I asked her which mold version he was, she had to measure him, because it had never come up! Unlike the factory-produced Abdullah, this custom stands almost a full quarter inch taller than the Large regular run. Joan guest blogs about the difference:

I've always been sure that Crown Jewel came from Maureen's waste mold, but the measurements confirm that. Maureen would complete her sculpture in clay, and then a mold would be made from that clay. That mold would then be used to cast a wax, and she would clean up the wax. The wax was used to make the master production mold. Hence, the first was a 'waste' mold, only used for casting the wax. Crown Jewel was slipcast before or after the wax. I sort of suspect that it was after the wax, which would explain some of his odd glaze resist areas.
The reason that we can be sure about it is because of his size. Clay shrinks when it dries and fires.The wax that was cast from the waste mold would shrink a tiny bit as it cooled, and then after Maureen chased it (cleaned it up and intensified the detail) it would be used to produce the Master mold. That Master would have been made from a very dense plaster like Hydrostone, and a rubber, either called Black Tuffy, or something similar. The old rubbers decayed fairly rapidly and were probably the reason that there was a second generation of even smaller Abdullahs.
When that Master mold was no longer usable, and HR wanted to produce more Abdullahs, they would probably have cast a bisque one, made another waste mold, made another wax, and had Maureen clean it. Because it was made from a bisque, that mold would already have been smaller. Castings from that mold would be smaller still. That is why there are two sizes, and why Crown Jewel is about .25" taller than the first production generation, and .50" taller than the second generation production.

Just shy of 6.5".
Photos courtesy Joan Berkwitz.

Like Crown Jewel, the bisque Ferseyn at the beginning of this post came from Maureen's waste molds that pre-date the HR molds, for their respective designs. They both are very special, as they are the closest surviving castings to Maureen's hand. While a few waxes of her other designs have been preserved, I recall that Maureen melted down a Ferseyn wax to recycle it for future sculptures, in the early 1990's. (This still turns my stomach.) I do not know the status of either version of the Abdullah waxes.

Maureen identified this sketch as Ferseyn, on the cover index of its sketchbook.
Used with permission from Share The Love.

No doubt about it, Ferseyn has stood the test of time in both living and sculptural forms. I don't think there is a regular (non-specialty) model horse show in this country that hasn't had at least one casting of him compete in it, from the mid-1970's to today. The Abdullahs are not as numerous, but they certainly make the scene at the specialty all-ceramic horse shows. It is a powerful horse that takes more than one portrait to do him justice, and a powerful pair of sculptures to have endured the decades!

ENORMOUS GRATITUDE to the people who helped make this blog post so rich and full of visual treats: Joan Berkwitz, Jo Ellen Arnold, Nancy Kelly, Dawn Sinkovich, Ed Alcorn, Janet Hicks, Sue Thiessen, Sally Clow, Tracy Wells, (Jackie) Kira Hamilton, Karen and Peter Grimm, Elizabeth Bouras and Paula O'Keefe, Val Tudor, Cindy Neuhaus, and of course, the one who designed it all, Maureen Love.


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

Berkwitz, Joan. pers. comm. 1/10/2014

Ferseyn stud ad image with age data:

The Maureen Love Estate Auctions

Identify Your Breyer. com

Kelly, Nancy. Pers. comm. 1/10-13/2014.

Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Catalogue. Third Edition. Pp. x-xiii, 71-73. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.

Sinkovich, Dawn. Pers. comm. 1/9-28/2014.

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