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G. Maxwell Farrier's Sign

Probably 1880-1900
Origin: America
Overall: 36 3/4 x 48 1/2 x 1in. (93.3 x 123.2 x 2.5cm)
Oil and sand on wood with iron support strips (now sawn off even with the panel)
Gift of Juli Grainger
Acc. No. 2008.707.2
A double-sided oval-shaped, horizontally-formatted signboard bearing the same design on each side. It was once supported by iron strips let into the panel; these remain let into the panel but have been cut off even with the edge of the panel. A wide black border is filled with white lettering and the symbol of a horseshoe. An oval reserve in the center bears the image of a bay horse standing on a green ground, the white rim of the oval being capped at each end by abstract ornament. A white outer rim encloses the whole.

Artist unidentified.
Label:The naturalistically rendered image of the horse contrasts with the simpler style of the lettering, suggesting that the artist transferred or copied some pre-existing picture to facilitate his work. The lettering is carefully spaced and crisply executed, the lower phrase situated precisely over earlier, identical wording. The present proper name covers an earlier one, however. Apparently the sign was originally executed for "A. W. Boutwell & Co.," a name that is still visible in sharp raking light beneath the present one. The black in the wide outer band is a mixture of paint and sand, the latter added to provide textural contrast with the plain white letters and decoration.
A bold image of a horseshoe complete with heel and toe caulks and nail holes explains exactly what is meant by "shoeing." "Jobbing" can mean buying from manufacturers and selling to retailers, i.e., acting as a "middle man," but the word's alternate meaning is likelier here: working by the piece, or at odd jobs. A farrier, or horse shoer, is a specialized blacksmith. It appears that G. Maxwell (and, before him, A. W. Boutwell) shod horses but also undertook miscellaneous ironwork as required by the surrounding community. The ornamental devices stenciled at each end of the oval encompassing the horse help date the sign to the late nineteenth century.

Provenance:Purchased by Grainger, AARFAM's source, at auction by Robert W. Skinner, Inc., Bolton, Mass., lot no. 30 in sale no. 1126 of 2 January 1987.
Inscription(s):Painted in white, sans-serif, block lettering around the perimeter of each side of the oval signboard is: "G. MAXWELL./SHOEING & JOBBING."
The above lettering covers earlier lettering (some of which is identical to the above, in which cases the letters are lined up to correspond, one atop another). The earlier lettering, visible in sharply raking light, reads: "A. W. BOUTWELL & CO./SHOEING & JOBBING."