Iconic WWII Sculpture Set for Auction in New York

  • February 19, 2013 23:13

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Felix de Weldon, (American, 1907- 2003) The Original Iwo Jima Monument, sculpted in Washington D.C., June – September, 1945

An iconic monument that inspired patiotism during World War II will be offered in Bonhams' upcoming February 22 auction in New York entitled World War II: the Pacific Theater, the inaugural auction to focus entirely on the war's historic events in the Pacific Ocean and western Pacific Rim.

The chronologically structured sale begins in December 1941 with the events at Pearl Harbor, and concludes with signing of the peace treaty in Tokyo Bay on the USS Missouri in September, 1945. From sculpture to ships models, this sale offers powerful, authentic WWII material sure to interest individuals and institutions alike.

"We only have a few more years to learn first-hand from our WWII veterans, so the timing of the auction is important to collectors," explained Tom Lamb of the Books & Manuscripts Department at Bonhams New York, and one of the specialists for this sale.

The sale's top lot is the original 1945 Iwo Jima Monument, a symbol of wartime bravery and national unity which was unveiled on Constitution Avenue in Washington DC in November, 1945 (est. $1,200,000 – 1,800,000). It is one of the most potent images of heroism in battle of the 20th century.

The monument depicts the raising of the Stars and Stripes on the summit of Mt. Suribachi by five Marines and a Navy Corpsman. Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, captured the Pulitzer-Prize winning scene that inspired the monument's creator, Felix de Weldon. The monument is perhaps best known in its secondary incarnation, the eighty-ton bronze Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Bonhams will auction de Weldon's original cast stone version, which until 2007 had been drawing crowds at New York's distinguished Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The sale covers the island-hopping campaign from the Philippines to Tokyo, with a large section of over 40 lots devoted to Iwo Jima, including Joe Rosenthal's personal photograph album (est. $10,000-15,000), original maquettes for the original 1945 Iwo Jima Monument and the 1954 Marine Corp Memorial at Arlington (est. $20,000-30,000), as well as the Parzini plaster maquette for the 7th war loan flag raising statue used in Times Square in 1945 (est. $25,000-35,000).

WWII devotees will be delighted by the quality and excellent provenance of the maritime paintings, ship models, battle souvenirs, theater art, propaganda material and soldiers' personal effects also included in the sale. All of the items on offer at Bonhams date from the 1940s, and as much as thirty percent of the pieces have been displayed in various museums prior to auction. Particularly interesting are over 40 ship models of carriers, battleships, and destroyers (many theater made), and a submarine section of over 60 lots.

The sale begins with Pearl Harbor, and a 12 lot section devoted to the USS Arizona, led by two extraordinary flags with stencil markings "USS ARIZONA", one a large Stars and Stripes and the other a Bravo flag, both of them sent by the Navy to the widow of Rear Admiral of Issac C. Kidd to drape his coffin (est. $60,000-80,000). Admiral Kidd was killed with a direct hit on the bridge of the Arizona in the first moments of the attack. Other objects include relics of the USS Nevada, USS California, USS Wasp, USS Enterprise and USS Saratoga.

Battle memorabilia from Japan, China, Burma, New Guinea and the Philippines round out the sale, showing the incredible breadth of the war in the Pacific. A Chinese blood chit (est. $1,000 – 1,500.) serves as a moving testament to the cooperation between Chinese and American airmen, while a rare Japanese submarine gyroscope (est. $2,000-3,000) is a remarkable survival.

The last section of the auction deals with the events surrounding Hiroshima and the peace treaty signed on the USS Missouri, featuring a mimeographed copy of Captain Robert A. Lewis' Enola Gay log, copied on Tinian Island and given to William "Deak" Parsons, the atomic bomb loading supervisor on the flight, six days after the event (est. $30,000-50,000). The sale concludes with a ticker-tape message sent from Guam to Hawaii declaring the surrender of the Japanese forces the day after Nagasaki (est. $10,000-15,000).

World War II: the Pacific Theater will be held at Bonhams New York on February 22. The sale will be on view at Bonhams from February 16 to February 21.

To view the full auction, and to purchase a catalog, please visit bonhams.com.

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