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1904 St. Louis Olympic Bronze "Duelist's Lunge" Bronze Statue by Kuchler
Starting Bid - $200, Sold For - $593
Bronze sculpture of a fencer, titled Duelist's Lunge, produced by Austrian artist Rudolf Kuchler, engraved as awarded to American diver George Sheldon in honor of his gold medal performance at the 1904 Summer Olympics, held in St. Louis, Missouri. An engraving along the left panel of the base reads "Won By/Dr. G. H. Sheldon/Sept. 7 1904." The engraving on the right panel offers more particulars: Lewald Trophy/To Winner/Olympian Diving Championship." The artist's name, "R. Kuchler," is engraved on the top of the base. A metal sword and bellguard are attached to the figure's hand.
While it might seem incongruous that a trophy depicting a fencer was awarded to a diver, and we were initially very puzzled by the engraving when this item arrived, there is a reasonable explanation. This was not an official Olympic trophy, but one that was specially donated by Dr. Theodore Lewald, who was the German commissioner to the World's Fair. (The 1904 Summer Olympics were held in conjunction with the World's Fair, held in St. Louis, Missouri.) Because of that, it was offered as a prize work of art, and was not intended to be "event specific." There was actually a bit of controversy surrounding this award. George Sheldon easily won the gold medal in the fancy diving event, as it was called, but the battle for the bronze medal ended in a tie (11.33 points for each) between American Frank Kehoe and German Alfred Braunschweiger. The Germans so were incensed at the tie, claiming that Braunschweiger's performance was clearly superior to that of Kehoe, that Braunschweiger refused to take part in the proposed "dive off" for third place. Kehoe was then awarded the bronze. When Lewald heard what happened, he refused to present the offered award to Sheldon in protest of the decision, even though he had donated it.
This is the first non-medal Olympic prize dating from the 1904 Summer Olympics that we have ever seen. It should also be noted that this bronze, in and of itself, is highly collectible in the art community, and we have found other examples in our research. While this offered piece is not accompanied by any documented provenance directly to its original recipient, the engraving is consistent with the very unusual 1904 Olympic story detailed above, and we have no raeson to think it is anything other than the award donated by Dr. Theodore Lewald, created for presentation to diver George Sheldon at the 1904 Summer Olympics. The bronze (11 x 5 x 15.5 inches) displays a slight bend in the metal sword, which has also been detached from its bellguard; otherwise in Excellent to Mint condition overall. Reserve $200. Estimate $400+. SOLD FOR $593
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