Stories from the Canadian Art, Culture & History Auction

By: Dara Vandor

Some stories are readily apparent — others more subtle

Lot 2 – Eastern Woodlands Iroquois Bead Work Glengarry Caps, mid 19th century

Our Canadian Art, Culture and History auction, online from November 7-12, will fascinate collectors of Canadiana and lovers of history.

Waddington’s celebrates its 170th anniversary in 2020, making this auction particularly poignant. The story of Canada has been echoed by the auctions held over these many years, as generations come and go, passing their belongings on to the next set of collectors who will delight in their new acquisition.

History can be told through objects. Sometimes it is the most quotidian items which tell stories as important and interesting as those told by monuments. There is a very special pleasure that comes from unearthing details about an object and its story, provenance or place in a larger narrative. The Canadian Art, History and Culture auction showcases items from institutions including the NHL, the Globe and Mail, the National Film Board of Canada, the Legislative Assembly of Canada, and Grenfell Labrador Industries as well as items that are much more intimate, not intended to be viewed on a grand scale.

The auction also includes signed letters from two Prime Ministers, two written by Sir John A. Macdonald (lot 20 and lot 21) and one by Sir Wilfred Laurier (lot 23), as well as a wide selection of early maps, weapons and flags.

Some of the stories in this auction are readily apparent, while others are more subtle. Those interested in the history of canine accessories will enjoy the story of lot 1, John William Grece’s 19th century engraved copper dog collar, which has been published on our blog.

Other items tell the story of colonization, and the exchanges that happened between two cultures, such as lot 2, two Eastern Woodlands Iroquois beadwork Glengarry caps. The form of these hats is distinctly European, derived from Scottish Highland dress. Indigenous artists took to the items, embellishing them with beadwork, ribbons and coloured thread. These hats experienced a wave of popularity, and were either kept and worn by the local population or sold back to European consumers and tourists. Read more about 19th century beaded hats here.

Lot 10 – Presentation Scale Model of the Toronto Dominion Centre, 1965

Jumping forward to the 20th century is lot 10, which has been a particular favourite among the staff at Waddington’s Toronto offices. Made by Harvie Thompson and Steve Waring Limited, this presentation scale model of the Toronto Dominion Centre comes with its own wooden case, and is engraved with a silver plaque explaining its origins: ‘Presented to George Hynes on the occasion of his retirement by the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Officers of The Toronto Dominion Centre, 2nd February, 1964.’

The TD Centre was completed between 1967 and 1991, and was designed by Ludwig Mies van Der Rohe. Mies, one of the pioneers of Modernist architecture, was given free rein on this project, and is emblematic of his unique take on the International style. The complex in total consists of six towers, and on a non-pandemic day, plays host to the 21,000 people who work there, making it the largest commercial office complex in Canada. Lot 10 might just be the perfect gift for lovers of architecture, or perhaps someone missing the office during these work-from-home days.

Calling all hockey fans

Lot 8 – Jacques Plante Worn Practice Goalie Mask, c.1970

Fans of Canada’s game will get a thrill from lot 8, a mask worn by legendary goaltender Jacques Plante. Plante was the first goalie to regularly wear a goaltender mask in regulation play on a regular basis, which he did after his face suffered extensive damage. Though his coach, Toe Blake, “considered the mask a sign of mental weakness, and even cowardice,” Plante insisted on wearing the protective equipment despite ridicule, recalling that Blake “never wanted me to wear [it] because he thought it would make me too complacent.” Plante persevered, refusing to play without it. Along with other experts, Plante helped to develop and improve the goaltender mask he wore, which would be a forerunner of the mask/helmet combination used today. The manufacturer of his mask named the model after him, making lot 8 a ‘Jacques Plante’ mask worn by Jacques Plante himself. This particular mask comes from the estate of Richard LaPrairie, who was given the item in the early 1970s by his friend Clarence Campbell, who was the president of the NHL at the time. Mr. LaPrairie was on a tour at Maple Leaf Gardens when Mr. Campbell went into the Leaf’s dressing room and emerged with Plante’s mask, which he gifted to Mr. LaPrairie. Read more about Plante and the history of his mask here.

Another bit of NHL history in the Canadian Art, Culture and History auction is lot 9, which is composed of six letters relating to NHL broadcast rights dated from 1956-1967. The lot is comprised of one letter on NHL letterhead concerning the rights to film the playoffs signed by Clarence Campbell, (1956) two on Maple Leaf Gardens letterhead, signed by Foster Hewitt and George Imlach, respectively (1959), two on Club de Hockey Canadien Inc. (Montreal Canadiens) letterhead signed by Frank J. Selke (1956 and 1959, respectively) and one on signed by Gordie Howe on personal letterhead (1967).

We suggest that hockey fans also take a moment to look at Patrick Amiot’s two sculptures of Plante (lot 89 and lot 91), Ken Dryden (lot 92), Guy Lafleur (lot 90) and the historic 1984 Canada/USSR match (lot 88) in The Wild and Wonderful World of Richard LaPrairie auction, which is also offered online November 7 – 12.

Canadian fine art also featured in this auction

Lot 135 – La Viellle, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté

Lot 135, “La Vielle,” is an oil painting by Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, often regarded as French Canada’s most versatile artist. Suzor-Coté was born in 1869 in Arthabaskaville (Victoriaville), Quebec, a village also home at the time to the young Liberal lawyer Wilfrid Laurier. Throughout his career, Suzor-Coté worked hard to develop a market for his work through the effective leveraging of his contacts. His relationships with the publishers of newspapers both local and international ensured that his career and successes were often reported on in detail. The Liberal circle, then headed by Laurier, also provided stalwart patronage, championing Suzor-Coté’s work and delivering important commissions. Read more about Suzor-Coté here.

A contemporary of Suzor-Coté, the sculptor Alfred Laliberté is also seen as one of the great masters of the Québecois artistic tradition. Indeed, the two men were acquainted: in 1919, Suzor-Coté rented a studio in the caretaker’s lodge that Laliberté had built on the rue Sainte-Famille in Montréal. Laliberté’s work is represented in this auction by lot 16, “La Prière en Famille,” a patinated bronze group. Laliberté was heavily influenced by the work of Auguste Rodin, whose work he studied during his education at the prestigious École des beaux-arts de Paris. Upon his return to Québec, Laliberté embarked on a successful career, and was long regarded as “Québec’s national sculptor.” A prolific artist, Laliberté is known as much for his monumental memorial sculptures, including portrayals of Father Brébeuf and Father Marquette, as for his smaller pieces depicting rural life, legends and culture. Lot 16 is an excellent example of the latter, depicting a family in prayer.

Another “portrait” of sorts is lot 134, a painting of the ship “Danish Princess.” Shipping brought prosperity to the Atlantic coast in the early 19th century. Proud ship owners frequently commissioned artists either locally or in foreign ports of call to do portraits of their vessels while they were in port. According to Thomas R. Wolfe’s “Nova Scotia Registry of Shipping” of 1886, the Danish Princess was a barque built in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1863; she had a registered tonnage of 562 and measured 141.6 by 30.6 by 18 feet. The “Danish Princess” was abandoned in the North Atlantic in December, 1871.

The abundance of stories in this auction exceeds the capabilities of this brief summation. We invite you to view the full catalogue on our website. Waddington’s Specialist Sean Quinn has done a tremendous job of adding in information on many of the lots, paving the way for further exploration and enjoyment.


The auction is offered online from November 7-12, 2020. View the full auction gallery here.

Should you require additional information or photos, please contact Sean Quinn at [email protected] or by telephone at 416-847-6187.

Previews are available by appointment only.

First time bidder? Register here.

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