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Freeman's to bring Sylvia Shaw Judson's Bird Girl to auction for the first time
This life-size statue of a nine-year-old girl holding a pair of shallow bowls in outstretched arms has been in the same private family collection in Reading, Pennsylvania for generations.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Freeman’s will present Sylvia Shaw Judson’s Bird Girl, the highlight of its June 6 American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists auction. This fresh-to-market work is one of the most recognizable American sculptures to ever appear at auction. Conceived in 1936 by the Chicago-based Judson, Bird Girl was cast by Roman Bronze Works in New York. One of four extant original bronzes, this iconic image is immediately familiar from Jack Leigh's haunting photograph used as the cover of John Berendt’s 1994 best-selling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

This life-size statue of a nine-year-old girl holding a pair of shallow bowls in outstretched arms has been in the same private family collection in Reading, Pennsylvania for generations, and now makes its first public appearance since 1939, following its discovery by Freeman's during a routine estate appraisal. “We could not be more proud and excited to bring Sylvia Shaw Judson’s Bird Girl to auction for the first time,” remarked Freeman’s Chairman Alasdair Nichol. “It is a true honor for America’s oldest auction house to be entrusted with the historic sale of this iconic work by Judson, a noted American sculptress.”

Bird Girl was created by the artist as a garden sculpture, and, as evidenced by her beautiful verdigris patina, has indeed been used as such by her Reading-based owners. Unlike the three other known versions, Freeman’s Bird Girl has been subject to extensive museum display—first at Judson’s 1938 solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, then on a tour across five different Midwestern museums, including Ohio’s Dayton Art Institute, where it was last seen. Bird Girl will be presented at a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-150,000.

In addition to the sculpture, Freeman’s June 6 American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists auction will also feature several notable works by significant American artists, including Daniel Garber, Norman Rockwell, Edward Redfield, and William Harnett. A collection of rare paintings by Albert York will also be offered.

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