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1933 FAB Vargas Wax Male SugarCane Seller Figure + Machete New Orleans

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Directory: Popular Collectibles: Memorabilia: Black Americana: Pre 1940: Item # 1472553

Please refer to our stock # BA981 when inquiring.
Stonegate Antiques
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PO Box 1896
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

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Measuring approximately 7.25 inches high, this difficult to find, Black Americana Vargas wax figure is mounted on its original wooden platform and is one of a series of fascinating "street character wax dolls" conceived of and crafted by Mrs. Concepcion Vargas Alfonso, daughter of the world-renowned, turn-of-the-20th century, New Orleans, Spanish sculptor, Francisco Vargas.

From approximately 1910 through the 1930's, Mrs. Concepcion Vargas-Alphonso, influenced by the great artistry of her famous father who also sculpted in wax, crafted a variety of wax dolls inspired by the black folk she saw on New Orleans's street corners selling their wares or practicing their trade - black folk performing everyday activities that would have been daily seen on the streets of the city.

While the majority of Vargas figures were sold exclusively through Harriet's, of 318 Rue Royal in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a small number of Vargas figures were also sold through Kate Latter's Candy Shop in New Orleans. The shop, opening during the Great Depression years, had significant financial difficulties and closed after only five years (1933-1938) in business. This particular Vargas figure was one that was sold there, and it retains a gold foil sticker advertising the shop underneath its wood base.

Vargas figures are completely hand-made, one-of-a-kind dolls that are seldom found on today's market due to their inherently fragile nature, making them highly sought after in the Black Memorabilia / Black Americana Collectible arena.

This figure, known as the Sugar Cane Seller, was recently de-accessioned from the Louisiana State University Rural Life Museum collection, Baton Rouge, LA, having been acquired by the museum from a private collector in January 1979.

The Sugar Cane Seller is one of the more difficult to find of the Vargas figures. In his right hand he holds three stalks of newly cut sugar cane, and in his left hand he holds a silver-colored, light-weight, metal machete.

Vargas wax figures are distinctly characterized by their interesting but highly exaggerated facial features. This gentleman Sugar Cane Seller wears a red and yellow checked kerchief around his neck, a green shirt with yellow polka dots, black and tan striped pants, and black "leather" shoes. His costume is entirely constructed of actual cloth fabric that was coated with a fine layer of clear wax to stiffen them. The Sugar Cane Seller's wax body is internally supported by a wire frame through which the figure is securely attached to the wooden base. Underneath the wood base is found the Kate Latter's Candy Store sticker as well as an inventory sticker from the LSU Rural Life Museum.

This wonderful figure is in fine condition for his 90+ years of age with the following minor restorations likely performed by the professionals at the LSU Rural Life Museum: a restored right hand (that is presently missing a thumb), and restoration to the back of the vendor's hat, noted by the lighter colored wax. The sugar cane stalks appear to have been reattached in place, and his left hand is also missing the thumb. Due to the fragility of the wax fingers, it is not uncommon to find them missing or partially present.

The Sugar Cane Seller's light-weight metal machete was once attached to the left hand. It is my opinion that this metal machete was fashioned by professionals at the museum to replace the original cardboard version. Its weight, however, appears to be too much for the wax hand to hold, and thus, it became unattached while still in the museum's collection. As seen in the photos, the machete can be successfully rested inside the hand provided it is placed so that it is balanced, with equal lengths of the machete in front of and behind the hand.

A true must-have, rarely-found piece for the ardent collector of New Orleans Black folk character figures!

Please take a moment to view the additional Vargas figures we currently have the pleasure of offering for sale. Type "Vargas" into the search box on our website homepage.