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This beautiful patriotic eagle is a masterpiece example of the art of scherenschnitte, or paper cutting, where a single piece of paper is carefully cut to produce incredible examples of folk art.  The most masterful existing patriotic examples are attributed to Isaac Stiehly (b. 1800, d. 1869) of the Mahantongo Valley in Pennsylvania in the early 19th century.  This is a wonderful example of Stiehly's work.  A few very rare examples of Stiehly's scherenschnitte have survived, despite being so fragile.  His patriotic works are among the most sought after examples of early Americana. 

This particular piece is an exemplary representation of the type.  While some surviving examples are titled with phrases such as "Temperance" or "Perseverance", the title of this piece, simply titled "Liberty", is in my opinion, the perfect title to capture the American Spirit.  The eagle, with patriotic shield protecting its breast, holds a stylized 11 Star American Flag in her beak, in the Third Maryland or Cowpens pattern--a wreath with a single center star.  She holds a rattlesnake in its talons, the symbolism of which dates to the pre-Revolutionary period, first representing the union of the colonies in the "Unite or Die" drawing published in Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette, and later added to the "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden flag.  Stiehly showcases his incredible skills in the art through the intricate chainwork, floral motifs, and the carefully cut feathers of the eagle.  The scherenschnitte remains in its original frame, which appears to be a silver-gilt frame that has since blackened with tarnish.  Overall it survives as one of the finest patriotic examples of this folk art form known today.

An extraordinary and rare example of patriotic scherenschnitte by Isaac Stiehly, a master of the art form, cut from a single piece of paper, circa 1835.   Media:  Cut Paper

Dates:  c. 1835

War:  None

Type:  Scherenschnitte

Catalog Number:  IAS-00096

Masterpiece Eagle Carving
20th Century


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