The Eagles


Some years ago I ran across an extraordinary pair of hand wrought and cast iron armatures resembling birds. I must have come back and looked at them 4 times, before I approached the dealer. He told me he believed they had been eagles, gracing a building in Paris. He went so far as to tell me they had been on the Palais Royale, but had no proof of that provenance. They were obviously very old; the iron was deeply pitted from exposure to the weather and environment. The heads were long gone, as were most of the wought iron feathers.  One patch of feathers, one piece of feathers long detached, and the hand wrought iron legs and talons gave a small indication of what they might been in their prime.  

But the most striking of all that remained were their massive iron armatures.  An armature is the underpinning over which a sculpture is created.  The armature provides strength and support-a framework upon which to build the final piece.  These old armatures-visually arresting.  Emotionally arresting.  I kept coming back. Buck encouraged me to speak for them.      


I visited them many times over the course of 3 days.  Buying them could not be undertaken lightly.  It would require a considerable investment.  No doubt they were like nothing I had ever seen.  In the end, I gave in and bought them, as they were like nothing I had ever felt.  It is entirely possible that I would not have responded as strongly to the sculptures in their prime as strongly as I did to the aged and deteriorated version.  They had a very powerful presence, though I could see through them.  With almost every shred of ornament stripped or worn away, they were still incredibly beautiful.  There was ample evidence of the hand of the artist.  They were of imposing scale.  I never tired of looking at them.   

I did at one point have a client with a serious interest.  Buck made a pair of painted plywood pedestals, so we could display them in the air.  She decided against them.  I had not a worry in the world about this.  I had fallen for them hard.  I liked having them around, every day.  They might be the most beautiful garden ornament it has ever been my pleasure to own.  This is my personal opinion.  People respond to art in very different, and very individual ways.  I could never buy art for a client, nor would I ask someone to buy art for me.  I cannot really explain why this ghostly pair of birds wrapped their talons around my heart-but they did. 

Why this story now?  A designer from New York, who looked at them at the same show where I bought them years ago, called last week to inquire if I still owned them.  He had a client with a garden whom he thought would appreciate them.  I was surprised that he had taken note of where they had gone.  He responded much like I would have.  There are those garden ornaments that make an indelible impression.  He had not forgotten them.   

His client decided to purchase them from me.  Several days ago Steve and his crew loaded them into our box truck for a trip to Branch.  Buck will crate them for shipping to a garden in St. Louis.  I was surprised at how very reluctant I was to let them go.  More than once I thought about bringing them home, but my garden is not right for a pair of sculptures such as these.   Yet I could have lived with them all of my life, and been challenged, intrigued, engaged, and awed every time I looked at them.  This is what art does for people.   


I have had other perfect moments with art.  Some of those pieces I own, and look at every day.  I could say these remains of a pair of eagles are everything I ever wanted in a garden sculpture.  But in fact they are a creation of the hand of an unknown artist from better than 200 years ago that I will have a hard time living without.

I am a dealer in  garden antiques.  This means I am committed to offering my clients the best there is, given my best judgment and experience.  But I will admit there are those days when I wish I were just a private collector.  Lacking that, I would wish that I had a certain client, and a certain project that would have asked for this pair.  Lacking that, it has been my pleasure to own them for a while.  This is enough, albeit barely enough.   I feel quite sure they are going to an extraordinary garden.  Godspeed, beloved birds.


  1. captain wackey says

    You were indeed priviledged to be their caretaker for a small piece of time. I loved the living heck out of those birds, and I am indeed priviledged to have the task to crate them so they will arrive intact for their new home. We are talking a very big and long history here. Here’s to many more years of fascinating the spirit of their future caretakers.
    I did love them so.

  2. Parting is such sweet sorrow…

    I know what you mean.

  3. deborah, I cannot believe the birds wont be at the store any longer!!!! i am in shock…….i always thought they could speak the ancient “history of the sky”…. what things they would say!!! ……………?
    it was so wonderful to see them still, as a pair together, all these many years…..thank you so graciously for that. i feel graced just to have laid eyes on them.
    it was the first thing my husband was drawn to, the first time he visited your shop. …. he really enjoyed their presence and majestic beauty. if i had won the lottery i would have gifted them to him ……but your love for them, yours and buck’s is obvious. perhaps they will somehow re-enter your life in a new and unexpected way…..
    “If you place two living heart cells from different people in a petrie dish, they will in time find and maintain a third and common beat “………. i think of you two, being the cells and the birds as the third….together you are held under one joining force, the force that brought you together and now
    the force that takes you apart. many threads of gratitude for sharing their astounding beauty with us, for taking the risk of owning them and for taking the time to show us that you dont just use your eyes to look thru but also the heartbreak of your soul.
    this brilliant world awaits your next song….. and the birds will fly in your heart forever.
    I’ll be in, to gape at the vacant pedestals……..for the eyes can see what is gone without ever seeing it leave. yours respectfully, cice

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Cice, Thanks for this! Steve took the pedestals back to Branch too…The room looks very different now. You are right, It is unlikely I will ever forget them. Deborah

  4. I am quite certain that it was the eagles — when I saw them in a photo on your website — that made me say to Mathias “What is going on here? We need to get in the car and go check this place out!” They were magical. I can only imagine the void their absence has made at the Works. Unlike you, I know that I could never really be a purveyor of beautiful, rare or unique objects. I simply get too attached. When I saw the title of your post, I knew deep down what had happened…but I hoped against hope that it was just you giving some attention to something extra special in your shop…something to tease gift givers at the holidays. Alas… As Mathias says to me often “when it comes to beautiful objects, we are merely caretakers for the moment…they have a life trajectory of their own.” His parents were art and antique dealers in Paris….he says that the decor in his childhood home changed weekly. I could never stand this. The plain presence of those birds spawned interesting conversations between me and his mother about what could have been possible/and impossible regarding their presence at Palais Royale. For hardcore collectors, provenance is everything. It is hard to know however, when assessing provenance, what will be considered these birds most important and compelling aerie: their time at Palais Royale or their years spent under the eye of DS at DGW.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michael, you are an amazingly talented and expressive writer! Thanks for lending so much weight to my feelings about those eagles. It could be their most glorious moment awaits them in their new garden. Deborah

  5. It is YOUR writing and your subject matters that brings it out in me !! But thank you for the compliment. m.

  6. Deborah, your eagles have always asked me to pause when I have visited. I will miss their presence also.

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