Description1903 New York Giants Photographic Composite by Carl Horner. Extraordinary work is instantly identifiable as that of esteemed early baseball photographer Carl Horner, whose portraiture of Dead Ball Era legends was widely sourced for contemporary tobacco trading card issues and serves to this day as the period's visual touchstone. Though lacking the on-field context afforded by improved photographic technology to come, Horner's posed studio works never fail to capture the zeitgeist of our burgeoning National Pastime in all of its gritty, blue collar glory. The seventeen images which comprise the presented composite celebrate the team which finished the 1903 season in second place behind Pittsburgh, allowing Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss to challenge the Boston Americans to the first edition of what would come to be known as the World Series.
Though the great Christy Mathewson is absent from the roster of seventeen, three Hall of Famers share space here, most notably a thirty-year old John McGraw, still making appearances as a utility infielder for the team he would manage for over three decades. At his right shoulder is the club's top ace for the 1903 season, "Iron Joe" McGinnity, whose thirty-one victories bested Matty by one. Above McGraw is the illustrious Roger Bresnahan, pictured during his first full season in a Giants uniform. Each player is identified below his image in artfully rendered black fountain pen ink script, with "New York Nationals 1903" penned in bold black lettering beneath the oversized portrait of Little Napoleon at center. One must assume that all writing is in the hand of Horner himself, as it bears an unmistakable resemblance to his "Photos by Carl J. Horner Boston" text in the lower right quadrant.
Over ninety percent of the surface area of the 23 x 25.5" composite remains untouched by the ills of a passing century, and those few flaws cause little distraction. Most notable is a fissure which passes through the cardboard stock and portrait of second baseman Billy Gilbert at upper right, secured on verso with a modern paper stock brace. Dampstaining at lower right darkens several square inches of the mount and has disrupted the emulsion of the lower edges of Miller's and Cronin's portraits. A chip of the upper left corner completes the condition assessment.
Horner's considerable fame in the collecting hobby stands in stark contrast to the availability of his works, with his single portraits typically surfacing only several times a year on the auction circuit. Composites such as this are substantially rarer still, and found in only the most elite and well curated of private collections. The significant costs required for the production of such a piece would have limited the original population considerably, and conventional wisdom would indicate only two or three VIP's might have received a Horner composite each year. Our records reveal that this is the first Giants example from any season to be offered at auction, and one can safely predict that it will likewise be the last.
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