Ceramics Page 35d

Great Canadian Ceramics


Louis-Philippe Hébert 4 - 1850-1917

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Ranking at the top, among the most fabulous collections of Canadian sculpture, has to be the rare Fathers of Confederation series completed by Philippe Hébert in 1885-1889.

Canada (the European component) began as a patchwork of French and English colonies along the Atlantic coast and the banks of the St. Lawrence River in the early 1600s.

In 1759 the British conquered the French areas to become owners of an expanded quilt of British colonies: including Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Upper Canada (Ontario), and Lower Canada (the former French Quebec). To the south of these, another 13 separate British colonies were also flourishing.

In 1776 the 13 Colonies broke away from Britain, to become the United States of America.

The northern (Canadian) British colonies opted not to join the revolting Americans, but to develop in harmony with the Mother Country.

In 1812 the revolting Americans attacked Canada hoping to make them change their mind, and accept freedom at the point of a gun, but they were thrown back.

But it taught Canadians, quickly, that they would become stronger against future US attacks, if the separate colonies joined together in some kind of union, so talks began among leading politicians to explore this possibility of partnership.

These became known as the Fathers of Confederation because they hammered out the deal that ultimately brought four of the colonies together under one roof as the Dominion of Canada, in 1867. (The others joined some years later.)

And Philippe Hébert had his artistic theme.

To date we have been able to locate six figures in the series, all completed in painted plaster: Hippolyte La Fontaine, Joseph Howe, John A Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, Charles Tupper, Wilfrid Laurier.

They are rare to find today, after some 120 years because plaster is a fragile medium and a knock or a fall are fatal. On all the ones we feature on this page, only one has missing or broken pieces, some fingers on a hand (Cartier). The others are intact.

As well antique dealers in the 1940s and 50s were notorious for conspiring to break them up whenever they could find one. They did this because the cheaper plaster statues depressed the prices they could demand for the bronze versions. Wiping out the competition meant they could increase the prices on those.

The painted plaster statues are found in a variety of finishes. Some are completely painted in cream (Macdonald), black (La Fontaine, Cartier, Laurier), brown (Tupper) or bronze (Macdonald). Others were finished with a variety of colours on clothing and faces (Laurier, Macdonald).

This black paint job is not the original but one done many decades ago.

It is rewarding to find statues in original paint but that is not common because plaster, being a rather porous material picks up dirt rather easily and so, to many homespun artists, cry out for a make-over.

Down the passing decades some have had repaints, some more successful than others. Especially obnoxious is the recent repaint of Macdonald in multi colours where the artist chose to paint the clothes realistically but coloured the face and hands in black (see bottom).

Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, by Louis-Philippe Hébert - 1885

Orig. plaster statue - Size - 75 cm, wt 7.3 kg
Found - Waterdown, ON
Signed Philippe Hébert

Louis-HIppolyte La Fontaine, representing Lower Canada (French Quebec) became the first Prime Minister of the united provinces of Upper and Lower Canada in 1842, striving hard to build a working partnership between French and English communities that would ultimately lead to Confederation in 1867.

Great Canadian Artist
Louis-Philippe Hébert


Most of the statues are signed and dated by the hand of Philippe Hébert on the base block.

Philippe would have signed the mother mould from which the statues were cast.

In his biographical entries he is always listed as Louis-Philippe Hébert but on all his sculptures he signs his name as Philippe Hébert.

All these statues are originals from the 1880s, not repros from a later date, so Philippe would have personally supervised the production run of these commemorative sculptures.

All the statues are some 75 cm high. Most weigh some 7.3 kg, but for some unknown reason, the bronze painted Macdonald weighs double that, at 16.4 kg.

The Adam Fergusson House - 1833

Four of Philippe Hébert's statues were found during an estate clearance at the Adam Fergusson house, on the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Burlington Bay.

The house, a typical one-and-a-half storey Ontario house of the period, was built in 1833 by Adam Fergusson, an early lawyer, agriculturist, and developer in the area.

He founded the town of Fergus, Ontario, today one of the great heritage towns of southern Ontario.

The painting below is the view of the house from the same side but from further right.

The central room below was in the middle of the house to the left of the central chimney which serves the fire place and comes down in line with the window underneath it below.

The walls are enormously thick to keep out the cold. There is only one fireplace so the extremities of the room were cold when the temperature dropped way down..


The statues were on the mantle over the fireplace to remind all visitors that everything that Canadians enjoy today is because of the hard work and foresight of men like the Fathers of Confederation.

What stories this room overheard of the trials and tribulations of hacking homes, farms, and towns, out of the primeval forest wilderness of this part of Ontario.

The room is the largest in the house and was the centre of family life and the place for socializing with important visitors.

No doubt fiddle dances were held here, though the original pine plank floor has been replaced. (It remains intact in other parts of the house.)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure An absolutely fabulous depiction of a 19th century Canadian upper class fiddle dance, from the private collection of Canada's premiere antique dealer and collector, the late John Russell CM, of Montreal and Gananoque. (Ah, sorry, no sawdust on the floor; this is a violin, not a fiddle dance.)

John collected this from Evil Davis, of Gananoque, Ontario, who painted it in 1945 from his youthful recollections. That's the fiddler in the corner showing us how Adam Fergusson probably dressed in tails while entertaining the social elites around Burlington in the mid 19th century.

What spellbinding tales his fiddle could tell...


Go to The Canadian Fiddle
Canadian Victorian Violin Dance, Evil Davis, 1945
Orig. watercolour - Size - 24 x 34 cm
Found - Kingston, ON
Prov - John Russell Estate, Exhibited Royal Ontario Museum Primitive Art Show, Feb-May 1971

The fiddle music once wafted across these fields below the house.

The view from the front window shows the remaining apple trees from the original garden area, and below, the field hacked out of a small piece of flat ground on a small plateau on the escarpment.

Beyond is Burlington Bay and the skyway bridge connecting Toronto, some forty kms to the left, to the Niagara peninsula to the far right.

Even today this house is remote, connected to pavement only by a 2 km gravel track wide enough for one car up a steep and winding hillside.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

John A Macdonald, by Louis-Philippe Hébert - 1886
Orig. plaster statue - Size - 75 cm, wt 16.4 kg
Found - Waterdown, ON
Signed Philippe Hébert

Canada's first prime minister is finished in bronze paint to look amazingly like it was cast in bronze metal.

For some unknown reason this statue weighs exactly twice what the others do - including the duplicate John A below - so we surmised it might indeed be bronze.

But it is plaster, confirmed by the scratch test in an unobtrusive part, the only way to tell a good paint job from metal. (Bronze does not allow a magnet test.)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

George-Étienne Cartier, by Louis-Philippe Hébert - 1886
Orig. plaster statue - Size - 75 cm, wt 7.3 kg
Found - Waterdown, ON
Signed Philippe Hébert

George-Étienne Cartier the chief partner of John A Macdonald in the 1860s and 70s, in forging the successful union of French and English regions of Canada.

His fingers are broken off, the only damage on any of the statues. They can be restored.

The auctioneer had labelled this statue as RB Bennett, Prime Minister of Canada from 1930-35!!!

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Wilfrid Laurier, by Louis-Philippe Hébert - 1886
Orig. plaster statue - Size - 75 cm, wt 7.3 kg
Found - Waterdown, ON
A very weathered original black paint finish of Wilfrid Laurier who served the longest unbroken period in office of any Canadian Prime Minister from 1896 to 1911.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Sir John A Macdonald, by Louis-Philippe Hébert - 1886
Orig. plaster statue - Size - 75 cm, wt 7.3 kg
Found - Cambridge, ON
Signed Philippe Hébert
An original cream finish - to mimic marble - that has paint peeling in some parts of the folds but should be left alone with only very minor fix ups allowed to prevent devaluing an original bust in original condition.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Wilfrid Laurier, by Philippe Hébert - 1886
Orig. plaster statue - Size - 72.5 cm wt 7.3 kg
Found - Hawkesbury, PQ
An original finish that shows its age but should not be repainted because an old patina is worth much more than a recent paint job. In fact repainting destroys the value of antiques for most collectors.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Charles Tupper, by Louis-Philippe Hébert - 1889
Orig. plaster statue - Size - 72.5 cm wt 7.3 kg
Found - Brampton, ON
Signed Philippe Hébert
From another source is this very successful terra cotta looking finish on Charles Tupper, who was Prime Minister for only a few months before returning to England where he lived out the last decades of his life.

A horrific repaint job done in the 1990s by someone who thought that John A was the first black prime minister of Canada.

It shows what the result is of abandoning the teaching of history as a compulsory subject in school.

It breeds ignorance in the general public.

Which is, of course, exactly the kind of population politicians like to promote...

The paint job started well with the clothing fairly well rendered but then came the face and hands. Probably painted by a Liberal who thought John A was a blackguard.

In spite of the paint job ruining a fine antique, this statue still went for over $700 at an auction in Kingston, Ontario.

How rare are Philipps' statues today?

Left are the only two to be found in Province House, the provincial legislature of Nova Scotia.

These, a cream coloured Charles Tupper left, and a black John A Macdonald, are in the window of the parliamentary library.

In a locked display downstairs is the only one of Joe Howe we have ever seen above.


A very rare Hébert statue of Joe Howe, finished in the original cream, and which is the property of Province House, the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, .

Cream was often the finish of choice because it mimicked the look of high priced marble statues and busts that were common during the 19th century, when people looked back to Greek and Roman times for inspiration for many of their institutional buildings and artistic figures.

Other faux finishes on the statues are bronze (Macdonald above), to look like metal, or terra cotta (Tupper above), to look like hand made clay originals.

Joe was a Father of Confederation from Nova Scotia and a considerable reformer fighting for freedom of the press and democratic rights for common people at a time when only rich and powerful people had their way with the public purse, in fact, very much like today...

Where is Joe Howe when the times call for more men like him?

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005
















Alas! Fiercely independent journalists like Joe Howe, and his contemporary, William Lyon Mackenzie in Ontario, are long gone.

They have been replaced by highly paid hacks in the service to the same class that Joe fought against his entire public life in his efforts to give real meaning to the democracy everyone was talking about.

Today, Canadian and American journalists are extremely well paid to preach the twaddle that gives comfort to their employers, among the richest people in Canada and the US.

In their defence one can say they are at least as conscientious in pursuing the "public good" as the many CEOs, that have helmed the major financial institutions into the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

These professionals, while purportedly hired to look out for the "public interest" of shareholders, had only one aim all along: get the biggest pay packet for themselves. and do whatever that takes. They alone - scores, hundreds of them - walk off with a bundle in the tens of millions, while Joe Public gets milked big time, and takes the bath. Is this the democracy Joe Howe dreamed of and fought for?

Patently passionate anti-Arabist and anti-Muslim CNN propagandist "Chief International Correspondent" Christiane Amanpour gets close to 2 million dollars annually to promote her corporate line. With a pay packet like that how far is she going to stray from the xenophobic right wing American corporate line of her bosses?

Now Canadian calumnists are not getting that much, but they're trying very hard, as you can tell by reading their jingoistic, pro-American, pro-war against the Muslims columns:

Like Rosie duhManno (Canada's leading military propagandist for bombing the "corrupt, misogynist Afghan males" into the ground), Jeffery the Simp ("it was an accident" - the American attack on a border post in Pakistan killing 11 Pakistani soldiers), Marcus Golly Gee (the US has a right to attack Afghanistan because Afghanistan? attacked the US, and NATO has a right to fight there because a member nation was attacked by Afghanistan?...), Mark Stain on his Profession (anti-Muslim diatribes), etc.

Because of the shoddy quality of their work, their contorted lines of reasoning, to promote their private agendas etc., polls consistently confirm that the average citizen thinks slightly less of journalists than they do of lawyers, and other kinds of pimps.

If you don't believe polls, ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Even the media agree, more than any previous PM, he has only utter contempt for their kind and the craft they pursue, and goes out of his way to avoid talking to them or giving them interviews.

The Prime Minister prefers, like Joe Howe of yesteryear, to talk directly to the people - the salt of the earth, and all-too-trusting tax paying citizens of Canada. Instead of the putative pimps of the pompositing classes.

If you can believe, some, like Globe & Mail calumnist Maggie Wente and her pals, even shill for their employer after hours, trying to sucker ordinary people to go on a high-priced Globe & Mail cruise in the Caribbean with its journalists as the bait. Wouldn't you expect an independent journalist to keep an arm's length distance from their rich, right-wing, conservative employers, instead of groping after every handout and being hucksters for the high and mighty?)

No wonder the feeling of disdain for media pundits is so widespread among the educated classes, and is why, too, newspaper circulation is tanking big time and major publications in the US and Canada have been forced to sell off ten, twenty or more percent of their capacity.

People are fed up with the pulp they publish and prefer getting their news and information from uncontrolled and less compromised sources, the world wide internet - the horse's mouth, not as former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney acerbically called the pandering local media scribes, the horse's ass.

This is a bronze version of the plaster statue of Wilfrid Laurier that was sold at a fine art auction as a supposed original.

Do you think it was?

For all the dope of fake antique Canadian bronze busts and statues...

Go to Fake Busts & Other Falsies
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Joe Howe, by Louis-Philippe Hébert - 1904
Orig. monument - Size - huge
Found - Halifax, NS

Outside Province House is a large bronze statue of Joe Howe by Philippe Hébert based on the maquette of the plaster statue he completed for the Fathers of Confederation series.

Erected for a journalist - who had died in 1873 - by a grateful province, in 1904. William Lyon Mackenzie was another journalist the public honoured with a statue.

It is a cinch that no one will line up to contribute to such a monument for Rosie duhManno and her ilk, unless one can guarantee she will be accommodated in a sound proof vault, in the foundation.

Comparing the signatures of the two Tuppers left you can confirm that both came from the same mother mould. All the letters and numbers are a match for size, direction, and position.

This is not true of the three Macdonalds. Though two below have the same date they do not bear mirror signatures. The 86 is offset differently under the fecit, and the dashes after the 14 are vertically in different places. The bronze Macdonald bottom has an entirely different signature.

Philippe made them all from different mother moulds done to speed up production.

(Fecit is Latin for "made it," used by 19th century sculptors.)






For all about how these statues were made and signed:

Go to Fake Busts & Other Falsies


The Fathers of Confederation - 1880s