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When Dick Perez began his "Conlon Collection" journey with us two years ago, he kicked off the project with a larger-than-life facial study of Babe Ruth from Charles Conlon's iconic close-up photos of the 1927 Murderers' Row lineup. Thus set in motion Perez's acclaimed "Faces of Yankee Greatness" series, which next focused on Lou Gehrig (February 2014) and Joe DiMaggio (May 2014).
Now, to complete his ambitious vision beyond the Yankee years of Conlon's lifespan, Dick has hand-selected the head shots of Mickey Mantle (presented here) and Derek Jeter (November 2014) that he feels are most Conlonesque in nature, channeling the master photographer's trademark gritty realism, searing intimacy, and stark intensity.
The Conlonesque Photo
This ultra-iconic image of the Mick was made famous as the cover of Sports Illustrated on June 18, 1956, during his pinnacle Triple Crown season. Little do many realize, it was captured by none other than Hy Peskin (1915-2005)—an extraordinarily gifted and notoriously enigmatic shutterbug who holds the distinction as SI's very first staff photographer and also contributed to LIFE, Look, Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post.
"Who was Hy Peskin?" rhetorically asks Peskin's biographer (and MLB's official historian) John Thorn in a fascinating tribute article linked here. "I had known him by the hundreds of photographs I had seen over the years, always distinctive in composition and density of color, always recognizably 'a Peskin.' I knew that his challenging angles, unprecedented aerial shots, and unequaled athleticism had redefined his profession."
According to the New York Times, Peskin's Mantle masterpiece actually dates to May 14, 1955, prior to a 7-6 win against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium, when Mickey went 2-for-4 with a single, triple, walk, run scored, and RBI.
The Perez Painting
Never before in Dick Perez's illustrious career has the Diamond Kingmaker paid homage to Mickey Mantle in such grandiose size, sweeping scope, and exacting detail. Spanning 2-1/2 feet by 3-1/4 feet, the vast portrait is 12 times larger than Mantle's '56 Sports Illustrated issue and—like its "Faces of Yankee Greatness" predecessors—must be seen to be believed.
Fortunately, the upcoming National Sports Collectors Convention (July 30-Aug. 3) allows us the golden opportunity to proudly showcase this elite artwork so that viewers can witness first-hand its true glory and majesty. Only then can one fully appreciate the sheer imposing magnitude; sophisticated play of shadow and light; shocking synergy of bright-blue cap, eyes and pinstripes; and Dick's deft impressionstic touch on Mick's rugged features.
In typical form, Perez innovatively made the image his own not only through his unique color palette, expert brush strokes and inimitable style, but also by, in his words, "altering the original photo slightly by lowering the shoulders to create a more straight-on look, instead of the hunchback effect that was created by the tight cropping." The result is a timeless Perezian classic that dovetails perfectly with Mantle's Triple Crown Season Game-Used Jersey headlining this LIVE auction.