Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Property from the DeLapp Family Collection
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Mistletoe and a Milky Way

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Mistletoe and a Milky Way
signed 'Norman/Rockwell' (lower center)
oil and pencil on paperboard
10 ¼ x 9 ½ in. (26 x 24.1 cm.), image; 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.), overall
Painted circa 1961.
The artist.
Joe DeLapp, Sr., acquired from the above.
By descent to the present owners.
L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. I, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. 479, no. A596, illustrated.

Lot Essay

Norman Rockwell painted Mistletoe and a Milky Way circa 1961 as part of a Mars, Inc. customer campaign depicting its bestselling candy bar at the time, the Milky Way. This whimsical and original Rockwell work was used for a Christmas card sent to thousands of trade customers and Mars, Inc. employees, per a letter from Mars President, Jim Fleming, to Rockwell dated June 15, 1960. Mistletoe and a Milky Way was commissioned by then Mars Director of Advertising, Joseph K. DeLapp. The cost for the commission was $2,600.

The innovative Mr. DeLapp commissioned two additional paintings for Christmas cards by well-known artist and The Saturday Evening Post illustrator John Falter. Falter’s painting, Holiday Treat (Lot 2) features a German Shepherd and two very content young kids sitting on a sled eating Milky Ways. Falter’s other work, Gift Exchange (Lot 3), depicts a young boy and girl, likely brother and sister, each concealing a box of Mars candy replete with ribbon and bow and ready for the early morning gift exchange. They will no doubt both delight at the gift of Snickers and Milky Ways. These paintings are emblematic of the candy and confectionary marketing prowess of Mr. DeLapp during his 40 plus years with top candy companies Mars, Peter Paul, Luden’s and Hershey. He championed marketing campaigns with lines and products that we all remember: “the best candy on earth comes from Mars,” “there is so much milk in the Milky Way you can almost hear it moo,” “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t,” frozen Snickers, Halloween miniatures bars and more. DeLapp was inducted into the Candy and Confectionary Industry Hall of Fame in 1979.

During his sixty-three year career as America’s preeminent illustrator, Rockwell’s genius was in his ability to evoke the essence and spirit of the times. Mistletoe and a Milky Way depicts a humorous scene with a young boy eating a Milky Way as he mischievously holds a mistletoe over the head of an unsuspecting or disinterested young girl. The innocent stalemate exemplifies Rockwell’s ability to imbue familiar scenes with a narrative and sensitivity that often rekindles a poignant and nostalgic personal memory for the viewer. The DeLapp family records indicate that the son of Mars, Inc. President Jim Fleming served as the inspiration and, quite possibly, the model for the young boy.

By 1960, Rockwell was already a celebrity in his own right, having painted more than 300 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. His imagery was as instantly recognizable as it was ubiquitous. Painting a sweeping range of topics during a century of extensive technological and social change, he helped forge a sense of national identity through his art. Through works such as Mistletoe and a Milky Way, Rockwell encapsulates and celebrates an era of the American experience.

Rockwell’s Mistletoe and a Milk Way as well as John Falter’s two paintings, Holiday Treat (Lot 2) and Gift Exchange (Lot 3), are being sold by members of the DeLapp family.

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