Appraisal Video: (4:12)
Paintings & Drawings
Debra Force Fine Art, Inc.
GUEST: It's an oil painting from my husband's grandfather. It was from New York City in the late 1800s. An antique dealer was at our house one time and he said it might be worth $2,500.
APPRAISER: Okay, how long ago was that?
GUEST: About, uh... 14 years ago.
APPRAISER: And do you have any idea who the artist is?
GUEST: No. I can't find a signature anywhere on it.
APPRAISER: Well, based upon the subject and the style of the painting, we believe this painting to be by James E. Buttersworth. He was born in England in 1817, came to the United States in the late 1840s and settled in New Jersey. He came from a family of marine painters and he was very popular during his lifetime; died in 1894. Now, how I decided this was a work by Buttersworth, there are several factors. First off, this is very characteristic of his race subjects. I do not believe that this is an America's Cup race, although it's entirely possible. The way we would find that out is by researching these flags here, because they would denote the name of the boat and we could do that with an organization like the New York Yacht Club or some maritime museums. In the scene, you have the main, central figure, the racing boat, and behind it is the observation boat. In terms of Buttersworth's style, the rolling waves with the sea spray is very characteristic of one of his later works done in the 1880s. So that really coincides with what you were talking about in terms of the original purchase. The billowing sails also characteristic. It's great that there's an American flag. American flags are extremely popular in almost any work by any artist, but particularly in marine painting. And this is really nice, because it's got figures. And you even see the legs of the seamen here, which is kind of interesting. It's really a major work by the artist. He rarely painted in this large scale. The painting is not signed and so we would need to do further research in order to document that it is, in fact, by Buttersworth. And this painting is what we like to see: it's in original condition. And although you see a lot of craquelure, the painting has not been lined. It really hasn't been touched or restored, I assume.
APPRAISER: You've never done anything with it? Um, it does have a paint loss here. Perhaps maybe it was a puncture. There's a loss here. The tacking edge was probably a bit brittle and so it broke off. But you can see where the frame was, because here along the edge is a brighter blue than it is here, and so this painting needs to be cleaned. It'll clean drastically, so the sky will really be bright blue and these sails are going to be bright white. Now, in terms of the market for Buttersworth, marine painting is extremely popular. Always has been, but today even more so. A painting like this, of this scale, with all the detail and all the complexities that we see here, and given the market, in the present condition, this painting at auction would probably be estimated somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000 to $500,000. If it were restored and you were to go to a gallery in New York City, for example, it would probably be priced in excess of half a million.
GUEST: Oh, my Lord in heaven.
APPRAISER: Now, the thing is, again, we have to be cautious, because of course we have to do the research, but it is something that really could be in that range.
GUEST: Oh, my gosh... I can't believe it.
APPRAISER: You had it hanging in your home or...?
GUEST: In my husband's office.
APPRAISER: Yeah, and it has a frame or...?
GUEST: Yes, I had to take the frame off to get it in the car. It wouldn't fit in the car with the frame.
APPRAISER: Oh, oh. And you think the frame was original, then, probably.
GUEST: I don't know. It looks like the frame was painted with the picture in it and it got paint up here on the painting.
APPRAISER: Oh, I see. Well, if it is the original frame, that can also add to the value--
APPRAISER: --you know, which we'd have to judge once we see it. And in terms of the lack of signature, that does impact. Some people are concerned about that and some people aren't. And this, as I said, seems to have all the characteristics of the artist.
GUEST: I used to tell my husband if he would have it cleaned he could hang it out in the dining room. (laughs)