John Harberle Painting & Sketches
Appraised Value: $36,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:16)
Paintings & Drawings
Owner and President
Harwood Fine Arts, Inc.
GUEST: This is a painting by John Harberle, my great-great-grandfather. He was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, and he's mostly known for his trompe l'oeil work. Later in his life, he started to lose his eyesight, so that explains the lack of precise painting. And this is a book of some of his sketches. His daughter Vera started to dismantle his sketchbooks, and so we put some of them in these plastic sheets. But other than that, this has just been in our living room since my mother retrieved it from his house in New Haven in the 1970s.
APPRAISER: It's such a wonderful story when anyone comes to us with a family history like this and so much material. We do think of Harberle as an artist of trompe l'oeil pictures, and "tromp-l'oeil" literally means "paintings that fool the eye." He's in a long line of the tradition of trompe l'oeil. People think of Harnett and Peto, who are the great American trompe l'oeil painters, and he's really the generation after that. And I think here, even though this picture is not in his very precise style, it still conveys that idea that so many of his pictures did. It's a very humorous subject-- it's a very appealing subject. Its value is not going to be quite the same, because people obviously want to collect his very precise pictures. One of the reasons that his trompe l'oeil pictures can be as costly as they can be is, as you say, he had a relatively limited output because of his declining eyesight. He didn't paint as many pictures as a lot of other people did. But you've also brought these sketchbooks. This is only one of several that you brought. I know you had some concerns about their condition, because they've been dismantled, and had some tape put on them, and so on. We see a lot of examples of figure drawings. Again, not what he's quite so well known for but dated mainly in the 1880s, which was his heyday. It was when he was doing all of his most famous work. And his drawings do turn up on the market as well. It brings up the question of sketchbooks and whether they should be intact or whether it's okay if they're taken apart. There's a lot of controversy about that amongst the, sort of, art-historical and art-dealing world. People who are really interested in art history would love to see them all kept together, and ideally, that would be the best situation. But from a commercial point of view, people who are in the trade, and dealers, will often take a sketchbook apart, because they can sell them more easily as individual sheets. So it's not for us to decide here which one is better, but fortunately, you still have it, and that's the most important thing. In terms of value, I would think... an insurance value on your painting of approximately $30,000.
APPRAISER: And the drawings-- you have quite a number of them-- they sell anywhere from $100 to about $400, depending if we took an average of, say, $200 apiece...
APPRAISER: 30 would be worth approximately $6,000. So I'd say you have at least that, and I didn't count up all the drawings, but maybe even more than that. I just think you're incredibly lucky to have it.
GUEST: Thank you so much.
APPRAISER: You're welcome. Thanks for bringing it.
GUEST: Great-- thank you.
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