Late 18th-Century American Folk Art Child's Portrait
Appraised Value: $30,000 - $50,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:11)
Clocks & Watches, Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Furniture
Director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts, Partner, Executive Vice President & Chief Auctioneer
GUEST: I think it's my three-great-grandfather. He was born in 1785, I think in Mendon, Mass., and lived in that area and Providence and died in Milton, Mass. And that's virtually all I know about him.
APPRAISER: Well, you're fortunate because you know a lot more about this picture than a lot of people know about ancestral portraits. It has all of the elements that characterize, I think, great folk portraiture. It's painted with sensitivity. There's a sort of gentle touch to the artist's work. This child has a very clear gaze. It's a very direct picture. It kind of reaches into your heart, at least it did me. It's interesting to note, too, that he's holding, it looks like a wild rose and is wearing a little necklace. Now, this is a little bit of a mystery. At our table, we're trying to figure out, why is he dressed this way? So there's something about it that's a little bit of a puzzle. This is painted very late in the 18th century and it's characteristically, it's painted with this oval matte, which is true of a lot of 18th-century portraiture. The painter of this picture must have had some exposure to, perhaps, more academic works just to get the idea of what was fashionable in the day. You mentioned to me that at some point it was cleaned?
GUEST: Yes, about 35 years ago.
APPRAISER: Okay, it looks as though they were pretty careful about cleaning it. It still has a little bit of superficial grime and dirt, which is a fine thing. Now, there's some discussion about this picture as to how carefully this has been signed in the back. This beautifully painted, careful lettering. It almost would appear as though this person was a sign painter, but we don't really know. And all that we need to know who the sitter is is right there. It's really quite something. It is evident, too, that at some point when you had it cleaned, it has been a fixture or replacement stretcher and it would seem that the tacking edge of the painting perhaps was not in good condition, so they've applied a new tacking edge to the picture, but being very careful not to disturb the canvas itself and this remarkable documentation on the back. So this picture, in my opinion, has got it all. It's just lovely. During the time that you've owned it, have you ever had it appraised?
GUEST: Yes. At the time it was repaired, restored, and, um, they told us then about $15,000.
APPRAISER: And that was about?
GUEST: About 35 years ago.
APPRAISER: 35 years ago.
GUEST: And they said if I could determine who had painted the picture, that the value might double.
APPRAISER: If we had more time, we'd come up with some sort of idea as to just who painted this picture. It's awfully hard to come up with quick attributions, but I think this is a good example of how the folk market has changed. I think in today's marketplace, conservatively, at least in an auction situation, I would estimate the picture at probably $30,000 to $50,000, um, without hesitation. This is a real charmer. So we thank you.
GUEST: Well, thank you.
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