View of Taj Mahal Oil Painting, ca. 1880
Appraised Value: $30,000 - $50,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
On June 6, 2011, this view of Taj Mahal was sold in London at an auction of Russian paintings, where, after additional research, a different conclusion had been reached about the artist. The painting was cataloged as The Taj Mahal, Evening, by the 19th-century Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin, with an initial auction estimate of between $400,000 and $700,000. The final hammer price was approximately $3.64 million. "I knew that was a great painting," appraiser Colleene Fesko says, "and I'm so pleased it received the necessary research I discussed and, ultimately, the market attention it deserved.”
Appraisal Video: (2:41)
Paintings & Drawings
Colleene Fesko Works of Art
GUEST: I know very little about it. I know the man that gave it to us 30 years ago as a wedding gift. There's no owner's name on it. We know nothing about that. The family that this came from is dead. So there's no way I can track back that. And it's just hung in my living room for years and we love it.
APPRAISER: So this was a wedding gift in...
GUEST: About 1975.
APPRAISER: It is a wonderful 19th-century Orientalist style painting of the Taj Majal in India. And the really short definition of Orientalist is Western artists traveling to the Orient, the Middle East, North Africa, and painting exotic scenes of places that Europeans and Americans rarely got to visit. The Orientalists were accurate in some respects, but they also quite romanticized the areas that they were painting. A lot of the scenes you see are inside the harems, and, you know, just very, very exotic, romantic scenes that they were making up a bit. They were impressing the folks back home. While the piece isn't signed, my colleagues and I think that an attribution could be made to the American artist Edwin Lord Weeks. And Weeks was born in Boston, then went to Paris to study and then traveled to India and a lot of areas in the Middle East. His Indian scenes were, in fact, his most popular. He was there in 1883, when, I would think, that this painting would roughly date from-- the last couple of decades of the 19th century. Weeks was interesting, too, in that he would paint during the day and come home and develop photographs at night. And he would use those photographs to work out the extraordinary detail that you see in the Taj itself and in the wonderful reflection that you see of the Taj. I believe the painting to be in its original frame. And I believe the piece to be attributable to Weeks. But it is a research project. Given the style and subject matter and incredible strength of the Indian market right now, I think it has a good bit of value. At auction, I would estimate it between $30,000 and $50,000.
GUEST: Mm-hmm. That's... that's nice.
APPRAISER: (laughs) Yeah.
GUEST: Very delightful.
APPRAISER: If confirmed to be by Weeks, my sense is that the value will go up considerably.
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