1847 James Henry Beard Oil Painting, ”The Illustrious Guest“
My great-great- great-grandfather purchased the painting originally in Cincinnati. My grandmother always thought it was a George Caleb Bingham painting, and then we had it appraised, and he told us that it was not by Bingham. He identified the artist as James Henry Beard.
And there was a title of it?
Uh, The Illustrious Guest.
Exactly. Well, the guest here is Henry Clay. He's the man in the center. And James Beard painted this in 1847 in Cincinnati. Clay was the senator from Kentucky and was probably the most recognizable politician of the 19th century, next to Abraham Lincoln. He ran for president several times and lost and was certainly well-known. And he shows up here in a tavern at an inn, and we see what's going on here. There's all sorts of incidents in this sort of American 19th-century genre painting. From starting over here, you see the people in the back at the tavern... people here. There's a little bartender and some jars and bottles and a little glass here. Then, here's our main character, our illustrious guest. He's sitting here reading the paper, and he still has his long traveling coat on here that trails down below. Then there's a lot of curious gawkers. They know they have a famous guy here, so we start seeing things like they're checking out his cane to see what the initials are. And then there's something clever that Beard did, was he put in his name here on the guest register. J.H. Beard. Then below it, we have H. Clay. And so, these guys are scrutinizing the guest list and looking and then checking to see if this is really him. Then all the way over on the end, you have the womenfolk and children. We have one child in here, but they're sort of looking on because this is the tavern and you aren't supposed to have the women in the tavern. And then, you see his traveling bags, one of these what we would call a carpetbag. Have you ever had it appraised?
It was appraised in, what, 1969 for $20,000.
Okay, well, it's interesting. Beard is not a first-tier artist, so he's not that well-known. And in fact, he's know really more for doing paintings with dogs in them. And the high-water mark at auction for him is about $25,000, so you really have a ceiling. But when you get a painting such as this that's really important and really involved, an important piece of Americana, you have to throw those records out. If we were to put this into an auction-- I talked to my colleagues, and we said we'd probably at least put an auction estimate on this of $300,000 to $500,000.
Oh, my gosh! Really?
And we were speculating, things like this that have had estimates like that have gone into the seven figures when they go to auction because people just go crazy over them because they haven't seen anything like this at auction.
It's an important piece of American history. This could hang in a museum. It is great to see it in here.
Thank you. What can I say? Wow.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.
Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.