Portraits Attributed to Ruth Henshaw Bascom, ca. 1830

Value (2009) | $20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction

GUEST:
They are a pair of silhouettes that I bought. I call them my girls or my sisters, and they hang in my bedroom. I purchased them at an antique shop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They're something that make me smile, and I love looking at them every day.

APPRAISER:
What struck me right away was their incredible beauty. They probably date to around 1825 and 1830. And the way that we date these is by fashion. Their hairstyle, the style of their jewelry and the style of their dress-- that's one clue. Another clue is looking at the medium, pastel on paper. And what's interesting to me is that they're large cutwork and then laid down on another piece of paper. If you look at this picture, it's sort of very plain background. And then we looked at the other picture now, which has shifted slightly in its frame to reveal some blue behind it. And what we discovered under the backboards of the picture was that it was a complete blue sheet of paper.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Which, all of a sudden, then a light bulb went off for me, and I said, "Wow, blue background, cutwork, with these foil sort of embellishments on these beautiful girls"-- Ruth Henshaw Bascom, we believe, is the artist. And she worked in this style. She worked in New England, and these fall right within the height of the period in which she worked, in the 1820s, '30s and '40s.

GUEST:
Okay. And how about the frames?

APPRAISER:
The frames are not old. They were reframed at some point, and the glass is not old.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
So how much did you pay for them?

GUEST:
I paid $150.

APPRAISER:
When I first looked at them and I thought they were American school, 19th century, circa 1820 to 1830, and valued as such. If I were estimating them for auction today, I would say $10,000 to $15,000.

GUEST:
All right.

APPRAISER:
However, with all the forensic clues that we've amassed... Right. ...if we were to price them as by this artist Ruth Henshaw Bascom...

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
...they would be worth double that.

GUEST:
I have goosebumps.

APPRAISER:
$20,000 to $30,000.

GUEST:
No way. Oh, my God. Oh, I have goosebumps, they're going up my legs. Oh, my gosh.

APPRAISER:
They're beautiful.

GUEST:
They're amazing. I adore them. Thank you so much. Wow.

APPRAISER:
You're welcome.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, New York
Appraised value (2009)
$20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Event
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
Period
19th Century
Form
Portrait
Material
Paper, Pastel

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