19th-Century Simon Troger-Style Ivory & Boxwood Figures

Value (2009) | $50,000 Auction$75,000 Auction
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GUEST:
We've had them for probably ten, 15, 20 years. We got them from my mother-in-law, my wife's mother, who got them from a great-great-grandfather, who, I believe, supplied this picture. He had his own museum in Philadelphia, and these were part of that collection that he had there.

APPRAISER:
Well, they are possibly by an artist named Simon Troger, who worked in Austria in the mid-18th century and opened his own workshop in Munich in 1733. And he was a very successful and prolific wood-carver. He actually trained in Innsbruck, Austria, before coming to Munich and was known for doing these wonderful combinations of ivory, boxwood, and the addition of the glass eyes.

GUEST:
Oh, yes.

APPRAISER:
Now, he was so popular during his lifetime that he was copied both by his contemporaries and subsequently in the 19th century. There's been a lot of discussion. I can't tell you how many people we showed these to before actually talking about them on camera, and the consensus was that we can't make a definitive decision today. However, the quality of these leads us to really suspect that they are actually from his workshop. They have some amazing detail where the boxwood is very thinly carved. The examples that have come up for auction show these rags and holes like this. The other thing that makes us think that they probably are 18th century is that the grotesqueness of the figures. Figures carved during the 19th century tend to take on more of a romantic idea and seem to be less vulgar, in a way.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
The quality of the carving is just incredible. I mean, you have the veins in the legs, the fully carved digits of the toes and the fingers, and then the detail on the bodies as well. Now, of course, since he did work in Munich, the largest collections of figures that are by this workshop and by this artist are actually in Munich, in one of the museums there of the city of Munich.

GUEST:
Oh, really?

APPRAISER:
Yes. And the world-renowned expert is actually in Munich, too.

GUEST:
Aha.

APPRAISER:
So, to give you an idea of value, the 19th-century copies bring about $20,000 to $30,000 each, the small one about $10,000 to $15,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
However, if we can definitively attribute it to Troger, they could be worth as much as $150,000 each, the small one about $100,000.

GUEST:
Wow, that's a big spread.

APPRAISER:
That's a big spread. And you showed us this photograph, and I understand you have the whole collection.

GUEST:
We have all six pieces. I think I need a trip.

APPRAISER:
I think you need a trip. (both laugh)

APPRAISER:
Well, thank you for bringing those to the Roadshow.

GUEST:
Thank you for your input.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Doyle New York
Washington, DC
Appraised value (2009)
$50,000 Auction$75,000 Auction
Event
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
Period
19th Century
Form
Figure
Material
Ivory
November 21, 2011: Since this segment first aired in February 2010, these ivory and boxwood carvings have been confirmed as the work of Austrian sculptor Simon Troger.

Scott Defrin, founder of The European Decorative Arts Company, and a Troger expert, verified the attribution in his article "Recognizing the Hand of Simon Troger (1683-1768)," published in a 2011 collection of essays on German sculptural studies.

While watching Reid Dunavant's appraisal of the carvings on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, Defrin says he recognized the figures as pieces of Troger's combination groups ( Kombinationsgruppen ) — sets of carvings, usually from a specific scene, that were intended to be displayed together. The figures had several key characteristics of Troger's work, such as the combination of boxwood and ivory, the detail of the figures' rag clothing, and the general quality of the work.

Defrin says he was particularly surprised to discover these Troger carvings, both because Troger's work seldom comes up on the U.S. market, and "because they have survived together intact as a group." With the Troger attribution verified, Dunavant confirmed that the figures would be worth $100,000 to $150,000 each.

To learn more about Defrin's findings on these Troger pieces and other works that have recently been attributed to Troger, see Defrin's full article (PDF):

"Recognizing the Hand of Simon Troger (1683 - 1768)," by Scott Defrin.

From Barocke Kunststuckh, Sculpture Studies in Honour of Christian Theuerkauff edited by Regine Marth and Marjorie Trusted, Hirmer Verlag, Munich, 2011.

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