1860 Bien Audubon Chromolithograph

Value (2009) | $3,000 Retail

GUEST:
I had taken my mother out to lunch, and we were in a little strip mall, and she said, "What is this store over here?" And it was a consignment store. So we walked over there, and I walked in, and I started looking around, and this was leaned against a wall. And I went, "Oh, that's pretty." I asked the woman what she wanted for it, and I said, "Well, the frame's worth that," so I bought it. I paid $350. And I told my husband, I said, "We can take this out if you don't like it, or we can leave it." It's been 11 years now, and it lives in my house.

APPRAISER:
And that's what you know about it.

GUEST:
Well, I've looked online, and if it's real, Audubon's son, I believe, wanted to make life-size birds, and so they started this Bien studio, began to make them, and then the Civil War broke out and they never did it again. I couldn't find much more than that.

APPRAISER:
This is a later elephant folio-size print. And it's absolutely genuine, so you can rest assured of that.

GUEST:
Yay.

APPRAISER:
Now, one of the things is, when you look over here, if it's the first edition, the London editions, it'll talk about Robert Havell as the man who engraved it and colored it. But this talks about Julius Bien in New York.

GUEST:
Oh, Bien. I called him "Bine."

APPRAISER:
If he was French, he'd say, "My name is Mr. Bien." But he was a New Yorker, so "I'm Mr. 'Bean.'" Your story about these being produced in 1860 is absolutely correct. And in 1860 Mrs. Audubon and the two sons were doing this, what was called the chromolithograph edition.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Well, the Civil War broke out, most of their subscribers were in the South. Southerners are wonderful ornithologists because they live outdoors more than Northerners do. And so they went bankrupt because of that. And this is when the original drawings were sold to the New York Historical Society to get them out of bankruptcy. Also, another aspect of this particular print is that because it's a chromolithograph, they used multiple stones to print it. To get the registration quite right so that there was no blurring of the lines or printover of an area, they had to be very careful. Some of these are terribly printed. Some of these are on very stained and inferior paper. This seems to be on beautiful paper. The registration is wonderful.

GUEST:
All right.

APPRAISER:
It's a great print. If this was a Robert Havell first edition, it would be a hand-colored aquatint. This has some hand coloring on it. It's mostly printed in color. And this Bien edition is worth, retail, about $3,000.

GUEST:
Oh, cool.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
For $350 I did well.

APPRAISER:
You did fine. Now, if it was a Havell, it would be about $6,000 or $6,500.

GUEST:
Oh, but I love this.

APPRAISER:
But this is fine.

GUEST:
Like I said, oh, I love it. Well, that is so good to find out about it. This was in an explosion last December and flew across the room and went into this wall and did not get hurt. And so it's meant to be, and it's meant to live in my house.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
The Philadelphia Print Shop
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2009)
$3,000 Retail
Event
Denver, CO (July 25, 2009)
Period
19th Century
Material
Paper

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