Bessie Potter Vonnoh Bronze, ca.1900

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

I inherited it from my mother, who inherited it from her mother. Beyond that I don't know its history. My mother had this on her dresser all of her life. She always thought of it as her mother holding her, and she really treasured it. It has a signature on it I've never been able to read. I'm here to find out more about it.

This is signed by a very prominent American woman sculptor.

Oh, a woman.

And she worked in the early part of the 20th century. It's signed over here, and her name is Bessie Potter Vonnoh, V-O-N-N-O-H. It's actually dated, although I can't quite make out the date. And then it also has the foundry mark. It was cast by the Roman Bronze Works of New York City.

In New York City.

Yeah, they were a very prominent foundry at this time, and they did wonderful work. Bessie Potter Vonnoh was born in the 1870s, and she was from Chicago, and she started working on works at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. She was an assistant to Loredo Taft. And she also studied at the Chicago Art Institute.

Oh, she started... very prominent, then.

Yes, and she also went to Paris, and she met up with Rodin, who was probably the leading sculptor of the time. So she's really quite important as a sculptor. She's contemporary with the Impressionists, and in fact she married an American Impressionist painter named Robert Vonnoh in 1899, and they moved to New York City in 1899. And she continued to live there the rest of her life. It's very fluidly modeled. When you usually think of bronzes, you think of these smooth, slick surfaces, whereas this has a lot of variation in the surface. It has a life and a texture to it. And it was cast in the lost wax process that rendered these pieces in very clear detail. But it has a very wonderful expression and feeling to it, this interaction of the mother and child. It's in very nice condition. It has this green patina. Bronzes can be made in a number of different patinas, different shades of light brown, dark brown.

Is the patina mainly from age, or was it put on when...

It's put on. After the piece is cast and finished, various chemicals are applied to the surface, usually with heat, and it's actually worked in as part of the surface. And that's what's so important about sculpture, that it has to be done during the lifetime of the artist, because it's really a whole process. The artist makes the model, and it's brought to a foundry, where it's transformed into a bronze. And the artist has to supervise this and give them guidance as to how they want it finished, and what kind of patina it should have. Now, do you have any sense of the value of it?

I have an appraisal from my grandmother's estate in 1938, and it has only a value of $100. So I hope it's worth a whole lot more than that.

It is worth more than $100. Her work is very, very desirable. In a gallery setting this piece is probably worth between $20,000 and $30,000.

Oh, my gosh. Okay. From $100.

From $100 to $20,000 to $30,000. That's astounding.

Appraisal Details

Lillian Nassau LLC
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$20,000 Retail$30,000 Retail
Denver, CO (July 25, 2009)

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