Bessie Potter Vonnoh Bronze Sculptures

Value (2011) | $9,000 Auction$13,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I found them at a thrift store. And I was actually looking for a present for my wife. And I came across these, and I said, "Whoa, these would make a nice present for her."

APPRAISER:
You know who the artist is.

GUEST:
They're signed.

APPRAISER:
It's pretty clear. It's Bessie Potter Vonnoh. And she was one of America's leading sculptors. She was born in the 19th century and lived until the middle of the 20th century. And most of her work was done 1900 until the 1930s. And what she was known for were these domestic or everyday types of scenes. Mother and child and this lovely crawling baby. Made around 1910. Most sculpture that we see is of famous people, presidents, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and it's very unusual to have sculptors whose subject matter is women and children. And they're beautifully made. They're very finely detailed. And what's so nice is the expression that she captures between the mother and the child. And this little baby is crawling. It's really quite wonderful. Bessie Potter Vonnoh worked in New York City, and she also had a summer house in Connecticut. And she was married to an American painter named Robert Vonnoh-- he was an Impressionist painter-- and they worked together. And actually she's more famous than he is. Her work is so popular because of the subject matter that there are a lot of fakes.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

APPRAISER:
And what people have done over the years is they'll make a mold of the original, and they'll make another casting. And that's called a surmoulage. They weren't done during the artist's lifetime. They weren't done under her authorization. They were done much later. And it's unfortunate, because it actually keeps a lot of collectors away from collecting sculpture because of this issue with recast. What's nice about yours is that they are original.

GUEST:
Oh, really?

APPRAISER:
If these were surmoulages, or recasts as they're sometimes called, they really wouldn't be worth much. But these two examples are quite, quite interesting. What did you say you paid for these?

GUEST:
I paid $20 apiece.

APPRAISER:
$20 apiece. $40 bucks in both of them.

GUEST:
Yes, $40.

APPRAISER:
Well, this one, the mother and child, recently sold at auction for $4,500.

GUEST:
Wow, that's great.

APPRAISER:
So an auction estimate on this would be between $4,000 and $6,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
But I have to tell you that about ten years ago, this same model at auction brought $24,000.

GUEST:
Oh, okay. Wow, what a difference.

APPRAISER:
It's a big difference. And that's indicative of what the market can be like. Sometimes when there's a high price, more pieces come out, somebody says, "Hey, I have one of those. If it's worth that amount, I'm going to sell it." So then more come to the market, the price goes down. This is a lovely little piece also. At auction we'd probably put an estimate of between $5,000 and $7,000.

GUEST:
Wow. A little bit more than the other one, huh?

APPRAISER:
Yeah, yeah. This is a bit rarer, this model.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Lillian Nassau LLC
New York, New York
Appraised value (2011)
$9,000 Auction$13,000 Auction
Event
Atlanta, GA (August 06, 2011)
Period
20th Century
Form
Sculpture
Material
Bronze

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