Edward Curtis Orotones, ca. 1908

Value (2011) | $15,000 Auction$22,500 Auction
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GUEST:
They belonged to my grandmother, and I know nothing about where they came from or anything.

APPRAISER:
Okay, what you've brought in today are a group of photographs by a very prominent photographer named Edward Curtis. Edward Curtis had his first studio in Seattle, in the late 19th century, and he became very interested in Native American culture and how the rituals and the life of Native American peoples was rapidly disappearing. And he decided that he was going to chronicle this culture and develop a series of books that he called "The North American Indian."

GUEST:
Hmm.

APPRAISER:
And he actually went to Teddy Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan and they were his first patrons, his first champions that gave him the seed money and the support to start what became a 30-year-long project. He developed a photographic technique called the "orotone."

GUEST:
The what?

APPRAISER:
Or-o-tone,

GUEST:
orotone.

APPRAISER:
And what that translates as is "gold tone."

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
The orotone is a special photographic technique. The image is a positive image on glass, and the back of the glass plate has an emulsion of banana oil and gold-colored pigment.

GUEST:
For goodness' sakes.

APPRAISER:
So the image really has a very special quality, almost a three- dimensional quality when the light strikes it at the right angle. The pictures are actually signed in the plate, and this is the signature image of the North American Indian Project. It's called The Vanishing Race.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
And this is an image from the Northwest called The Rush Gatherer. And then the image nearest to you is The Old Well of Acoma. What's interesting about the presentation of these photographs is that Curtis also designed the frames that they're in.

GUEST:
Did he?

APPRAISER:
Of all the different types of photographic images that Curtis created-- and he worked in virtually every photographic technique-- these are the most desirable.

GUEST:
My goodness.

APPRAISER:
The Vanishing Race, at auction, a pre-sale estimate would be in the $5,000 to $7,500 range.

GUEST:
Oh, my.

APPRAISER:
The image of The Old Well at Acoma, that would be in the $4,000 to $6,000 range.

GUEST:
My goodness.

APPRAISER:
And The Rush Gatherer, which has some paint spots on the surface of the glass and also on the frame itself-- they're somewhat minor, they can be removed-- this photograph I would estimate at $6,000 to $9,000.

GUEST:
My goodness.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2011)
$15,000 Auction$22,500 Auction
Event
Eugene, OR (June 04, 2011)
Period
20th Century
Form
Photograph
Material
Orotone

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