Giovanni Piranesi Etchings, ca. 1785

Value (2012) | $50,000 Auction$70,000 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
My father was an architect after World War II. He was very interested in neo-classical features. And as a result of being sort of a renaissance man, he collected all sorts of encyclopedias, different kinds of books like these books, and amassed a very large library.

APPRAISER:
Well, these are an incredible selection of books of works by the great 18th century Italian printmaker Giovanni Piranesi. Piranesi was one of the most important architectural printmakers in Italy. He was born in the Venetian Republic, but he moved to Rome in 1740 and studied under Giuseppe Vasi, who is one of the leading printmakers of his day. As an architect, he learned the art of printmaking to try and capture the history of the Roman Republic in his architectural history. This is a portrait of Piranesi issued just shortly after his death. And we have in this volume a frontispiece, very deeply evocative frontispiece dedicated to the King of Sweden. And you can see here some of the features that make Piranesi so prized-- the contrast of light and shade. This particular volume is a series of etchings trying to capture the history of Roman architecture from the earliest days. Now, you've got a large group of volumes here. These are all of a set. This book is another edition of Piranesi's works. It's called the Magnificenza, and it is a study he did of trying to prove that Roman architecture did not come from the Greeks, but actually was inspired by the Etruscans, who preceded the Roman Empire. As you can see, the wonderful, large format prints that he would do, the incredible detail makes these works very, very prized, not only by architects and historians of early ancient Roman history, but also for their incredible beauty and pictorial power. Now, most of these volumes over the intervening years were broken up. And you now see people buying prints individually from Piranesi in various places. The condition of the volumes is amazing. And these volumes are bound...

GUEST:
Really? Even with the mouse?

APPRAISER:
That's not uncommon, chipping. But these bindings are early 19th century. The one that we're holding now is 18th century. And sometimes it'll have lots of foxing, which is spotting on the plates or holes from worms. These have none of those evocations. So they're really in extraordinary condition. And you have a total of 330 plates by Piranesi, which is an enormous number. Individually, works like this would be $5,000 to $7,000. This particular case would be about $10,000 to $15,000. But the entire group together, I think the aggregate auction value for the whole collection would be in the range of $50,000 to $70,000.

GUEST:
Thank you, Dad. (laughing)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bonhams, DC
Washington, District of Columbia
Appraised value (2012)
$50,000 Auction$70,000 Auction
Event
Boston, MA (June 09, 2012)
Period
18th Century
Form
Book, Etching, Print
Material
Paper

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.