Nayarit Seated Figure, 200 BC – 200 AD

Value (2012) | $15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I got it from my father. He was downsizing as he moved to Vermont to be nearer to us. He's now 97, so it's now in my home. And my dad was a diorama painter at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

APPRAISER:
Oh, wow, okay.

GUEST:
So he did those backdrops that look real with the animals.

APPRAISER:
Fantastic.

GUEST:
He doesn't quite remember how it came into his hands. I know that she's terracotta. I figured that she was pre-Columbian.

APPRAISER:
Approximately what year do you think that he acquired it?

GUEST:
He started at the museum in the '30s. He worked there 38 years.

APPRAISER:
But you think it easily could have been the '30s or the '40s that he got it?

GUEST:
Yes, definitely.

APPRAISER:
Now, do you believe it's real?

GUEST:
I do, I feel it's real.

APPRAISER:
There are several elements to authentication. First of all, we look at it stylistically. The way the ears are done, the way the nose is done, the way the hat is done, the arms. Is it within the parameters that we'd expect for a piece like this from the state of Nayarit, on the west coast of Mexico? The answer is yes, it is. The ears are a little bit atypical, but I think that they're within what one would expect, so I think that that's okay. The eyes have beautiful balance, a great nose, a lovely mouth. The next thing I look for is I look at the surface. And I want you to look at these black spots. These are called manganese. These are one of the characteristics of authenticity. And they appear in the tomb in the presence of a corpse, so this brings out the manganese. And what you look at very, very carefully, if the edges of the manganese are smooth, it's most certainly a fake and it's artificially applied. If it looks like malignant cancer and it's very irregular, that's a great sign. That's exactly what it looks like. The other thing on manganese is we look for splash patterns. Is there a flow across the piece where the faker took a brush and flicked the manganese on? There's no flow pattern here, so that's great. So I think the surface is okay. I wish the paint were better. Stylistically, it's okay. We really want to see things that are collected prior to the date of 1970, which is the date UNESCO initially came out with their restriction on objects like this. Now, the last thing I want to talk about is I want you to look in here, and you see we've got some very crude repairs. Now ironically, this is more difficult to fix than this. The leg breaks are easy. I'm going to turn it to the right again, and I want to show a little problem that we have over here in the back. This has got to all be removed. It's important for two things. Number one, it will improve the piece. Secondly, it will stabilize it. In my opinion, I believe this thing is absolutely authentic.

GUEST:
She's solid.

APPRAISER:
And it's 200 B.C. to 200 A.D., and it is from the state of Nayarit. Once the archaeologists got into these sites on the west coast of Mexico, there was no recorded data. Nobody could say, "Oh, well, these are the Texans," or, "These are the Nevada people." So as a consequence, it was named after the geographic location. So Nayarit is simply the contemporary state of Nayarit in the west coast of Mexico. Really, the only information that we have about the people is how they're depicted in the sculpture that we find in the tombs. The size of this object would indicate that the individual in that particular grave was probably very important.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
I'm going to say, being conservative, $15,000 to $25,000 on this. And I'll go more towards the high side depending how well the restoration comes out.

GUEST:
I am just flabbergasted that she...

APPRAISER:
It's a haunting piece, isn't it?

GUEST:
It is.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Dallas, TX
Appraised value (2012)
$15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
Event
Boston, MA (June 09, 2012)
Form
Figure
Material
Clay

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