American Folk Art Portrait, ca. 1880
This has been passed down for generations on my mother's side of the family, and she's from the East Coast, Providence, Newport, Rhode Island area. It's known as the "Scary Portrait."
When I grew up, this was in our summer house in a back room. It wasn't presented to everybody, because we were all scared of it. But I've grown to love this portrait, and it's in our dining room at home, and we have dinner parties, and it's always the main topic of conversation. I asked my mom, who's no longer alive, and she doesn't know who they are.
This is a very finely painted portrait, and the children are just done beautifully. This is an oil on canvas. The parents chose to include the crutches and embrace the disability of the older sister. She's got her hands on her brother. That's typical of an upper-class family and the way that a young boy would've been dressed. He was probably, maybe, four years old, three, or four, five years old, and she looks like she's maybe six or seven. The thing that I love about it is their faces are so animated, and if you look at the room setting and just the way they're dressed, I would say the date is probably the 1870s, maybe the 1880s. One of the folks at the folk-art table ran the folk-art department for a major auction house in New York for almost 30 years, and she cannot recognize the hand yet. But what this is is a great folk portrait of two children that has this immediacy, so unusual to have the crutches included. And the other thing is that it's what I would call quasi-academic, because this painter was trained and knew how to paint faces, he or she knew how to paint hands, and it's just so nicely done. Normally, portraits from this time period, because they're so large, sometimes that affects them negatively in the way that the market receives them, but in this particular case, I think the subject matter and the way that it's rendered and just the poignancy of the whole scene draws you in. I guess that's why you have so many people in for dinner that want to talk about it.
Right, I mean, just walking through here, today, every other person was like, "Wow."
It's just a fabulous thing, and a conservative auction estimate would be $6,000 to $8,000. And we think for insurance purposes, it probably would be around $15,000.
Wow, that's unbelievable. I love these kids.
As you should, I think they're wonderful.
These are my relatives.
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