Benjamin-Constant Painting, ca. 1870
I've had this painting since 1972, when my grandmother passed away. My recollection is when I visited her in 1957, she had it in her home in Manhasset, Long Island.
Right. The artist is actually an artist by the name of Benjamin-Constant. He's a 19th-century artist, a French artist, who was born around 1845, lives to about 1902. He specializes in these orientalist scenes. He went to Spain-- and he went through the Alhambra and other places like that-- and went to Morocco and learned about the architecture and it became a... much the rage in Europe at the time. American collectors bought them later on in the century. In the '70s, that's what people were doing. This is a very exotic motif for France at the time. It's based on the Alhambra, the Moorish fortress in Spain. And you can see that here, this lovely tracery that he's put in. It's coming through the underpainting up in here. The other elements are, of course, these women in these shimmering gowns. I love the gold on there and the types of material that come up. This is not the kind of painting-- a few years ago-- that would have been that valuable, but it's gotten much more valuable. The only thing that would hold this back is it's a little bit dark down in here. A little brighter would help. Cleaning it would help, too-- this is supposed to be white; this is a little bit dirty. But I would say at auction now I'd probably get about $40,000 to $60,000 for a painting like this. It's a very, very good example of French orientalist art of the period.
We had no idea, so that's very surprising.
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