Levi Wells Prentice Painting, ca. 1900

Value (2016) | $12,000 Auction$18,000 Auction
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APPRAISER:
So, Grace, tell me, how long have you had this painting?

GUEST:
About 45 years, I would judge.

APPRAISER:
And all these years, you've had it hanging like this, is that right?

GUEST:
Yeah. Well, I had it the other way, and then everybody said, "Grace, you're wrong." And friends came to the house and did it this way, wired it that way, and it's been hanging that way for over 40 years.

APPRAISER:
Some friends.

GUEST:
Yes, they were smart, they thought.

APPRAISER:
Should be... this way. Should be this way.

GUEST:
Yeah, but then, the basket isn't sitting on the table.

APPRAISER:
Well, we could argue that one, but I think the clue is actually the signature here. Do you see that?

GUEST:
Yes, it's very vague. APPRIASER: "L.W. Prentice." That's Levi Wells Prentice, who was born in the Adirondacks back in around about 1850 or so.

GUEST:
Oh, he's from New York state.

APPRAISER:
Yeah. Now, where did you get the painting?

GUEST:
On Third Avenue, they had art shops, and they were very reasonable. And it had a broken frame, so I put this, quote, "terrible" frame on it.

APPRAISER:
I wouldn't disagree with that. It is a terrible frame. It really doesn't help the painting. Prentice is a marvelous artist. He's one of these painters who, I feel, when you've seen one of his paintings, you'll always recognize other ones. He's got a very distinctive realist style. He tended to work in two kinds of painting mode, either landscapes or still lives. You did well getting the still life, you see, because they tend to be much more coveted by collectors. The landscapes he did in the Adirondacks...

GUEST:
The Hudson River artists.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, exactly, but he was well known for doing these still lives. Often it was strawberries, sometimes raspberries, apples, quite often tumbling out of a basket, as is happening here. Hence the confusion about which way it should be hanging. Now, tell me about when you bought it. Do you remember how much you paid for it?

GUEST:
Oh, yeah, like, $50, $50, $60.

APPRAISER:
You'll be pleased to hear the market's moved on quite a bit for Levi Wells Prentice, and there's a lot of demand for his work these days, and particularly for this kind of still life. And at auction, these days, it would fetch probably in the region of $20,000 to $30,000.

GUEST:
That's ridiculous. I loved it! I mean, it's such a wonderful, wonderful painting.

APPRAISER:
It deserves a better frame. (laughs)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Update (2016)
$12,000 Auction$18,000 Auction
Appraised value (2001)
$20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Event
New York, NY (July 14, 2001)
Material
Paint
November 14, 2011: We contacted appraiser Alasdair Nichol for an updated appraisal of this object in today's market.

Current Appraised Value: $18,000 - $25,000 (Decreased)

Nichol goes on to note that this Prentice painting sold at auction in 2003 for $22,800, but today he would place it in a slightly lower range than his original 2001 appraisal.

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