1845 Jane A. Davis Watercolor Family Portrait

Value (2003) | $25,000 Auction$35,000 Auction

GUEST:
It was in my grandmother's hope chest, and when she passed away, I found it. And it's my great-great-great- grandmother and grandfather. They lived in Willimantic, Connecticut. And, um, I'd kind of like to know who the artist is and if he did other paintings in the area. They were not very wealthy people. I wondered if this was expensive to do this at the time.

APPRAISER:
Well, this is a fascinating watercolor, and one of the really intriguing things about this-- you said, "I'd like to know more about him..." as the artist-- is that it's not a him.

GUEST:
Oh, it's not...

APPRAISER:
It's not, it's a "she."

GUEST:
Oh!

APPRAISER:
And the artist's name is Jane Anthony Davis.

GUEST:
Oh, my.

APPRAISER:
And she was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1821. And she died of consumption in 1855. And she was an itinerant artist and she traveled around the areas close to her birthplace in Rhode Island, in Willimantic and other towns in Connecticut, painting portraits of the common folk who lived there. So you're absolutely right. These were not expensive things to be done, but they were important things to be done because they were the primary way that people had images of their families. This is before photography. What's really nice about this particular Davis is that you've got the mother and her baby girl and her husband. And there's the mother-in-law, right there, Elisabeth Fisk. And what's really nice about this one is not only that it's three generations, but if I can just turn this around... to show the backing of it. It's fully inscribed. Beautiful calligraphy which shows the names of the subjects. There's the name of the town in which they were painted, the date, August the ninth, 1845. And here's the artist's signature, "J.A. Davis," and a photograph of them in Nebraska later on. So this is an incredible family document and a wonderful example of a rare woman artist.

GUEST:
Oh, well, I never thought about a woman at all.

APPRAISER:
I know, most people don't. So, I guess the only piece of the puzzle that's missing right now is the value. This unusual triple portrait and the single portrait would be $25,000 to $35,000.

GUEST:
Oh... that's very nice. My husband will be very surprised.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Sotheby's
New York, NY
Appraised value (2003)
$25,000 Auction$35,000 Auction
Event
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)
Period
19th Century
Form
Painting
Material
Watercolor

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.