1870 Thomas Benecke Print
One day I had walked into the Goodwill, and I had seen this print that was up on a shelf, and I just fell in love with it, and I went back home and I told my husband. I said, "I really like this print that's at Goodwill, and I really would like to have it." So he went back that very day, and he had purchased it for me, and he gave it to me as a surprise.
That's great. And why do you like it?
The picture itself is so dynamic. It has so much going on with it. There's so many different stories within this one picture that it's like a book. It can just read as a book forever and ever and ever, and that's what I like the most about this picture.
And that actually is where a lot of its value comes from. It is a wonderful example of mid-19th-century- America printmaking. If you compare European printmaking or our art in the middle of the 19th century, it tended to be pastoral, quiet, whereas America was a vibrant, happening place. American art and American prints were like that. And this is one of the most exciting prints of the middle of the 19th century. This particular painting that the print was based on was done in 1855, and you can see down here it's by Thomas Benecke. This particular print came out in 1870, a little bit later. It is a great example of American urban life. It shows New York City. It shows Broadway in the winter, and it shows everything about what was happening in America. It shows the rich. You can see here's a very wealthy couple in the middle. It also shows the urchins, the street poor, throwing snowballs at the rich. It has political activity. It has everything. And one of the things that's interesting about this print is up here. You have Barnum's Museum. And that is P.T. Barnum's Museum, which is how he started, and it was essentially a freak show. They had natural wonders. And you can see along the top here, they have little signs painted to show some of the animals. I mean, there's a giraffe who would have been inside, and of course they would have all sorts of interesting, exciting things happening. And the artist-- one of the things he was trying to do is contrast inside Barnum's Museum, which you had to pay for to get in, where things were exciting and happening; you'd just step out on Broadway and look at the cacophony of American life. And in a way he was contrasting that, saying, "Look, American life is almost like Barnum's Museum." So, this is an example of a print that was done for people to hang on their walls to get a feel for what American life was like. Now, did you see the price when you looked at Goodwill?
It was priced at $40 at Goodwill.
Uh-huh. In my shop, if I had this print now, I'd have it for about $1,800.
$1,800? Wonderful, wonderful!
That's a $40 well spent.
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