Folk Art Portrait of a Girl and Her Cat, ca. 1830

Value (2004) | $30,000 Auction$40,000 Auction

This painting was given to my mother by a woman in Louisville, Kentucky. My grandparents had an antique shop. And on one of the trips to gather items for the shop, she took my mother, who was then five years old. So they were in this house in a third-story attic and my mother sat down in front of a frameless picture and adored it. And the lady was kind enough to offer to give it to her. She was thrilled. But the condition of the gift was she could never, ever sell it. She could only give it away. So, sometime shortly after that my granddad framed it. And when they were buying items for the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum in Williamsburg, they approached my grandmother to purchase this painting. And she was ready to do it, being the astute businesswoman that she was. And my mother said, "No, no, no, you can't do that! It has a curse on it."

I love that.

Because she couldn't sell it.

And when was that? What year was that about?

It would have been 1938, about.

Well, this is an exciting folk art painting. It's on a wood panel, unbroken. It's a child. And usually children are part body. This is a three-quarter length child. It has a wonderful lacy bonnet, you know, with the little bows in it. But the best part is this. I know you call this this cat with the scary eyes.


But he is so terrific with those funny little eyes. And then all this hand-painted detail on this little stool. Look how funny her little arm is in comparison to her head.

It's just not in proportion.

Nothing is in proportion. Now, it definitely needs to go to a good conservator. There's something going on here. I can see something going on here. It's under layers and layers of varnish. And it probably should be reframed. It is unsigned. And I've asked a few of my colleagues. There isn't anybody that we can really attribute this painting to. But I think with a little research, you probably could attribute it to some known painter. The date is 1830s, so it's a really nice early painting. I would say in today's market, it's probably in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. However, since this is not a family relative, I'll tell you. She's not the most attractive child.

And you are right.

And if she were a very attractive child with the lace and the bow, she'd probably be worth $60,000.

Gosh. That's wonderful.

Appraisal Details

Longmont, CO
Appraised value (2004)
$30,000 Auction$40,000 Auction
Portland, OR (August 21, 2004)
December 19, 2011: We contacted appraiser Marybeth Keene for an updated appraisal of this object in today's market.

Current Appraised Value: $25,000 - $35,000 (Unchanged)

Keene notes that she consulted with a few other folk art dealers about the value of the painting as well. "We all feel it would still bring $25,000 to 35,000 at retail," she said. "That cat is still wonderful!"

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