Sunday, November 15, 2009

A FABulous Affair

In early November, I worked as a featured appraiser in Melbourne's Brevard Cultural A lliance's second annual Fabulous Affair, which is an Antique Roadshow style appraisal fair. The event, sponsored by the Brevard Cultural Alliance of Brevard County, Florida, featured six celebrity appraisers from across the United States. I was fortunate to be one of those appraisers and to participate in this well organized event. Proceeds went to the Cultural Alliance’s Art Fund. The attendance at the event was more than anticipated, and everyone seemed to enjoy learning more about articles from their collections.

The diversity of items for which I provided verbal approximations of value was incredible; there were lots of fabulous treasures belonging to local residents. Many of the items were accompanied by great stories, some had documented historical provenance, and some have been in families for generations.

I valued items in my specialty area and, as I am also a generalist appraiser, I also valued a wide variety of decorative items and collectibles. Overall, I saw around 140 items during the 7 ½ hour appraisal fair. Asian art and ceramics were very prevalent; I saw some of the best Asian paintings that I have seen in my appraisal career, including one with provenance from an early US ambassador. There was also a variety of quality Chinese ceramics, including a Sung dynasty bowl, Chinese export porcelain, and Chinese blue and white porcelain.

I valued a number of Japanese items, including Satsuma pottery, woodblock prints, scrolls, and even an early 19th century Japanese matchlock rifle. And then there were the two fabulous Turkish bracelets with hand painted miniature tiles which were absolutely gorgeous. There was a large assortment of family silver items, including American sterling silver bowls, English sterling flatware and German 800 silver….all items for which their owners should have written appraisals for insurance purposes. One piece of English sterling flatware was a John William Blake hallmarked piece, complete with an 1824 datemark. Also with family provenance were porcelain sets of china and dishes, including some manufactured by some of the best 19th century English and French manufacturers, including Coalport, Worcester and Limoge. One collector had a two Egyptian tomb figurines, including an Ushabti, and while another collector brought two pre-Columbian figurines.

Barbie made her appearance, complete with a dated 1961 vinyl case. There were also German dolls, some quite collectible. Musical instruments were abundant, with the most impressive ones I saw included a 1938 Martin Guitar and a late 18th century signed Holt violin.

As in any appraisal fair, there were lines, but the seating which was provided made the time pass quickly. Organizers from the Brevard Cultural Alliance provided shuttle transportation, had well marked item drop off points, and insured that everyone was directed to the right appraisers, making the day a “FABulous Affair.” Attendees seemed to enjoy seeing items brought to the event by other attendees, and everyone seemed to enjoy the event. The day was long, but was lots of fun for appraisers and collectors alike.
If you want to have some of your collectibles valued at an appraisal fair, watch for local press releases which advertise these types of event. And, be sure you choose an event which features credentialed appraisers by ISA, ASA, or AAA. And never take your collectibles to an event where organizers or appraisers are purchasing items; appraisers at appraisal fairs should always be unbiased, and never have a personal interest in the item they are valuing. If you can not find an appraisal fair, you can always hire an appraiser for a verbal approximation of value; if you have several items, hiring an appraisal for an hour or so can provide you with a wealth of information.

Authentic Appraisal & Estate Services, LLC (c) 2009
Vicky Nash Shaw, ISA CAPP
Certified Appraiser of Personal Property
919 475-6930 email:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A NEW Leonardo da Vinci!

So, could that painting or drawing you found in your attic be a Leonardo? His work is fairly well documented, so a year ago, I would have said no way…..but now? Who knows?

Scientific tools previously used for crime solving are now being applied to art. According to an AP press release, an unsigned chalk, ink and pencil drawing of a young woman has just been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci by identifying a fingerprint and palm print on the paper, and subsequent attribution to him. (The white box on the portrait is the area of the fingerprint. Photo courtesy of Associated Press.) According to Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal forensic art expert, the print of an index finger matched a fingerprint found on Leonardo’s “St. Jerome” in the Vatican. And of course, the style and stylistic nature were appropriate to da Vinci’s work, and carbon dating evidence also indicates it to be an earlier work than 19th century. But the finger print is the proverbial icing on the cake which upon which Biro based his attribution. It seems that Leonardo used his hands frequently, and his fingerprints are found on many of his works. It appears that this is the first major work by Leonardo to have been identified in 100 years.

The work, known as La Bella Principessa” was previously thought to have been created by a 19th century German artist, and it sold two years ago for about $19,000. Now that experts believe the drawing is Leonardo’s, the value has soared. One London art dealer is now valuing the drawing at $150 million!

So, do you have a Leonardo work of art in your attic? Remember, this drawing is a previously documented and named work of art. Having an undocumented work of art be attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is highly unlikely. But, this discovery does remind us that there are hidden treasures out there, they just need to be identified.

If you believe you have a work of art or a decorative arts item that “could” be special, your first step would be to have it inspected by an appraiser who is familiar with the type of item that you have. The retention of a credentialed and certified appraiser is your first step. A qualified appraiser can provide you with basic information about what you have, and what you don’t have. Obviously they can’t attribute a Leonardo with just an inspection, but they can provide you with basic information that you can make further decisions.

An appraiser can often help you understand what you don’t have, and save you from unnecessary expense for further research. For example, I received a call earlier this year from a client who had a Rembrandt painting that she wanted me to value. I questioned her before we made an appointment, and she was certain she had “something valuable and original”. I thought she possibly had a Rembrandt etching, but she was certain it was an oil painting. Unfortunately, she did not have an etching; it was a mid-20th century reproduction print which had little value. So, since she had booked my time, we spent the next hour discussing how to tell the difference between an original painting and lithographic prints. Now, as she hunts and searches through yard sales and auctions, she is better equipped to find a valuable treasure. And she learned that her Rembrandt was a print, before she shipped it to one of the major auction houses at considerable expense.

Other times, an appraiser will deliver good news on that special item. Another client of mine had a silver bowl she no longer wanted, and retained me to help her sell it. The bowl she no longer wanted just happened to be a 1930’s Georg Jensen covered vegetable bowl; quite a find! So, will you find a valuable work of art? Who knows, but everything is possible. There's treasures out there, just waiting to be found and identified. Good hunting!

Vicky Nash Shaw, ISA CAPP
Certified Antique and Art Appraiser in Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill

Article Sources: Associated Press and Antique Trader