Dealing with an unsigned piece of artwork

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Dealing with an unsigned piece of artwork

Post by irishguy »

Wondering if anyone out there has experience with artwork in terms of authentication, appraisal, and sales?

Here's my story: My sisters and I inherited a painting that is on a wooden board and was supposedly done by a famous French painter, Charles Daubigney. It is basically a landscape scenery. This piece was part of a collection from my great aunt. A pamphlet describing various other paintings in her collection listed Daubigney as the artist . The only problem is that it the piece is unsigned. My wife and I took it to a local gallery some years ago and they put it under a blue light but found nothing. Backside was checked as well. The gallery did some research via the internet on his works of art to see if this particular piece was pictured. It was not pictured anywhere that they could tell, although the piece does look very familiar to other artwork of his. His works of art bring easily ten's of thousands of dollars.

We had heard of a person in France who was supposedly the only valid authenticater of Daubigney paintings but they turned out to be frauds. Fortunately we did not pay them anything or send them the artwork (just sent them a letter which they never responded to). We have talked to auction houses like Sotheby's and others but have not been able to come up with any tangible way on how to proceed with this art piece.

Our goal would be to ultimately sell it, even knowing that if we go though an auction house they will take probably 60% off the top. My sisters and I do not really need the money to help support ourselves in retirement but would just like to benefit a little if we can find that there is value with the art piece. I gave the artwork to my sister recently and she has taken to an old respected art gallery in her town. They said no attempt could be made to authenticate without first cleaning the artwork to also see if it is signed and they want $860 to do this. I believe before we have them do this I would want to be sure that an auction house would recognize their gallery as a valid authentication if the artwork is in fact unsigned. We would also want to know the process they follow in trying to authenticate the piece and their method of charging. Doubt we want to throw thousands toward trying to deal with this and I'm sure that could easily happen if one is not careful!

Anyone out there with some experience or ideas on what we should do? Thanks for any help!

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Re: Dealing with an unsigned piece of artwork

Post by PFInterest »

sounds like you can spend a bunch to prove it. but if its unsigned....
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Re: Dealing with an unsigned piece of artwork

Post by ResearchMed »

Not sure if this would work, but have you considered contacting "Antiques Roadshow"?

That might be a good place for a "first opinion" (or maybe a definitive one?) about the piece.

Good luck.

And I'd be VERY careful about doing any "cleaning".
If it is done "wrong" or over-zealously, it could seriously and negatively affect the value of the piece.

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Re: Dealing with an unsigned piece of artwork

Post by ralph124cf »

You mentioned $860 for cleaning. If this any bigger than about 12" X 12", the price for a really professional job could run to many thousands. Also check for woodworms, they leave tiny holes, mostly on the back of the wood, but sometimes through the paint.

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Re: Dealing with an unsigned piece of artwork

Post by Mudpuppy »

Only thing I could think of is look into universities and see if there is an art history professor who specializes in this painter, or this region and time period. It could be used a research project for the faculty member and the art history department.

But in all likelihood, this is not going to be a long-lost treasure of that artist. If everything else was cataloged except for that piece, I would suspect that means the piece was not part of the collection of works for that artist. It could have been something that someone painted in the style of that artist which got added to your great aunt's collection. For all you know, your great aunt commissioned the work to have another piece in a similar style because she wanted one more piece to display in a specific part of her house which matched the rest of the collection.
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Re: Dealing with an unsigned piece of artwork

Post by RudyS »

Auction houses typically get 20% rather than 60%. Send jpg of the work to a couple of reputable auction houses. See what they say. I've sold stuff through Swann Galleries in NY and Skinner in Boston. There are many others of that caliber.
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