Saturday, January 17, 2009
The PBS Antique Road Show is a favorite in our home. The latest show aired was in Palm Springs, California. It's very exciting to watch the interviews as the appraiser questions the guests before they announce the big reveal.
The first appraisal is for a Joseph Stella Painting with Original Frame, ca. 1930. Below is the actual transcript of the interview by appraiser Peter Fairbanks president of Montgomery Gallery with the paintings owner.
GUEST: My husband was a student at Washington State University, and he had an art professor by the name of Clyfford Still. Then, as the years went by, he went on and got his doctorate and came back to Washington State. And the chairman of his department, they owned the painting, they gave it to us as a housewarming.
APPRAISER: Very generous of them. Very nice gift.
GUEST: Yes, it was.
APPRAISER: Very nice indeed. Good heavens. And what do you know about Clyfford Still? Did you follow his subsequent career?
GUEST: Well, we followed him for a little bit. He left Pullman and went back east, and at that time, we heard that he was a Guggenheim protege. Whether he was or not, I'm not certain, so...
APPRAISER: And this painting, as we can see, down here is signed and dated "Clyfford 37." And I believe there's actually some writing on the back. May I take this down?
APPRAISER: Just flip it over there. Can you perhaps tell us what it says here? Can you read this?
GUEST: It says, "To my friends, the Whiffens." And then it has his name and the date, '41. That's the date he gave it to the Whiffens.
APPRAISER: I must say, while we have the painting reversed, I was intrigued to see that the supports, the stretchers, are actually rather rudimentary. They're not the kind of stretchers you expect to see by a painting of such note as Clyfford Still. But anyway, it's held together over the years, so you must have done the right thing. Let me just put it back down.
GUEST: It's just as we got it. We haven't done anything to it.
GUEST: And the subject of the painting is...?
GUEST: Grand Coulee during the time they were building the dam.
APPRAISER: Right. It's a big dam in the State of Washington. Which is, of course, near Spokane...
APPRAISER: where he grew up and studied and graduated.
APPRAISER: He's best known as really one of the founders of the Abstract Expressionist movement.
APPRAISER: He and Rothko and Franz Kline and de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. And Mark Rothko introduced him to Peggy Guggenheim.
APPRAISER: Who was responsible for his first one-man show in New York. This is an earlier work by him. This is from 1937, when he was still doing figurative work. Yes. Now, around about 1938 to 1942, he started to make that transition from figurative, representational work to more abstract art. And amongst the other artists, such as Kline and de Kooning, he was really the first to do that. He was ahead of them. They were still working in a figurative manner into the '40s. So he was a little ahead of the curve. Now, have you had this appraised before?
APPRAISER: And you need to have it appraised for what purpose?
GUEST: Insurance purposes. It's an insurance figure.
APPRAISER: Well, I really feel that given the importance of the artist, given the importance of this painting, I believe that this shouldn't be insured for anything less than half a million dollars.
APPRAISER: Yeah. We have to put that in context. Bear in mind that a painting painted ten years later than this, in 1947, sold a few years ago for $21 million.
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: That painting that made $21 million was a new benchmark for him.
APPRAISER: So, in fact, it may turn out that I'm being rather conservative when I say half a million.
GUEST: Well, but that gives us a basis of where to put our insurance.
APPRAISER: I don't think it should be anything less than that. It's a magnificent painting in its own right, and you can see the Expressionist palette already in the way that he applies the paint. I have to say, in all my years on the Roadshow, it's probably the most exciting find I've had.
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: I'm absolutely thrilled that you brought it in today.
GUEST: Well, thank you.
APPRAISER: So thank you.
The next appraisal is for the Marilyn Monroe Dress from the Film, "Some Like it Hot". The appraiser is Beth Szescila of Szescila Appraisal Service.
GUEST: It's from Marilyn Monroe, and she wore it in the film Some Like It Hot. A friend of mine, Don Feld, who was a costume designer in Hollywood, gave it to me.
APPRAISER: Do you have any idea where Don got it?
GUEST: I don't know, but I assume he probably got it from Western Costume Company.
APPRAISER: You've brought some photographs of Marilyn actually wearing this dress in Some Like It Hot. The dress was actually created by Orry-Kelly, the Oscar-winning costume designer. He did a lot of clothing for Marilyn. He created the dresses specifically for her. And he would often actually sew her into the dresses to make them fit just right, to get that really sexy look. It's in black peau de soie, a material that's very similar to satin, with this wonderful fringe that gave her all the movement that she needed for her action roles. It's really amazing looking at this dress at how small it is.
APPRAISER: I think most of us don't realize that Marilyn was such a small person.
GUEST: Right-- I was surprised to see how small she was, myself.
APPRAISER: We have some identifying material on here. This seems to be the label from his collection, because it says "Don Feld" and it identifies the dress as having been worn in the movie. And then we have a label here with Marilyn's name on it. And with the pictures, you can easily see Marilyn in action, where she's wearing this dress and it's really fabulous on her. It's hard to believe that in the film, she danced around in this dress, because it was so tight on her...
APPRAISER:...you couldn't believe she could dance around in it. Well, this is an iconic dress from an iconic film...
APPRAISER:...worn by one of the greatest sex symbols of the 20th century. In an auction, I would not be surprised at all if it went for somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000.
GUEST: Oh, my g... Whoa!
APPRAISER: And actually, with the unpredictability of the market for this type of item, it would not surprise me at all if it went much higher.
APPRAISER: I'm just going to be conservative here, because I don't want to get you too excited.
GUEST: I'm about ready to fall over.
APPRAISER: Oh, well, please don't.
GUEST: Oh, you made me very happy. I mean, it's great.
APPRAISER: Well, great.
The final appraisal is for a Tiffany Studios "Saxifrage" Candlestick, ca. 1905.
The appraiser is Kerry Shrives of Skinner Inc.
GUEST: This was a gift to me from some friends. They bought it, I think, like ten or 15 years ago at a garage sale, and they have had it in their bathroom ever since, and whenever I visit them, I've always admired it, and they gave it to me as a gift, which was really exciting, and I just love it. I think it's beautiful and delicate. This is pretty remarkable.
APPRAISER: And we can see from the bottom, it is made by Tiffany Studios in New York.
GUEST: I saw that. I didn't know if it was, uh... real.
APPRAISER: No, it is. There's a little applied plaque here with the Tiffany Studios New York mark. You can see as much on the base here as on the top. It has just a wonderful patination, the verdigris patination. Made out of bronze and probably dates from about 1905. Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios are really on the forefront of the Art Nouveau movement, and really is beautiful, elegant. I mean, it's a very organic form. The leaves are amazing in that each one is an individual leaf that emanates here from the base. So it's an incredible amount of work involved in that. It's not just sort of a, you know, a large cast base that has some detailing on it. But each piece is individual and unique.
GUEST: So those are individually made and then soldered together?
APPRAISER: Yeah. The stem is graceful and elegant. One of the things that attracted me the most is the decoration up in here, each of these is such a fine and delicate individual bronze wire there. It's beautiful. And then the top here, see where the candlestick comes in, cast with this great detail and design. Now, this is a particularly rare pattern. It's actually called a saxifrage pattern, something that just comes up very infrequently. At auction, if I were to estimate, one candlestick-- not a pair but just a single-- I would be looking probably in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. So... It was a very generous gift.
GUEST: Oh, my God. I owe them a big dinner in Paris.
APPRAISER: Big dinner, yes.
GUEST: Wonderful. Woo-hoo! Well, those are great friends.