What Pierre-Auguste Taught Me
inOctober 10, 2012 - 5:34am
The season of garage sales and flea markets is coming to an end. Fall starts next week according to the calendar. So if you have been scouring over your finds and peaking into books, websites and libraries to find information you might want to look a little closer. Check to see if you have a piece of Elizabeth Taylor's precious personal jewelry or a piece of Martin Luther King's notes from his 1957 speech, "Give us the ballot" or a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy to the Smithsonian asking for an end table for the White House. Of course I am fantasizing and doing it big but there is a reason.
Maybe you spent a whole two dollars for an Elvis score sheet and are checking everywhere to see if you found the "mother lode". I am telling you, just keep on checking! . If you have been watching the news you have heard or read about the Renoir painting someone found. They found it in a box of toys at a flea market. They didn't even like the painting, just wanted the frame. The cost for it was a whole seven dollars. How was it found? The painting had a signature of Pierre-Auguste Renoir and as they were pulling the painting from the frame they thought maybe they should ask someone about it. It is from 1870 and may be auctioned at $ 75,000 dollars! Now loving mysteries I thought about this incident and played a bit of detective so I would know how to find the next big find. So here are my clues and new rules.
1. Never pass up a box of toys especially one with something that doesn't belong. If there is a bike tire in that box definitely look.
2. Never just dump your finds in the back of the vehicle without protecting each item from damage. Can you imagine if she had piled something on top of it and it had been damaged with a tear.
3. Bring someone older with you. This young lady only checked out the painting because when she was taking the frame off it and her mother said the painting looked too nice, maybe she should check it out.. Listen to your elders.
4. With art the frame may be worth more than the painting at least it sure increases the price of this one.
5. The picture was only 6 x 10 so always remember to look at the little stuff. Good things come in small packages. I have a friend who sold a child's sheriff's badge for over a thousand dollars. A great find but something I would have never known or even thought to bring home.
6. Do your research after you find something. A look at a digital picture and a search on the internet brought the final clue and the big reward. Old books, new books, computers, museums, libraries and people of knowledge should be your best friends. It may seem like the research takes just too much time but take the time. Realize that with the dawn of the computer we don't use books to look things up like we used to. Those old books have valuable clues that may never have been digitalized.
7. Mr. May who originally owned the painting had died and his estate was dismantled without regard for the possibility of having something so valuable. Check those sales out well. Whether it is a garage sale, flea market or estate sale check carefully. you might find a real gem. "It just did what paintings do sometimes - they kind of disappear out of circulation," Craner. the art researcher who helped determine the Renoir, said. "That's what is so fantastic. This painting's been unseen since 1926." Keep looking!!!
8. This lady put this away for 2 years in her garage before she checked it out. So I say check things out sooner than later. When you bring things home do a bit of examining right away. You can write up your description later but do a bit of research immediately.
9. My favorite part of the story is the fact that the lady is anonymous. The story is classic and I have taken the liberty of copying from the site Boston.com their rendition of how her find went. "The Virginia woman eyed the box of kitsch at the West Virginia flea market and figured she'd discovered a true steal. Surely, she calculated, she could resell that brown leather Paul Bunyan doll to folk art enthusiasts for a tiny profit. As for the rest of the box's items, she loved the plastic cow. The cow would get displayed in her living room. But the third item, a painting - with swirls of green and pink, carrying a plaque emblazoned with the word RENOIR - did not excite her so much. She liked only its golden frame and assumed the thing was a fake." ''When [the auction company] told me it was real, I had to sit down for a minute. I really didn't believe it. I was like, what? Really? I was a little floored,'' said the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing concerns that she would be overwhelmed by the news media. ''I can't tell you what kind of work I do. I am self-employed, and I am well-known for what I do.'' She added that her family is French, she works in education, and she is thrilled to be selling a Renoir. And my reason for my delight over that is she can keep looking without the rest of us paying attention to what box she is thumbing through at the next sale.
10. The real part of this story is that Renoir gave this painting to a woman who had modeled for him. When the little old lady down the street surprises you with a gift from her home. Enjoy it but also realize that it may be a valuable item from the past. You might have something in your house that is a real prize and you did not even know it. I love her last quote as it says what all of us would be thinking after a find like that. We all have piles of things, boxes or a full car trunk with our latest finds. ''I was just glad that while I had the painting for so long my house didn't catch on fire and I wasn't rear-ended by a tractor-trailer or that the birds didn't tear it up,'' she said." Haven't we all been there ? What am I going to do now? Well, I am headed out to garage sales to fill my trunk as its Thursday to find my own "Renoir". Take a peek at my "Renoirs" I have found in my shop I am open 24 hours a day.
Add on: Remember that classic ending quote from my blog. ''I was just glad that while I had the painting for so long my house didn't catch on fire and I wasn't rear-ended by a tractor-trailer or that the birds didn't tear it up,'' she said." Sadly she was hit by a "different tractor trailer truck" as was reported on the news her find was just discovered to have been stolen! Yes, stolen from an art museum in 1951, shortly after Mr. May died. So the auction was cancelled and an investigation is in the process. The Baltimore Museum of Art director Doreen Bolger would like it back. The museum has a wing named after the May family. A newspaper quote says," "We want the painting back," added Ms Bolger. "That painting was associated with her (Mrs. May) , and she's one of the most important donors in the museum. It was her decision that it would come to us." So on my list #11 should read , check and recheck your research you never know what you might find out. With that I now say hats off to the Washington Post reporter, Ian Shapira. Great job sleuthing ! As my reporter husband would say, you got the "big scoop", congratulations! And for anonymous, I'm so sorry. It is Thursday, want to go to some garage sales with me?.Maybe I can change your luck.
Written by Carol Henckel
CarMel Collectibles on Ruby Lane