Consult an expert to verify painting's supposed 'California connection'

2014-03-30T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T12:20:26Z Consult an expert to verify painting's supposed 'California connection'By Danielle Arnet The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star
March 30, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Q: I inherited this painting. It’s not signed, but it’s been in my family since the 1920s. The only thing I know about it is that it may have a California connection. Can you ID the artist and its value?

A: Given that all I have to work with is a long shot of the art hanging on a wall, I can’t even verify if it’s an oil on canvas. All that I can state for sure is that it is a landscape.

About that California connection: There’s a big difference between the possibility of this as work by a California artist and the fact that it once belonged to Aunt Blanche in California.

Early California and Western artworks are a hot field in the art world. The painting needs to be seen by a dealer who sells period landscapes. An alternative is to make an appointment with a reputable auction house to have the art looked over.

Q: The vase in this photo was purchased about 40 years ago. It’s been suggested that it has value because of markings on the base. Any info?

A: Based on the mark, a green stamp reading, “Hand Painted NIPPON” surrounding a laurel wreath with M inside, we know that it is Nippon, the old name for Japan. The M with wreath represents Morimura Brothers, a Japanese exporter of the wares. From 1891 to 1921, several factories produced fine china wares to be sold in the U.S. with the Nippon/Morimura mark. Morimura had an office/retail store in New York City. The reader’s green mark has been used since 1911 and also exists as a blue, gold and magenta stamp.

The vase is melon shaped with rounded double handles and paw feet. We have no info on size. Hand-painted flowers and liberal use of gold decorate the sides. The gold is worn at the handles.

Old Nippon came in a variety of shapes, from painted mugs to dresser items, humidors, novelties and children’s items. Some pieces were created as advertising give-aways. Hand-painting decorations included florals, scenes, American Indians, oriental themes — you name it.

In 1912, handsome 10- inch chocolate pots with gold sold for 72 cents each in the company catalog. Large decorated vases (15 inches) were $1.25.

Beyond its well-painted violets or small wild roses — it’s hard to tell — this vase exhibits techniques often seen in Nippon wares. There is moriage (more-e-yah-gi), a technique of clay slip applied like tube frosting to create lines, beads, or designs that are then painted and fired. This vase has a lot of moriage done in gold, and it’s skillfully executed.

Value of Nippon vases depends on condition, size, quality of decoration, age and aesthetic appeal. Liberal gold in good condition always helps.

On the database www.worthpoint.com, we saw other skillfully decorated melon blanks with gold that sold for $44-$150. An identical blank 8.5-inch-high painted with swimming swans in a lake landscape sold on eBay for $566.66. Artistry and the wow! factor made the day.

IVORY, ETC.: Readers may recall a recent column about a reader’s carved ivory tusk. Since that appeared, the White House announced that there will be changes to current laws. On Feb. 25, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an immediate order that severely restricts the sale and export of material containing any endangered material, such as ivory, horn, bone or shell. The goal, of course, is to halt poaching and the slaughter of living animals.

Where this leaves the trade in old objects like carved tusks, tortoiseshell boxes and the like remains, for some, fuzzy. Recently, the major auction house, Rago Arts and Auction Center in New Jersey, sent a notice to customers clarifying the current status of regulation and their availability to talk about the new rules with any consigners/buyers. That’s smart business!

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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