An Heirloom’s Value?
As a fine art conservator I’m often asked, “Is the painting’s value worth the money I could put into restoration?… or How much is the item worth?” It’s a logical question but there is not a straight answer.
You see, the “value” or “worth” of a vintage work of art may be one of three:
1. Financial value – appraisal value
2. Historical value
3. Emotional value
For an entertaining story of how emotions took priority when an art appraiser should have been called in, see this video about a “Priceless Russian Renaissance Icon”
But this story takes a different slant:
At the end of last year, I had a lady call me about the painting conservation – restoration of a small painting of sailing ships from about 1880 in a nice Victorian frame; “a nice package” as an antique dealer friend of mine would say. But not really financially valuable, maybe worth a few hundred dollars.
But this painting was her husband’s beloved, inherited heirloom from his grandmother. It’s the only thing he has from this beloved woman who is now gone. They were moving things around the house and a chair leg, I think, went through the painting much to the emotional trauma of the husband. So now it has a good 5-6 inch rip in the painting canvas (which is huge in a 12 inch painting!) plus its super dirty with 120 years of grime and discolored varnish.
I feel honored when someone entrusts me these types of emotional items. This very nice lady was going to surprise her husband and have the rip repaired and the painting cleaned as a Christmas present. She was so excited about the reaction she was going to get when he saw it looking wonderful. She was sure he was going to “flipout” (for joy I assume)!
Just before she leaves, this very nice Chatty Kathy told us all about her husband’s work as the head set designer for the TV show, “Castle.” That’s cool! We love that show and watch it every week at our house! When she heard that, she reached into her car and produced a TV lot access card not only as a souvenir but as an invite to get the “grand tour” after she surprised her husband with the completed project, of course. That kind of got me excited.
The rip repair of the canvas of the painting involved realigning each fiber of the rip back together and then lining or backing the painting. It was cleaned and the losses of paint (which were surprisingly few given the violent damage) where inpainted carefully. The final varnish was a slightly shinny finish in keeping with a historical, traditional late 19th century picture. Here’s a short video to see the rip repair process:
I hear the giving of the gift was a thrill for both the giver and the receiver… the giver was not disappointed with the desired reaction; tears, hugs etc. Nice! Afterwards we got gushing thanks and kudos for a repair job well done.
Their enthusiasm spilled over into the VIP tour my wife and I got at the Castle TV lot which was really a lot of fun. We saw all the sets, got the inside scoop on stories and experiences behind the scenes of the show, we saw the actual filming of the show and all the actors (we didn’t get to meet them… they were working). Then we got taken to lunch at the restaurant on the lot. Really special and fun especially for a couple of fans like us. Here’s a shot of Castle’s NY apartment set from the outside. Having walked through the sets now and heard the stories from the head set designer, we watch the show with an added familiarity.
I can’t tell you how many times he thanked me for doing such an amazing job of restoring his grandmother’s vintage oil painting back to its original glory. So, what is this family heirloom worth? Was the $500.00 value painting worth the $1,800 to repair it? The family thought so, without reservations! Its now able to stand the test of time for a couple of more generations.
This subject of this article is also as valid for collectibles, cherished heirlooms, memorabilia, and treasured family history items. Of course everyone must make their own decisions when it comes to balancing financial value of heirlooms and costs of repair. But, financial values are not the only consideration.
If you have questions that need discussing, give me a call and we’ll discuss the options.
Scott M. Haskins, art conservator 805 564 3438 firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Holgate, art appraiser, 805 895 5121 email@example.com
This article may also be read on our blog at http://www.fineartconservationlab.com
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