What should my painting sell for? Antiques appraisers are not licensed like real-estate appraisers, but there are art appreciation courses in universities, degrees in fine art and appraisal associations that require members to pass tests. Some work in an art gallery, auction company or museum and learn to appraise through experience. A treasure can be found in a house sale, resale shop or charity auction. But the White House had an eglomise desk that was a reproduction. The Ford museum bought a fake 1620 “Brewster” chair made deliberately to fool a museum “expert” in 1969. And sometimes a real treasure is thought to be a reproduction.
A pair of marble busts made by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828) were exhibited in Paris in 1789. They were bought in Paris in 1926 by an American diplomat, mentioned in a reference library in 1932 and passed down in the family of the American diplomat. They were “lost” until a Cottone auction in 2019. The pair sold for $1.475 million. Where had they been? The last record was in a 2000 house sale run by a New York auction house that had an appraiser who did not realize that they were busts by Houdon. The 11-inch-tall busts are signed and dated, 1788 and 1789. One is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the other Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. The busts must have been in the diplomat’s house and then a relative’s for 77 years after the collector who bought them in Paris died in 1941.