Fakes at auction
I recently mentioned two fake miniatures of George Washington offered at auction by a well known Dallas auction house, which were claimed to be genuine. See George Washington and the 2008 Financial Crisis - part 4
They also re-offered at auction as genuine, another miniature (showing left) with a high estimate $15,000 - $20,000, claimed to be; WALTER ROBERTSON (Irish/American, 1750-1801) Charles Robertson (the artist's brother), late 18th century Watercolor on ivory (5.1 x 3.8 cm)
However, I do not believe it has anything to do with either of the Robertson's, instead being by unknown artist of very mediocre ability.
Fortunately, both the "Washington" miniatures and the "Robertson" miniature appear not to have sold, which is a relief.
However, there were 14 bids on another fake (showing right) which sold for $7000, compared to an estimate of $15,000-$750,000 (sic!!). It offered by a different auction house based in Poughkeepsie NY and was described as; "18th C. oil on ivory portrait of Timothy Pickering sgd. G. Stuart.Pickering was one of original signers of Declaration of Independance and the first Post Master General of U.S."
Items like this concern me and show the need for "Buyer Beware". The description appears to be carefully written so there can be no "comeback", but is intended to make bidders believe it is a genuine original miniature from the 18C.
The auction small print reads; "Every item is sold "as is, where is". Neither the Auctioneer nor the Seller makes any warranties or representations of any kind or nature with respect to said property. All sales are final. Catalog descriptions are for simple identification purposes only. No representations are made as to authenticity, age, origin or value. Buyer relies solely on his/her own judgment when bidding."
However, the style, size, shape, and frame are all wrong for an 18C original. At best it is a late 19C copy of a portrait of Pickering and worth $300.
Thus the bidder who paid $7000 plus commission, say $8000 in total, is well out of pocket.
He/she will believe they have an original and no doubt some years in the future it will be innocently re-offered for sale as genuine by another family member, but it will still be a fake.
This is probably what happened with the George Washington and Robertson fakes mentioned above. Likely bought a number of years ago as "genuine" investments for very high prices. The vendor is no doubt now puzzled as to why they cannot show a profit on sale, nor even recoup their investment.
Genuine miniatures at auction
Normally, I do not comment on miniatures sold in Britain or Europe as there are so many of them and they are well documented in the specialist catalogues issued by the major auction houses.
However, one most interesting miniature sold on eBay for GBP250 was a miniature of an unknown lady in white, signed "Biffin 1818".
Sarah Biffin (1784-1850) was an remarkable miniature painter who was born without arms and legs, 1784-1850.
It is amazing to see the detail in the miniature portraits by this talented lady who taught herself to write, sew, and paint using only her mouth to steady the brush.
Recently sold by Doyle's were several American miniatures, with mixed hammer prices.
One of an unknown man against a green background and signed "Hudson 1817" for William Hudson sold for only $500, against an estimate of $1000 - $1500.
An attractive miniature attributed to James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889) being a portrait of Polly Stuart Webb Vincent in watercolor and gouache on ivory sold for $950, against an estimate of $800 - $1200.
The highest price was for an unknown man against a sky background. It was unattributed but sold for $2250, against an estimate of $400 - $600. I cannot pick the artist, although it may be by Anson Dickinson. Expert opinion would be welcome.
Unfortunately, I bid unsuccessfully on the last of the four which at $1200, sold above what I could afford, as 25% buyer's commission plus shipping needed to be added to the hammer price. The miniature is by John Wood Dodge.
I was keen on buying it as the sitter Mr W M Eastman, is the husband of Mrs Eliza M Eastman, showing here, who is already part of this collection, see Dodge, John Wood - portrait of Mrs E M Eastman Both miniatures being signed by Dodge and both dated Sept 30, 1836.
I had hoped to be able to reunite the husband and wife to share a future together, but alas it was not to be the case.