The Auction Insider

After 150 years of being lost to time, I was fortunate to discover this Civil War era painting by Seymour Guy tucked away in a dark closet. The client was unaware she owned a small treasure and had phoned me to do an appraisal on a different piece of art, not suspecting how much the charming oil painting of a young boy atop a simple chair would bring at auction.

This Witherell’s client had inherited a small collection from her parents and previously had some of the works appraised. She was interested in one particular painting which a former appraiser had set at about $800. But, what caught my eye was the child on the chair. And what really sparked my interest was the small signature of the artist on the bottom right of the painting. Initials, not a name. My memory bank sent a signal and I fired up my iPad.

Painter nearly forgotten for Decades

As I suspected, Seymour Guy signed his paintings with simple but iconic initials. At his height of popularity he was a noted genre painter, depicting typical scenes of mid-19th century daily life. I knew that after many decades of near obscurity, the artist’s work had been given new life in 2009 with coverage in a popular antiques magazine. Further research supported my suspicions about the charming oil painting and I was pleased to tell my appraisal client the Seymour Guy piece could bring as much as $25,000.

She was, of course, pleased. Several months passed before she again called me to say she was interested in putting the work up for sale at auction. Like many people, she was hesitant to part with a family heirloom but, at the same time, knew the painting deserved to be appreciated by a new audience. She instructed us to move forward.

The 2013 online bidding for the painting was dramatic. Like many high value items, and early bidding was slow and relatively low with just $2000 offered the day before the close of the auction. Our client was very anxious and worried. Accustomed to the pace of online auctions, I reassured her the best was yet to come! I had a dealer in New York bidding by phone and a private buyer waiting to wage a last minute bidding war. At close of the auction the private bidder won, and so did my pleased customer, getting an even higher sales price than the $25,000 I’d quoted.

Another Fab Find for Witherell’s and for our enriched client.

Happy Hunting!

Brian Witherell