Antique Detective: Ugly vase is example of beauty in the eye of the beholder

Q. I bought this vase at a yard sale for $3. I was attracted by its ugliness. Another customer took me aside and said I’d got a deal on this pottery. Can you tell me what I bought? – B.A., Wolliston, Mass.

A. This is a good example of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” You have an example of late 19th century, American Majolica pottery. I researched the signature with no success. It appears to be a small jardinière with a grape pattern similar to those made by Roseville Pottery. Many makers of American Art Pottery created Majolica pottery. Your piece is very collectible, especially since it has a signature. Since it could sell for $200 or more it would be wise to show it to a knowledgeable dealer.

Q. About 40 years ago I found this piece of furniture while cleaning out a friend’s house. Can you give me an idea of the value? – B.S., Glenview, Ill.

A. What you have is an expandable, portable, sewing storage cabinet that appears to have been made in the 1950s, in the modern style. It could sell for $175 or more.

Q. We were given this artwork from a German friend who informed us that this religious work is 17th or 18th century from a Polish church. Can you evaluate it? – J.L., Glencoe, Ill.

A. Your painting is known as an icon. An important clue to age is the way the canvas was prepared. A 17th/18th century icon would have layering beginning with white priming, sometimes laid over with a fine cloth or a gold leaf background. This was then painted with tempera colors mixed with yolk of eggs, etc. Over the years the paint flaked off showing the layering. Since they have been faked since the 1970s, remove the frame and check for layering. Since authentic early icons sell for several thousand dollars contact A La Vieille Russie, 781 Fifth Ave., at 59th Street, New York, NY 10022. Or e-mail

Q. I have inherited a house with some trash and some treasures. I would like to know if there is any value to quart, blue glass canning jars with zinc lids. – R.A., Milwaukee, Wis.

A. Value depends on the maker, rarity. You didn’t mention the name. The Common aqua Mason jars can fetch $40 or more at the flea market.

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