Antique Appraisal: Despite damage, painting may be worth ‘thousands’

AskATheaderQ This oil painting is hard to photograph. I can’t find a signature, but there is a handwritten date on the back: Rome April 6, 1852. I know it is damaged, but I’d really value your opinion.
— S.A., via email

Adams2fwA Your painting is interesting because of the date and place written on the back. We have no signature and the painting is damaged. Having said that, there are clues in the painting Itself. The people shown are excited and expectant of some event. At first glance they could be from a Biblical event or story. But most telling is the cap on the older man. It is a Phrygian or Liberty cap. Cavour became Premier of Italy in 1852. Garibaldi and Mazzini were both still active. All three were working for the creation of a new Italy based upon nationalism. This was realized over a period of years stretching from 1848-1870. Eighteen-fifty-two was the critical year when Cavour began the process of getting Austria out of the north. Those in the painting are no doubt awaiting the news that Italy would soon be free of outside domination and finally independent as a sovereign nation.

The artist clearly had professional training and reflects one of the styles current at the time. A restorer or preserver could bring the painting back to a state suitable for display.

This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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Because of the historical association the painting, as is, it is worth several thousand dollars. If the artist can be identified, it would be worth much more — even very much more.

Thanks for sharing it.

1934-Chicago-World-Fair-004fwQ Have you seen these items before? Can you give me some background information? I just want to know the history of them, are they really from the 1934 World’s Fair? Are there others who have this item? I did not see any for sale anywhere. Can you help?
— T.M., via email

A Your vases are export porcelain items from Japan vaguely based upon Imari and Geisha motifs. Imari is the port where Imari porcelain was shipped. It characteristically has floral, geometric and other designs in orange, blue, red and green. It has been exported since the 1600s and has been copied in China, Europe and the U.S.

1934-Chicago-World-Fair-002fwThe Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago was opened May 27, 1933, and remained open until October 1934. The Japanese Pavilion had several buildings for displays and for selling souvenirs. No doubt, your two vases in the pasteboard box were purchased there. They were clearly labeled for sale at the Fair. The vases were mass produced and painted by hand by women sitting at tables in a large room. You will notice that the two faces and the decorative detail do not match.

Because the box is present, the items are worth more than without it; the vases are not marked as being from the Fair. The box, however, is damaged. This reduces the value of the package. The item, a World’s Fair collectible, which is widely sought, should bring $125 on today’s market.

About our A.I.A. appraiser: Dr. G. Marchelos is an honors graduate and certified appraiser of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. Additionally, Dr. Marchelos has a PhD in history, is a professor of antiquities at the University of Alabama, and is a nationally recognized appraiser working for both private and public institutions across North America. Dr. Marchelos is also a well established antiques dealer, operating both in the U.S. and Europe.

Send your questions and photos via e-mail to, or mail to Antique Trader Q&A, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54945. Photos sent by e-mail should be 200 dpi or larger. Antique appraisals are personal opinions of value and are to be considered for entertainment purposes only. The values are estimated and are not to be used for any other purpose, either legal or personal. Personal replies are not possible.

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