The Provenance of a painting! Very important these days. Someone walks into the gallery. Sniffs around a bit. Asks a few questions, but obviously wants to be left alone. Stepping slowly from painting to painting, until he zeros in on what may be a keeper. He now makes eye contact and that means it is ok for me to approach him. Now the interrogation begins. What do I know about the painting? Where did it come from? How long have I had it? ( This question is very important to him as he will use it later to prove no-one else will ever buy the piece but him and this is my only chance to sell it.) What he does not realize is that I have been through this before. Paintings are not like tomatoes and they do not go bad in a few days!😆 Questions continue. He does not like the frame. Can he buy it without the frame?? He sees a little damage. Does that reduce the value? How much if I pay cash? This is always a good one since they whip out the plastic as soon as I agree. And finally, can you deliver?
This process brings to mind a painting in our own collection with a very special provenance. It came out of the bottom of a dumpster!
An old friend of ours was driving to work when she passed a house that had recently been sold. Out in front was one of those big green dumpsters. The new owners were cleaning out the house. Everything was going! The furniture was being tossed. The matresses, the refrigerator. The lawnmower, and the paintings! She could not believe it! Now this lady was no spring chicken, but she was a seasoned antique dealer and she could not let this opportunity go by. She stopped her van and climbed into the dumpster and started hauling out all sorts of good stuff. At the very bottom was this oil painting. Obviously the workers had cleared the walls before moving on to the heavy items.
The painting was a total mess. A chair leg had gone through the middle and a windowpane had been shattered on top. When the painting was flung into the dumpster, the frame hit the side of the box and was now a jigsaw puzzle of pieces. After that, the painting was buried under the kitchen linoleum. Our friend could deal with all the furniture and glassware, but she could not deal with the painting. She collected the pieces of the frame and put them in a sack. She pulled out the painting and took it home to dry. It had rained since the painting had been tossed out and was in a very sad wet state.
We soon got a phone call. Said she had a project for us. More than a project, a gift. She did not want it back. She just wanted it saved! How could we resist that? After hours and hours of work, the frame and painting have returned. Due to the severe damage, and the kindness of a gift, we could not part with it. Into our collection it went. A very nice early 19th century oil on canvas in original frame.