Sunday, January 17, 2010

Boy Scores a Picture

Yesterday afternoon Boy decided to go into the nearby town and visit the antiques and other shops it is generally known for, as we have a number of social obligations in the next week that require us to arrive bearing gifts. I stayed at Darlington to tend to the more mundane projects that frequently occupy one’s time on a Saturday afternoon.

The antiques stores in our nearby town range from ones selling the basest of junk to those that cater to high-end decorators and collectors from Manhattan and beyond, along with everything in between. Lots of new objects cycle through the shops every week, so you never know what you are going to find. Regular visits can, at times, yield unexpected treasures.

I happened to be standing near a window when Boy drove up, and saw that he had apparently either bought something in town or had it with him on approval. At first it appeared to me that Boy was carrying a wood box, but I soon realized that he was carrying a painting in a frame, and that I was seeing its backside.

“Look what I have!” Boy said when I met him downstairs, and turned the picture around so that I could see it. What met my gaze was a charming, early-19th century portrait in little (10" by 12") of a young Englishman wearing Regency clothing, standing in a pastoral landscape with a classical rotunda in the background. Boy found it in a shop in town owned by a family of “pickers” whose quirky selection of well-priced, often early-19th century objects generally yields up one or two purchases for us each time we visit. The painting Boy had in his hands had only just arrived in the shop that day, and he immediately bought it as it was not only charming, but very well-priced. Unfortunately the frame it was offered in, while probably original, was too busted up to be worth restoring so Boy left it with the dealers. He then headed up the street to another shop that specializes in selling antique picture frames and mirrors--coincidentally owned by another member of the same family--and found a period one (also very well-priced) that was not only perfect for the painting, but fits it as well. While the frame needs restoration (it is missing bits and has an unfortunate coat of gold paint), all the portrait needs is a cleaning and re-varnishing.

The back of the painting bears a period label for G. Rowney & Co., an artists' supplier located at 51 Rathbone Place in London.  Basic Internet research revealed that George Rowney & Co. was formed in 1832, which confirmed our view that the painting was likely done in the 1830s. The company survives today as Daler-Rowney, Ltd., which it was renamed in the 1980s when G. Rowney & Co. merged with the Daler Board Company.

We have temporarily hung the little portrait in our dining room at Darlington where it looks marvelous hanging among the room’s other early-19th century paintings and mahogany furniture. When restored I am sure that our young Englishman will be worth many multiples of what Boy paid for him. However, we are in no hurry to send the painting and its frame out for restoration just yet, as we are enjoying its present somewhat crusty condition.

Have you found any “scores” lately?

Photos by Boy Fenwick


  1. ...and here i was excited about getting the table linens i've been eying for years at williams sonoma on super sale (the red, the true red)! it's not quite great art but i love it all the same. that picture is a perfect fit for your home if i ever saw one.

  2. It is charming, and the portrait reminiscent of Robert Burns, and whilst he died in 1759 there were many many portraits of "the bard" that followed subsequently.

    I think I do have a "find", but I'm waiting for it to be delivered to my address in Scotland, and the weather is not co-operating, and the driveway a bit hazardous. Once there it can be photograped in detail. But at the moment I have auction house pictures that I will send off to Christie's tonight.

  3. Wonderful! Lucky you - I'm full of misses lately, but still enjoying the hunt.

  4. don't you just love finding a treasure like that! scooooore!

  5. Columnist: You are absolutely correct, this is a painting of Robert Burns! I did some Internet sleuthing and have determined it is, in fact, a portrait of the Scots Bard, with the Burns monument in the background. Many thanks for the suggestion! I am indebted to you, indeed. I will be doing a posting in the next day or so about about why I have concluded that your suspicion was a correct one. Many, many thanks!

  6. What a treasure and I'm sure that the painting looks wonderful on the dining room wall.

    We love to hunt especially at Estate Sales. Three of our latest finds were an old French wine rack (for the cellar) for practically "nothing" , a turn of the century needlepoint Belgian chair and ottoman, and a antebellam chair with a needlepoint seat done at the turn of the last century.

    The thrill of the hunt is almost as exciting as the find!

  7. How wonderful for you to learn of the subject!
    It is indeed wonderful the knowledge that the internet, and our "blogging community" can bring to us!

  8. It sounds as if the words of the poem, "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plow" (1785) may not fit for you. What a nice find!

    ". . . The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
    Gang aft agley, " -Robert Burns
    B. Marciano

  9. Happy Burns' Day! I am going to celebrate with a wee dram after work.

    Sister Darling

  10. I love your portrait and that it has a landscape background, which I think is a little unusual. A little more research would likely give you the name of the artist as it does have a definite characteristic style to it. I would have kept the original frame however as it might have yielded other possible clues. Well done!

    My best art find was a large water color, well executed, of a Monterey cypress seascape that I purchased for fifty dollars at a thrift store. I knew that someone had spend hundreds of dollars on the frame alone. It turned out to be a listed recent artist and likely has a value of a few thousand dollars. It is a beautiful painting so it hangs in our living room.

  11. Did you ever identify the artist?

  12. Have you identified the artist?

  13. Have you identified the artist?


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