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Friday, January 23, 2009

Art Photography

Julian Mandel (1872-1935)
Untitled-Female Study, c. Late 19th Century-Early 20th Century

Julian Mandel made early contributions to photographic art with his erotic photography. His erotic photography embraced artful compositions with a suggestive twist. He positioned his models in contrived classical poses and photographed them in both the studio and outdoors. Mandel's focus on lighting rather than shadow created dimensions and contrast, focusing on the pale white skin of his models, reminiscent of Bernini's sculptures in Rome. Mandel's choice of organic backgrounds add to the contrast and focus on the model's pose.

The image above is in our inventory at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. and is exemplary of Mandel's works. The nude model is classically posed and her eyes and facial expressions are suggestive in nature. The background is dark, focusing on her illuminated skin.

Edward Steichen (1879 – 1973)
Multiple Portrait of Carl Sandburg, 1939

Edward Steichen's photographs added greatly to the art world, and to this day, they are revered by collectors and critics while hanging in a variety of museums around the world. Steichen began his career as as master painter in the early 20th century and mastered pictorialism in his photographs (meaning many of his photographs resemble paintings). Steichen often used straight photography methods, depicting his subject matter in a realistic manner, reducing the use of any studio manipulation of the photographs.

The photo montage above (located at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.) depicts an expressive Carl Sandburg, the American writer, editor and poet. Sandburg was the brother-in-law of Edward Steichen, having married his sister, Lillian. In 1955, Steichen curated an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art entitled "The Family Man," and Sandburg wrote the introduction for the exhibition catalog. The two were said to have been kindred spirits, making great contributions to both the art and literary worlds.

Jan Saudek (b. 1935)
Image #186 (Mother and daughter)

Contemporary art photographer, Jan Saudek's photographs are reminiscent of the mid-late 19th century erotic photographs (Mandel and his contemporaries) while adding a provocative thought-provoking dimension. His subject matter often examines the passage of time including the evolution from children to adults as shown in the image above of a mother and daughter.

Feel free to explore our inventory of art photography at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

~MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Art vs. Use in the Decorative Arts

Appraisers often make the distinction between the fine and decorative arts. When appraisers evaluate a decorative art object they are examining not only how the item is visually appealing they are also examining its usefulness. Sometimes appraisers come across items that once served a purpose but have since become an outdated technology. This can sometimes increase the objects value because it has historical worth; however sometimes it can also work against the value of the item. For example, pitchers & bowls, as explained by Nicholas Dawes on the April 23, 2007 episode of Antiques Roadshow, were once very useful items that could be very beautifully made. However, they were almost too useful, because nearly every household owned a pitcher & bowl. Meaning that when indoor plumbing overtook the pitcher & bowl as the newest technology these items flooded the market. Pitchers & bowls have little monetary value because there are so many in the market and they now have little purpose other than decorative. This example demonstrates the delicate balance between the use and visual appeal is in the decorative arts.

Although this balance is delicate it can spawn the creation of truly beautiful art objects. An example of this are lamp shades. Not every lamp shade is of value. Some artisans took the need for lamp shades and created art objects that not only served a purpose but were also a piece of artwork in their own right, and in some cases even enhanced the purpose that they served. At the end of the 19th century electricity was the newest technology. However, with electricity came unattractive industrial light bulbs and fixtures as well as a light much harsher then the soft light of a candle, oil lamp, or gas lamp. To counter balance this, lamp shades were created, some of which were art glass shades made by such companies as Tiffany, Carder, and Quezal.

The shades created by the Quezal Art Glass and Decorating Company are expertly crafted iridescent creations. Quezal was formed in 1902 by two former employees of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Martin Bach, Sr., Tiffany’s first batch mixer / chemist, and Thomas Johnson, a master glassblower. The other founding member was Maurice Kelly who was only with the company for about two years before he took a job at Tiffany's. The company was short lived, it survived until about 1924, but in that short time span, they created shades that were vibrantly colored opaque compositions of inlaid glass with patterns that twist and weave in and out. As Malcolm Neil MacNeil describes in his April 2003 article for The Journal of Antiques & Collectibles: “Compared with Tiffany’s Favrile glass, the crisp, vivid, and colorful decoration of Quezal art glass is distinctively precise, symmetrical, and restrained.”

At MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., we are fortunate to have a Quezal chandelier paired with a wall sconce set for sale on consignment. The art glass shades in the set are a fine example of how Quezal craftsmen were able to cover unsightly light bulbs and diminish the harsh light produced by electricity. The electrical light is softened by the opaque and iridescent hue of these shades, and the interweaving design would have been illuminated from within producing a glow that only enhanced the use of the light bulb. This Quezal chandelier and wall sconce set demonstrates how the best decorative arts are the items that cannot only walk the line between usefulness and visual appeal but can also be crafted in such a manner that there artistic elements only enhance the purpose for which they were created.
  • For more information and pricing on this particular Quezal chandelier and wall sconce set please call MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. at 312-814-8510

Works Cited:

MacNeil, Malcolm Neil. "Quezal Art Glass." Journal of Antiques & Collectibles April (2003),

Dawes, Nicholas. "1880s Keeling & Co. Pottery Jug & Bowl." Antiques Roadshow, spoke on June 24, 2006, aired on April 23, 2007,

Friday, January 9, 2009

Frames Affect the Overall Value of an Artwork

Period picture frames add more than just a perspective of style or an aesthetic statement to a painting or print. In many cases, they add a great deal of value…

A client came into our appraisal office in Chicago for a verbal fair market evaluation of a small, oil on canvas, painting by an unknown artist from the late 19th century. It was mounted in a striking period frame manufactured by the same company that created frames for better known artists of the day. And although the painting was lovely in its own right, much of the monetary value its possessed was derived from its frame.

In Edward P. LaBlue’s essay, How Period Frames Are Affecting the Value of Paintings, published in Currier’s Price Guide to European Artists 1545-1945 at Auction, he examines the demand for period frames and their affect on auction records of unknown artists. LaBlue further reports on obscure paintings with period frames noting that “prices realized at auction for the work of many obscure artists were much higher than one would expect- sometimes two to three times the projected estimates.” This raises an eyebrow when examining past auction records because it is not always documented whether or not a painting is framed, leaving much to consider on the true monetary value of an artwork.

Although many period frames hold more value than the painting it contains, many of these frames serve as an important element of the artwork. According to Gestalt Theory, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This theory is often applied to design elements, and holds merit when addressing certain works of art and their frames. For example, many painters in the late 19th century viewed their frames as important elements of their artwork as a whole and worked individually with their frame-maker to achieve the appropriate style, thus enhancing the overall artwork.

So, the moral of the story is to consider various value possibilities regarding your framed artworks. A certain old painting that you found in your attic or basement may not have much monetary value but its frame might boost its value or be a valuable piece of art in its own right.

It’s always best to consult with a qualified professional appraiser, so give us a call (312) 814-8510!

~MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Works cited:

Currier, William T. "How Period Frames Are Affecting the Value of Paintings!" Currier's Price Guide to European Artists 1545-1945 at Auction. Brockton: Currier Publications, 1991.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.