A noteworthy 19th century religious painting by Ary Scheffer, entitled Christus Consolator was recently discovered in a janitor’s closet of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Dassel, Minnesota. According to news sources, it had been stored there mixed in with a pile of religious reproduction decorative prints but now resides in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, making it a fairy tale ending for this Cinderella art story.
The painting was discovered by Rev. Steven Olson after it had gone unnoticed for nearly 70 years. Olson then contacted a couple of resources including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the curator Patrick Noon among others researched the piece, discovering that the painting was entirely down in Ary Scheffer's hand. The provenance was also traced to previous owners, including a wealthy man from Boston, named William Bullard who had a friend that studied in Scheffer's studio in Paris, and later to his son, Francis. After Francis Bullard's death, the painting was presumably consigned to a New York City gallery where it was then purchased by Rev. Richard Hillstrohm and eventually brought to Dassel, Minnesota.
The painting was appraised for $35,000.00 and the Gethsemane Lutheran Church pondered the idea of housing the piece in the church but decided after consulting with various insurance companies that it would be better suited among the other 19th century paintings in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
There is a valuable lesson in the discovery of the Ary Scheffer painting at the Minnesota church. In the simplest terms, the phrase, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" sums it all up. At MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., many potential customers call our office daily seeking information on an artwork or decorative item that they have found in their basement, attic, garage or junk closet. To the novice, it can be confusing to determine whether or not an art object is worth anything. It is always best to consult with professionals when dealing with an item that is in a fragile state and that could be of significant value. Even if the piece was disregarded previously, doesn't mean that it's not of value.
One should not mess with their health or wealth. Just as you would review your doctor's credentials prior to receiving medical treatment, it is important to do the same with your art appraiser. It is important to work with an art appraiser that has credentials from organizations such as the International Society of Appraisers and/or the American Society of Appraisers. Members of these organizations follow strict ethical guidelines in the work that they do.
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