800 Concubines and a Saint: A Depiction of Prince Vladimir on a Russian Porcelain Easter Egg

Russian Porcelain Egg with Sterling Stand, for sale May 20th

Russian Porcelain Egg with Sterling Stand, for sale May 20th

A saint, Prince Vladimir the Baptizer of Kievan Rus, is doubtless an appropriate image for a finely decorated, Russian porcelain Easter egg. Vladimir’s clothing is simple yet regal, swathed in a blood red cloak from which green silk sleeves and a white gown protrude. The regal robes are punctuated by a large gold brooch and his Byzantine crown bedecked with pearls and semi precious stones. The colors, fabric, and jewels are enough to tell you that this is a king. But don’t be fooled by his long philosopher’s beard and serious, devout face gazing at a cross with adoration, Vladimir’s history may yet sway your opinion on his place upon an Easter egg. Through his transformative reign he solidified not only his place as a significant Russian and Ukrainian historical figure, but also became one of its earliest saints. 

Russian Porcelain Egg Detail

Russian Porcelain Egg Detail

Prince Vladimir and Keivan Rus

Prince Vladimir was born in 958 C.E. as the youngest of three sons of the Grand Prince of Kiev, Sviatoslav. Vladimir was crowned prince of Novgorod, one of the oldest cities in Russia and the Ukraine, in 969 where he reigned in relative peace until 972. When Sviatoslav was killed in the later part of the 10th century, Vladimir’s older brothers, Oleg and Yaropolk, began a civil war over the crown. In 977, Prince Vladimir fled to Norway, where his cousin was king, to acquire soldiers for his own military campaign against his brothers. His main strategy was to capture various strategic outposts near Kiev in order to block his brothers’ armies before they entered the city, the most important of which being Polotsk and Smolensk. Vladimir took Polotsk the old fashioned way – by proposing marriage to the daughter of the prince of Polotsk, when his offer was refused, he attacked the city, murdered the prince, and forced the princess into marriage. He was able to gain key strategic strongholds with similar methods throughout the war until 978, when he finally captured Kiev. Suffice to say Vladimir killed his last surviving brother and was crowned Knyaz of all Keivan Rus. 

Vladimir was a ruthless but very effective king. Under his leadership he pushed back multiple incursions and rebellions from the Poles, Bulgars, and other Baltic tribes in efforts to maintain a unified Rus. He rewarded his efforts with seven wives, 800 concubines, and by building multiple statues and shrines dedicated to a Slavo-Nordic pantheon of gods. So, how did such a man become a prominent Orthodox saint commemorated in statues, churches, and Easter eggs throughout Russia and the Ukraine?

Russian Porcelain Egg with Sterling Stand

Russian Porcelain Egg with Sterling Stand

Vladimir’s Conversion

Hagiography is often biased and fantasized but the story of Vladimir’s conversion is said to go like this:

After the killings of Fyodor and Ioann, supposedly the first Russian martyrs, Vladimir was to have gone into deep thought over religion and his own beliefs and their value. Not knowing much about other religions, the Knyaz sent envoys to different religious capitals and they were to report back to him about the religions they encountered, mainly Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. He appraised each with scrutiny. Islam was far too restrictive for the Russian prince and he decided that the Jews had been abandoned by their god, so both were denied. However, his ambassadors’ reports of the beauty of Constantinople, and the Byzantine emperor trading his sister Anna for military aid, is what swayed Vladimir to the Eastern Orthodox sect of Christianity. After his baptism, Vladimir set about destroying all pagan temples and shrines in Keivan Rus and building churches in his new Christian name, Basil. Vladimir has also become a symbol of Ukrainian nationalism, a face not only of Orthodox values but also one that united many tribes and lands throughout the Baltic.  

Russian Porcelain Egg with Sterling Stand, for sale May 20th

Russian Porcelain Egg with Sterling Stand

Russian Egg Tradition

Russian art is no stranger to finely decorated Easter eggs. These were pieces of highly decorated enameled crafts made of precious metals, jewels, and crystal. Most famous are the Faberge eggs, of which only 69 were ever made between 1885 to 1916 by the House of Faberge run by Peter Carl Faberge. Of those 69, 52 of them were commissioned by Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II as gifts for their wives and children. Only 46 of those 52 survive now and while historical Faberge eggs do sell on the art market, the Imperial eggs represent a unique moment in Imperial Russia. Their value can be appraised not only from the historical value and the materials used to create them, but also the sumptuous visual effects these expensive materials have. They glisten and glitter in the light with opalescent sheens and catch your reflection in gold details or polished stones. Each one also contained a surprise inside, usually a smaller, but equally as lovely, egg or family photographs of the Tsarina and the princesses.

Lilies of the Valley Egg, 1898, Faberge

Lilies of the Valley Egg, 1898, Faberge

The porcelain egg at Revere Auctions, though not bedecked in pearls and diamonds, delights in other ways. It was meant for display, to be hung up as ornamentation during the holiday, with the lovely gilding and bright paints drawing attention to its intricate designs. It also could be used as a devotional object, especially on its sterling silver stand. The miniature of Jesus’ face encourages you to hold the egg closely during prayer and examine all aspects of both Christ and Saint Vladimir in a meditative action. Though there is no maker’s mark, the piece is skillfully painted and gilded, showing that the egg was clearly made by an experienced artisan and not simply as a mass produced item. There is a very fine attention to detail on each aspect of the egg, not only to the figures but also to each tiny motif of stars, scrolling vines, and floral details. This porcelain piece tells a story of anonymous craftsmanship producing an incredible item regardless of a company name or prestige.

Russian Porcelain Egg Detail

Russian Porcelain Egg Detail

The Sterling Silver Stand

The porcelain egg is propped into place with an intricate sterling silver stand. It is not original to the egg, but is a beautiful way to display it and certainly does not sell itself short in comparison. Its value comes visually from the intriguing design on its base and its hallmarks that detail and appraise the silver’s purity and origins. The base depicts a scene of bartering traders flanked by their wares and animals. The subdued yet exotic scenery compliments the brightness and story of the egg.  The two traders, dressed in loose fitting robes and turbans, seem to be surrounded by lush greenery and fruits while two camels take their rest to the right, and on the left more men are preparing their wares. Sitting between the two central figures appears to be a beehive. Are they haggling over honey, perhaps in exchange for the loop of fabric suspended just above the hive?

Sterling Silver Stand Base

Sterling Silver Stand Base

The German made stand is stamped with the hallmarks “Germany,” a crown, and lion passant. The crown is representative of the entire German state, a stamp that became compulsory in 1888, while the lion represents a city mark, this could either be the Brunswick or Darmstadt lion. 

Sterling Silver Stand Base Detail

Sterling Silver Stand Base Detail 

This porcelain egg shows the skill of late 19th or early 20th century Russian artists in their attention to each detail of the egg. The stand could tell us something similar about German craftsmanship, too, and together they create a very attractive personal altar and celebratory ornament for Easter. This porcelain egg tells a story of historical and modern Russia through its careful design and portrayal of Saint Vladimir.

If you have Russian art or sterling silver you wish to have appraised or sold please contact us here or 612.440.6985.

Namikawa Yasuyuki; the Golden Age of Japanese cloisonné revealed in a wisteria vase

A full moon illuminates draped wisteria vines that seem to float along a dark blue sky. The delicate composition is unbroken, smooth, and betrays no hint of the complexity behind its existence, except for the golden white moon. This moon plays a larger role than just a light source for this deceptively simple vase. It is the chrysanthemum Imperial Seal of Japan, bestowed only to imperially commissioned pieces for presentation to the royal court and the Emperor. An honor reserved for Japan’s most valued and skilled craftsmen. This vase, though not bearing Namikawa Yasuyuki’s signature, undeniably came from his workshop in Kyoto, and was presented to the Emperor Meiji’s court in the late 18th or early 19th centuries. The vase represents the evolution and merging of Western and Japanese science and craftsmanship and is a beautiful example of the effects of the Meiji Restoration and the Golden Age of Japanese cloisonne. Namikawa Yasuyuki, cloisonne’s leading light.

Large cloisonné Vase with Chrysanthemum Crest and Wisteria Blossom Motif, Namikawa cloisonné Museum of Kyoto

Large cloisonné Vase with Chrysanthemum Crest and Wisteria Blossom Motif, Namikawa cloisonné Museum of Kyoto

Meiji Restoration 

The Meiji restoration is a multifaceted and complex period of history that could not be adequately summed up with just a few hundred words. Broadly speaking, the Restoration (or Revolution) consolidated the Japanese political system that had since the 17th century been under a feudalist system in which nobility ruled their provinces under the leadership of the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo (Tokyo). When Emperor Meiji declared himself to be the unilateral ruler of Japan in 1886 this system came to an end. Following American navy Commodore Perry’s arrival in the late Edo period, and subsequent militarial intimidation, Japan opened its borders to the Western world. With the upheaval of government structures and a re-entry into global commerce, much of Japanese and Western life changed. These permeable borders meant there was now an influx of goods, culture, innovation, and industrialization to and from Japan, to and from the West. The ‘goal’, or more appropriately the result, of the Meiji Restoration or Revolution was a sythenization of Western production and output with Japanese artistic and cultural value. With Japan now providing new sources for inspiration and art, Western desire for Japanese pieces, or at the very least aestheticized orientalist pieces was at a peak. Among those objects which were so highly coveted by foreigners was Japanese cloisonné, unparalleled in its technique and execution when completed by a master, of which Japan had many during this Golden Age of cloisonné in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Namikawa Yasuyuki of Kyoto was a cloisonné artisan of the highest caliber, his work rivaled only by artists like the Ando family or Namikawa Sosuke of Tokyo. 

Jar and Lid with Design of a Rooster, a Hen, Two Butterflies, and Flowers, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Jar and Lid with Design of a Rooster, a Hen, Two Butterflies, and Flowers, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Namikawa’s Life

Namikawa Yasuyuki was born in 1845 into a rural family and was adopted at the age of eleven by the Namikawa samurai family in Kyoto. With them, he trained to become a samurai and went on to be the personal attendant of the prince-abbot Kuni Asahiko. Asahiko lost power in the years before the Meiji restoration whereupon Namikawa left his service and returned to Kyoto to become a cloisonné artist.  It seems that he appraised the quality of his life as a samurai and decided to turn to cloisonné as a full time career at the age of twenty three in 1868. He worked for the Kyoto cloisonné Company between 1871-1873/4 and in 1876, Namikawa established his own studio at his home in Kyoto. 

He went on to exhibit internationally in Philadelphia in 1876 and Paris in 1878, as well as the first National Industrial Exhibition in Tokyo in 1877. By 1896 Namikawa was granted the title of Imperial (Household) Artist by the Emperor Meiji and he continued running his public studio as he served the court.

Portrait of Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845-1927), Google Arts and Culture

Portrait of Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845-1927), Google Arts and Culture

By the time he was granted his position as an Imperial artist it had been many years since he personally crafted a vase. However Namikawa closely monitored the creation of each piece, as well as doing much of the design, and the entire firing process himself. The cloisonné industry dropped during the Taisho era (1912-1926) and Namikawa retired from mentoring and overseeing the artists and work in his studio in 1915. The Western demand for his wares was no doubt impacted by the First World War and his workshop closed entirely a few years later. He died at the age of 82 in 1927.

Drawing, Design for a Vase with Court Dancers Motif Namikawa Cloisonne Museum of Kyoto

Drawing, Design for a Vase with Court Dancers Motif Namikawa Cloisonne Museum of Kyoto

Namikawa’s work, even during his lifetime surrounded by hundreds of masters of cloisonné, stood out from those working in Kyoto and elsewhere. A Western visitor to his studio, Herbert Ponting, observed that, “I [Ponting] was glad I had seen the other places [workshops] first, as I was thus better able to appreciate, from what I saw that day, the excellence of the workmanship which has placed the Namikawa product in a class which few of his contemporaries ever reach.” Ponting’s appraisal of Namikawa’s work was not without merit as the demand for his pieces surpassed the workshop’s ability to produce and sell vases. 

His designs were taken from nature, as so many cloisonné artists’ were and are. He was overwhelmingly drawn to flowers with many vases swathed in delicate, soft petals, leaves, and branches, a motif that dominates the Wisteria vase. In tandem with the flora, Namikawa also employed black breasted roosters, hawks in flight, and darting dragons in his retinue of imagery. The occasional landscape, scene of water, or royal procession were also featured. 

Small Cloisonné Vase with Cherry Blossom, Peony, Chrysanthemum, and Butterfly Motifs, Namikawa Cloisonne Museum of Kyoto

Small Cloisonné Vase with Cherry Blossom, Peony, Chrysanthemum, and Butterfly Motifs, Namikawa Cloisonne Museum of Kyoto

Something other than beauty is visible in Namikawa’s work; innovation in glazing, enameling, and firing during this Golden Age of cloisonné. Namikawa demonstrably took advantage of new technology developed by the Ahern company and German chemist Gottfried Wagener, an expert on firing and glazing, scientific developments that changed the face of Japanese cloisonné forever. Namikawa’s technique was unparalleled with his use of the new translucent enamels and wiring techniques, and his pioneering approach to design.


There are multiple types of cloisonné within Japan that have developed over the centuries. They are essentially variants on cloisonné and champleve, and the term shippo is applicable to both in Japanese. There is musen-jippo in which the wires are removed from the metal base once the enamel paste has been applied, leaving a seamless finish to the work. There is also “bodiless enamel” called shotai-jippo ( plique-a-jour cloisonné), in which there is no backing for the cloisons and a translucent enamel (suki-jippo) is used to allow light through the piece. Namikawa Yasuyuki worked in suki-jippo, translucent enamel with metal bodies for backing. This smooth, translucent enamel was the pivotal point in transforming Japanese cloisonné from an offshoot of Chinese techniques to its own truly unique form, looking unlike anything else in Eastern Asia.

Lidded Vase with Hawk and Flower Motifs, Victoria and Albert Museum

Lidded Vase with Hawk and Flower Motifs, Victoria and Albert Museum

This was a very concentrated effort on the part of Japanese cloisonné craftsmen to improve the quality of enamel and wiring work they could achieve. The Golden Age of Japanese cloisonné technique was brought about from collaborations with German chemist Gottfried Wagener and Japanese institutes, companies, and artists and their workshops like Namikawa Yasuyuki.

The work of Wagener and other Japanese cloisonné masters led to a major shift in styles, especially in Namikawa Yasuyuki’s workshop. Enamel was now able to cover larger sections without wire support; for Namikawa and his contemporaries this meant that the once heavily brocaded scenes dominated by wiring were now obsolete. Namikawa shifted to a more minimalistic approach, containing the heavy wiring to the rims of a piece while the central design was left to drift in a pool of enamel. Before this, design trends in Japanese cloisonné, much like Chinese cloisonné, were heavily reliant on the capacity of the cloisons and the maneuverability of the wiring. Now there was an approach of ‘pictorial emphasis’, meaning more attention could be given to the enamel design itself rather than the wiring, and greater value was placed on blank space. We see all of this executed in the Wisteria presentation vase. The vines float in a pool of deep blue enamel, a color which was highly experimented with as shades of blue were particularly difficult to concoct. Namikawa adopted this design process fairly early into his artistic career and in order to bring the technique to its full potential he perfected firing and smoothing methods ensuring there was no more graininess or texture in a finished piece. Again, the unbroken texture and pockmark-free Wisteria vase is an excellent example of this effect.

Part of Large cloisonné Vase with Chrysanthemum Crest and Wisteria Blossom Motif, Namikawa cloisonné Museum of Kyoto

More complete sections of enamel meant that there was no need for decorative scrolls and other marginalia and allowed for a less cluttered scene. Instead of an entire background taken up by cloisons, there is a smooth ground of enamel. Namikawa clearly took advantage of this, a trademark of his distinct style being a sense of minimalism. That is not to say every piece he designed followed this blueprint: several of his vases are covered in floral and faunal designs that overlap and fill space. The difference between Namikawa’s busier designs and the over-embellished designs of the past is that these elements were now placed purposely rather than as support structures that did not add to the overall story of the design. He was clearly alternating in style on a piece by piece basis, as it appeared that the more traditional, busier scenes were for imperial commissions, while his floating designs, suspended in an enamel pool, were for the commercial market and appealed more to Western buyers.

This aspect of minimalism in the Wisteria vase is what makes this piece so interesting. There are one or two other examples of imperial commissions done by Namikawa in a similar style to this vase; however, the majority appear to lean towards more traditional scenes that bustle with the activity of parades or butterflies.

Pair of cloisonné Namikawa Yasuyuki vases with Butterfly and Chrysanthemum Arabesques, Sennyuji, Kyoto

Pair of cloisonné vases with Butterfly and Chrysanthemum Arabesques, Sennyuji, Kyoto, Namikawa Yasuyuki

Another hallmark of Namikawa Yasuyuki’s work was his use of shaped metal inserts, both regularly and irregularly shaped. Irregularly shaped inserts created more naturalistic leaves, bamboo reeds, rocks, and wisteria vines. This is how he achieved the effect of such delicate, floating petals in the vase that cast shadows upon one another as if the moon was truly shining down on them. He was no longer beholden to bulky support wires and could create any illusion he wished, like Wisteria vines gently blowing in the night. Or are they floating down a still stream with the reflection of the moon upon the deep blue water? Even in his busier scenes the wire work is impeccable, the wings of a butterfly do not give them the appearance of wiring, just the natural joints and veins of a wing. His designs, both busy and simple, also provide an accompaniment to the flower arrangement or Ikebana that the vases held. The Wisteria vase is an obvious receptacle for wisteria vines, or for brighter and more contrasting flowers.

Part of cloisonné vase with Butterfly and Chrysanthemum Arabesques, Sennyuji, Kyoto

Part of cloisonné vase with Butterfly and Chrysanthemum Arabesques, Sennyuji, Kyoto

The Continuity of the Golden Age 

Though Namikawa’s workshop shut down during the Taisho era (1912-1926), along with many other esteemed workshops, cloisonné and the scientific innovation and research made during the Meiji restoration have not gone to waste. Cloisonné is still purchased and valued by museums and private collectors alike, and new artisans tend to their enamel crafts everyday. The Ando Company is an institution that has managed to survive to this day since its opening in the early 19th century. It continues to sell beautiful cloisonné work and provides an opportunity for traditional Japanese techniques and artisans to continue to improve and be enjoyed.

Japanese Ando Company cloisonné Vase ex H.Humphrey Collection, sold by Revere Auctions in September 2019

Japanese Ando Company cloisonné Vase ex H.Humphrey Collection, sold by Revere Auctions in September 2019

Namikawa Yasuyuki’s work is astounding and has maintained its popularity and value throughout the last century. This is due, in a large part, to the way it embodies the combination of Western and Japanese science and art. However, detailed research on Meiji history is not necessary to appreciate the brilliance of an object like the Wisteria Vase. The immersive nature of Namikawa’s work takes a viewer in, regardless of their previous knowledge of Japanese art history. You see the vase and suddenly you are walking down a wisteria lined path on a humid summer night, the moon lighting your way and perfectly highlighting the delicate pink and purple petals. The sweet and powerful scent of the flowers drifts through the warm air and guides you home, or to the nearest sake house. 

If you have Namikawa Yasuyuki cloisonné you wish to have appraised or sold please contact us at here or 612.440.6985.


Before you sell a painting it is important that you have information about it that will enable you to make the best decision.. Many people have been given or have acquired an old painting at some point in their lives. You may have purchased it at an estate sale, inherited the artwork, received it as a gift, or purchased it at an art gallery or antique shop. You may be wondering where to sell paintings in Minnesota?

As a partner at an auction house and certified appraiser, I have encountered several wonderful stories about people uncovering expensive paintings from their basements, garage sale finds, and inheritances. That is why it is important to have a basic understanding of what you have before you decide what to do with an object. There are a number of factors that we look into to help us determine the value of a painting. We always recommend consulting with a trustworthy expert at some point to get a true idea of the painting’s value, but it never hurts to have some basic understanding about your painting and learn about things to look for. 

What is the medium?

When you hear art professionals use the term “medium” it is to describe the material that an artist used to create his/her artwork. The medium is used to describe the substance that binds the pigments. The three main categories to describe artworks are drawings, prints and original paintings. Drawings usually have a medium of pencil, pen, ink, or wash. Prints have a variety of different methods including etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, serigraphs, woodblocks, and many more. Prints typically have an edition number. You can usually find these numbers along the lower left or right. Original paintings are typically  painted with watercolor, gouache, oil, acrylic, and pastel. If you look at the surface closely, you can typically see texture from the paint, however it is difficult to see texture with watercolor. 

You may encounter a three dimensional sculpture. Sculptures are typically created with bronze, marble, wood, steel, alabaster, spelter, and/or ceramic. Having an understanding of the medium of an artwork can have a big significance in determining the value of the painting, print or sculpture. Determining the medium of an artwork is essential in determining the value of the piece. In most instances, an original painting is more valuable than a print. Typically, the market considers oil and acrylic paintings as being the most valuable. For sculptures, there is usually very little difference in terms of value between the mediums with the exception of spelter, this is a cheap metal and usually is a reproduction of a bronze sculpture and has less value. However, several artists such as Frederic Remington are reproduced heavily. Some of these sculptures are still produced today and they have significantly less value than a sculpture that was done during the artist’s life. 

John Costigan Painting Closeup
Close up of an oil painting

Who is the artist?

Identifying the artist is typically the most important factor in determining the value of the painting or sculpture. Most paintings are signed along the lower left or right corner. Sometimes they will be signed on the back which is also called the verso. It is common for an artist to sign an artwork with only their last name. You will find that there may be several artists with the same last name, which may complicate properly identifying the artist. For example, in one artist database there are over 1000 listed artists with the last name Smith. Some of these artists’ works sell for over a million dollars, while art by other artists sharing this last name only sell for less than hundred dollars. So you can see there is a lot of importance in determining the artist that created the artwork. Some signatures can be very hard to read and some are only signed with an initial, symbol, or monogram. James Abbott McNeill Whistler signed with a butterfly mark and the Minnesota artists, Nicholas Richard Brewer and Cameron Booth would sometimes only sign with their initials.

Jean Dubuffet Signature
Jean Dubuffet Signature with Initials J.D.
Le Pho Signature
Le Pho signature in both Chinese and English

What is the provenance?

The provenance is the history of ownership for a work of art. The most optimal scenario would be to be able to trace the ownership history from the artist to you.. Unfortunately, with older artworks this is rarely the case and can be very difficult to do. Looking at the back of artworks for any clues can offer a lot of information regarding a paintings provenance. I often tell people that the back of an artwork tells us more about it than the front. Galleries, exhibitions, and museums typically put labels on the back. Collectors value any information about an artworks provenance that can be proven. 

Well-known artists are faked often so provenance is very important. Thus, for artworks done by blue chip artists, the provenance can be just as important and valuable as the work itself. Provenance is an important factor to help determine the authenticity of a work.

Walasse Ting Painting Verso
Back of Walasse Ting painting with gallery labels

What is the condition?

Condition plays a large role in valuing and appraising a painting. Assessing the condition of an artwork can be difficult without proper training, experience, or expertise. For paintings, carefully look at the surface of the painting for scratches, paint loss, cracks, and chips. If the painting was done on canvas, inspect it for any rips or tears. If the artwork is on a wooden board, has the board warped? For artworks on paper it is important to analyze how the artwork was framed. Has the paper toned or browned? Are the mat and backing acid free and archival? For work on paper that is framed under glass it may make sense to carefully remove it from the frame to get a better understanding on the artwork’s full condition. For sculptures one very important factor is the patina. The patina is the color of the sculptures surface as it has aged over time, and it must look natural and unaltered to be the most desirable in the marketplace.

Damage to Old Painting
Old painting with broken panel

Where should I sell?

Selling an artwork can oftentimes be a daunting and difficult task. The internet can be a wonderful resource to sell paintings. We recommend contacting an auction house to sell an artwork. As long as you pick a good auction house, it is the best way to let the market decide the value of your painting. Reputable auction houses will also give you an estimate of the painting value and typically do not charge you for this. They are also transparent with their pricing and have the same incentive to sell the artwork for the highest price as you. 

Contact us today if you want a complimentary auction estimate evaluation.

An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements: a story of many years and many miles of mathematical innovation

John Lodge Cowley’s An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements is a fascinating book. It’s incredibly visually attractive, with pages of beautifully executed copperplate etchings that fold up into interactive geometrical diagrams. It’s even remarkably compelling for a math textbook. More than that, though, this book is part of a larger story of the transmission of knowledge throughout history and Enlightenment re-engagement with Classical scholarship.

John Lodge Cowley "An Appendix to Euclid's Elements"

John Lodge Cowley (1719-1797), An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements, London: Watkins, Ayscough, Heath and Wing, Bennet, and the Author, 1763. Sold for $1,500 in Fine and Decorative Art, May 20th, 2020, 12 PM CST.

Our story begins around 300 BCE, with the publication of Euclid’s Elements. Almost nothing is known about Euclid’s life except that he taught in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter (r. 323-285 BCE). Alexandria was an important center of learning in the Greco-Roman world, and it is from within this scholarly milieu that Euclid compiled and composed his Elements, which contained all of the mathematical knowledge available at the time. Euclid built on the work of previous mathematicians, carefully appraising their work to compile the most concise and accurate information available. Along with building on the work of previous scholars, Euclid provided a new structure and model to understand their work.

The book was a hit. It circulated widely throughout the Classical world, and was seen as the definitive work on geometry and mathematics for centuries. The Elements was introduced to the Islamic world by the Byzantines, and while it was largely forgotten in Europe following the fall of Rome, it became vastly influential on Arabic mathematics and science. Many Arabic editions of the Elements circulated through the Islamic world from the 9th century CE onward, by notable scholars including al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf ibn Maṭar (786–833) at the court of Harun al-Rashid of Arabian Nights fame.

Eventually, the Elements found its way back to Europe in the hands of Moors moving north into Iberia. Al-Andalus, as Moorish Spain was called, soon became a flourishing center of learning and culture, with Europe’s first academy of medicine, stunning art and architecture, and, briefly, unprecedented religious toleration. It was from this environment that the Elements returned to the attention of Christian European scholars, in the hands of an enterprising English philosopher. Adelard of Bath (ca. 1080–ca.1152), a brilliant philosopher, linguist, and stubborn round-earther, had traveled throughout much of Europe and the Islamic world in his studies. In Al-Andalus, where, according to legend, he traveled disguised as a Muslim student, Adelard obtained an Arabic edition of Euclid’s Elements, most likely al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf ibn Maṭar’s aforementioned translation. Upon his return to England, he published a Latin translation and commentary of the Elements. This translation, for many years the earliest known Latin translation of the Elements, was widely sold and played a major role in re-solidifying the Elements’ place as the mathematics textbook.

Great Mosque of Cordoba, Al-Andalus

The great mosque in Córdoba is a characteristic example of the flourishing of art, architecture, and scholarship in Al-Andalus. Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, Euclid continued to be seen as the primary source of mathematical knowledge. A renewed interest in the Classical past led to earlier Greek copies of the Elements being unearthed, and new editions and commentaries continued to be published throughout the period, underscoring and propagating Euclid’s ideas. With the Enlightenment came an increased interest in mathematics and science, and many groundbreaking discoveries were made, including non-Euclidean geometry. Despite the fact that it was now clear that Euclid’s Elements did not contain all the mathematical knowledge there was to be had, it continued to be seen as the foundational body of knowledge that new discoveries built upon. However, as the Enlightenment continued, the Elements became less valued as a textbook. As more people became educated and ideas about education changed, there began to be a demand for a distillation of these ideas into more accessible textbooks for students.

John Lodge Cowley "An Appendix to Euclid's Elements"

John Lodge Cowley, An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements.

Enter John Lodge Cowley (1719-1797). Cowley, an English mathematician and geographer, served throughout his career as a geometry teacher at William Hogarth’s St. Martin’s Lane Academy, mathematics professor at the Royal Military Academy in London, and Cartographer Royal for King George II. He was well-known for his mathematical achievements, and in 1768 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Along with teaching, Cowley published a number of books on geography as well as on solid geometry. These geometry books were intended for students early in their studies, making an effort to present the information in a way that was clear and simple. One of the ways Cowley did this was by including fold-out diagrams in these books, which allowed students to gain a better understanding of concepts through visual and tactile representations.

John Lodge Cowley "An Appendix to Euclid's Elements" plate

Close up of Plate XLII in An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements, showing the innovative fold-up design.

These books, and An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements in particular, exemplify a shift in approaches to teaching mathematics. Along with education becoming more widespread during this period, new methods of education were theorized by Enlightenment philosophers. These new methods emphasized learning through experimentation and observation instead of the memorization-centered approach that had been widespread in previous generations. The way Euclid’s ideas are presented in An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements is an excellent example of this new method in action: instead of simply reading the ideas, students using this book were able to actually physically observe them through the fold-up diagrams, growing to understand them through experience.

Plate 5 from John Lodge Cowley's "An Appendix to Euclid's Elements"

Plate V, The Icosahedron, from John Lodge Cowley’s An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements.

This book was intended to accompany Euclid’s Elements, making it accessible to modern readers and more suited for new ideas about education through its innovative interactive plates–what the book calls “new-invented schemes cut out of paste-board.” Clearly, although no longer the sole authority, Euclid was still highly valued as part of a mathematical education. However, as An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements shows clearly, his ideas were being re-explained and approached differently as mathematical knowledge expanded and theories about learning changed.

John Lodge Cowley, "An Appendix to Euclid's Elements," Plate 11

Plate XI, The Exoctoedron, from John Lodge Cowley’s An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements.

An Appendix to Euclid’s Elements was a major stepping stone in the re-distilling and understanding of Euclid to the way that it is now taught–as a major base of modern mathematics but no longer the standalone mathematics textbook. It represents a culmination of many years of knowledge being lost, transmuted, refound, and reconsidered; of shifting ideologies about mathematics and about education; and, above all, of the ideas that stayed relevant through it all. 

If you have a rare book you are interested in selling or having appraised, please contact Revere Auctions.

Alphonse Mucha’s Prints & Posters

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), father of le style Mucha, or Art Nouveau, is perhaps best known for his print and poster designs. He began as an apprentice scene painter in Vienna, then as a portrait painter in Mikulov. Eventually, Mucha gained patronage from two local counts who funded his formal training in the arts in Munich and then Paris.

While in Paris, Mucha rose to fame in 1894 when he met the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt and produced a poster advertising her upcoming role in Gismonda, a Greek melodrama to be performed at the Théâtre de la Renaissance. In this poster, Mucha portrays Bernhardt as her character, a Byzantine noblewoman, in an embroidered gown and orchid headdress holding a palm branch in her right hand. On January 1, 1895, Mucha’s poster was up all over Paris and became an immediate sensation. His imagery – which is set in a narrow frame, toned with muted pastels, and represents a life-size composition – was groundbreaking at the time. ‘La Divine Sarah’ – as Sarah Bernhardt was affectionately known – loved his work and invited Mucha to be the artistic director of her theater, designing not only posters, but costumes, set designs, and jewelry as well. 

Alphonse Mucha, Gismonda, 1894, poster, Wikimedia Commons.

Now established as a leading poster artist in 1895, Mucha explored a new genre – decorative panels (‘panneaux décoratifs’). These decorative panels were the forerunners of today’s art posters with no text and designed solely for artistic appreciation or decoration. Ferdinand Champenois, a Parisian printer, in an effort to make a business savvy decision, contracted Mucha to produce these panels in order to reuse the designs for multiple editions. Mucha pursued this art form because he believed that it was his mission as an artist to promote art to ordinary people. Mucha later wrote: “I was happy to be involved in an art for the people and not for private drawing rooms. It was inexpensive, accessible to the general public, and it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles.”

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), Cycles Perfecta, sold in Fine and Decorative Arts, March 30, 2019.

Mucha’s first decorative panel design was produced in 1896 and was titled The Seasons. This was a series of four panels depicting the personification of the seasons – innocent Spring, sultry Summer, fruitful Autumn, and frosty Winter. Each panel consisted of motifs characteristic of Mucha – a decorative botanical backdrop, nymph-like, a beautiful woman in a full composition with flowing hair, colored in muted, but striking pastels. 

Alphonse Mucha, The Seasons, 1896, color lithograph, WikiArt.

In 1897, the company Chocolat Masson, which sold chocolate under the brand name Chocolat Mexicain, reissued Mucha’s The Seasons for a company calendar. It is this version of Mucha’s The Seasons that will be up for auction on May 20th in Revere Auction’s Fine and Decorative Art Sale. This lot includes all four panels of the seasons in rare lithograph proofs without text of this calendar version.

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), Seasons, being offered in Fine and Decorative Arts, May 20, 2020.

Mucha revisited The Seasons once more in 1900, but also produced a number of other decorative art panel series including The Flowers (1898), The Arts (1898), The Times of the Day (1899), The Precious Stones (1900) and The Moon and the Stars (1902). His commercial success and the accessibility of his works of art made Mucha one of the most prominent artists of his time. His unique design and notable imagery have transcended time and remain key works of art to this day, reproduced in the masses for all to enjoy. 

If you have prints, paintings, or other works by Alphonse Mucha you would like appraised or sold, please reach out to Revere Auctions at 612.440.6985 or info@revereauctions.com. We offer free valuations of objects and professional expertise throughout our appraisal and consignment services. For more information about our appraisal and consignment services, please visit our website at: https://www.revereauctions.com/services/.

Mysterious Maps: California as an Island

Imagine sailing off to a land so beautiful it was compared to the Garden of Eden. This island was, to sea-weary sailors, nothing short of paradise. Many tried to map it, but it was hundreds of years and many attempts before cartographers fully understood its elusive geography. Want to know this wondrous place for yourself?

Well, you’re in luck. Because the only thing standing between you and this island of legend is a discount plane ticket from Spirit Airlines. Its name? California.

Pieter Goos Map of California as an island, 1666
Pieter Goos (ca. 1616-1675), Paskaerte van Nova Granada en t’Eylandt California, 1666. Sold for $8,000 in Fine Books, Maps, and Manuscripts, January 13, 2020.

Oh, yeah, that’s right. We know now that California is not an island but is snugly attached to the rest of the continent. In the seventeenth century, a mixture of imagination and  inaccurate or garbled accounts from travelers led cartographers to depict California as an island paradise. European explorers, including Hernan Cortes, having mapped Baja, assumed California to be surrounded on all sides by sea. In fact, it was named after the truly fictional California from the contemporary novel, The Adventures of Esplandián.

Pierre Duval (1618-1683), Nova Mexico, ca. 1660-1680. Sold for $650 in Fine Books, Maps, and Manuscripts, January 13, 2020.

Most iterations show the island extending halfway up what was considered the west coast. On the island’s north side, two inlets give the mass’s flat top variety. These are a consistent feature among maps, demonstrating how much cartographers borrowed from one another. Some maps, such as Pierre Duval’s late 17th century map of “Nova Mexico,” include other fictional elements than just California as an island–this map includes Cibola, the mythical seven cities of gold.

Jacques Chiquet Map California as an island
Jacques Chiquet (1673-1721), Nova Mexico, 1719. Sold for $480 in Fine Books, Maps, and Manuscripts, January 13, 2020.

The trend of California being depicted as an island in maps began its decline after the 1705 publication of Father Eusebio Kino’s A Passage by Land to California, a map based on his extensive travels in California and the surrounding areas. Still, maps and books continued to be published which depicted California as an island well into the mid 18th century. Cartographers, lost in the dreams of yesteryear, grasped at the legend with each publication. Although this dream has been lost in light of discoveries made, nostalgia remains.

These guides, part of one of the largest geographical errors in history, harken back to a time when the world was vast and unknowable. Frame, it, hang it, and be reminded of these ways gone. And, hey, it might even come in handy. California, now but shakily attached, is a couple of earthquakes away from breaking off and becoming an island for real. Love the past, or have an obsession with an imminent future? Either way these maps are for you. 

If you have a map you would like to sell or have appraised, please contact Revere Auctions at info@revereauctions.com or (612) 440-6985.

The Yoshida Family of Artists

Born in 1876 as Hiroshi Ueda in Kurume to a school teacher father, Hiroshi Yoshida grew up during the Meiji period (1869-1912), a time in Japanese history that was strongly influenced by Western culture. At the age of fifteen he was adopted by his art teacher,  Kasaburo Yoshida. Both Kasaburo Yoshida and his wife, Rui, were artists who nurtured Hiroshi’s artistic talents, craftsmanship, and creativity. At twenty years old Hiroshi left Kurume to study painting in Kyoto. One year later he moved to Tokyo and entered Koyama Shotaro’s Fudosha private school as well as the Meiji Fine Arts Society, where he was trained in traditional Western-style oil painting. During the early 1900s, he found success as a painter, and won many exhibition prizes, taking many trips to the United States and Europe.

Hiroshi Yoshida "Sacred Bridge" Woodblock Print
Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950), Sacred Bridge, sold in Asian Art and Decorative Art, September 29, 2018.

He began his woodblock printing career in 1920, when he was hired to design woodblock prints for a publisher, Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962). Unfortunately, these early prints were lost after Shozaburo’s shop was damaged during the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. After the earthquake, he traveled around the United States again in order to accumulate funds for himself. There he realized how quality ukiyo-e prints, a style of Japanese art that depicted images of everyday life, were valued in the West. When he returned to Japan, Yoshida turned to woodblock prints due to Western infatuation and opened up his own shop where he acted as director and supervised every detail among his workers. His prints were made with the perspective and composition of Western-style paintings but with the precise technique of ukiyo-e woodcuts. His innovative style led him to be a pioneer of shin-haga, the revitalized tradition of ukiyo-e art.

Although he is largely known and for his woodblock prints, Hiroshi Yoshida did not limit himself to prints on paper. His work includes marble sculptures, stained glass windows, and prints on silk instead of paper. Additionally, he used different types of wood and not just the traditional cherry wood for his blocks. He signed and stamped his works, often in the left margin above the title and date. Prints after his death do not have his jizuri kanji stamp and are deemed less valuable. Today his net worth is approximately $1.9 million, and his original prints have been sold for at least $2,500 and have gone as high as $10,000. 

Hiroshi Yoshida "Ajanta Cave Temple" Woodblock print
Yoshida traveled widely throughout the world, and the prints he created from these travels are very popular. Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950), Ajanta Cave Temple, sold in Fine Art and Asian Art, September 21, 2019.

With the push and guidance of his adoptive father, Hiroshi Yoshida eventually became one of Japan’s most influential artists and the patriarch of an ever expanding family of generations of artists. His children and grandchildren have carried on his legacy but have also made their own name as artists with unique styles.

Hiroshi married Fujio Yoshida (1887-1987), the daughter of his adoptive father. She is the first female artist in the Yoshida family. Fujio was trained at an early age in the Western style and went on to create naturalistic and abstract watercolors, oil paintings, and woodblock prints. She and Hiroshi had a daughter but sadly she passed away in 1911. That same year, their second child and first son was born, Tōshi. After the death of her first child, Fujio fell into a depression and stopped creating artwork for nearly a decade. Eventually she picked up woodblock prints again, and at the age of sixty-two, she began creating more abstract and sensual prints after being influenced by her second son, Hadoka. Her abstract floral prints have often been mistaken for Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, as they are bright, colorful, organic, and fluid in movement. 

Toshi Yoshida "Pagoda in Kyoto" Woodblock print
Toshi Yoshida (1911-1995), Pagoda in Kyoto, sold in A Lifetime of Curiosity, November 1, 2019.

Tōshi Yoshida (1911-1995) was the first son of Hiroshi and Fujio Yoshida, and like his parents, he became an artist and was trained by his father. At a young age, Tōshi struggled with keeping and carrying on his father’s legacy. To distinguish himself from his father, who was best known as a landscape artist, Tōshi began focusing on animals as his main print subjects in 1926 and leaned more towards abstract imagery. In 1940 he married Kiso Yoshida (1919-2005), another artist. Kiso excelled in the older and more traditional Japanese arts. Together they had five sons, one of them grew up to be an artist as well. Tōshi traveled extensively to Mexico, Great Britain, the near East, and the United States in 1953. During his travels, he made presentations in thirty museums in eighteen states. Around the age of sixty-nine, he opened up a woodblock print making school in Nagano and in Miasa. After his death, his second son Tsukasa Yoshida (born 1949) took over and is currently the director of the Yoshida Hanga Academy. 

As the director of the Yoshida Hanga Academy, one of the most influential schools for Japanese woodblock printing, he organizes annual exhibitions that are open for former and current students to attend and display their artworks. As an artist, his woodblock prints are very similar to his father’s and grandfather’s. Tsukasa’s prints are simple and straightforward compositionally, and is he known for his vibrant colors and use of subtle gradation in the backgrounds to create a soft atmosphere. 

Hodaka Yoshida (1926-1995), unlike his brother Tōshi, was encouraged to study science at a young age and graduated college as a scientist. However, after World War II, when Japan became less strict about art, he decided to follow his passion in the arts. During his mid-twenties, he began his artistic career with abstract oil paintings. He exhibited his early paintings in the Second Nihon Independent exhibition in 1948. One year later he began experimenting with woodblock prints, and in 1951 he exhibited both his oil paintings and prints in one show. After some time traveling to foreign countries and being inspired by indeginous art, he influenced his family with his more energetic and abstract works. His wife, Inoue Chizuko (1924-2017), was also an artist. She was trained as an abstract painter, and, with Kiso Yoshida, makes up the second generation of female artists in the Yoshida family.

Ayomi Yoshida, born in 1958, is the daughter of Hodaka and Chizuko and is the third generation of women artists. Although she was not pressured to pursue an artistic career, like her parents and grandparents, she studied art on her own accord at Wakō University, a private school in Tokyo, Japan. Being the most conceptual artist in the family, she has broadened the family’s artistic landscape through her unconventional approach to woodblock prints. Her prints from 1979 to 1997 focused more on the carving process more than the finished work itself. At the age of twenty-three, she won her first award for a woodblock print in the Sunshine Print Gran Prix exhibition. However, she is best known for her room sized installations. She has exhibited her works in the College Women’s Association of Japan, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia), and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, as well as other international venues. In 2002 she had her largest installation at the Mia, and her only permanent installation is at the Target Corporation Headquarters in Minneapolis. 

Hiroshi Yoshida "Kameido Bridge" Woodblock Print
Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950), Kameido Bridge, sold in American Studio Ceramics and Fine Estates Auction, July 18, 2019.

The Yoshida family of artists spans four generations of artists, four male artists and four female. These artists provide perspective in Japanese history and art development through their work during the influential times of the 20th century. Although they have a very strong foundation and background with woodblock prints, each artist is uniquely their own and has experimented with other forms of art. From shin-hanga, abstraction, surrealism, and conceptual installations, each artist has contributed to the ever expanding growth of the family legacy.

If you have an artwork by a member of the Yoshida family that you are interested in selling or having appraised, please contact Revere Auctions at info@revereauctions.com or (612) 440-6985.

Scholar’s Rocks

Scholar’s rocks, or Gōng shí (供石) in Chinese, are naturally occurring rocks that are often sanded, carved, polished, and altered in some way for a desired appearance and have been cited as a source of inspiration by many Chinese writers throughout history. Also known as fantastic rocks and spirit stones, they are often found in caves filled with water and made from karstic limestone and petrified wood. Stones are prized for a variety of features: textured surfaces, dramatic forms, awkward asymmetry, and glossiness. Some rocks are also admired for their resemblance to mountains and mythical creatures. Mountainlike rocks are admired because they symbolize a miniature world, a microcosm of the universe to which scholars turn for inspiration. Stones that are massive and colorful or sensual in shape with somber coloring are seen as perfect, depending on tastes.

There are three main sources of quality stones in China: Lingbi, Yingde, and Lake Taihu. Stones from Lingbi tend to have glossy and dark surfaces, while stones from Yingde tend to have perforated surfaces. Pitting and corrosion caused by the water in the caves causes the limestone to have cavities and hollowed surfaces. Based on Chinese aesthetics for scholar’s rocks, stones that have dimpled surfaces are more prized than more smooth stones because the hollows in the rocks contrast the solidity of the stone, making it more dramatic. Stones that are from Lake Taihu are the most prized due to their unique shapes.  

Ling Bi Stone, sold in Fine Art and Asian Art, September 21, 2019.

Scholar’s rocks have a long history in Chinese culture. They have been found buried in tombs dating to the Neolithic Age, 7,000 years ago. In the late Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), the four principal aesthetic criteria were defined to create a standard for stones that would be used and featured in gardens and studios; stones were judged by their openness, perforations, wrinkling, and thinness. By the early Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), we begin to see the influences of the rocks in Chinese literature and paintings. Emperor Huizong Mi (reigned from 1101-1126) was an avid collector and painter of gōng shí. Huizong Mi was not alone–many emperors revered scholar’s rocks. Li He, the associate curator of Chinese art  at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, said, “The stones have always had imperial connotations.” Mi Fu (1051-1107), a prominent Chinese painter, poet, and calligrapher composed essays on scholar’s rocks, as did many other artists. Du Wan (12th c.) wrote a comprehensive catalogue, Yunlin Shipu, that praised the stones. 

Stones of all sizes have always been collected and admired. Smaller rocks were collected as desk and table ornaments for scholarly studios while larger stones were used as decorations in gardens to create a small landscape. Eventually the pairing of rocks and plants became a favored pictorial genre which suggested garden settings. Rocks were paired with different plants to convey certain symbolic meanings, such as bamboo, meaning moral purity, and peonies, meaning wealth. Paintings of these rocks began to appear more often and eventually the aesthetic ideals between fantastic rocks and painting were indistinguishable. To quote Liang Jiutu (1816-1880), a Chinese artist and writer, “If the rock does not seem like a painting by the power of nature, then you shouldn’t choose it.”  

Scholar’s rocks are still admired today. Many people collect them, and they continue to inspire art and writing. Chinese sculptor Zhan Wang (展望) creates stainless steel gōng shí. He took the concept of new technologies and combined it with traditional Chinese art, creating a curious juxtaposition. He sets large artificial rocks outside of entrances of modern buildings, much like having large ornamental rocks in Chinese gardens and gateways, and by doing so he pushes traditional Chinese aesthetics into contemporary art. To Wang, his sculptors depict Chinese history in the postmodern world. It seems evident that even through the test of time, gōng shí, or scholar’s rocks, still influence artists and writers today. 

If you have a scholar’s rock you would like to sell or have appraised, please contact Revere Auctions at info@revereauctions.com or (612) 440-6985.

Getting Your Painting Appraised in Minnesota

Painting Appraisal In Minnesota
An Art Appraisal in Minneapolis

Being in the business of selling, valuing, and appraising art, antiques, jewelry, and sculpture in Minnesota people contact us for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common painting appraisal questions we get are:

How much does a Painting Appraisal Cost

How much is my painting worth?

“What is the value of this old picture?”

“What is this antique worth?”

“Can you appraise this painting, sculpture, or antique?”

These questions are more complex than most people think. To properly answer them we need to dig a little deeper into determining the intent of the art appraisal and the market that needs to be researched.

For us to value your painting, sculpture, or antique, you need to ask yourself some very important questions to help us determine the best market to research.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself and be prepared to answer:

What is the purpose of the art appraisal?

In other words, are you interested in insuring the artwork, selling the artwork, or donating the artwork? Is the collection, artwork, antique, jewelry, or sculpture part of an estate? There are several more reasons that may not fit into these categories, but these are the most common. For these common appraisal questions, we look into different art markets to determine the appraised value. Often times these markets offer very different values, so it is important to think about why you want your painting appraised.

A Le Pho Painting Appraised and Sold for $55,000
A Le Pho Painting Appraised and Sold for $55,000

Selling the Artwork

The majority of our clients are interested in selling their paintings, sculpture, jewelry and antiques. For these instances we offer a complimentary auction estimate evaluation.

Estate Appraisal

Estate appraisals are important in determining the value of an estate and can be done before or after inheritance. If you have a good estate plan, it is important to get the contents of your house appraised. It is important to hire a professional appraiser that can look at the general contents of a house and make sure there aren’t any objects that are not properly valued. Often times, some of the least expected items can have the most value. I have been to estates where the most valuable items were found in the attic or was a dish that was used to hold keys. It is impossible for an appraiser to know something about everything, but if there are a lot of different items like paintings, Asian antiques, porcelain, furniture and general antiques the appraiser should consult with outside experts to determine the proper value of the items. For estate appraisals that are used for estate tax purposes, we use fair market value.

The IRS defines Fair Market Value as “the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.”

To determine the Fair Market Value of a painting, sculpture, or antique we look into the secondary market, which is often the auction market. Our appraisal reports will include comparisons from auction listings to help build our case for valuing the artwork. IRS donation appraisals are arguably the most scrutinized appraisals so it is important to hire a professional appraiser to write the report for you.

Insuring a painting: Step One Painting appraisal

We recommend getting an insurance appraisal if the painting, sculpture, or antique has an insurance value over $3,000. This is also a good conversation to have with your insurance company to see if they need an art appraisal report for certain objects in your collection. The market that we research for insurance value is the retail market, which is typically the highest price in the marketplace. We want to ensure that if something were to happen to your object, you could get an object of similar quality, age, and condition for the price the object was appraised for. Our appraisal reports are accepted by all the insurance companies and are considered legal documents. We have been involved with a lot of insurance claim cases and often times people did not get their collections properly appraised. This likely means that they did not get proper compensation from their insurance company when something happens. Make sure your paintings, sculptures, and antiques are properly appraised and protected from theft or damage.

Donating a painting

The IRS requires a professional appraisal report for any artwork, antique, or sculpture that has a value over $5,000. Donation art appraisals use Fair Market Value to determine the value of a painting, sculpture, and/or antique. For objects that have a fair market value over $50,000 there is a board at the IRS that will look over the report to ensure that it has an accurate value. This shows the importance of having a professional appraiser write a donation appraisal report.


We look into the resale value of the object. We will access all of our databases to determine what your painting, sculpture, or antique sells for in the open market. We aren’t particularly interested in what the artwork is advertised for online, but rather what the artwork actually sells for. This is how a painting appraisal is truely built. The internet can cause a great deal of confusion in that you may find your exact same object listed for a wide range of prices online. We will navigate all of that confusing information to determine what the actual value is for the artwork or antique, and often times we will give you comparables to help you understand our valuation. If we give you the value of an artwork we will not purchase it from you. We strongly believe that there is a conflict in interest in valuing an object that we would then purchase and want to be transparent and unbiased in our valuation. You should always think twice about selling an object to anyone who values it and then offers to buy it.

Give us a call: 612.440.6985 

Yaacov Agam

The work of Yaacov Agam is not easy to digest. It forces the viewer to move, inspect, follow the curves, lines, and shades of his work. Agam was, and is, a leader in kinetic art, creating works that are holographic, fragmented geometric forms, or involve light, sound, and water. In his prints and architectural pieces he brings kinetic energy to the visual plane.

Yaacov Agam, Fire and Water Fountain, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Agam was born in Rishon Lezion, Israel in 1928 and pursued art education at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. He later moved to Zurich and studied under Swiss expressionist Johannes Itten, whose color theory technique is evident in Agam’s works. Agam currently lives and works in Paris, but has recently opened a museum dedicated to his work in Tel Aviv. His silkscreens have been in exhibits and collections at the MOMA and the Guggenheim in New York, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, and a piece of his was even presented to Pope Francis in 2014.

Yaacov Agam, Hope, silkscreen on plastic, sold in Fine and Decorative Arts of the Globe, January 9, 2019.

Agam’s silkscreen entitled Hope takes a seemingly simple colorblocked checkered field and fragments it with nineteen columns of stacked hues of blues, purples, reds, oranges, and yellows. This layering of shades and shapes transforms the work from two to four dimensional, bringing it off the canvas not with linear perspective but by using strategic color blocking. Agam manipulates more than just familiar shapes like the Star of David, but changes the effect color has on his audience too. For example, his silkscreen Winter is made up of in different shades of blue, purple, green, grey, and white, color traditionally known and used in painting for their calming effect on the eye. However, by ‘pixelating’ the shape, Agam agitates the scene and a tranquil color field is turned into one of dynamic movement.

Yaacov Agam, Winter, silkscreen on paper, sold in Fine and Decorative Arts, March 30, 2019.

Similarly, his architectural pieces bring color and vibrancy to the spaces they inhabit. His fountains, dynamic works of colors, shapes, and water, as well as his rainbow buildings, do not blend in with the environment around them. They catch the eye and bring you out of your walk down the street and into a world of neon color and abstract shapes. Agam’s versatility and bold approaches to color and composition have led to international acclaim, with his work being broadly collected in France, America, and Taiwan.

Please contact Revere Auctions at info@revereauctions.com or (612) 440-6985 if you are interested in buying, selling, or getting an appraisal on a Yaacov Agam piece.