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!