A young woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania carefully removes what she thinks is a framed print from her wall. It has great sentimental value because she inherited from her grandmother. The young woman has taken the painting down because she’d noticed there’s a pesky mosquito trapped behind the glass. But as she removes the glass, she realizes that there might be more to this “print” than she’d thought.
So the woman from Harrisburg – we don’t have her name – decided to take the artwork along to an episode of TV’s Antiques Roadshow. At the open appraisal session, the woman sat with her possession accompanied by art expert Meredith Hilferty. She explained to Hilferty that the painting had been appraised as part of a general assessment of her home contents.
She tells Hilferty, “In 1998, it was appraised as a print at $200 and, in 2004, it was appraised at $250.” In other words, sentimental value aside, this was an attractive item worth very little. The work, dated 1892, was by an artist called Henry François Farny, who was born in France in 1847 but moved to the U.S. when a child. Native Americans, as exemplified in the young woman’s painting, were a subject to which he returned repeatedly.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Farny painted something like 100 works portraying Native Americans from the Sioux and Seneca tribes. Today, he’s a highly respected artist and if you are lucky enough to own an original work of his, it will be worth a great deal of money. But a print, however attractively framed, will not be that valuable.
But what about this work owned by the young woman from Harrisburg? Hilferty gives her verdict. “If we were going to put this in an auction today,” she says, “I would suggest an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.” The young woman is quite literally dumbfounded for several moments. The shock of this news provokes tears. Finally she speaks, “That’s so much! I don’t even know what to say.” And of course it’s revelations like this that make Antiques Roadshow such a popular TV program.