Q: Can you tell us about our pencil sketch titled “Dedicated to the Canoeists of America?” Does it have any value? It has been in the family for over 70 years.
A: Images sent show a framed black-and-white rendering of two males dressed in 19th century clothing, paddling a birch bark canoe through a bend in the wilderness. A handsome oak frame complements the art.
Our reader describes the piece as a pencil sketch, but Robert K. Newman, who viewed the images, told us it’s an etching. Owner of The Old Print Shop Inc. in New York City, oldprintshop.com, Newman specializes in American graphic arts, antiquarian maps and more. One of his summer shows is “The Art of Sporting,” and the shop has canoe-related art in stock.
The terms etching and engraving are often used interchangeably. For an engraving, a pattern is carved or engraved onto a metal printing plate. For an etching, a copper plate is prepared in the same way, then acid is used to etch the engraved lines so that grooves for ink are deeper or broader.
I wonder if the writer wondered about the small sketch just below the etching. On white space below the image, it shows one of the campers kneeling by a felled tree. Complementing but not mirroring the larger etching, the mini image is called a remarque. Originally done in the margin of a print to test engraving tools, remarques evolved into a way for artists to personalize prints. Some were drawn freehand.
According to Newman, the remarque in the canoeing frame appears to be printed, “But this is not unusual for 19th century prints,” he added. Text to the right of the remarque may be the artist’s or publisher’s name.
It is possible, he said, that there is an etched signature within the image. Likely places for the name are on the canoe or paddles. Use a magnifying lens.
Value is as a decorative print. Sporting art is desirable, and canoeing is popular. If the artist can be IDed and has a sales record, so much the better. And don’t discount that remarque; some buyers prefer prints that have them.
Q: I grew up admiring this brass candleholder that sat on my grandmother’s mantel. It is marked. Are there many around? Where did it come from? It’s priceless to me because of where it came from.
A: Photos sent show a handheld late Victorian saucer candleholder with the base shaped like a lily pad. A finely cast cherub sits on the pad, wings resting on the thumb loop of the holder.
The bottom mark, “J.W. Tufts, Boston, 3503” indicates that it is silver plate, not brass. James W. Tufts of Massachusetts registered his trademark in 1875 and went out of business in 1915. Starting as a plater of soda fountain parts, Tufts is celebrated today for attractive silver plated decorative items such as the candleholder.
The digits are a mold or pattern number. If Tufts made other pieces using that mold design, they would bear the same number. Only production history could reveal how many of the candleholders were made. But as a factory made item, you can bet there are others.
The brassy color is tarnish; use a gentle polish and lots of elbow grease to restore the silver gleam. It may take several applications. The pad has a matte finish, but the angel and holder should clean up nicely.
We couldn’t find the candleholder on databases of sale results, but Tufts figural napkin rings and plate table accessories generally sell for $50-$100.
Auction Action: Smart collectors know that furniture from regional auction houses that sell quality period and antique decorative arts can be a good deal. Smart sellers know it, too. As example, everyone benefitted when a Louis XVI-style painted commode sold for $6,100 in a recent Furniture and Decorative Arts sale at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago.
Consigned by a celebrated Chicago decorator now living in Palm Beach, the two-drawer chest had ideal provenance. Though not authentically Louis XVI, it was chic and, as the trade says, “In the style of.” It had the look, and that was enough to propel it to three times estimate. Everyone won: Certainly the seller, plus the auction house that received a percentage, and the buyer who paid less than retail.
Today’s question is a twofer.
Q: The base used under vintage plated silver is usually what metal: Copper, Spelter, Zinc, or Nickel Silver? Through what process is the silver plate applied?
A: The base is usually nickel silver or copper. The process is electroplating.
Source: “Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers: 5th Ed.” By Dorothy Rainwater and Martin and Colette Fuller (Schiffer, $29.95). Considered the bible on makers of American silver.
Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.