Some old houses have secrets. Pat DesMadryl of Port Huron found that out for herself not long ago.
“We found it in a crawl space,” she told experts Jerry Anderson and Bob DuMouchelle of DuMouchelles who took a look at her discovery at a recent appraisal session held downtown at the auction house and gallery. The Algonac resident said they found the urn about 1982 in a house in Harrison Township that they were working on. “We found it while we were fixing the plumbing,” she said. “It was a very old house with an outhouse in the backyard… we heard the woman who had lived there was in her 90s and collected antiques.”
The bronze urn is covered in images of Greek-style warriors, said Anderson. “I’m pretty sure this a classical burial urn,” Anderson told DesMadryl. “To be even more specific, I think it’s a depiction of the “300” Spartans. I’m almost positive.”
Surprisingly, he says, the warriors on the handles are nude except for their weapons and helmets. “It was all very intimidating,” he told the couple. He said that burial urns such as the one they found are most often found in pairs.
DesMadryl admitted that she had cleaned the piece, which DuMouchelle said would, unfortunately, hurt its value. “It’s a very common thing, but unfortunately is one of the worst things you could do. You aren’t the first, or unfortunately, the last, to over clean something. But when it comes to antiques, a little extra elbow grease can be a bad thing.”
DesMadryl said she cleaned it, in part, to determine what the metal was. “I thought it was brass,” she admitted. It’s not. “This is definitely bronze, which is one of the finest casting materials available. It’s not silver or gold, but it’s close, and very high end,” Anderson said.
While the images are classical and Greek, the piece probably dates to the 19th century, he added. “This is probably from right around 1880s to 1900,” he told her. “It’s part of the Victorian era’s interest in everything Greek Revival.”
Empty now, it probably would have had a top, and possibly ashes, originally. “Vintage bronze usually has a wonderful patina,” he told her. “The Italians did wonderful bronze casting, but it could have been made in a lot of different parts of Europe, including France or Greece.”
Weighing approximately 10 lbs. it’s worth $150-$250 in its current condition, which includes some broken pieces. If fixed (the appraiser recommended Fine Arts Sculpture Center in Clawson), the value would rise to $500-$800, even without the lid, he added. If DesMadryl were lucky enough to find the missing mate, the value would rise to $1,500-$2,000 for the pair.
“Even without the lids, these would be in demand at auction,” he told her. “The quality is top notch.”
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About this item
Item: Bronze urn
Owner: Pat DesMadryl, Port Huron
Appraised by: Jerry Anderson and Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelles
Estimated value: $150-$250 in current condition