Patricia Bammel of Rochester Hills was cleaning her mother’s basement when she came across a pair of landscapes that once belonged to her grandmother, who passed away in the 1970s. “I believe she acquired them sometime during the mid-20th century,” she wrote in her original email to the column. “Both measure 8-by-10 and have a brief history of the artist, A. Onasso, mounted on the back. The back label also states these are originals. I would like to know more about the artist and the value of these paintings. I was unable to find anything online other than one similar painting, measuring 28”, which sold for $750.”

The unframed works show classical scenes of ruins, poplar trees and mountains in the distance. One features a gate with flowers; both are signed, one on the lower left, the other on the lower right. This lead independent appraiser Brian Thomczek, who took a look at them recently at Judy Frankel Antiques, part of the Antiques Centre of Troy, to surmise that they were probably always intended to be a pair and that the scene was probably Greek. Their idyllic scenes, however, have done little to endear them to Bammel, who admitted that “none of us really like them,” to the appraiser.

Labels on the backs yielded more information. “This is an Original Oilpainting (sic) by the Artist A. Onasso,” it reads. “Born at Vienna, Austria, in 1925. He studied at the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts. To develop his painting talent he travelled to Italy and France and stayed in Paris, where he took great interest in the great monumental buildings witnesses (sic) of French culture which subjects are to be found in his paintings. His works are to be seen at exhibitions in Vienna and Paris.”

The appraiser was able to shed a little more light on the artist. “While there isn’t a lot of information, he was classically trained and can be found in some artists’ listings,” Thomczek told Bammel. He confirmed that an Internet search unearthed larger works by the same artist that were priced higher. “One that was 28-by-38 was estimated at $500-$800, while a smaller 14-by-13 version was $40-$250,” he said.

One thing that would hurt Bammel’s pair at auction, however, is their lack of frames. “If you added frames, it would only increase the value,” he said. Unframed, he valued the pair at $200-$300 at auction; if attractively framed, they could fetch as much as $400-$600.

Thomczek said they could also use a good cleaning. “Basements aren’t exactly the best place for artwork,” he said. He cautioned her to use a good framer and conservator and to stay away from glass, which isn’t good for oils. He added that acid-free paper and conservation-quality glass to allow for moisture should always be used when framing things such as works on paper. “The right mattes, frames and overall care makes a huge difference.”

He said that her paintings would probably find a new home if she were to send them to auction. “They’re an appealing subject and they’re nicely done,” Thomczek said. “There are a lot of people who like Neoclassical scenes.” Given the information, Bammel said, they may choose to sell them to someone who would better appreciate them. “Even if you don’t like them, there’s probably someone who would,” said Thomczek.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure? 160 W. Fort St. Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen, you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About these objects

Item: Neoclassical oils

Owner: Patricia Bammel, Rochester Hills

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek, independent appraiser

Estimated value: $200-$300 unframed

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