Treasure: French statue features classical subjects
‘Wow … this thing is really heavy,” was appraiser Brian Thomczek’s first impression of the statue Sue Meloeny recently brought in to the Michigan Design Center in Troy. An appealing piece of sculpture that measures about 18 inches tall, it features two figures in what appears to be Greek or Roman classical dress.
“I would like to know more,” she wrote in her original letter to the column. “I think it is bronze. It was given to my mother by her uncle.” That uncle, she continued, lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, and always kept the piece on his bannister. Meloeny’s mother always loved it and inherited it after her uncle died in the 1970s. After her parents later died, she chose it in a draw with her brother and sisters along with the small table it now sits on in her living room. “I just loved it … we all got together to choose something. I’d love to share more information about the statue with my brother and sisters,” she concluded in her request for information.
She knew little more than that, she told the appraiser. After a bit of detective work, Thomczek found a signature on the foot of one of the figures. Marked “Bouret,” near the toes, he admitted to not being familiar with the sculptor at first glance. Turning the heavy piece over, he was surprised to see no other marks on it, including foundry marks usually found on the bottom.
An internet search of the artist’s name found a variety of auction and gallery references. A reference with a piece for sale on eBay included a short background biography of the sculptor. “Eutrope Bouret (1833-1906), French sculptor. Eutrope Bouret was a student of Louis Buhot. He exhibited at the Salon from 1875 to 1903. Bouret works in marble, plaster, terracotta and bronze.”
Thomczek said Meloeny’s piece, which he measured at 17 inches tall and 8 inches in diameter, is the first time he had encountered this artist. “A lot of appraisal work is educated guesswork,” he told her. “My gut is that this is late 19th or early 20th century. He praised the piece’s beautiful detail and said that the classical subject matter was appealing when the piece was made and still would entice collectors if she were to bring it to market.
He said that if the piece was an original sculpture, it could bring numbers into the thousands of dollars, but that his gut is that it was made from a mold, or a later copy, something he said would be worth more like $600-$800 at auction. “It’s still a nicely done bronze either way, but it’s worth a lot more if it’s an early original, not a later copy from a mold. It’s also worth a lot more if the artist touched it, not just people who later worked in his studio.”
Meloeny said there is little chance it will be on the market, at least in the near future.
“I have to report back to my family,” she says. The piece now graces her home instead of that of her uncle or mother. “It sits in my living room,” she says. “I just try to keep it out of the way of the cats and dogs.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.
Item: Bronze sculpture
Owner: Sue Meloeny, Royal Oak
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek
Estimated value: $600-$800 at auction