Treasure: Asian etching’s origin still a mystery
Some wedding gifts have more staying power than others, as Cathy and Frank Condino found out when they recently brought in a piece for appraisal to a Trash or Treasure day held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.
Brian Thomczek took a look at their framed item, which they said was a mid-1970s wedding gift from two interior designers who had a Manhattan showroom. “Other than that, we really don’t know much about it,” the couple told the appraiser as he examined it more closely, turning it over and peering at the back, which had few markings or clues to its background or maker.
Thomczek identified it as Southeast Asian, saying that he believed the scene depicted to be a battle or joust of some sort. “It’s also very possible that this could be some sort of ceremonial piece, but it’s really hard to tell,” he continued.
Thomczek said the piece has an unfortunate amount of foxing, or damage that is often caused by aging. “If you really like this, you can get the restoration work done on it that would ensure it lasts into the future,” he told them. “That would entail getting it laid out on conservationist’s paper to prevent future damage. If it means something to you, it would be worth it.”
He said it could also benefit from a new frame. “This is a 1970s frame, obviously,” Cathy said with a laugh. Thomczek said a little work on the piece may reveal some clues to its background. “Sometimes when you take off the backing to get it reframed or do some conservation work, something is written on the back and all the pieces fall in line, but sometimes not. It’s hard to know until you actually do it.”
As is, without any sort of attribution, he says it’s a nice etching and has value as a decorative item. “It unfortunately doesn’t give us much to go on,” he told them. He said it would still bring a decent amount, appraising it at $300-$400 in a retail gallery.
He added that Asian art is enjoying a renaissance, with the highest end and rarest very sought after by collectors across the world, especially in Asia. “This is not as popular as some things, but there are definitely people who collect things like this and you would be able to sell it if you were inclined to do so.”
The couple is in the midst of downsizing and said they are considering what to do with it next. Thomczek said they may hold off deciding until they take off the backing and see if anything is found that would help them do more research into the piece’s maker and history. “It’s really too bad that it’s not signed or anything,” he added. “A lot of times you’ll find something written on the back that helps everything fall into place.”
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 email@example.com. 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: Asian print
Owner: Frank and Cathy Condino
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek