‘I got it at the Dixieland Flea Market,” Shirley Simone told appraiser Brian Thomczek at the recent Trash or Treasure Day held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “At the time, I didn’t have the money for it but I loved it. ... Those were the days before ATMs and they wouldn’t take a check,” she reminisced.

But all was not lost. Her friend bought it instead but kept it for eight years before it finally became hers, she said. “Every visit I looked at the picture,” Simone explained in her email to the column asking for advice. “Finally she gave it back to me. I realized on my first trip to Italy that it is the Vatican and the Castle d’Angelo.”

The image, a print of an Italian scene, is signed by Lucien Gautier in the upper right and dated 1883 on the back. In the original frame, it measures 141/2 by 19 and is in a “very nice oak frame with brass inner framing,” according to the appraiser. She paid $30 for it.

More information about the artist was found on “A fine French etcher and designer, Lucien Gautier first studied art in Aix-en-Provence. ... He then completed his education in Paris,” it explains. “He began his career there etching and engraving plates after the designs of Corot and Charles Jacque. By 1875, however, Gautier had emerged as an original etcher of note. His fine art received medals and awards in France in 1884, 1894 and 1900.” It went on to say that “during his successful career Lucien Marcelin Gautier both designed and etched views of Rome, Venice, London and elsewhere. Yet his name will always be most strongly associated with his wonderful views of Paris and other major French cities.”

Simone didn’t know any of this when she bought the piece. “I just liked the look of it,” she explained. “I loved the picture and I loved the frame it was in.”

Unfortunately for her and collectors of etchings and prints, the market is down, even for older images from the 18th and 19th centuries, Thomczek said. “It’s a shame, because there’s some beautiful work but it also creates an opportunity for new collectors or those on a budget to get some truly fine pieces at a reasonable price.”

Thomczek said her work is a 19th century print. He valued her print at $125-$150 retail, less at auction, which represents a wholesale price.

She bought the Italian image years before she ever saw the place it depicts, says her husband, Jim, who came along with her to the appraisal session. “I eventually had to take her to Italy to see the place for real,” he told Thomczek. “That cost a little more.”

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. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item: Etching

Owned by: Shirley Simone

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $125-150 retail

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