Treasure: Oil painting’s sweet subject, age has appeal

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Bill Holmes inherited the oil on canvas — a well-done street scene of someone selling cake — from his grandmother. “I’ve been told it’s more than 100 years old,” Holmes told expert Brian Thomczek at a Trash or Treasure appraisal session held not long ago at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.

The appraiser took a closer look at the work in question but admitted that the artist’s name wasn’t easy to decipher. “If you look at the signature, I think it says Alunzo or Alonzo Peiez or Perez,” he told Holmes and his wife, Dottie, who had brought in a few items they were curious about. “Either way, I am not familiar with this artist,” he told Holmes. Internet searches revealed that there was a Spanish artist by the name of Alonso (or Alonzo) Perez whose work looked similar, the appraiser said. While not a lot is known about the artist, he continued, background information he found says the artist was born in 1881 in the Spanish city of Saragossa and that his father, Mariano, was also a painter. Like his father, he became known for whimsical genre and street scenes and appears to have worked in Paris around the turn of the century. He died in 1914.

The piece does show some signs of age, which the appraiser estimated to be sometime in the late 19th century. “The outfits that the people have on support this,” he said, pointing out the wardrobes on the characters in the scene. He also said that the piece could use a serious cleaning, which would bring out the colors and return them to their original vibrancy. “I would recommend using a black light on this to see if there are any condition issues,” he told Holmes. “If you’re going to have it cleaned, I would recommend Ken Katz downtown at Conservation and Museum Services (”

Despite this, he admired the work, which measures 25 by 20 inches and is in a nice frame, something that Thomczek said usually indicates quality. He estimated its value at $500-$700, maybe more if more auction records are found for the artist.

Either way, the piece would have buyers if Holmes decided to part with it at some point, the appraiser said. “There are a lot of people who like street scenes and a lot of art lovers who have a sweet tooth,” he joked. “It’s a fun subject and one that would have a wide appeal.”

Upcoming appraisals in January

Interested in finding out about your own treasures? We have two appraisals days scheduled in January and are taking submissions for spaces on these dates. The first will be held on Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. at DuMouchelles in downtown Detroit. The second session will be held Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. Appraisals are free but are first-come, first-served as you sign in and you must be willing to be featured in the column with your item. To apply, send a photo of your item with the words “Appraisal Application” in the subject line, how and where you acquired the item and any other information you know about it to Please specify which location if you have a preference. If you are chosen, you will be contacted by email before the appraisal dates.

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: Oil on canvas

Owned by: Bill Holmes

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $500-$700 at auction, maybe more.