Patricia Black was willing to drive to downtown Detroit from East Lansing to solve a family mystery.

“I have this painting, I believe brought from Germany by my aunt after World War II,” she wrote to the column in an email. “It says original ____ but I can’t read the name. Would love to know what it is and have someone take a look at it.”

That “someone” was DuMouchelle appraiser Jim Flannery, who examined Black’s family heirloom during a recent Trash or Treasure appraisal session held at the downtown gallery and auction house. The image shows a European street scene of a clock tower with timbered buildings. It has hallmarks and crests in the lower left and writing on the lower right.

Black filled Flannery in on additional background at the event. “My aunt was in Germany during World War II and worked with the USO,” she explained. “This was one of the things she brought back in the 1940s.”

Before filling her in on the work, the appraiser first corrected her on the medium, “which he said is a colored etching originally done on copper and reproduced on paper” and not a painting or canvas. “The work was done by Ernst Geissendorfer, who lived from 1908 to 1993,” he said. The informative website had a little more information about the artist:

“A twentieth century German painter and etcher, Ernst Geissendorfer studed art techniques in Nuremberg. In the decade of the 1930s he traveled and worked extensively, both in Europe and the United States. At the end of the Second World War (1945), Geissendorfer returned to live in Rothenburg and assumed control of the family art gallery there. Besides creating many fine works of art, Ernst Geissendorfer served as Town Councillor of Rothenburg during the 1960s. Before World War Two, Ernst Geissendorfer usually produced small uncoloured etchings. After 1950, however, he created much larger etchings to which he applied hand-colouring.”

Black’s work is known as “Rothenburg ob der Tauber,” and is one of the artist’s many well-known prints. The town dates to 1274 and sits on the Tauber River.

“Rothenburg is in Bavaria and is a charming and well-preserved medieval town,” Flannery explained. Because the piece is nicely framed and matted, he appraised it at $125-$250 at auction, adding “the problem these days is that unfortunately etchings don’t bring a lot at auction anymore.”

Despite that, Black ultimately decided to leave the piece behind at the auction house and take her chances on the market. “It’s been on the wall a long time,” she explained. “I have a lot of things that I’ve had for years and it’s time to let go.”

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. 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: Colored etching

Owned by: Patricia Black, East Lansing

Appraised by: Jim Flannery, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $125-$150 at auction

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