“She’s extremely heavy and doesn’t travel well,” Roberta Petty-Woods cautioned appraiser Brian Thomczek at a recent appraisal session held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.  

“She” is a large bust of a woman by the artist Waller Hubert Paton signed and dated 1894. “It's been in my family my entire life and my parents acquired it from a family friend” wrote Petty-Woods in an email. “I believe it's a bronze bust, very heavy, with the inscription Brynhild.”

She knew little more , she told Thomczek. “I couldn’t find much about her when I did research…I did find that the artist worked for Scottish royalty.”

Thomczek said that the artist also did many works that included references to mythology, a subject he said was also reflected in her work. According to,  “Brunhild, also spelled Brynhild, Brunhilda, Brunhilde, or Brünhild, a beautiful Amazon-like princess in ancient Germanic heroic literature, known originally from Old Norse sources (the Edda poems and the Vǫlsunga saga) and from the Nibelungenlied in German and more recently from Richard Wagner’s late 19th-century opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (“The Ring of the Nibelung”)."

According to, Waller Hubert Paton (1881-1932) was a Scottish artist and the sculptor son of Waller Hugh Paton, a better-known landscape painter.

Despite the bust’s impressive detailing and dramatic size, the appraiser had some bad news for Petty-Woods. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that this is bronze,” he told her. “I wish I could, because it would make a big difference in the value.

“This is made to look like bronze but is instead a material known as spelter, which was an amalgamation of lesser-quality metals,” he told her. “Surprisingly, if this was indeed bronze it would be a lot lighter.”

He said there is value in her as a piece of decorative art and that, with her impressive size, she packs a lot of dramatic punch.

“People do collect these,” he told her, but unfortunately, her current value is just $200-$300 at auction.

“If it were bronze and had a foundry mark, it would be worth a lot more,” he told her.

Petty-Woods said part of the reason she mistakenly thought it was bronze was because it is starting to develop a patina. Thomczek said , surprisingly, spelter also develops one with age. “It does oxidize for a more rustic look,” he explained.

He said there have been few sales at auction to aid him in giving her a value. “Others I found were much smaller, there was nothing of this size or stature.”

Spelter, also known as pot metal, was used to make art more widely affordable, he said. “Not everyone could afford bronze,” he added. Petty-Woods said she keeps her in the hallway and intends to continue to do so.

 “I absolutely love her,” she said despite the lower valuation than she had hoped. “She’s been around since I was born and isn’t going anywhere.”

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: Bust

Owned by: Roberta Petty-Woods

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $200 to $300 at auction

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