Trash or Treasure: Bronze sculpture later casting but still valuable

By Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Clay Rasmussen inherited the bronze piece he recently brought to the Michigan Design Center for appraisal from his father.

“He didn’t do anything small,” he told appraiser Brian Thomczek, who took a closer look at a recent Trash or Treasure appraisal day (Interested in finding out about your own treasure? For your chance to be a part of our upcoming July appraisal, see the information at the end of this story).

Rasmussen gave a few additional details, including the fact that his father also collected clocks, Stanley wood planes, steam whistles and steam engines and 19th-century cast iron stoves, 20 of which weigh between 100 and 1,000 pounds. “Thankfully I didn’t get those in the will,” Rasmussen added.

His father purchased the sculpture he brought in the 1970s, he said. “I’ve done research on the sculptor, Mathurin Moreau.  He appears to have been a noted artist in his time, late 19th century. In addition to his signature, there is a stamp “Medaille d’Or Paris” with a small “9E” next to that stamp. I believe it is entitled “The Wave,” as the figure is surrounded by waves and a couple of shells. It’s a beauty!”

Clay Rasmussen with a metal sculpture.

 He said that his father had amassed more than a dozen bronze sculptures (Clay’s wife Ann also brought in a piece from the family’s collection). “This is one of my favorites of the pieces he had,” Rasmussen told the appraiser of the 22-inch piece by the French artist. had additional information on Moreau, who “was a French sculptor who worked in the traditional academic style of the 19th century. Born in Dijon, France on November 18, 1822, he was the son of noted sculptor Jean Baptiste Moreau. In 1841, he entered the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and, the following year, won the Second Grand Prix de Rome with his sculpture Diodemus removing the Palladium. Several of his works remain on public display in Paris, among them Cologne on the facade of the Gare du Nord train station, L'Océanie in the courtyard of the Musée d'Orsay, and Zénobe Gramme in the Père Lachaise cemetery. In 1897, he received a medal of honor from the Paris Salon and was elected mayor of the 19th arrondissement of Paris, a position he held until his death on February 14, 1912.”

Rasmussen’s piece also bears the name of the French foundry – MD Paris SE. Googling the artist and title – “La Vague” in French – shows that a number of similar works have sold at auction through the years. The most recent sold at Morphy Auctions in the same size and similar condition in the winter of 2018 for $1,936.

Thomczek said that the work was clearly of good quality. He believed it to be a later casting, which lowered the price a bit from the one that sold in 2018. Nonetheless, he thought it would bring approximately $1,000 to $1,500 at auction, maybe more. Rasmussen is considering selling.

“It’s probably my favorite of the ones we have but we are looking to lighten our load.”

Calling All Treasure Hunters!

Welcome back! We are currently taking applications for our free upcoming appraisal to be held at the Michigan Design Center on July 17 at 10 am. If you are interested in being considered, please send a photo of your item, how you acquired it and any story behind it that you are aware of to We will be taking two small groups to ensure everyone’s safety (please bring a mask). If you are selected, we will be in touch with additional information.

About this item

Item: Bronze

Owned by: Clay Rasmussen

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $1,000 to $1,500 and up