Rodin or not Rodin? It’s a little sketchy
Volunteer Jim Gates holds a sketch signed "A. Rodin" for appraiser Cathy Peters as the owners look on. The mother and daughter brought in two sketches that appeared to be authentic and potentially worth six figures. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 14, 2013 8:12AM
OAK PARK — In 1926, a Jewish couple from The Netherlands honeymoons in Paris, buying two sketches as a reminder of their trip.
One is a faceless nude; the other shows cherub-like children.
Fearing for their safety, the family flees their native country in 1939, just before Germany invades.
Among the possessions they take on the Holland-America ship, the New Amsterdam, are the sketches, likely removed from their original frames. Upon landing at Hoboken, N.J., the sketches are reframed, and eventually move with the family from the East Coast to the dining room wall of their granddaughter in Oak Park.
“I actually love them. I was saying to my mother earlier, I always enjoyed having them in my dining room,” the granddaughter said. She and her mother asked to remain anonymous because of the potential value of the sketches,
Seven decades later, the granddaughter and her mother bring the sketches, seemingly signed by the great sculptor, Auguste Rodin, to “Family Heirloom or Flea Market Find: What’s It Worth?” The third annual event, hosted by the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, took place Saturday at the Nineteenth Century Club.
About 100 people showed up, and 210 items were appraised by experts knowledgeable in areas including antiques, fine jewelry — and art.
“Either they’re really valuable or not at all,” said the granddaughter, who had searched online and found a sketch similar to the nude.
Certified appraiser Cathy A. Peters examined the sketches, measuring about 22 inches by 30 inches. She then went online to search — first, to authenticate the signature; then, to ascertain a value.
“Truthfully, I’ve never seen (a Rodin sketch) but I may be able to tell by looking at some websites,” she said.
Peters gets stuck on the signature on the painting of the children.
“It’s a little bit different because of the abbreviation of the first name and because this doesn’t have a tail, but this one does,” she said.
Eventually, Peters hands down the verdict: “If this is a Rodin, just glancing through, I would say it’s in the $10-$15,000 range,” she said of the nude. The sketch of the cherub-like figures, if authentic, would be worth upwards of $100,000, she said.
Peters suggests the granddaughter and her mother contact the Art Institute of Chicago or an auction house like Sotheby’s to say they’re interested in selling. If the auction house agrees to sell the sketches, they likely are authentic, she said.
However, the sketches would require further authentication in Paris by Rodin specialists. The risk, Peters added, is if the sketches aren’t real, the committee would destroy them.
The granddaughter and her mother aren’t certain what they will do. If the sketches are as valuable as it appears, they likely will be sold.
But what about the empty space on the dining room wall?
“I actually said to my mother, ‘Can you at least buy me a couple of paintings off that from Pier One?” the granddaughter said.
District 97 school board member James A. Gates, a member of the historical society, volunteered at the event.
“Everyone walks away with some knowledge of their piece,” he said. “A story to pass on to their kids.”