Charcoal portraits quite common

Charcoal portraits like the one above were produced in massive quantities by numerous unknown itinerant artists during the 19th century. (Courtesy of John Sikorski)

Published: Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 1:15 p.m.

Q: I have attached photos of what I believe are two charcoal portraits. I inherited the portraits from my grandfather when he passed away last year. Both portraits were given to me in old wooden frames and have nothing on the back of them veri fying who they were. A note written by my grandfather was stuck to the glass of one of the portraits indicating that it was his great-grandfather. I have a complete history of my family back eight generations, so the note my grandfather left indicates that he was Matthew Johns (1829–1904), a Civil War veteran. I have no information about the couple, just that they were part of my family. Could you please tell me anything about the history of these portraits or direct me to someone who has experience with this?

T.J.C., Internet

A: Charcoal portraits like the two you have were produced in massive quantities by numerous unknown itinerant artists during the 19th century. To study or research the genre the library would be a good place to start. Potential dollar value is catch-as-catch-can.

For sentimental reasons they should be remounted and backed in acid-free material. Then be sure to add what you know to your grandfather's note for posterity.


Q: I have a picture that was my husband's grand mother's. I found it in our garage and noticed it was signed in what appears to be pencil. Just wondering if you have any information on the artist or if it is worth anything or not? The signature says “Frances J Rigney.”

S.A., Internet

A: Francis J. Rigney was born in Waterford, Ireland, in 1882 and came to the United States. He lived and painted in New York during the early 20th century. He produced marine paintings and illustrations for several specialty books dealing with clipper ships. He was the art editor for Boy's Life Magazine and a member of the National Arts Club. His oil on canvas paintings generally sell in the $200 to $700 range. Your signed work on paper would likely sell in the $50 to $100 range. It is good you rescued it from the garage. I suggest you save the label on the back and have the picture remounted and backed with acid-neutral materials to preserve it.


Q: Attached are photos of a purple pitcher and glass that were handed down to me by my grandmoth er. She wrote that they were given to my great-great-grandmother in 1905. I do not know anything else about them. They are in very good condition with only a little bit of the gold leaf worn off in small areas. I would love to know more about them.

C.H., Newberry

A: I think your molded amethyst glass gold gilt tumbler and footed creamer were made by the Northwood Glass Company in America. They were new in 1905 when given to your ancestor. The Northwood Company is widely recognized in the antiques marketplace for their highly decorative glassware. Potential dollar value is below $50 each.

John Sikorski is an Ocala antiques dealer. He hosts a call-in radio show, ‘'Sikorski's Attic,'' on WUFT-FM (89.1 FM). It can be heard each Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. Send your questions to Sikorski's Attic, c/o Gainesville Sun, 2700 SW 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32608, or e-mail absantique@aol.

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