A $191,000 profit on a $4 thrift shop find? It happened for one woman who visited a Savers second hand shop in New Hampshire in 2017 and scooped up an attractive painting while looking for old frames to resell. She quickly forgot about the artwork, which languished in a cupboard collecting dust until it was time for a spring clean earlier this year.
With the help of Facebook sleuths, the woman was able to identify the work as a rare example by the American illustrator N.C. Wyeth. Realizing her keen eye for artistic gems may have won her the lottery, the woman consigned the work to Bonhams Skinner auction house in Marlborough, Massachusetts, for the American Art sale held yesterday, September 19.
The painting fetched a whopping $191,000 (including buyer’s premium), comfortably meeting its presale estimate of between $150,000 and $250,000.
Bonhams’ specialists were able to confirm that the thrift shop steal is one of four possible frontispiece designs drawn up by Wyeth for a 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel which tells the life story of a fictional girl of mixed Scottish and Native American heritage who was orphaned shortly after the Mexican-American War ended in 1848.
This striking but sensitive scene captures a moment in which Ramona takes on a defiant pose against her adoptive mother, Señora Moreno, whose frosty manner is well communicated by an austere black dress.
The American painter, who was born in 1882 and died in 1945, enjoyed a multi-decade career producing illustrations for periodicals and novelists. Wyeth made the four designs for in the late 1930s at his studio in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and sent them to the publishers Little, Brown and Co. Experts believe the publishers may have eventually gifted the illustration to an editor or Jackson’s estate, but it is not known how it ended up in a thrift shop in New Hampshire.
According to the , the lucky woman, who has decided to remain anonymous, is already planning how the painting’s hefty final price tag will help pay the bills and even foot a trip to Germany so she and her husband can visit one of their children. To keep a memento of Wyeths’ life-changing illustration in her home she has bought an original copy of and plans to frame it.
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