Is it art
May 5, 2011 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Help with a old paintings...and should I buy them...more inside.

Alright Mefites. You have been a big help in the past and now I am asking again. I came across a set of three oil on canvas paintings that I really want but want to see if they are a decent investment.
First Photo
Second photo

Sorry for the terrible photos.

They are maybe 11x14 inches oil on heavy duty canvas. They have been nailed to a homemade frame. Some cracking in the paint. From what I am told by the seller they are circa 1800's circus or carnival banners from France. One of them is obviously Napoleon Bonaparte.

Do they look familiar to anyone. Any guess on value.
posted by WickedPissah to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know the provenance of these, but did you ask the seller why he thought they were "circus or carnival banners?" Why would Napoleon just be walking along outside of everything else on one? How much do they want for them? "Circa 1800s" is shockingly vague for anything over like $20 apiece.
posted by rhizome at 8:06 PM on May 5, 2011

They are worth what you are willing to pay for them. Would you like them as much if they were painted within the last 10 years?

A good rule of thumb is not to buy art as an investment, buy it because you like it.
posted by JujuB at 8:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless you know exactly what these are and can prove it, don't pay any more for these than you would for the same thing stamped "Reproduction--Made in China" in big letters on the back. Without examining the paintings in person it's almost impossible to get is provenience.

'Investing' in art when you have no idea what you're doing will simply lose you money. You're better off buying lottery scratchers.

However I think they're charming and would be worth buying to hang on your wall.
posted by Ookseer at 9:13 PM on May 5, 2011

For the vast, vast majority of people buying art (i.e., either those who are not of the wealthy investor class or who have a specialized background), doing so as "an investment" is a mug's game. Really. Buy it if you enjoy it and can afford it. Those are the only important criteria. I say this as someone who works in an art museum and have been around artists, collectors, and galleries my whole life.

I don't know anything about either piece, but think they're pretty cool. If they fit into your budget and you would like to look at them on your wall, there's your answer. If not, then pass.
posted by scody at 11:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should clarify. I have seen and handled them in person. They are at a local junk/antique shop. To my admittedly untrained eye, they look old, I do know a little about reproductions and how things are aged and I don't see any of that on the paintings. But again, I am not an expert.

The owner claims they are circus banners or part of one because of the man training the bear the image of Napoleon is of him riding a broom.

I am interested because I have never seen anything like them and I think they are awesome but they are selling for more than I would like to pay.

I guess the real reason I am posting this is to see if they look familiar to anyone out there. Not having any real details on provenance (signature for one - chain of ownership for two)is making me very wary.
posted by WickedPissah at 6:14 AM on May 6, 2011

Response by poster: Oh also, thanks for the good advice so far. I am not looking to become an art dealer, I am just a casual collector.
posted by WickedPissah at 6:21 AM on May 6, 2011

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