Where can I get a religious icon appraised?
June 25, 2006 9:25 PM   Subscribe

I have a several-centuries-old Greek icon. Where can I bring it to get it appraised and learn more about its history?

I am not an art collector. I sort of "inherited" this thing because it's been passed down through my family. In Greece the oldest son in a family is always named after the paternal grandfather, so the same name goes back centuries, and the name on the back panel of the icon is my ancestor's name, which is my name. It's really kind of strange when I think about it, and it's also one of the reasons I would never sell the icon, but I do want to know more about it.

I've been told I have to find an iconography expert, and I'm looking primarily in the NYNJ/CT area. I'm a young professional with lots of bills, so I want to know what I'm getting into -- how much does it generally cost to get something like this appraised? How do I know I'm going to a reputable place? Any other advice for someone with no knowledge of these things?
posted by Alexandros to Religion & Philosophy (4 answers total)
Most of the auction houses offer a free valuation service.

When I was living in New York back in the mid 80's I owned a couple of art galleries, and did some business with Sothebys, which is the only reason I'm linking to their service offering here. They were professional, very, very through, and there was absolutely no pressure to proceed with an actual auction.

I'd followup with more than one just to insure you get a variety of estimates as they are known to differ, sometimes wildly, depending upon what's being valued.
posted by Mutant at 11:45 PM on June 25, 2006

Sothebys or Christies should give you an opinion and a free auction estimation, if it is of interest to them. There are probably icon dealers in NY who will also look at it, although they may or may not offer for it or help you to price it. In general, if you want a document to give to an insurance co. you may have to pay, otherwise a without-prejudice opinion should be free.
posted by londongeezer at 3:17 AM on June 26, 2006

For history, why not contact a Greek/Russian Orthodox church? Something I've noticed: academic scholars of Orthodox religions are often practicing members of Orthodox churches. I'd bet even if the priest doesn't know the history of your icon, there is a member of the parish or diocese who does.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:02 AM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: I hope it's not considered rude not to mark a best answer, because all three were helpful. Much thanks for the replies. I'm going to go the Sotheby's route (thanks for the direct link to the estimate request, Mutant) and while I did have a brief conversation about the icon with an Orthodox priest, I'm going to see if I can find someone in the Orthodox community who might know more.
posted by Alexandros at 10:44 PM on June 26, 2006

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