Smart collectors don't confuse reproductions with originals
The cast iron lighthouse bank sold for $10,800 recently at Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania. (Morphy Auctions / July 26, 2013)
A: I'm going to take a deep breath here and try to be polite.
To be blunt, my first impulse is to ask, "Are you kidding me?" But taking the high road, we will assume that the query is sincere.
To answer, we're simply going to present facts and invite readers to decide if the reader's paintings are valuable.
1. Johannes Vermeer (also called Jan or Johan) was a Dutch painter considered the finest of the Dutch Golden Age. Dates in the query are correct. He specialized in interior scenes of domestic life.
2. Almost all Vermeer paintings are set in small rooms. One notable exception is a long-view harbor scene, "View of Delft," painted around 1660.
His painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is considered a masterpiece, as are "The Music Lesson" and "The Milkmaid." The last two are interior scenes featuring light coming from an adjacent window.
3. Some 36 paintings by Vermeer are known to exist. They hang in the Frick, the Louvre, the National Galleries of Washington and London, the Rijksmuseum, the Met and other prestigious museums. Only one is known to be in a private collection; another is in the British Royal Collection in Buckingham Palace.
4. The first Vermeer painting to come to auction in over 80 years has long been suspected of being a fake. Despite that, the work sold at Sotheby's New York for $30 million in 2004.
Now let's look at the reader's works as seen in images sent.
1. There are two. What are the odds?
2. Each is commercially framed; the frame backs show that they are contemporary middle-grade quality.
3. Both are street scenes in bright colors. People shown are dressed in the old Dutch style, but the building faÃ§ade in one painting is modern. One mimics a doorway scene often seen in Dutch Baroque works.
4. From the photographed angle, glare suggests a pressed print, not a painting.
5. Most damning, backs have a commercially printed "certificate of authenticity" that, while so poorly photographed that we cannot read it, appears to look intentionally impressive.
OK, readers: What is your verdict? Mine is that these cannot even rise to the level of fakes intended to deceive. If painted, they were churned out in a mass production studio -- most likely in China or the Far East -- for export. If printed on canvas-like paper, they were factory made to be sold in stores from Wal-Mart to low grade furniture stores. Or hawked as "sofa art" by traveling art merchants operating from hotels.
Value is whatever someone will give you for the pair.
Q: This framed print has been in my family for decades. I can't find anything in searches. Should I hold on to it?
A: Hmmm. Donning my clairvoyant turban, The Great Arnet deduces that the question boils down to: "Is this print valuable and if so, will it become more so?"