Case of the Canvas Transfer

blog-image_2014-12-10How Diligent Research Saved $15,750

Enservio Select was recently asked to appraise an original oil painting by Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia (American, 1909-1982). Born in the mining town of Morenci, Arizona, Ted DeGrazia became one of Arizona’s most prominent painters, illustrators, and graphic artists, resulting in his studio gallery being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  He lived most of his life near Tucson, and worked in his studio, open to the public, that he called “The Gallery of the Sun.” His signature work is paintings and illustrations of ‘angel-like’ Southwestern children, many of them of Indian and Hispanic descent. His original paintings are iconic and sought after worldwide and range from $10,000-$20,000 depending on the size.

The painting by DeGrazia Enservio was requested to value was stolen on the premises and not available to examine however a photograph was provided to show the canvas. It was titled Superstition Mountain and was said to have been inherited from family. The claimed value of the painting was $16,000.


Photograph of Superstition Mountain provided by the insured

When our specialists began research on the provenance for this painting as well as other paintings by DeGrazia depicting the Superstition Mountains, this exact painting was found on many websites celebrating the artist’s work. Perhaps whomever the insured inherited it from was a buyer or collector of DeGrazia’s work and the insured owned an important piece. Upon further research it was discovered that DeGrazia did only one rendition of the Superstition Mountain and the piece was part of the deceased artist’s personal collection.

Enservio specialists contacted Ted DeGrazia’s signature gallery and the only gallery who represents the artist’s estate, DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun in Tucson, AZ, and learned it was part of the gallery’s personal collection and not available for sale. A photograph of this painting was held in their collection, one identical to the insured’s painting. This meant that the insured’s painting was a canvas transfer copy and not an original painting. The value of the canvas transfer reproduction was $250 in comparison to the claimed value of $16,000.

The $16,000 could have been an accurate price had the painting been original. The provided photograph did not show close-up details of brush strokes to determine authenticity, and because the piece was stolen it was not available to examine first hand. In this instance, it would have been easy to agree with the claimed value based on the information submitted at claim intake. However, the additional research and due diligence in our appraisal work led to a $15,750 savings for the insurance carrier.

About the Author

Erin Hollenbank, ASA, is an Accredited Appraiser, Fine & Decorative Art for Enservio, a provider of software and services across the entire value chain of contents claim processing—from onsite inventory capture of non-restorable contents—to transcription, appraisal, valuation, payment, replacement and predictive analytics.

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