2015 : June Notes From An Appraiser

Welcome to Cynthia Shaver, Asian Art Appraiser, June 2015 newsletter.

What an interesting, crazy month I am having. This morning I worked on three separate appraisals, some expert witness work and charitable contribution donations for IRS tax reductions. This afternoon I returned phone messages and have three future work projects. I am one who needs to work with a clipboard. I have two and was out-of-sorts with three jobs. Now I need more, maybe color-coded?

One client, an insurance claim, had art stolen during a real estate open house. My job involves researching seven Chinese artists, their paintings & calligraphy selling in the low four figures. In doing research of auction house databases, I am learning the different sizes of Chinese paper available. Nothing seems standard. One of the paintings researched was approximately 36” x 48” and another 18” x 24”. I looked through over 200 records of auction sales and none had those measurements. It occurred to me these scrolls were stolen, and by using approximate measurements, the clients were drawing from known standards in the United States. So review the lists again. The first scroll could be 33” x 52” and be a comparable. Review.

Another client is donating three screens to the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM). My assistant Susie and I went over to inspect the screens, and I learned about obaku calligraphy, “large rough brushwork historically done by Chinese monks who came into Japan in the 17th century” as described by Julia White, curator of Chinese art at BAM, “Obaku style calligraphy is executed with a large brush with strong lines showing a great deal of energy. Often it is executed in what is called flying white wherein the brush lines break up and the paper underneath is exposed,”

The third client has donated a rabbit fur lined early 20th century Chinese embroidered robe, worn to the Metropolitan Opera in the 1930’s, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The robe was likely commissioned for the lady, to wear to the opera, certainly a statement of refinement: money, worldliness and fashion. I saw one Chinese robe, made for a similar purpose only for the San Francisco Opera, complete with a photograph of the lady at the opera. Although the value is for decorative art, the same amount of research is required to find at least three comparable values as the calligraphy scrolls and the obaku style screen.

Now to the phone calls I returned in the afternoon, all were to make office appointments. A son calling for his elderly father who collected Chinese jades and porcelains, wanting to know values for equitable distribution, at this time not wanting anything in writing. Another gentleman and his sister wanting values of property left to them by their parents, again for informal assessment of equitable distribution. The third phone call was from a gentleman who inherited two cloisonné Chinese urns. His purpose was for information of his heirloom, not wanting values but historical information. These appraisals, for information, tend to sound easy, but involve less readily available sources. Usually I am writing a variety of scholars for historical information, trips to the Asian Art Museum library and condense the information into a lay reader format.

All of this work I enjoy. It is different from one another, and I am constantly learning about cultures I have studied since 1976.