Q: I purchased this small plate (8⅝ inches in diameter) for a very small sum of money many years ago from an antiques store. It has the marks of both the Haviland and Pickard companies on the back. It's in good condition with only a few scratches along the gold edge. I am hoping you can help me determine the artist who painted it and its value.
A: If a piece is not signed by the artist, then all a collector can do is make an attribution based on content and decoration style.
Interestingly, we have found a twin to the plate in today's question that sold at auction in 2011 for what we consider to be a decent amount of money in the post-2008 market. That plate was not signed by the artist, either, which means we must speculate.
Wilder A. Pickard was born in 1857 on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wis. Pickard eventually ended up in Chicago doing various jobs. One day he was walking through the Marshall Fields department store and saw a piece by the Pauline Pottery of Edgerton, Wis.
Pauline Pottery primarily made utilitarian wares such as battery cups, but they also did some hand-decorated wares, and W.A. Pickard became their Midwest sales manager. Pickard was successful at this and it has been speculated that Pickard's orders amounted to about one third of Pauline's output.
Pauline Pottery began to fail, but Pickard realized he had a customer base interested in hand-painted ceramics.
Pickard China was incorporated in Edgerton in 1893. The company bought undecorated china from various European sources and decorated them in the company's studios using artists, many of whom had studied at the Chicago Art Institute. The pattern seen on the plate in today's question appears to be unnamed, but it could be a variant of the company's Twin Poppy design.
As for who the artist might have been, one name jumps to the forefront of our thinking is John Loh. Loh started working at Pickard in 1898 and continued off and on through about 1912. He was called "Poppy John" because he was so adept at painting the flower.
This is a lovely Art Nouveau-inspired design that was masterfully painted, but values for Pickard pieces have declined in recent years. We believe the plate should be valued for insurance purposes in the $150 to $200 range.
Q: I have a picture that my mother showed me and I can't find out anything about it. Any help would be appreciated.
A: This letter is information-light. We could not offer any kind of help if the subject line of the e-mail had not read "M.B. Parkinson picture." This single nugget will allow us to provide some information, but it would have helped to have known the size.
Morris Burke Parkinson (1847-1926) was a photographer perhaps best known for his images of a 4-year-old girl named Josephine Anderson, who was the daughter of one of Parkinson's friends. The female friend was a single mother who needed to work, and Parkinson often served as her babysitter.
Parkinson immortalized little Josephine in the photographs "Cupid Awake" and "Cupid Asleep," which were copyrighted in the late 1890s. The Taber-Prang Art Co. of Springfield, Mass., distributed the prints, and they became so popular they are almost a cliché. These are easily found today and have been widely reproduced.
These two ubiquitous images — both of Josephine holding arrows, one while awake and one while asleep — are just two of several other Parkinson "Cupid" images. These were sold in inexpensive frames in mass market stores. Parkinson did many other photographs as well, many of which featured a young child sometimes paired with an adult.
Parkinson was born near Buffalo, N.Y., but as an infant he and his family moved by wagon to Oshkosh, Wis., where he grew up. As an adult photographer, Parkinson is associated with Boston, but it is often noted that he also worked in New York.
We could not find the title of the photogravure (mass-produced photographic print) you own.
Its value depends largely on its size and condition. If it is a larger size, and if the condition is as excellent as it appears, the piece should be worth in the $175 to $300 range for insurance purposes.
Unfortunately, many of Parkinson's pieces were framed with wooden backs and have been severely damaged by acid produced by the aging wood. Smaller damaged examples generally sell for less than $50.
Q: I am hoping you can identify my statues, which I inherited from my mother and father. When the World's Fair came to St. Louis in 1904 these pieces were purchased from either the Dutch or the German pavilion. We would love to know anything about the maker. There is nothing written on the bottom. My statues are about 30 inches tall.
A: These were manufactured and are not the work of a specific artist, and without a maker's mark there is no way to know the company that actually produced these figures.
We can say, however, that they are German and were made from bisque porcelain. "Bisque" refers to a type of porcelain that has been fired only once. It has a slightly grainy surface and the decoration is painted on and is not set with an additional firing in a kiln. This means the colors are subject to wear and that cleaning should be done carefully.
Bisque figures were very popular from the middle 19th century through the early years of the 20th century. Judging by the vast quantity of these we have seen, it is possible that the number made may run into the hundreds of thousands — if not the millions of pieces.
We found examples of these small bisque figures that sold for less than $20 at auction — despite being more than 100 years old.
In general, as size and quality go up, so do the prices. Examples over 15 inches tall tend to be of better quality, and command higher prices. French bisque porcelain pieces tend to be more carefully made and English examples (some of which are called "Parian" figures) can be very fine indeed with very "fine" prices.
A 30-inch-tall pair of German bisque figures is a rare find. These are exceptional pieces and at auction they would probably sell in the $600 to $750 range and retail for $1,500 or perhaps as much as $2,000.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.