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Unloved Antiques: Old Master Prints

by Mike Wilcox (01/12/14).

“Girl with a Broom,” originally thought to be by Rembrandt, is credited to Carel Fabritius. The original is in the National Gallery, but you’ll find vintage prints at garage sales.

No yard sale or flea market would complete without a few Old Master–type renderings of works by notable artists like Rembrandt van Rijn.

Some them look quite convincing in their gilt frames with layers of dust, but they are all decorator prints, like the one pictured here by 
the Turner wall-art company.

The Turner Manufacturing Company was based in Chicago and manufactured a large variety decorative-art-type items until it shut down operations sometime in the 1970s. Paintings and prints were not the only items it marketed; it also produced decorative mirrors, plaques and wall shelves.

In the case of the decorator art, much of it was based on 16th-to-18th century Old Masters; the modern-art examples were the work of mainly unknown artists working under contract.

This print is based on an original oil painting, “A Girl with a Broom,” thought for more than 300 years to be by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) but now credited to Carel Fabritius, one of Rembrandt’s students. Fabritius completed the painting in 1651.

Fabritius died three years later at age 32, a victim of an explosion that destroyed his studio and most of his work. The original now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Turner Manufacturing Company mass produced famous artworks in the 1970s for low-end department-store markets. Values today reflect their origins.

Values for Turner’s decorative artwork and other products today are very modest, the main reason being they were designed for the lower end of the decorator market in department stores. Time has not budged their value or quality in the eyes of collectors. These pieces were mass produced and have survived in large numbers, not a result of quality but rather the use of manmade materials such as plastic and molded materials that are almost impervious to damage from heat, moisture or 
sunlight.

Turner paintings and prints weren’t considered high quality, and values remain very modest for them in the current secondary market. At auction these 1960s and 1970s examples of Turner’s wall art often sell at auction for less than $75.


Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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