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Ask A Worthologist Question: After J. Willis Good Bronze Figure

by Mike Wilcox (09/06/11).

WorthPoint member Melanie R. inherited this bronze figurine some years ago from her aunt, who collected horse racing memorabilia for years. She doesn’t want to sell it but is concerned about insurance coverage in case of fire or theft. She contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about this piece, its origins and value.

Melanie R. inherited this bronze figurine some years ago from her aunt, who collected horse racing memorabilia for years. Melanie has no idea where it was purchased; only that it had graced the fireplace mantel since the 1970s, when she was a little girl. She doesn’t want to sell it but is concerned about insurance coverage in case of fire or theft. She contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about this piece, its origins and value. Her request, printed below, was forwarded to me:

“I inherited this bronze from my aunt years ago. It’s signed J.W. Goodand measures about 13 inches high and about 15 inches long. My aunt was crazy about race horses and used to go to the races whenever she could. She collected mainly porcelain horses and autographed and dated photos of grand champions like Seabiscuit and Northern Dancer. I always liked this bronze best; it was the first thing you saw when you went into the living room, sitting right on the fireplace mantel. I don’t want to sell it, but I need to know a bit about it and a value for insurance in case I have a break-in or a fire, I’d also like to know if I can polish it because it has tarnished look to it.”

Here’s my response:

The signature stands for John Willis Good, who was born in London, England in 1845. Beyond that, there is not much biographical data is available about the man, who committed suicide at at the age of 34. What is known is that he took a probationary course at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London and went on to study under the sculptor Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (English, 1834-1890). Good exhibited at the Royal Academy 15 times between 1870 and 1878, with pieces titled “Putting Hounds into Cover” in 1870, “In the Paddock” in 1874 and “Hunter” in 1878. He also exhibited a collaborative work with the painter and sculptor Charles Lutyens entitled “Prince of Wales, a Celebrated Clydesdale Horse” in 1873. Good shot himself in his studio on Fulham Road in London in 1879.

This example however is not actually a piece originally made by Good, but based on his work. Such pieces are generally referred to being “after” an artist’s work, and this one would be termed “After Willis Good.” Most such pieces were made after his death and well into the 20th century; this particular piece is still in production and sold by a number of foundries. Values for a bronze figure in an artist’s style depend a great deal on their vintage, the size, quality of the casting and condition. No attempt should be made to polish this piece; the weathered bronze patina is original to this pieces design and adds to its value. All that’s required of bronze figures is regular dusting.

Currently, the work of most 19th century sculptors is being reproduced on a grand scale, which has had a negative effect on the secondary market. This one appears to be a later example of a type recast since the 1970s. That said, the replacement cost even for a fairly modern example like this is still close to $1,000.

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

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