The Maine Antiques Digest digs deeper into the story of the nuns and the Bougereau. David Hewett gets the story on how the convent discovered they had a Bougereau and why they needed to maximize the sale:
“No one knew the value or anything about the painting. It really was too large to hang there. There wasn’t a place big enough. [The painting with frame is 108¾” high x 71″ wide and weighs over 400 pounds.] Each year, each class chooses an artist to study, and one sister’s class had chosen Bouguereau. The sister had done a lot of research and came to me and told me, ‘Mother, I think this is an original.’ I was skeptical. The sister sent a photograph to the Cleveland Museum of Art. They replied that they couldn’t tell from just a picture.
“After that, the painting was brought here [to Round Top]. The sister whose class had been studying Bouguereau had studied his signature. She pointed out that she could see a few letters at the bottom of the painting and said that it could be his signature, but I said I didn’t think it said Bouguereau.
“The ‘persistent sister’ kept looking at the painting. Somehow it was noticed that there was something attached to the back of the picture. We had to get some workmen in to take the painting down to get at it so we could see what was taped to the back. The document was folded up. It was a certificate stating that it had been exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.
“I had to apologize to Sister then. Once that was seen, the question was, what to do from here? We were in need of money-we’re very crowded here and hoped to expand. My thought was that maybe this is what God provided us to do it.”
But this short excerpt is just a small part of the convoluted tale that involves false estimates, fake emails and predatory art dealers. After reading it you’ll that you know so much more about the affair . . . and so much less about the truth of what happened.
Art Dealers Accused of Rigging Appraisal (Maine Antique Digest)