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Fine Art/little treasure or just a painting of an ass & 2 boys

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boys with a donkey
boys with a donkey  
I just bought a small oil painting that is signed with a number on it.  It appears to be a very old oil painting judging from the thickness of the oil, coloring, & the very old canvas frame & very interesting metal clip-like "things" on the back of each corner.  The metal clips read, pat february 13, 1883.  The painting has two boys, one older walking leaning beside a donkey with a toddler aged boy on the donkey.  There is a signature in red oil that I can't quite read but it appears to be L C ?? V???/853.  I think that's the number on it.  The brush stroke is very fine.  The canvas is nailed to the frame with tiny nails.  I can send better pics after my camera batteries recharge.  Please let me know what you might need.  What do I have?

Answer
Looks to me like you have an American 19th century genre painting.  I would think the 1883 date might be closer to when this was painted than the 1853 date.  The cherub on the animal and the older brother don't look like Hollywood models exactly, do they?  Often artists were commissioned to paint a child, artists would fill a painting and put the child's picture in much later.  You see a lot of children with older looking faces, from this period and they aren't too pretty.   The artist made the commissioner happy...put the family estate in the left side, dressed the kids in fancy robes, featured the family animal.  Kind of like the modern day Christmas card, with families putting their kids, and possessions (or vacations) on a pedestal via modern photography.  

I'd recommend you get your picture to a local antique dealer or gallery who can really examine that signature.  Sometimes peeling a little varnish off, or cleaning the painting will reveal more to the signature.  If you can get a lot of light intensely on the signature, and wipe it with saliva on your finger very gently, sometimes those red intials will jump.  

There appear to be small tears or blemishes in the canvas.  Having a professional restore (inpaint), clean and reline a canvas can cost $500-$800 for a small work like this, and it just may not be worth it.  Best bet, see if a local gallery owner can help you figure out that signature.  

Good luck,
Stu

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Stuart Cartwright

Expertise

American Fine Art Paintings.
Oils, Watercolors, Sketches. Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. Hudson River School, Pennsylvania Academy, Cape Ann artists, Ash Can, Woodstock, Florida Indian River, American Impressionists, etc. I can provide some background about artists and perhaps a rough appraisal or guidance towards obtaining a value. I am acquainted with many of the best American art dealers and auction houses. Original works only, I do not follow the print market. I do NOT field questions about prints.

Important to know
I am not expert in European art. I encourage you to send questions on European artists to other experts on this service. NO PRINTS:I encourage you to seek help on prints elsewhere. Two sites come to mind: www.artoftheprint.com and www.philaprintshop.com

Experience

I have been collecting original American Fine Art for over 20 years. I have curated art shows, and I have served as a dealer, providing appraisals and guidance for the last 8 years.

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Arts Master of Business Administration

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