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Fine Art/mid-19th century oil on canvas


Dear Mr. Hynes,
 I recently purchased an old painting. The dealer from whom I bought it said he obtained it at an estate sale twenty five years ago in Northern VA, or DC.
 It is oil-on-canvas, framed, apparently unsigned. The visible canvas is 24 inches wide by 20 inches high. It appears to be in the original frame, which is gilt, and ornate; the frame has significant wear and tear. There are two angular, probably hand-cut wedges in each corner of the frame reverse.
 It bears some black (or dark) stenciled marks on the reverse of the frame, as well as a small, hand-written "$22.50" on the back of the frame.
 The image is of four cows; two calves lying down, one adult brown lying down, and one adult white standing in back. The cattle are central to the painting, and the adult brown is most prominant. The brown, and the calves appear to face the artist, and have some "expression" in their faces. They are shown in a dark-green,rounded, mountainous surrounding, with trees, a small stream in the foreground, and a broken tree to the far right. There is a small, simple house in the background, to the upper left.
 I was immediately drawn to this painting, and thought it might even be the work of Edward Hicks.
Upon some research, and a visit to, and correspondence with staff at, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Center in Williamsburg, VA, I am told this is unlikely.
 Ms. Luck, curator of paintings at the Museum, saw only photos of the painting/frame, and indicated that, though I had a nice painting, it didn't appear to be the work of Hicks.
She was forthcoming with the likely time-frame in the middle 19th century, though she couldn't determine an artist, nor whether it was of American or European origin.
I would really like to know as much as possible about this piece, before I commit to restoration, conservation, or just hanging it on a nail.
 At the risk of asking too broad a question, what should I do now?
(P.S. I have digital images I can send, but nowhere to attach them here)
 Thank you, I appreciate any help you may be able to offer!
         Jim B.

Dear Jim, Of course I cannot give any opinion without seeing images. You can send jpg images to my email at  Make the subject line "allexperts" so I do not bounce you as spam.
I would like to see an image of the front, an image of the back, and a close-up detail of the front so I can see the brushwork. Also let me know the "exact" size of the painting, measure from the outside of the stretcher bars. And let me know if there are any other notations than the price, any fragments of labels, or anything at all. The wedges you mentioned are called stretcher keys. When the canvas begins to sag these are tapped-in to expand the stretcher and thus tighten the canvas. I am a bit surprised that a curator of paintings could not determine if the painting was American or European. Usually this is rather evident.

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Daniel A. Hynes


Collecting, buying, selling, identifying, and caring for paintings, drawings,and watercolors (19th and early 20th century American and European). No prints, contemporary art, or works executed after 1940.


35 years as a fine art dealer, including 3 years as a gallery director. Also was art expert for Leslie Hindman's Auctioneers, and for Dunning's Auction.

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