Trea­sure hunt

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Style - HELAINE FENDELMAN AND JOE ROSSON

DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I bought this minia­ture paint­ing at a lo­cal St. Vin­cent de Paul thrift store for a penny. I love it and hope you can tell me more about its his­tory.

Thank you.

— A.R. DEAR A.R.: A penny for our thoughts we un­der­stand. But a penny for a paint­ing en­cased in an elab­o­rate frame is a bit more than we can com­pre­hend in these times. To be sure, re­li­gious paint­ings such as this one de­pict­ing Mary hold­ing the baby Je­sus are not hot sellers, but a penny does seem like an ex­tremely low price.

This is a small paint­ing on an oval porce­lain plaque in a curlicued brass frame that is Euro­pean in ori­gin. We would spec­u­late it was prob­a­bly made in Ger­many (our first choice) or Italy (the run­ner-up). We feel the piece was prob­a­bly bought around the turn of the 20th cen­tury by a per­son on the tour of Europe.

More specif­i­cally, we think it was bought near one of the great Gothic cathe­drals in Ger­many, Italy or per­haps even France as a sou­venir of a visit to a

spir­i­tu­ally sig­nif­i­cant place by a de­vout in­di­vid­ual. But who? Luck­ily, in this case we have a clue that leads us to a the­ory.

On the back of the paint­ing is writ­ten, “W.H. McCurdy, 206 Wor­thing­ton, Wy­oming,” and this leads us to some con­clu­sions. At first the word “Wy­oming” made us think of the square state north of Colorado.

But we think it refers to the town of Wy­oming, Ohio, which is a sub­urb of Cincin­nati.

If this is the case, it fol­lows that “W.H. McCurdy” might be the rather fa­mous in­dus­tri­al­ist Wil­liam Har­vey McCurdy, who is as­so­ci­ated with Cincin­nati and later Evansville, Ind. McCurdy (1853-1930) moved to Cincin­nati in 1889 and be­came sec­re­tary of the Fa­vorite Buggy Co.

McCurdy met Julius Rosenwald,

whose firm Rosenwald and Weil sup­plied Sears, Roe­buck with men’s cloth­ing. With Rosenwald’s fi­nanc­ing, McCurdy founded the Brighton Buggy Co., which be­came an im­por­tant sup­plier of farm wag­ons and bug­gies to Sears.

With the help of Rosenwald and Sears, the com­pany was so suc­cess­ful McCurdy had to build a new man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity. He chose Evansville for the lo­ca­tion, and the Her­cules Buggy Co. was

formed. McCurdy has been called Evansville’s first mod­ern in­dus­tri­al­ist, and he was in­volved with ev­ery­thing from truck bod­ies and gas en­gines to re­frig­er­a­tion units, farm trac­tors, ho­tels and trol­ley car com­pa­nies.

But he is also re­mem­bered to­day for his phi­lan­thropy, in­clud­ing sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial do­na­tions to help the strug­gling Evansville Col­lege (now Evansville Univer­sity). McCurdy is some­thing of a na­tional

fig­ure, and if this small anony­mous paint­ing is not as­so­ci­ated with him, the in­sur­ance value would be in the $200 to $300 range. With this as­so­ci­a­tion, the price should dou­ble and might be of in­ter­est to the Evansville Mu­seum. Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have writ­ten books on an­tiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Con­tact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Sey­mour Ave., Knoxville,TN 37917,or email them at trea­sures@knol­ogy.net. If you’d like your ques­tion to be con­sid­ered for their col­umn, please in­clude a fo­cused, high-res­o­lu­tion photo of the sub­ject with your in­quiry.

(Hand­out/TNS)

This paint­ing is small and spir­i­tual, but is it valu­able?

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