When the words left her mouth, he blinked in astonishment. Could it really be the secret had been hiding in the signature all along? But why? Had no one else seen it? He stood, shocked still, and hung on her every word.
Rue Ferguson of Texas was no official auto of art, but he knew what he liked, and he definitely wasn’t thrilled with this old painting that had wormed its way back into his life. It just made him uncomfortable. He didn’t know how to feel about it, really. He was both drawn to and repelled by it, although he couldn’t explain why. Had he known the history of this particular painting, he might have thought twice about bringing it into his family home.
Rue knew that the painting had been handed down for generations, but he knew little more than that. It had been mysteriously acquired by his great grandparents in the 1940s. But why? He didn’t know. When it was passed down to him, he accepted it graciously.
It was, after all, an heirloom, and he put it into storage and forgot about it. When Rue married and moved to a bigger home with his wife, the painting came out of storage once again. It was large and clashed with everything, so the only solution was to hide it. The man in the painting stared at him accusingly from where he hung it out of sight behind a door in his office where it could gather dust. And there it hung until Rue was inexplicably drawn to it again.
Years later. One day, Rue found himself motionless, staring at the painting. It depicted a man wearing a loose white linen suit, Brown leather sandals, and a wide straw hat. The man in the portrait gazed back at Rue with a frown, his stern, unsmiling mouth forever poised in an almost bitter expression. He felt along the painting surface, scraping all the grooves and whirls with his fingertips.
He could feel the artist brushstrokes distinctly. It certainly felt like he’d been painting with oil paint. Maybe, just maybe, this painting was worth something. It couldn’t hurt to get it evaluated, he thought to himself. If the painting was worthless, at least the frame might fetch a few dollars.
Rue impulsively bundled up the painting and hauled it to where the popular reality show Antiques Roadshow was filming in nearby Corpus Christi, Texas. It was there that appraiser Colleen Fesco, leveled her expert opinion of the piece. What she had to say about the mysterious painting left Roo at a loss for words. Unbeknownst to Rue, his father had already had the painting appraised in 1998. Over a decade earlier, a curator at the San Antonio Museum of Art, Sama, had told him that the signature was irregular and didn’t match other signatures on the artist’s other works.
But in a strange twist, therein lies the true value of the painting. Colleen Fesco had a different opinion about the heirloom painting. It had been hastily written off as a fake by experts at the San Antonio Museum of Art due to the irregular signature scrawled on the bottom right hand corner. Colleen pointed to the signature and started unraveling the painting’s. Deep mysteries as Rue’s eyes grew in astonishment, Colleen Fesco carefully looked at the painting, and she was immediately struck by the irregular signature.
She raised her eyes to Ruse and said the words he had never really expected to hear, slowly and with deliberation. Well, there are two extraordinary, intriguing words in an artist’s catalog of paintings, she began, and those words are whereabouts unknown, Colleen continued. Roo held his breath, hanging on her every word. My understanding of the painting’s history is that it was painted in, she continued, pausing for effect, by Diego Riviera. And at that time, Diego Riviera, who was arguably one of the most important Latin American 20th century artists, was only 18 years old.
Ruth felt the heir leave his body as he listened to Colleen’s expert opinion. And there were, I think, only three or four paintings known from that early time. The painting is signed here is Diego Riviera, and what’s interesting about the signature is that it’s a very young man’s signature. When Rue’s father was alive, he had become obsessed with the painting. He greedily read every autobiography and paper ever written on the hedonistic Mexican muralist.
He became consumed by the painting, but he was most interested in the artist’s role in the Mexican Revolution. That stern face haunted his dreams and nightmares. The painting was authentic, he insisted. Would he finally be vindicated? Now, years later, Diego Riviera is considered to be one of the most important political artists of the 20th century, and it’s easy to see why.
His works often depicted the workers of Mexico, the bricklayers laborers and farmers who Riviera considered to be the true backbone of society. His works are considered to be national treasures in Mexico today. Back at the Antiques Roadshow, Colleen continued to shatter Rou’s world. The research that we found in the authentication process is that it has been missing in the records of Mexico City. It was unknown.
Where is this painting? Where is El Albanyl, which is the laborer? It was an important painting for him in and then it disappeared. Ruse stares at Colleen in disbelief. Well, I think you have something of a painting, trifecta here, Colleen said.
The painting itself is by a very important artist. It has a terrific history being purchased in Mexico in 1930, and it’s a very beautiful and important painting. So trifecta usually pay pretty well, Colleen says with a Rye smile. But what she said next almost brought Rude to his knees. I would be putting a retail estimate on the painting at between 800,000 and a million dollars, she concludes.
Ru’s eyes widen as it all sinks in. Seriously? He exclaims a million dollars for a painting that had been thought to be worthless. And worst of all, he’d hung it in an office behind a door for all these years. My gosh.
Unbelievable Rugh. I did not expect that since the evaluation on Antiques Roadshow, the estimate for the Diego Riviera painting is skyrocketed to an incredible $2.2 million. It’s very rare to see works of Riviera is that old. It’s not a painting that was sitting in a Museum for people to see every day, Antiques Roadshow executive Mariel McNaughton said in an interview. So what does Ru plan to do with his rare and valuable artwork?
More than likely, I would imagine it needs to be in a Museum where everyone can look at it, Rue said. Now I’m really scared to carry it around at this point. So that’s exactly what Rue decided to do. L Avenuel now hangs in the San Antonio Museum of Art, located on the Museum reach of the San Antonio Riverwalk. The important and rare Diego Riviera artwork is the earliest painting by the iconic Marxist artist Currently in the United States.
But why the reevaluation at double its initial appraisal value? Colleen explains. Market wise, 17 different paintings by the artist have sold for more than a million at auction. Most recently, the Rivals from the Rockefeller Collection sold for a record breaking 7 million. After a pre sale estimate of 5 million to $7 million.