Antique Appraisals

Painting purported to be work of notorious woman

In today’s What’s It Worth? we review items that include a painting our reader thinks may have been done by one of the 20th century’s most notorious women. Come along on the trail of the infamous Eva Braun.

There’s also an antique hand fan which will appeal to a range of collectors.

Q. We’re curious about this old painting my wife found at an estate sale. It has the initials “EB” on the lower right. On the back of the frame you can see the penciled words “EVA BRAUN” and “WIEN 37”. Wien in German means Vienna. And, I’m assuming the 37 is the year. I know Eva was an art student and these things are starting to add up to make me think this might be the real deal. Could it be? — Mark in Kennewick

A. We learned years ago to never say “always” or “never” in analyzing antiques.

That said, the chances this was painted by Eva Braun, Adolph Hitler’s longtime mistress and short-term wife, are really very slim.

First, in our research we found that while she was a photographer, there seems to be no record she was ever a trained artist or even an amateur painter. There is no record for her in any of the major reference guides to artists working in the period.

Secondly, having met Hitler in 1929 (at 17 years old), by 1937 she was traveling with his entourage and living with him almost full time.

Finally, a genuine Eva Braun painting (if there is such a thing) would usually have some kind of provenance — the history, background or record of ownership of the art. Although not always the case, most art found at estate and garage sales comes with no such guide to authenticity.

We suspect someone somewhere along the line jumped to the “Eva Braun Wein 37” conclusion and pencilled it on the back of the frame.

As an Eva Braun painting, as far as one can tell, it is probably bogus. Just as a nice little landscape, it could only be valued for decorative purposes and might be worth as much as $100 or so — perhaps less.

Q. This folding paper fan belonged to our grandmother. After her graduation, she taught school during 1904 — the year on the fan. She married grandad in 1905. What can you tell us about this family

heirloom? — Ruth in Richland

A. What a pretty piece of ephemera — that’s the word collectors use for things made of paper.

Clearly dated 1904, but bearing no artist’s or publisher name, this hand fan looks to be in excellent condition.

There are several groups of collectors who would be attracted: cat fanciers, folks who like fans, paper collectors and people who want items done by this particular artist.

Historically, hand fans go back as far as 5,000 years. The ancient Egyptians used them and they were common in China and India.

By the 16th century, they were widely used by the nobility and elite classes in Europe. England’s Queen Elizabeth The First owned dozens and quite a few can be seen in royal portraits from her reign.

Fans from this era were typically decorated with historical or religious scenes and, in France, quite often with depictions of high ranking persons masquerading as peasants.

Many fan makers of that era are unknown, but we know the person responsible for the cute kittens on this much more modern fan.

Her name was Helena Maguire. She was English and lived from 1860 to 1909. Known for her watercolors and book illustrations of kittens and other baby animals — often in comic poises — Maguire also wrote several art books. Her little-known and much sought-after Cat Studies Painting Book brings hundreds of dollars, when it can be found.

Although she died quite young, at age 49, Maguire was well known and highly regarded in her time. She often exhibited at the British Institute of Painters in Watercolors and from 1881-92 at the Royal Academy. Today, her original watercolors sell for an average of $3,000 each.

Printed works from Maguire art sell for much less. If in excellent condition, this fan would be fairly valued at between $100 and $200.

Terry K. Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by e-mail