Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Archie and Me

Or is that Archie and I?

Archie and Me? Archie and I? Me? I?

Oh whatever.

I have been meaning for a long time to tell you our story about “the painting”. The convoluted story with big highs and low lows.

Today is that day. I don’t have anything else to tell you about so this is it. Be prepared to be amazed. Or not. And I am going to tell you that this is a bit of a long story so you might want to go and brew another cup of coffee and get a snack…or dinner.

But I digress. As usual.

Last year, when Abuela and Bursto decided to make Lima, Peru their full time home they had to make some decisions about what would be put on a slow boat to South America and what would stay here and be distributed to HHBL, NYCwoman and Kidney Doc. The big items that needed new homes were three paintings that had hung for many years in their home. The pictures were packed up and shipped to their respective new owners.

And one day the UPS guy rang the doorbell and handed me a really large package and then skedadlled off down the driveway. Leaving me with a large package.

SQUEEEEEEE the painting has arrived! And I should tell you that this was really my favorite piece of artwork that resided at their home. I have no clue why I liked it but I did.

After some huffing and puffing and laying the package down I went off to get the utility knife so that I could open up the package. Slice. Slice. Slice. Unwrap. Unwrap. Unwrap.

And there he was.

Eastman Johnson painting-damagedA

Archibald Rogers by Eastman Johnson.

I stepped back to look lovingly at the picture, already thinking about where we were going to put him and…

Hey wait a minute. Wait a cotton pickin’ minute. What is wrong with the picture? Specifically what is wrong with the FRAME of the picture. Take a look at the frame. Take a look at the upper right corner of the frame.


That is not good. That is SO not good.

crack in glass

And down in the opposite corner there was also a crack in the glass.


And this is what I found after searching through all the wrapping that the painting came in.


But hey, it isn’t a problem because Bursto had told me that he had insured the painting against damage during shipping so we are all golden. Only when I call UPS they refuse to make good on the insurance because THEY hadn’t packed it. They had gladly sold my step father-in-law a boat load of insurance but they wouldn’t honor it. And believe me I spent a lot of time trying to get them to do so. Weeks of time and endless emails and endless pictures and endless explaining that no the UPS shipper hadn’t packed it but it had been packed by a PROFESSIONAL MOVER  and that the paintings that were shipped to NYCwoman and Kidney Doc arrived undamaged and that all the paintings that went ALL THE WAY TO PERU arrived undamaged. And after all of that we still had hear UPS say that, “Yes we know we sold you the insurance but we still aren’t going to pay you a red cent. And thanks for your business and please use UPS again.”

I haven’t used UPS since that day and I don’t intend to if at all possible.

So, I patched up the frame and we lovingly set Archie up on the mantle piece and enjoyed him. Didn’t really know much about the painting other than it was done by Eastman Johnson.

And we carried on like that, in ignorance, until The Family Reunion this past June. We are sitting around the NYCwoman/Norwegian Guy apartment, having a beer and chatting with Dapoo (HHBL’s dad) and the discussion turns to the paintings.

Dapoo: Oh, I remember those paintings. They hung in the Kennedy Gallery for a time until we retrieved them sometime in the 1970’s. They had the two paintings appraised at around $5______ for the two of them.

Kidney Doc: What did you say? Did you say $5______ for the two of them? Chaching!

Dapoo: I think that is right.

And for a time we heard the angels sing. And we saw high brow art auctions in our future. And the possibility of the Smithsonian and fame.

And then we sort of panicked. That painting is worth a boat load of money and we just have it sitting over the fire place. And we are going to have to INSURE the thing. And hide it when we are out of town.

AND it sort of took away some of the enjoyment that I had in looking at the painting because now I had to worry about the darn thing.

And then we brought the painting to an art appraiser who works with the Cleveland Museum of Art…….

Appraiser: Yes, this is definitely an Eastman Johnson. It is worth about$3____. But the art market for these kinds of paintings is really poor right now. You might as well take it home and enjoy it.  And really, if it was a landscape it would be worth a whole lot more. Or a person IN a landscape. You know they painted portraits to eat and landscapes because they loved them. Oh, and it needs restoring. We will call you when it is done and you can pay the bill then.


No fame. No fortune.

But I do have to say that the story of how the painting came into the family possession is interesting in itself. The painting belonged to Abuela’s Aunt Lillian, a most fascinating woman who had been a model in NYC in the 1920’s as well as a Zigfield Girl. One of her husbands, of which there were several, was a lawyer. In the early 1930’s he had been instrumental in helping Jews leave Germany and had been paid with these paintings.

Now that is cool. I don’t know a lot about Archibald Rogers yet, other than he was a great friend of Teddy Roosevelt and seemed to spend a great deal of time racing boats,   but I am doing some research. And so he is back where he belongs, all restored, new glass, smiling his secret smile.


And all is right with the world.


  1. What a great story! He does have a secret smile, kind of like the male counterpart of the Mona Lisa. Very cool.

  2. That's good to know about UPS insurance. Not that I've ever sent anything worth more than $100, but if I ever do, I'll be sure to clarify the conditions before buying extra insurance!

    Great story and nice painting.


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