Art Picks From Ebay, Number 24
Martin Johnson Heade Painting on eBay; American art artists

This is the twenty-fourth in our instructional series of articles that focuses on how to dissect and analyze the ways that works of art are sometimes described for sale on the internet auction site, eBay. eBay does not actively police their auction offerings, but rather depends on emails from dealers, collectors, experts, buyers, and potential buyers to notify them of problems relating to particular works of art. Any seller can describe any work of art in any manner that he or she chooses, and as long as no one complains, that art sells to the highest bidder. As a result, eBay and similar online auction sites are risky places for uninformed or inexperienced collectors to buy original art.

This installment's auction item is described below. credits the seller, by way of eBay, as the source of all of the following information and images. comments and questions appear in red italics throughout the eBay seller's description. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are as they appeared in the original for sale listing. at no time implies, makes, or intends to make any claims or express any opinions regarding the authenticity of any works of art that appear in this series. Any opinions expressed in this series are those of independent experts who are not affiliated with

Seller's headline:

MARTIN J. HEADE(B.1819)"ROSES/GLASS" PAINTING comment: The title states that the item up for sale is a painting by American artist Martin Johnson Heade.

Seller's description: MARTIN JOHNSON HEADE.


Photo comment: Do you have any better images? These are hard to see on my computer screen.

Seller's description continued: I am offering this oil painting on board by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904). The size is 6"x14". The condition is good.

Photo comment: Thanks, but that doesn't really help much.

Seller's description continued: The frame appears original. The painting is signed lower right, M.J. HEADE.

Photo comment: The seller provides a nice detail image of the signature.

Seller's description continued: This item may be returned for a full refund if dissatisfied (within 7 days). Please email any questions or inquiries. Thanks for looking.

Photo comment: Even though the painting is signed M.J. Heade, the seller states that the painting is "by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)." The seller, however, does not explain how or why this conclusion was reached.

According to Theodore E. Stebbins of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, and the leading authority on Heade, "The painting is not included in my catalogue raisonne of the artist's work published by Yale University Press in 2000." Stebbins's book lists all currently known Heade paintings, and is a revised, enlarged edition of the original Heade catalogue raisonne, also authored by Stebbins, and published by Yale University in 1975. For further details see The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade, A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonne (Yale University Press, 2000; 400 pages, 690 black and white plates, 84 color plates; 10 1/2 by 11 inches, hardbound, dustjacket, $75.00).

Stebbins adds that he has not seen the painting and that he would need to examine it before deciding whether or not to include it in any subsequent revision of the catalogue raisonne. He further suggests that its composition appears uncharacteristic of Heade's work, and that Heade's other paintings of the same subject are uniformly painted on canvas. In case you didn't notice, the painting for sale here is painted on wood.

This sale is a "private" auction. Private auctions hide the identities of competing and winning bidders and inhibit communications of any sort between eBayers. recommends that potential buyers avoid private auctions unless they are experienced collectors, skilled at recognizing the work of the artists they bid on, and/or have some familiarity with the sellers. also recommends that eBay eliminate private auctions.

This seller has a 100% positive feedback rating.

Sold on June 23, 2003 for $18,000 with 35 bids. Sold again for $15,300 on July 22, 2003 with 35 bids.

One wonders whether the bidders knew about the Martin Johnson Heade catalogue raisonne. One also wonders whether the seller knows about the Martin Johnson Heade catalogue raisonne. One also additionally wonders whether the July bidders checked the seller's recent sales activity BEFORE THEY BID and noticed that the seller had sold the same painting in June. One also additionally furthermore wonders whether any July bidders who noticed the June sale asked the seller why the painting was for sale again. One also additionally furthermore subsequently wonders how the seller answered any questions about why the painting was for sale again. And lastly, one also additionally furthermore subsequently likewise wonders what the details of that June sale were.

Stay tuned for our next "Art Pick from eBay."

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