Heritage Auctions Appraisal Services
All About Appraisals: Remington Bronzes - Real or Fake?
by Meredith Meuwly
My first experience with fakes and reproductions was with a Remington bronze. Years ago, I was a summer intern at an auction house in New York. My fellow interns and I were sitting in a gallery looking at two seemingly identical bronze sculptures. The specialist invited us to examine the sculptures closely and determine which one was authentic and which one was fake. To me, they were exactly the same. Same size, same details, same color. Finally, the specialist gave us a hint... look at the signature. That's when we noticed that the one on the left had that artist's name misspelled. FREDERICK REMINGTON rather than the correct FREDERIC REMINGTON. I learned many lessons that summer on evaluating artworks, but I have never forgotten since to check first that the artist's name is spelled correctly.
Because of Remington's popularity --- in his lifetime as well as after his death --- the artist's bronzes are always in demand. When the copyrights on his works expired, creative entrepreneurs began mass producing his works in every shape, size, and color. In fact, it seems like every family in Texas has at least one in their home or office! At Heritage, we receive daily inquiries from clients wanting to sell their "Remingto" bronze. And why would they not want to sell when his sculptures can command several hundred thousand dollars at auction! Well, authentic casts can sell for that amount. Reproductions sell for significantly less --- perhaps only a few hundred dollars as a decorative item inspired by the original.
So how do you know if you have a real Remington bronze? Let's ask ourselves a couple of questions.
1. Is it on a marble base?
Marble bases almost always indicate a reproduction, as authentic Remington bronzes were not set on bases.
2. What is it made of?
If your piece is made of silver rather than bronze, it's a reproduction. The artist only worked in bronze --- first with the Henry Bonnard Bronze Co. Founders in New York, and later with Roman Bronze Works, also in New York.
3. How big is it?
Take measurements exactly. Even a few millimeters in size discrepancy can be the difference from an original cast and a recast.
4. What is the quality?
>Are the details in your bronze crisp or very dull and indistinct? Is the patina a very rich color? Or does it look like a melted Hershey bar?
5. And last, but not least, is the artist's name spelled correctly?
The above questions and answers are just a few helpful hints when looking at Remington bronzes, but are by no means the only definitive characteristics. Provenance, edition numbers, foundry marks, and literature/exhibition citations are also key factors in determining authenticity and values. To know for sure if your Remington is authentic, always consult a recognized specialist in the artist's works. And don't forget to check out Bronco Buster #16 to be sold in Heritage's Western & California Art Auction to be held in Dallas on November 10th. It is a stunning example of one of the artist's most famous works!
After five years at Christie's in New York, Meredith Meuwly joined Heritage Auctions in 2007 as Senior Consignment Director in the Fine & Decorative Arts Department and currently manages the Appraisal Services department. In 2009, Meredith participated as an appraiser for the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. She is also a member of the Fine Art committee for the International Society of Appraisers and looks forward to assisting with any formal appraisal needs.