Now you see it, now you don't...

posted Nov 10, 2014, 4:12 PM by Paul Wagner

Many years ago, we were given a really nice old French wine poster—one that fit perfectly into the style of our old house in downtown Napa.  But the poster was unframed, and we learned that framing it would cost quite a lot of money. 

That gave us a great reason to scour the local antique stores and thrift shops for suitable frame, and we found one a few weeks later.  It had a cheap, funky old Wild West kind of print in it, so we didn’t feel bad about flipping that print around and dropping the French poster into the frame.  It’s lived there ever since.

But after the earthquake in Napa, most of our pictures ended up on the floor, along with just about everything else that wasn’t nailed down.  The clean-up was a massive job, and it gave us the chance to take a look at almost everything we owned.   During the process, M pulled out that poster from a pile of plaster dust and said:

“Hey, Look at this.”

The back of the poster was visible, and that cheap old Wild West print was actually a print of a painting by Albert Bierstadt, the famous western landscape painter. .    It still isn’t the style of what we want in our old Victorian…but it was cool, in a different way.

And in meantime, we had bought a small, rustic cabin near Sonora…and this thing would look great hanging in a corner up there.

So I cleaned it up and fixed a few spots that were damaged.  And I got curious about this guy Bierstadt.  I went online and found out exactly how famous he is (very!) and all sorts of information, including a complete illustrated listing of his works.  Great!  Now I could even find out where it was painted.

I happily scanned through 20+ pages Bierstadt paintings, anxiously looking for ours. At page ten, I found one that was similar, but not exact.  Different foreground, slightly different angle of the mountain.  So I kept looking.  Pages and pages.  I got to page 23—the last page. 

The painting wasn’t there. 

I looked through them all again.  Nope.  Then I found another site, with a similar catalog of his work. 

Still no luck. 

And as I was mentioning this to M, she took a long hard look at the signature on the print we had.  It read “Bierstad.”   No final t.  Not Bierstadt. 

We started laughing.  We didn’t have a cheap print of a Bierstadt landscape.  We had a cheap print of a forgery of a Bierstadt landscape.  How many people can say that?

It will look great in the cabin.