Antiques Roadshow expert mistakenly values school-made jug at €43k
A viewer came forward to correct the error after recognising the pottery as the work of her old friend
An Antiques Roadshow expert has suffered a bad day in the auction house after mistakenly valuing a school pottery project at £35,000.
Alvin Barr, an antiques broker from South Carolina, presented a glazed ‘grotesque face’ jug for appraisal in a recent episode of the show’s US version after finding it “covered with dirt, straw and chicken droppings” at a Eugene, Oregon estate sale.
“It speaks to me. It was saying: ‘I’m very unusual’, ‘I’m very different’,” he said, adding that he paid $300 dollars for it.
Much to Barr’s surprise, appraiser Stephen L Fletcher became excited by the item and began likening it to the masterpieces of Pablo Picasso. He dated the jug to the late 19th century and priced it at between $30,000 (€26,368) and $50,000 (€43,000).
Since the episode aired on 11 January, Fletcher’s estimation has been found to be wildly out. A viewer contacted Antiques Roadshow after recognising the pottery as the work of her friend, a horse trainer named Betsy Soule. Soule confirmed to local Eugene paper the Bend Bulletin that she had indeed sculpted the jug in a 1973 ceramics class.
“I was just a really passionate, artistic kid,” she said. “I don’t know where those faces came from; they just came roaring out of me on to those pots.”
US network PBS has since amended the details on its website, with the jug now valued at a much lower price.
Fletcher has commented on his error and acknowledged that he mistook its age by 60 to 80 years. “This example, with its six grotesque faces, was modeled or sculpted with considerable imagination, virtuosity and technical competance,” he said.
“I feel the value at auction, based on its quality and artistic merit, is in the $3,000-$5,000 range. Still not bad for a high schooler in Oregon.”
Soule has said that she is now reconsidering a career in pottery after receiving widespread praise for her bizarre artwork.