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CONDITION AND RESTORATION: WHAT'S FAIR AND WHAT ISN'T


These two pictures show some of the nicer older pieces Summerhouse has offered in recent years. Most have been sold, a few are still available.

Many of them have minor to significant paint touchup or restoration. There are many levels of restoration. An archival conservator makes repairs using the closest possible approximation of the original clay and temper of the piece. Most restorers use commercially available fillers, glues and paints for repairs and touchups—cosmetic rather than archival repairs. The glues and fillers can be dissolved if a later owner desires archival restoration.

Our attitude on repairs was shaped by an archeologist friend of ours. She views cosmetic restoration as "an act of respect for a worthy object," and we agree. When we see a once-noble, sad-looking piece, we feel it's our obligation to repair the damage without disguising honest wear.

Obviously, disguising repairs on a valuable piece and pretending that it's intact and unrestored is dirty pool. However, sometimes disguising the repair is the only way to bring a piece back to a satisfactory appearance. We'll always disclose whatever repairs we've done or can detect, and where repairs are important and difficult to find, we try to furnish a "before" picture.

We have no hard-and-fast rules, and we make a judgment call on each piece. The only thing we always insist on is that our price reflect the repairs. Here's an example.


A piece made around 1905, attributed to Nampeyo of Hano by Martha Hopkins Struever. If it were intact and unrestored, it would have been worth $15,000. We sold it for $3,500. For an example at the opposite end of the value spectrum, check out the San Ildefonso bowl by Joe Aguilar, S-703.