Dear Helaine and Joe: I recall watching my grandmother painting the frame of this picture gold when I was a child in the 1940s. I have inherited it now and am wondering what this type of art is called and what value it may have.

The picture is 6-by-8 inches and is signed in the left hand corner "C. Stoitzner." On the back is written "Cherry Blossoms."

Thank you. — H.B.B., Draper, Utah

Dear H.B.B.: It is impossible to give a firm evaluation of a piece of art just from a photograph, but we can suggest some possibilities. It should also be noted that we are missing some important information, especially what this picture is painted on. Is it canvas, wooden panel, academy board or paper? We simply do not know. And the possibility that it is a print is not entirely out of the question, either.

However, we do think that this is probably an oil painting on some sort of appropriate surface, and the signature reported by H.B.B. suggests that it was painted by Constantin Stoitzner, who was born in Busau, Austria, on July 30, 1863, and died in Vienna in 1934. The frame that was repainted by H.B.B.'s grandmother (which, incidentally, is not a good idea) is probably the original, and, in all likelihood, the painting itself dates to circa 1910.

Stoitzner studied art at L'Academie de Vienna, where he was taught by both Christian Griepenkerl, who was a portraitist and painter of historical scenes, and August Eisenmenger, who was a portrait painter.

During his career, Stoitzner painted a wide range of subjects but he started out doing mostly mountain landscapes and painting miniature portraits of villagers. The piece shown above is in a romantic, pseudo-18th-century style and is somewhat brighter than many of Stoitzner's other paintings.

Today, there seems to be a significant amount of his work on the market with images that range from tavern scenes and portraits of monks drinking to still lifes and likenesses of beautiful women. Many of these paintings are quiet small, and the piece owned by H.B.B. certainly falls into his typical size range.

It should be mentioned that the Musee Vienna has a large collection of Stoitzner's work, and there is a collector demand for his better work. In our research, however, we found 11 Stoitzner paintings that were offered for sale in international auctions in 2005, but out of these 11, only three actually sold.

One titled "In Der Wertsstube" (13.4 x 17.7 inches) brought about $2,000, while a portrait of an old man (6 x 8 inches) fetched around $750, and the third, a still life of roses (19 by 15 inches), sold for about $350. After further research, the most desirable Stoitzner paintings appear to sell in the $3,000 to $4,000 range, but the real question is where does this particular painting belonging to H.B.B.'s fall within this range?

Based on what we have seen of Stoitzner's work, we feel that this piece (if after further in-person examination it turns out to be an authentic oil painting by this artist) might be in the upper third of the quality and price range for Stoitzner's works of art. In other words, we feel that the insurance replacement value of this painting may exceed $3,000, and H.B.B. needs to have it professionally evaluated and placed on her household insurance policy.


Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Questions can be mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.