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Rare Mormon paintings surface in Salt Lake store

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two rare, historic paintings that will interest Mormons have come into Anthony Christensen's possession.

Christensen is the owner of Anthony's Antique Center at 401 E. 200 South in Salt Lake City.

The paintings — a 1903 rendition of Christ in America done by Danish artist CCA Christensen (no relation to Anthony Christensen) and an 1893 oil painting of the Salt Lake LDS Temple by Carl Wuttke — are valuable pieces that will fetch a nice price but more importantly, Christensen says, they are the kind of find that makes his work exciting.

"It's more about having the opportunity to acquire it," Christensen said. The painting of the resurrected Christ in the New World is part of a 13-piece series. The other 12 are owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said.

"I've only seen two CCA Christensen paintings in my 35 years of dealing with antiques," Christensen said. "His is probably the most original and earliest expression of Mormon art."

"Resurrected Christ in North America" is a "very charming" rendition of Christ speaking to a New World crowd that includes families with young children and several naked babies.

The style is straightforward and simple with clear, bright colors.

Since Christensen was educated in Europe, it's no surprise that he included his own kind of cherub by including the babies, Christensen said.

"Mormonentempel" is a crisply done oil painting of early 19th century Salt Lake.

It's known that Wuttke was traveling in the United States the year the temple was finished and it was certainly easier to record what he saw on canvas than on camera at the time.

The scene includes the Mormon temple with its original white granite surface, the gold angel Moroni atop, the tabernacle and the heating plant tower that has long since been demolished. The scene is serene and fresh and Christensen believes one of only a handful of pieces done the year the temple was completed.

"As Utah art goes on a 1-10 scale, it's a 10 for subject matter and for appropriate time and place," he said. "It all comes together in this painting."

The artworks surfaced only recently and have a prominent spot on the wall in the antique center behind Christensen's desk.

Christensen expects there will be considerable interest in the paintings but if he doesn't get the price he wants, he'll be content to just have them to turn around and look at occasionally, he said.

"I'll miss that when they go," he said. "These are two rather seminal pieces."

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com