Beware of fake bronzes in fine art claims
The Western bronze sculptures of Frederic Remington have become iconic images of the 20th century. His depictions of Native Americans, cowboys and their horses have come to represent the Western frontier of the United States across the world.
Some of his most famous works such as Bronco Buster and Coming Through the Rye, are instantaneously recognized as pieces of American culture. Remington produced only 22 different bronzes in his lifetime and his originals were very few and far between. Nevertheless, the market is saturated with Remington bronzes.
Real vs. reproductions
Over the course of the 20th century, the bronze sculptures by Remington have become the most widely reproduced bronze sculptures of all time. Chances are high that any of his sculptures you have seen outside of a museum have been reproductions.
During his lifetime, Remington worked with the bronze foundries Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company and the Roman Bronze Works, both out of New York, until his death in 1909. The molds of Remington’s sculptures remained in use until the death of his widow Eva in 1918, after which they were destroyed.
After Remington’s copyright expired in the 1960s, the reproduction of his bronzes infiltrated the market, making his bronze figures even more popular. Today, many homes throughout America have a reproduction of a Remington on a side table or in a china cabinet, especially since the advent of the internet and increasing access to bronze casting venues.
If the sculpture was acquired new post-1960 you can assume it to be a reproduction. Because the reproductions bear the signature of the artist, most assume they have an original Remington. They also have bases with nameplates stating the work to be by Remington, not after Remington.
Handling Remington claims
Practically every month, Enservio’s Fine Art Appraisers come across claims for Remington bronze sculpture with high perceived claimed values from insureds who believe they own the real thing. To ascertain an original Remington, knowledge of markers that distinguish an original from a reproduction and the market for his iconic work is essential.
The first thing to consider is that Remington made very few castings of each of his works, and the locations of almost all Remington bronzes are well documented. The originals are accounted for in public and private collections. Any original Remington that is sold today is offered exclusively through top-tier auction houses and major art galleries.
For instance, the original Remington Coming Through the Rye cast in 1906 and stamped with the Roman Bronze Works N.Y. 1905 foundry mark, recently sold at Christie’s New York for $11,223,500.00. Unless the collector or insured has documented provenance with their piece listed in Remington’s catalog, or has a receipt from a major auction house or dealer, the chances very high that it is not an original.
Even without a paper trail, there are identifying factors to determine an original from a copy if you know what to look for. Here are the major things to consider if you come across a bronze Remington:
- Foundry mark. Remington originals would have foundry marks from either Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company in New York, or Roman Bronze Work, New York. Remington copies indicate no markings as to where they were cast, whereas authentic Remington bronzes bear the foundry name on the bronze base.
- The copies are made in custom sizes which differ from the original arrangement. Research the sizes of Remington’s originals by title.
- The original bronzes did not have edition numbers such as 2/300 or 1/75; rather, they were numbered sequentially according to demand, 1, 2, 3. etc. under the base. Copies bear the edition numbers upon the base, which is misleading.
- The base. Original Remington bronzes were rarely mounted on a marble base, whereas reproductions are frequently mounted on marble.
Because Remington’s molds were destroyed in 1918, the sculptures made thereafter have been created using a mold made by another artist who studied the originals and replicated their structure. A model is made in wax or clay, then a mold is made from the model to cast the copies in bronze. These copies are being custom-made and sold across the world today at venues such as Art Bronze, F&R Bronze Company, and even at Frederic Remington’s own museum gift shop.
Although Remington copies may still contain value depending on the size and purchase venue, the values would not approach anywhere near to what the originals fetch in the market.