A Bingham for Boston

As told by Robert C. Vose, Jr. (1911-1998)

George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879)
Landscape with Waterwheel and Boy Fishing
Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

On December 24th, 1970, a client telephoned us from Marshfield, Massachusetts saying she had an old painting signed “Bingham” which she wanted to sell. I wasted no time in calling on her. She lived in a tiny Cape Cod house heated by portable kerosene heaters. Everything was coated with a greasy film.

We cleaned the painting and a month or so later had a call from Perry Rathbone of the Boston Museum saying he understood we had the Bingham. It seems the client had written to the museum at the same time she wrote us, but they hadn’t gotten around to answering for several weeks. Anyway, they bought the Bingham for a fair price on March 17th, 1971. I don’t remember what the net was to the client, but I’m sure it was more than her house was worth. A happy story.

Through the years we have had many such cases where prompt action has made the difference. I remember one in which I drove half way across New York State to see a painting the day after hearing about it only to find that a New York dealer had chartered a plane and beat me by twenty-four hours.

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