Hand Me Down Painting Worth $1 Million

Ferguson and “El Albanil” in Corpus Christi this past August.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t call it a “hand me down,” but a Diego Rivera painting Rue Ferguson inherited from his mother really has been appraised at $1 million.  Ferguson’s great-grandparents had bought it in the 1920s.  He took it to a broadcast of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow in Corpus Christi this past August to be evaluated.

The lost Diego Rivera painting “El Albañil (The Bricklayer)” was appraised at between $800,000 and $1 million.  It was the highest appraisal of the show’s latest season.

“I was dumbfounded,” Ferguson said.  “I didn’t know what to say.  “I thought it might be worth a tenth of what they said.  I had no idea.”

Mariel A. MacNaughton, account executive of Antiques Roadshow, said it’s an exciting moment for all of the staff when they encounter something as unique and valuable as this.

“It’s very rare to see works of Rivera’s that old,” MacNaughton said.  “It’s not a painting that was sitting in museum for people to see every day.”

Ferguson’s great-grandparents had kept the painting behind a door in their home until it was passed on to Ferguson’s parents.  His parents thought the painting was a fake and kept it in a storage room inside the home.  In the early 1980s, his father found out the painting was real, and he had it restored, still unaware of its value.

The family then donated it to the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio for several years, but when Ferguson found out the museum wasn’t displaying it anymore he asked for it back, he said.

Rivera – one of México’s most famous artists who is also known as the philandering husband of fellow artist Frida Kahlo – created “El Albañil” in 1904, when he was just a teenager.  After his death in 1957, his family didn’t know the location of the painting.

I’m sure the McNay would do just about anything to have that painting now.  But, Ferguson hopes to have it displayed in a museum that features Diego’s work.  Currently, though, it’s safely ensconced in a bank vault.

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