Adam and I had to pinch each other while we were at Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris one sunny Sunday morning in March, just a few weeks ago. We saw it and looked at each other, amazed that we found an authentic painting by the one and only P.D. Breeding!
For those of you who are art aficionados, you are most certainly aware of the works of P.D. Breeding, of particular interest to art collectors given the inspiration Breeding took from the renaissance period. The man posed in the painting appears to be deep in thought, and what seems critical here is the rationally explicable relationship between the painter and his subject. Breeding intends the viewer to attach to this "meta-message," which implies the search for meaning in this piece of art is not unlike the search for meaning in something equally ineffable, such as a fleeting utterance or even the true nature of dark matter in physics. We are pretty sure that dark matter exists, as this painting exists, but we continue to look for it's truth.
We knew that, if authentic, it could be worth quite a bit. So, we acted nonchalant about this potential little goldmine as Adam (who had some training in college authenticating fine art) took a closer look.
He studied the depth and number of layers of paint used to achieve the color P.D. Breeding was known for, examined the patina and found the texture and brightness of color (along with the dirt from aging), all of which seemed support the evidence that it was likely painted in the 80s. He studied the canvas thread count and looked for some patina on the back of the canvas and found that indeed it was present (as patina is hard to reproduce and comes with the aging of the artwork itself). He smelled the art and found that it smelled old, but had no smell residue from the paint itself. He ran his hands against the paint and could feel the ripple of several layers of paint. (It is difficult to reproduce such textures). He looked at me and slyly nodded "yes."
Our hearts beat faster as we approached the dealer and asked in our best but still-tortured French, "Sil vous plait, combien?" He looks at us, astonished we were even interested in this piece of art. "Dix" he said holding up all ten fingers. We were not going to quibble with a few euros, so we gave him a ten euro note and promptly hurried home to our apartment, protecting what we knew was a small fortune in our satchel.
Currently, we have our newly acquired painting in the hands of an art appraiser at an auction house in New York undergoing an exhaustive study and evaluation to certify that we have indeed found an authentic P.D. Breeding. We have been informed the process of authentication could take several months. So, we wait.
It really is remarkable thinking that perhaps we found a piece of valuable art history at a flea market in Paris. We will give you the verdict once we know!