I have a compulsion - I shop at stoop sales (what we call yard sales or garage sales in our neighborhood). I have a special backpack I wear just for stoop sale-ing and nothing else. In an effort to maybe cut back on acquisitions of unneeded knick knacks, I am going to try to account for the things I buy at stoop sales. Here we go...
It was pretty chilly out today but from what I saw on the CL "garage sales" listings for my part of town it seems Stoop Sale Season has begun. So I boarded my bike and zipped around my hood and a few neighboring neighborhoods and hit as many stoop sales as I could find.
I picked up a number of smaller items:
- A Chateau Laguiole gran cru corkscrew with olivewood handle and teflon coated screw ($3)
- Neil Gaiman's "Mr. Punch" graphic novel in hardcover ($2)
- Books of Kertesz and Muybridge photography ($2)
- 3 Sheets of Elvis Presley 29c stamps - 40 per page ($10 - explain to me why someone sold me $34.80 worth of postage for $10?!)
- A selection of home design books ($1 each of less) - I still prefer flipping through books to surfing blogs. Blogs just seem so infinite and uncurated whereas someone had to either convince someone a book was worth printing or pay to print it themself, either or which increases the likelihood that it isn't completely haphazard (like this blog for instance).
- The Complete New Yorker on 10 CD ROMs - brand new in shrinkwrap ($1). I've been wanting this so I can go back and read a few famous profiles that I have read about. Anyway, it is the entire run of the New Yorker from way back whenever - seems worth having.
- This extremely exciting book about non-residential structures that have been "Converted into Houses" ($1). This is one of those books I look forward to flipping through with V some evening.
- Sorel boots for V. Like new ($5).
- A Belkin folding stand for an ipad. V was excited about this because she pulls up recipes on the ipad and uses them while cooking but then the pad is just lying there and gets flour or butter or whatever on it. So this is actually useful. ($5)
This is not at all useful. This is an old brass gas light fixture. I bought it mostly because the detail work on the gascock is great - specifically, I like that the gascock has a relief of a cock on it. ($2)
But here's the thing, today turned out, I think, to be one of the best stoop sale days ever. I picked up this painting from a poorly attended stoop sale run by two middle school age girls.
As you can see, it is a young lady doing unspeakable things to a turkey. I kind of love it.
I asked where it came from and they said, in unison, "the basement". The frame doesn't look very old to me, but the brown backing paper is dry and flaking so it has to be on the older side, plus the way it is framed as seen through holes in the backing paper is extremely well done with wooden spacers and corner pieces and little nails - and there is a narrow linen mat around the painting on the front. How much, "five dollars." So I pulled out five dollars and made it mine.
To anyone who worries that maybe these young ladies were deaccessioning their parents' art collection without permission, worry not. As I was paying, their father came out and saw that I bought the painting and he sort of shrugged. I asked where it came from and he said it came from his mother's house and maybe before that his grandmother's house - "probably a hundred years old" he says. I looked for a signature and found one, but it isn't a name I recognize. Then we joked about there maybe being a copy of the Declaration of Independence hidden behind the brown paper backing. But he puts that to rest saying it is virtually certain that there are no copies of the Declaration of Independence floating around the [insert Russian-Jewish name here] family.
And that was that - almost. I was on my bike and didn't want to carry it around but also didn't want to cut short my stoop sale-ing to take it home. So, courting disaster, I left the painting there (at the top of the stoop behind the girls so it was out of the way and not visible) to pick up later - they promised they would be around for a couple more hours and if they weren't then I could ring the bell and get it. I worried briefly that they might change their minds or someone else might come along and recognize the signature, but it seemed unlikely).
Anyway, long story short, I got it home and showed it to V and she likes it a lot.
Then I googled the signature:
I compared the signature with the signatures of a bunch of paintings I found online by one M. Adlen, and they match. It seems this person, Michel Adlen (1898-1980) is a real guy with a real reputation as a painter and his work sells frequently at auction. It isn't Cezanne prices or anything, but 700 Euros for a painting is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, we really really really like the painting.
So there you go. I picked up a real painting by a real person and we're going to hang it and refer to it as "the Adlen". "Have you seen my sunglasses?" "Have you looked on the table under the Adlen?" See! It just works!!