From the Louvre to the Lowcountry, rare 19th Century painting shows up in Bluffton


BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – Day in and day out, unique antiques show up at the Relics Estate and Sales Consignments shop in Bluffton.

“We are finding that there are a lot of family heirlooms in the Lowcountry, that people just really don’t know what to do with,” said Jennifer Spencer, co-owner of Relics.

But one day in early October, “We just had somebody who was downsizing,” said Spencer, “She actually felt like her painting wasn’t of any value, she felt like it was shredded and damaged.”

They sent their historian to take a look, thinking he was really just going to evaluate the frame.

“I guess I was in shock because I wasn’t expecting what I found,” Ken Kooyman, their historian who studied at Harvard.

What he had found was an 19th Century piece from the French Impressionist Movement in Paris. It pictured a young girl feeding her kitten porridge from a spoon on top of a French basket, titled “Breakfast For Two.”

“The artist is from Massachusetts his name is Willis H. Beals,” Kooyman said, “Very, very well known in Massachusetts, but not as a painter. He illustrated a series of books for about 25-30 years that dealt with New England history.”

Dated 1885, it had been featured in the Louvre,  the world’s largest art museum in Paris and home to the Mona Lisa . From there it went to the Pennsylvania Academy in 1888 and then the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, before it was given to the Bluffton woman’s grandmother.

“It had been a gift from the artist to the family member and had been in the family ever since it had been gifted,” Kooyman said.

“I was shocked and I think she was shocked as well,” Spencer added, “Because she didn’t think it was worth anything.

Relics posted it online and it sold within three days.

“The gentleman that purchased it drove down from Maryland and I am so pleased to say that it isn’t going to a gallery it isn’t going to be resold,” Kooyman said, “It was bought and purchased to go into a private collection.”

They couldn’t disclose how much the painting sold for, but they did say that it went for much more than they originally thought it would.

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