Nobody expects to find a Rembrandt sitting under the ping-pong table in the basement. So the Landau brothers, natives of Teaneck, N.J., felt perfectly comfortable skipping their own estate auction. …
Their inheritance tale started typically: Back when Ned, Roger and Steven Landauâ€™s grandparents died, their mother cleared out their house, keeping some items that might go well in her dining room â€“ like his silver tea set and a couple of old paintings. Then mom died in 2010, and her three sons repeated the drill.
â€œWe had a garage sale, but there were a few things like the china and silver that looked very nice and we thought, well, we donâ€™t really want to just give them away,â€ Ned tells Colby in the program.
One item that again made the cut was a small painting that had always creeped out Ned.
â€œIt was of a woman passed out in a chair, and two men trying to revive her. As a kid I thought, â€˜why did we have a painting like that in our dining room?â€™â€ he says.
Momâ€™s nice stuff went straight into Rogerâ€™s basement. Though the boxes made it hard to play ping-pong, Roger procrastinated another four years before calling the estate sale guy up the parkway, John Nye. Nye valued the silver pieces at a couple of thousand dollars, and each of three paintings at a few hundred. Like Ned, Nye wasnâ€™t impressed by the picture of the men reviving the woman with smelling salts: â€œIt had varnish that had cracked and paint loss. Not a beautiful painting and the people in the picture were not beautiful people. It was remarkably unremarkable.â€
A painting offered in an estate sale by John Nye in New Jersey was appraised for $500 to $800. It had been stored for five years before the family finally got around to selling items from their motherâ€™s estate in 2015. It created an amazing sale when it sold for over $1 million. … The painting was left by a mother to her three sons in 2010. It had been left to her by her parents and she hung it in her dining room. The boys had always thought the picture of two men trying to revive a fainting woman was â€œcreepy.â€ But it was actually a Rembrandt painting from the 1600s, part of a series of paintings of the Five Senses. This one was â€œThe Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of the Sense of Smell).â€ The other four are in museums. The boys didnâ€™t even go to the sale since there were so few of their item being sold. The auction went as expected until bidding for the picture went from $250 up to $800. Then came a surprising $5,000 from a bidder in France, and then a higher bid from Germany. The bidding war went from $80,000 to $450,000, then finally ended at $1.1 million (including buyerâ€™s premium). The boys didnâ€™t get the news for a few days because it was a Jewish holiday and they didnâ€™t answer the phone.