I have inherited two statues we call "George and Martha," even though they do not look anything like the first president and his wife. They are about 2 feet tall, and the only identifying mark is an "MF" in a shaped circle. What are their history and value?
George and Martha Washington never looked quite this pretty. The Washingtons were handsome and dignified, but they were never dandified with a Continental European style of beauty.
Perhaps this pair should be more appropriately called "Louis and Marie." True, King Louis XVI was not all that attractive, but Marie Antoinette was a beautiful woman, especially in her youth.
Visually, these two porcelain figures appear in a style that might be associated with the late 18th century — he's a dandy in finely detailed knee britches, and she's a beauty costumed as a peasant girl in a long dress. They were made from bisque porcelain, meaning that the items were fired only once, leaving the surface of the figures with a slightly grainy texture that some people say is reminiscent of human skin.
Bisque figures were produced by the boatload in Continental Europe during the middle to late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over the course of a year, we see many hundreds of these bisque figures, mainly the cheaper varieties made in vast quantities in Germany and its environs. These figures are not valuable or collectible on today's market.
The figures in today's question, however, were probably manufactured in France during the late 19th or early 20th century, and they are of a much higher quality than the vast majority of those we see. The decoration is extraordinary, with beautifully detailed hair and three-dimensional flowers. The clothes appear to be "jeweled," meaning they have raised dots of porcelain here and there on his britches and on her dress.
The 24-inch size also makes the item look like fine statuary rather than small pieces of incidental bric-a-brac. Unfortunately, the "MF" mark is a little hard to ascribe to a specific manufacturer.
As for the insurance-replacement value of this pair, we must note that the market for this sort of item has suffered in recent years. At one time, these statues would have been valued in the $2,500-$3,000 range. Today, however, that value is $1,600-$2,000, if they are in perfect condition.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. E-mail them at email@example.com.