Q. I inherited this bust of Louis Pasteur from my dad, who was a doctor. I remember him bringing it home in the late 1950s. The bust is signed by Doris Appel. There is a collection of her sculpture at the University of Texas. If it is authentic, would the bust have any value, and how might I authenticate it?
A. Doris Leavitt Appel was born in Boston in 1904. She studied art at Boston University and at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. She married Dr. Bernard Appel, who became chief of dermatology at Boston General Hospital.
Over the years, she carved out an unusual niche for herself both as a sculptor and as a medical historian. In 1942, she was sponsored for membership in the American Association for the History of Medicine by Dr. Henry Sigerist, a noted author and medical historian.
Appel is perhaps most famous for her large-sized representations of scientists and physicians thought to be responsible for milestones in the advancement of Western medicine.
Initially, the final casts of Appel's work were placed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, but were later moved to the Boston University School of Medicine. What you saw were the original first casts of the figures (Imhotep, Hippocrates, Galen, William Harvey, Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, Wilhelm Roentgen and Marie Curie, among others) at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
We have no doubt that this bust was cast in molds created by Doris Leavitt Appel and is, therefore, authentic. But we have no idea how many of these busts might have been made. We speculate that these may have been commissioned by a drug company such as Pfizer, which may have given them away to physicians and (perhaps) pharmacists who were important to the company and their business. Again, this is only speculation on our part.
Appel died on Nov. 4, 1995, and, according to a website (floralportraits.com/doris_appel.htm), which is devoted to her life and career, there are "a few remaining pieces of her work." Prices quoted are $2,500 for plaques (small size) and $4,000 for bookends.
These dollar figures are retail prices on the primary market and have very little to do with the worth of the example in today's question, which needs to be evaluated on the "secondary market." This secondary market might be thought of as the "resale market" and is said to refer to any market for used or previously owned goods or assets.
Our research suggests to us that the insurance-replacement value of this example is between $85 and $125.
• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.