Edvard Munch's Masterpiece "The Scream" Found On A Falmouth Beach
By: Christopher Kazarian
On the dining room table of Ruth A. and R. Gilbert Allenby’s Oyster Pond Road, home last week was an assortment of photographs, computer printouts and a book loaned from the Falmouth Public Library, all research for a tiny item that could potentially lead to millions for the couple.
That, at least, is the hope.
The centerpiece of this makeshift study is a smooth rock, about two inches wide—roughly the size of the top half of one’s thumb—with three marked depressions that, if looked at correctly, form the shape of a face.
What is most striking about the piece is that it bears a resemblance to the one depicted in Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream,” which was sold earlier this month for $119.9 million, a record for a piece of art at auction.
Ms. Allenby, a former art teacher and an avid collector of rocks, found this one several years ago near their home along the shore not far from Trunk River. “I knew when I first saw it that it looked like ‘The Scream,’ ” Ms. Allenby said.
She never displayed it, electing to keep it in a box in her home. But when this month’s auction created a buzz around Munch’s most famous piece of art, Ms. Allenby took her prized rock out of hiding with the belief it may hold some value to fans of his work and collectors of unusual objects.
The Research Begins
Over the past few weeks, she and her husband have been doing legwork to prepare for a possible windfall of cash that could come their way with the sale of the rock.
They took the rock to Wal-Mart and with the help of a store employee scanned it, producing three 4x6-inch photos of the item as well as a larger 8x10-inch framed one that sits alongside a framed 8x10-inch copy of “The Scream” they made from the library book they took out. When presented side by side in such a fashion the similarities are apparent.
The Allenbys also took the rock down to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to have it authenticated. “They said it was probably a glacial rock, but the thing is, to test what it is made of, they have to crush it,” Ms. Allenby said. “I can’t do that.”
The Allenbys are holding out hope that once the identity of the anonymous purchaser of “The Scream” is revealed, that person would be interested in also buying their rock, perhaps displaying the two alongside one another. “I’m sure he’d like to buy the rock,” Mr. Allenby said.
They have also tried contacting Sotheby’s in Boston, but the auction house was not interested in the item. A media spokesman for Sotheby’s in New York would not comment on this story.
Despite striking out there, the couple clearly believe there will be a strong market for the item. “I have no idea what this is worth,” Mr. Allenby said. “It is one of a kind.” His estimate is that perhaps it “could run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps even in the millions. You never know what something will go for at an auction,” he said.
That rock has already taken on value. They love that rock. It is really a lucky rock.
- Patricia Berman
Though that prediction may be farfetched the Internet has proven to be a haven for unusual items. In 2004 a grilled cheese sandwich that was said to bear the Virgin Mary’s face on one side sold for $28,000. A year later, a Doritos chip in the shape of the Pope’s hat sold for $1,209.
“On eBay there’s a buyer for just about everything, and there’s always novelties showing up on the market in various kinds of ways,” said Patricia G. Berman, the chairman of the art department at Wellesley College in a phone interview. “I think they should put it on eBay and see if someone with a strange sense of humor will buy it.”
More Than Just A Painting
Dr. Berman herself is the owner of several unusual Scream-related items, thanks to her role as a director of the Edvard Munch Research Institute in Oslo, Norway. “I have a forest of weird ‘Scream’ products in my office,” she laughed, listing among them iceScreams (trays that produce ice cubes of “The Scream” face), inflatable dolls, pillows, a necktie that screams when a button is pushed, and a baby shirt with Munch’s famed "Scream" face on it.
Though she approaches Munch’s work from an academic perspective, Dr. Berman finds these quirky items a testament to the impact “The Scream” has had since it was first painted in 1893. “It is such an iconic painting,” she said. “It depicts this extreme emotional state that at some point or another everyone experiences, whether it is because of a traffic jam or something much more extreme. He showed this psychic state of being in a very fresh way that startles us.”
For this reason she was not surprised that the 1895 version—Edvard Munch painted several iterations of “The Scream”—sold for such a high amount. “It is the most familiar motif in the world, perhaps even more than the Mona Lisa,” Dr. Berman said.
More on Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
The Scream Heard 'Round The World (The Huffington Post)
The image has become an iconic image, which Dr. Berman noted in a piece she penned for The Huffington Post: “The Scream is one of the most immediately recognizable images in the world, thanks to its many appropriations by film and television entertainment (Wes Craven’s ‘Scream’, John Hughes and Chris Columbus’s ‘Home Alone’, Matt Groening’s ‘The Simpsons’) and by cartoons and caricatures (think The New Yorker),” she wrote.
Today the image blurs the line between art and a symbol of capitalism, as witnessed in the numerous items in her office that have been given to her by friends, students and colleagues. “The fact that it’s been so reproduced helps it to be a one-line joke,” Dr. Berman said. “It is like a quick way of saying something complex simply by showing the face.”
Whether the Allenby’s rock will join those ranks and sell for thousands or even millions is unclear, but the couple said they would not be disappointed if it generated little interest from buyers. Even if that is the case, Dr. Berman said, “that rock has already taken on value. They love that rock. It is really a lucky rock.”
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