Price Hill Historical Society P.O. Box 7020 Cincinnati, OH 45205-7020 513/251-2888
Copyright 2000-2012 Price Hill Historical Society
Every few months, we feature a new Treasure of Price Hill from our museum collection
and archives, from our newsletter and oral histories, or simply from around Price
Hill. If you have any ideas for a "Treasure" that needs to be featured or preserved,
let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever day-dreamed about finding treasure hidden in a basement or closet,
stuck in with a bunch of junk? Well, that dream seems to have come true in Price
Hill—an old painting, found in a suitcase that was put out for the trash, was rescued
by neighborhood children, donated to the Price Hill Historical Society, and eventually
was found to be a small masterpiece painted more than a century ago by a Cincinnati
artist with an international reputation.
The story begins on a street in East Price Hill, with kids playing around with
an old suitcase they’d found in their neighbor’s trash. The neighbor had recently
died and the house was being cleared out. The suitcase was locked, and the kids had
some fun trying different combinations before they gave up and took the brute force
approach—they hammered the lock until it opened.They brought the painting home, but
the scary eyes seemed to follow them around, so they told their parents they wanted
to get rid of it. Thinking it might be a portrait of a woman who had lived in Price
Hill, the family donated the painting, which was somewhat damaged, as you can see
at left, to the Price Hill Historical Society.
At the Society, several members, including Valda Moore and Joyce Meyer, started
to do some investigating. The painting was signed with initials and dated: HFF 1904.
Armed with an idea about who may have painted the portrait, they made a trip to the
Cincinnati Art Museum to speak to someone with knowledge of a famous local artist.
There, an assistant curator concurred that it might indeed be a work by the
artist Henry Farny, as they suspected. Farny was a contemporary of Frank Duveneck
and was known for his paintings of the American West. A painting called Song of the
Talking Wire at the Taft Museum is Farny’s most famous work. The Cincinnati Art Museum
actually had a copy of a photograph of the artist in his studio with the portrait
of the lady hanging on the wall behind him.
But there was no clue to the identity of the woman in the painting. Henry Farny
painted only a few portraits; most of his western paintings were essentially landscapes
with small figures. The ladies from the PHHS continued their pursuit of the portrait’s
identity and found a newspaper article that described Farny’s second marriage, to
a very young woman named Ann Ray who had been his ward. She married Farny in 1906,
two years after the portrait was painted, and she had the same dark eyes, the same
small mouth, and a very similar hairstyle to the woman in the portrait.
Then the story of the painting was highlighted in a front page article in the
Cincinnati Enquirer, and a relative of Farny’s second wife who still lived in the
area contacted the Enquirer. The man recognized the woman in the portrait as his
aunt—his father’s half-sister, Ann Ray Farny! Another mystery solved—the Price Hill
Historical Society is now satisfied that it is a portrait Farny painted of his ward
a few years before she became his wife. (The cleaned and restored portrait is shown
Farny was born in France, and he and his family have no known ties to the
Price Hill area. He lived in Clifton and Covington and had a studio in downtown Cincinnati
where he painted when he was not traveling in the western United States. So how the
painting wound up in the trash in Price Hill is one mystery that still remains. And
since the painting is not a part of Price Hill’s history and the Price Hill Historical
Society’s museum is in need of many repairs, the society has decided to sell the
painting. We are currently accepting bids, and now that the painting’s subject has
been determined to be the artist’s wife, it may be even more valuable than they expected.
If you are interested in bidding on the painting of Ann Ray Farny, you can
contact the Price Hill Historical Society at 513.251.2888 or email@example.com.