Case Study

"Dutch Orphans Reunited"
  Charles August Ficke
My friends call me C. A., but my full name is Charles August Ficke. I write to share a most serendipitous joy concerning one of my orphaned children. Not a child in the actual sense but rather one of my paintings, for I consider each painting in my collection a favorite child.
For the purposes of this Case Study I will review the painting's provenance and other details, and I have asked conservator Barry Bauman to discuss more recent developments. The two stories as you will see are magically connected. But first let me tell you something about myself.
Early Years
I was born in Germany on April 21, 1850, to Christoph and Elizabeth Ficke. (1) Shortly thereafter, my father decided to leave his homeland and buy a farm in Scott County, Iowa. The move was difficult: a new language, a new country, and hard times with failing crops. When my sister married into the family of a nearby grocer I moved into her home and became a clerk at the store. While this position gave me an early understanding of business, I realized that further education would be required to advance in this new land. At thirteen, with financial help from my father, I set off to Davenport to begin studies at the local public school.
Earnest in my studies, I eventually enrolled in a Davenport business school. I soon was offered a position as a bookkeeper for a local insurance company and later a cashier position at the Davenport National Bank. My true goal, though, was to become a successful lawyer and I began this quest when I enrolled in the Albany Law School, in Albany, New York.
After graduation in 1877, in need of an escape from the academic world, I left for a six-month tour of Europe. Everywhere I went I studied art and the Old Masters. What I wouldn't have given for the means to purchase all that I saw. I knew, though, that one day I would acquire my own collection. At the end of the year I returned to Davenport to establish my legal practice.
Financial and Civic Success
At first, business was slow, but with prudent investments in land-improvement mortgages, my financial success was guaranteed. Many of these landholders were of German descent and I had the ability to converse with them in their native language. It was the long-term return on these investments that laid the foundation for my family fortune.
My growing prosperity was not only in the financial arena for, in 1882, I married Frances "Fannie" Davison, the daughter of a prominent attorney with the Davenport National Bank. With my civic and financial connections, I was elected mayor of Davenport in 1890 and served two one-year terms. After my second term, Fannie and I were able to travel and acquire art. It was on one of our extended travels that I purchased our "Dutch orphan."

Frances Davison Ficke

My Gift to the City
By 1924, my art collection had outgrown my home and I decided to offer it to the city of Davenport if it would renovate a suitable building as an art museum. This was quickly agreed to, and the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery was established. A total of 334 paintings were transferred to the museum in 1925. I was both honored and humbled when several local organizations commissioned Lorado Taft to sculpt my likeness as part of the gallery's holdings.

Lorado Taft   1927
C. A. Ficke
Later Years
While I declined public positions in my later years, I continued to travel and enjoy life. I died at the age of eighty-one on a cold December day in 1931. As I look back, there is hardly a moment that gave me greater satisfaction than seeing my Dutch orphan reunited with her lost sibling. While this may seem confusing at the moment, let me review my discovery and the painful wait that lingered for more than a hundred years. For the purposes of this Case Study please allow my ability to relate to the present.
(1) Ficke biographical information gleaned from the Web article, "Charles August Ficke: An American Success Story," (accessed October 3,2010). This article was condensed from Charles Ficke, Memories of Fourscore Years. Davenport, Iowa: Graphic Services Inc., 1930.


Table of Contents, Biography, Provenance


Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
1122 N. Jackson Ave., River Forest, IL. 60305
Ph.(708)771-0382  Fax.(708)771-1532