One of the biggest and most expensive pieces of art in my collection is a framed mixed media (acrylic and collage) portrait of St. Francis of Assisi (right) by an unknown folk artist.

This work came into my possession from an auction several years ago. I had previewed the work online before the auction and from the pictures was intrigued by the medium as I myself had dabbled in collage. However, I arrived at the auction with my friend lifelong Lynda after the preview hours and was unable to get an up close look at the item before it went on the block.

When the item did come up for sale, I got caught up in the bidding and was goaded by Lynda to keep raising my card. In the end, I won – at a price point MUCH higher than I was comfortable spending on an uninspected work of art by an unknown artist.

Upon closer inspection, we realized just how big the masterpiece was (3’x5’) and how heavy it was – the work was mounted on wood and has a thick frame. We also noticed the collage pieces were all pictures of animals (St. Francis is the patron saint of animals) sourced from magazines and the painted parts were amateurish at best. It was not, at first blush, the amazing piece of folk art we thought it was. We joked about how we were fooled into thinking it was a fine work of pop art that could be flipped for much more cash in a New York gallery.

However, in the intervening years, my St. Francis has taken on a prime position in my house and I have grown to love it as a true work of folk art that took the artist a lot of time and patience to complete. And I am convinced were I ever to sell it, I could easily recoup what I spent on it – but that will never happen.

I have tried to research the little I know about the provenance of the work but have come up dry. However, as St. Francis has been a very popular subject for art over the centuries, there is a lot out there about all the works inspired by him. Recently I came across an image of a painting by 13th century Italian master Cimabue which I am convinced was the inspiration if not the model for my treasured work. St. Francis was a popular subject for Cimabue and this work (right) could very well be what inspired my mystery artist to create my most prized possession.