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Antiques Considered - March 2, 2011

 

A recent inquiry via e-mail concerns this neo-classical bench that the owner purchased in an antique shop many years ago.  It is mahogany and has paw feet rising to winged phoenix-style capitals.  The gold velvet upholstery is not original, but the finish of the mahogany frame is, retaining the patina of its age.

The bench is a fine example of the neo-classical revival that began in the eighteenth century and received new emphasis after Napoleon Bonaparte's conquest of Egypt in the beginning of the nineteenth century.   Cabinetmakers, initially in Europe, and later in the United States, began producing furniture that they thought replicated that of ancient times.

That phase abated with the coming of the more elaborate Victorian Era that took its inspiration from the Middle Ages, particularly the Gothic period, but the neo-classical returned in the 1870s and 1880s, this time lasting down into the early twentieth century.  This bench is a product of that era.  The Aesthetic Movement of the 1870s was the bridge between the Victorian and the revived Neo-classical.  In the twentieth century much of the rejuvenated interest in neo-classical furniture derived from Jacqueline Kennedy's emphasis on bringing original pieces of it back to The White House.

Neo-classical furniture of all periods remains quite popular, and commands good figures on the auction market.  Although the first period pieces bring far more, those from this second phase, or revival, are not without their own following.  This piece is worth $450.  If it were from the stage of the early nineteenth century the figure would be many times that amount.

As to the gold velvet not being original, I suggest leaving it alone, but if the owner wishes to bring the fabric more into conformity with the style of the frame, I suggest using a striped pattern more in keeping with what would have been original to the piece.

A final word, in the photograph to the side of the bench is what appears to be the base of a fine late Victorian piano lamp, which probably would deserve an "Antiques Considered" in its own right.
Happy Antiquing!

 

narfe

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