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Antiques Considered - August 25, 2010

Today I am writing this column from the McArthur Public Library in Biddeford, Maine, sitting by a bookcase that is topped by a delightful Parian ware bust of Charles Dickens and a magnificently stuffed snowy owl.  The library was built in 1902, and reflects the grandeur of that age, and is a testament to the value the city fathers placed on education over a century ago.
Knowing that I write this item each week, a couple here has asked about their family oriental cabinet.  It is black lacquer with interesting sections of nacre, or mother-of-pearl intricately inlaid into the front.  The two doors open to reveal a number of small compartments.

This cabinet is Japanese and dates from the mid-nineteenth century, but I suspect that the stand is later, having been made to fit the cabinet, and to give it proper elevation.  The lacquer seems to be in good condition, as does the brass hardware.  The stand is quite appropriate for the piece, and serves to keep from either having to nail the cabinet to the wall or having it sit on the floor.
The cabinet and stand are worth $500.  After Commodore Matthew C. Perry opened Japan to western trade in 1854, the Japanese recognized that they had a ready market in the West for items in the oriental style.  The result was a greatly increased production of furnishings of all sorts for export.  If this cabinet does not have any mark indicating county of origin, we can be safe to say it predates 1890.
Pieces such as these are among the most popular forms of oriental furniture.  We have found that they sell well both in shops and at estate sales.  They make excellent accent pieces, and are not overbearing as some of the later pieces are.  Unless the lacquer seems to be stressed, I suggest keeping the piece free of dust and in a climate-controlled situation.
Happy Antiquing!
Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. 22570. (P.O. 35). Wicomico Church, VA 22570. Write to them or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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