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Antiques Considered - April 21, 2010

Three weeks ago a former student of mine at The University of Alabama in Huntsville came to a meeting at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton.  I had not seen him in almost a quarter of a century when we met for lunch during his visit.  Among other things he told me about a piece of furniture he and his wife had bought for $600 about 20 years ago.  I suggested that he sent me a photograph of it and I would try to write about it for this column.
    It is a fine High Victorian dresser or bureau that was made between 1880 and 1895.  It has the original cast brass hardware and marble top, and is in excellent condition.  The wood appears to be walnut, still with its original finish, and the secondary wood is most likely poplar.  From e-mail I judge the mirror to be original.  The marquetry and veneering are quite good, and the serpentine front demonstrates a high level of sophistication during the design phase in n the factory or cabinet shop that produced it.

    The piece probably is of Mid-Eastern origin, and reflects well of the quality of manufacturing during the Gilded Age, that flamboyant period that followed the conclusion of the War Between the States.
    Undoubtedly, it began as a part of a larger bedroom suite that consisted of a large bed, a washstand, possibly a tall gentleman's chest, and an armoire.  As often happened, sets became divided due to family inheritance or auction actions, which depleted their overall value, nevertheless, this piece has integrity on it own.  The carving around the mirror frame is of particularly fine quality.
    Today the value of the dresser is $1,000.   As it could serve as a bedroom piece, a dining room sideboard, or a bar, the uses are multiple, all of which greatly enhances its value.
Happy Antiquing!

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