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Antiques Considered - October 21, 2009

Three years ago a lady in Northumberland County inherited this dresser and Surrender Table from her parents.  They are painted alike decoratively, but obviously have nothing else in common.  The dresser has the original glass in the mirror and has paneled ends.  The drawers are not dovetailed, but instead have drilled pegs holding them together.

Surrender Tables are not rare.  The name comes from the table on which General Robert E. Lee signed the documents of surrender at the McLean House in Appomattox.  This one has good lines, and probably is of poplar or walnut.  It dates from the mid-nineteenth century.

The dresser has nice proportions, but also is not a rare piece.  Almost certainly it was not painted originally, and if so, this coat matching that of the Surrender Table is a later addition.  The dresser dates from the 1870s or 1880s, and remains a serviceable piece of furniture.  I suspect that the small candle shelves are not original, and appear to be installed upside down.

The painting clearly is hand-done, and makes an attractive appearance.  Most likely, other pieces such as a bed wash stand and side chair were pulled together 75 to 100 years ago to make a suite of pieces that otherwise shared no commonality of design or manufacture.  The floral painting on the fronts of the drawers and the stenciled line painting on both pieces show that the artist had talent, but regrettably neither signed nor dated the work.

The table is worth $85, and the dresser is worth $250.  In both cases the painting is an asset, having achieved a certain age of its own, but I do not advise ex post facto painting of antique furniture.  Good painted furniture, such as that produced in Baltimore in the early nineteenth century, is a popular genre of its own, but normally furniture not painted when originally made is not enhanced by later decoration.

 • Lisa and Henry Lane Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Ic. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. (P. O. 35) Wicomico Church, Virginia 22570. Write to him there, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with pictures and descriptions of items you wish to have him treat in “Antiques Considered.” Please include a stamped, addressed envelope if you wish a personal acknowledgement.

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