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Antiques Considered - June 17, 2009

A transplant from Alexandria, who now lives in the Middle Peninsula, acquired this chimney cupboard some time ago. It is pine, standard tongue-and-groove, planking, handmade, and fitted on the inside to hold six guns.
  It is about 6 feet tall, and has the original greenish-blue paint, which has worn nicely over the years. The original latch is still in use, and the padlock clasp is probably original also. Inside, two boxes, made from fruit crates, are probably for bullets.
  This piece borders on being a primitive. Clearly, it is handmade. But by using mill produced tongue-and-groove flooring as the material, it is not -- strictly speaking -- what we should define as an authentic “primitive.”  I suspect it dates from the early 20th century, but the origin is virtually impossible to determine.


  My assumption is that a carpenter had some flooring left over after a construction project, and he put this piece together to hold his hunting guns. Perhaps I am going out on a limb in making this conjecture, but the cupboard is not sufficiently fine in its execution to have been ordered from a cabinet shop, especially with the boxes made from the fruit crates.
  Cabinets such as this one are called chimney cupboards because they give the appearance of being the box around an old woodstove chimney. They are very popular, and although most are not fitted as gun cabinets such as this example, they command good prices. This one is worth $275. True primitive ones would be significantly higher in value.
   This piece illustrates the importance of finish in evaluating furniture. The original paint, with its mellowed patina, is a great part of the overall worth of the cabinet. Such a finish only can come form oxidation over many decades. It is a prized commodity which goes far in determining the value.
• Lisa  and Henry Lane Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont  Hwy. (P.O.Box 35) Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579, a firm which he founded in 1973.  The appraisal service began in 1976.  Write to him there, or by e-mail at comantqu@ crosslink.net, 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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