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Antiques Considered - May 20, 2009

A writer from King George has inquired about her antique bench, which her husband's parents gave the couple about 10 years ago.  Twenty years prior to the gift the parents had traded a local antique dealer an old organ or piano for the bench.  The top of the seat lifts up to reveal a large storage area.

This bench appears to be walnut, and the finish seems to be original.  Perhaps I am going out on a limb, but I think it is probably Italian, dating from the nineteenth century, replicating the Renaissance style of several hundred years earlier.  The hand carving is exquisite, and the overall condition seems to be excellent.  From the hairy paw feet, through the lion's head arms, to the fruited crest, the attention to detail is extraordinary.

The trade for the organ must go down as one of the great antiques coups of modern times.  Most old organs are difficult to sell, and rarely bring as much as $300, but this bench is easily worth $1,500, and I possibly would go even higher upon seeing it in person.  
If I am correct in assuming it is Italian, it represents a very hot field.  Nearly 20 years ago I attended a Christie's auction in New York City where I saw a fine Italian baroque desk, which was estimated to sell for $12,000 to $18,000, go in less than 60 seconds for $264,000.  I do not mean to equate this piece with that desk, but rather to use a personal illustration to demonstrate the high demand for superb Italian pieces.

Over the years I have seen several fine Italian antiques in private collections here in the Northern Neck, and this piece could hold its own with the best of them.  It is the work of a genuine artisan, a master craftsman whose talents range from the splendid design to the execution of the detailed carving.

Happy Antiquing ….
• 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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