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Antiques Considered - August 22, 2012

This French semainier belonged to a lady of French descent, who inherited the piece from a friend.  The owner recently died, and the piece now belongs to her daughter.    The primary wood appears to be a form of fruitwood, and the secondary wood is oak.  The marble top is dark gray, and in perfect condition.  The chest retains its original hardware. 

This piece is a great example of fine French furniture of the nineteenth century.  It dates from the 1840s, during the reign of Louis Philippe, who styled his monarchy, which lasted form 1830 to 1848,  as the Kingdom of the French, rather than of France, as the regime had been known for over 800 years.  He was known as a bourgeois king, who was popular with the people until he was overthrown during the Revolution of 1848.

 His reign was a triumph of the middle class, and this style of furniture catered to that group’s demands.  It is called a semainier after the French word, “semaine”, which translates as “week.”  The term comes from the seven drawers that allow the owner to use each drawer for that day’s clothes during the course of the week, thus after laundering the week’s clothing, the pieces would be folded and placed in each drawer.  Each morning the owner would remove the clothes for the day, and head off to work. 

 The market for fine French antiques remains strong, and furniture of this nature that is well made and in pristine condition continues to command a good price.  This semainier could sell for $1,500., or more at a good auction.  If a maker’s name could be found, the price could increase appreciably.  Often French cabinetmakers signed their furniture by engraving their names on the locks.

 

 

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