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Antiques Considered - Nov. 21, 2012

A lady in the Northern Neck inherited this alabaster urn many years ago.  It is 16 inches tall, and has a lid that is inverted in this picture.  The owner keeps it that way as the lid has been broken in several places, as has the neck, which has been restored and painted to match the color of the alabaster, thereby covering up the restoration.   She thinks that the urn is Italian, and understands that it is an antique of undetermined age.

The urn almost certainly is an eighteenth or nineteenth-century copy of a classical model that dated from the days of ancient Rome.  The Italians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries readily welcomed visitors from Northern Europe on The Grand Tour.  They found an insatiable demand on the part of their tourists for artifacts from the classical period, and responded by producing a vast array of statuary for the guests to take back to England, France or the German states.

The demand of the travellers of 200 years ago has not abated, and neo-classical furniture and accessories remain highly popular.  In this case, the damage and repair have lessened the value significantly, although the use of various classical motifs, such as the lyre pictured here, indicates a level of sophistication on the part of the carver.

 As is, the piece is worth $150, possibly more if a signature could be found.  I have seen many such items, and often have found signatures carved in inconspicuous places.  I suggest looking thoroughly for one, which frequently is above the name of the city of origin.  As this piece long antedates the law of 1891, designation of country of origin would not have been required.

Depending on the severity of the damage to the top, restoration there also might be in order, but the great handicap of the painted neck always will remain a distraction that will keep the value down.  Happy Antiquing & Happy Thanksgiving!

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