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Antiques Considered - July 24, 2013

This painted chest was a recent auction purchase by a gentleman in the Middle Peninsula.  It shows no signs of ever having had a mirror attached.  The knobs are replacements, the originals having been bails, as evidenced by the two drilled holes at each pull, one having been filled in before the piece was painted.  The wood appears to be oak or chestnut.  The piece has paneled ends, and the drawers are dovetailed.
As late Victorian chests go this one is a good example. The blue paint gives it a “cottage-y” look, which is the current rage, but clearly the paint is not original.  The white knobs go well with the painted shade.  The overall appearance is good. This piece is probably chestnut, as many of its vintage were, and is factory-made.  It dates from the 1890s, and has good lines, but in its present condition it has greater decorative value than antique value.  The “shabby chic” effect is well-executed, producing an overall successful effect.

As to value, the chest would bring more in its present form, than it would still in its original form, as oak and chestnut furniture is down at the present time.  An oak or chestnut piece with the original hardware would be worth less than $200, but this one in its transmogrified state is worth $250.

This type of furniture represents the final flowering of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  Oak and chestnut had replaced mahogany, walnut and cherry as the woods of choice, and the factories turned out pieces as quickly as possible to meet the public’s demand.

The phase began in the 1880s and lasted until the First World War, thereafter falling out of favor.  Oak and chestnut made a resurgence in the 1950s through the 1980s, and now are back out of vogue, the result being that fine pieces are available for reasonable prices. With this chest the wooden quality has been superceded by the painted finish.

Happy Antiquing!

Henry Lane Hull and his wife, Lisa, own and operate Commonwealth Antiques & Appraisals, Inc., P.O. Box 35, Wicomico Church, VA 22579. You may reach them at 804.580.3301 or 804.580.0514. Or email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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