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Antiques Considered - August 7, 2013

This week we have another painted piece of furniture.   It is a jelly cupboard, with old, if not original, buttermilk green paint that is worn quite heavily.  The owner asks whether to have the piece refinished, or to leave it as is.  From the places where the paint is worn off, he thinks the wood is cherry, and notes the sturdy construction throughout.

From a perspective of taste, refinishing or leaving alone is akin to what Protagoras, the ancient Greek philosopher, said about beauty, namely, it is in the eyes of the beholder.  For some folks, the distressed paint would be annoying, whereas for others it would give the right “cottagey” look.  If the wood is cherry, the paint is a later addition, as a cabinetmaker of the period would not have painted it.  If it is pine, the painting indeed might be original.

The cupboard dates from 1840, and with its solid ends, good splashboard and nicely turned feet, is typical of the Empire/Sheraton style of furniture.  The design and execution are typical of pieces of the period from the Shenandoah Valley.  I suggest searching for a signature or label, which if found might increase the value significantly.

In its present condition, the piece is worth $650, down from what should have been the quote a few years ago before the recession, when it might have reached close  to $1000.  As I have said often in previous columns and lectures, antiques are not immune from the fluctuations of the overall economy.

This cupboard is a good serviceable piece of furniture, of excellent construction with clear antique value and an interesting old, even if not original, finish.  If it were mine, I should leave it alone, but again, as with ice cream, it is a matter of taste, and refinishing probably should not lessen the overall value.
Happy Antiquing!

Commonwealth Antiques & Appraisals, Inc. at P.O. Box 35, Wicomico Church, VA 22579 You may call them at home: 804.580.3301or email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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