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Antiques Considered - November 13, 2013

A couple from Richmond inherited this papier maché tray and stand from her family. It is unsigned, and shows signs of considerable usage over the years.  They think the stand is conteporary with the tray, and they are asking whether the paint should be “touched up.”


This tray is a fine example of papier maché, a technique developed in France to make serviceable pieces from compressed paper. I suspect that the stand might be made of wood.  The tray dates from the late-nineteenth or early twentieth century.  The painting is well done, and I personally prefer not to see such pieces extensively “touched up.”

If anything is done, I should suggest minor restoration of the parts that have flaked away, followed by clear-coating the entire surface with a spray to retard further flaking. I realize that others would go in the direction of a more extensive rejuvenation. The painting of the flowers and vines on this piece is of superior quality, and merits proper conservation.

Items made of papier maché were quite popular throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, being used in a wide variety of products. Desk pieces, cigar boxes, vanity kits, and even small tables abound. It usually stands the test of time, but easily can be broken. Often one finds pieces with mother-of-pearl inlays; those are the most valuable. This tray is worth $150 given its condition, and with the attractive stand, together the two are worth $225.

Papier maché remains highly in demand among knowledgeable antique collectors, but its market is limited when compared with some other genres.  Looking on the Internet affords an opportunity to connect with others interested in the field, individuals who could offer further guidance on how to proceed with potential restoration.

Happy Antiquing!

 

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