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Antiques Considered - April 21, 2010

Three weeks ago a former student of mine at The University of Alabama in Huntsville came to a meeting at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton.  I had not seen him in almost a quarter of a century when we met for lunch during his visit.  Among other things he told me about a piece of furniture he and his wife had bought for $600 about 20 years ago.  I suggested that he sent me a photograph of it and I would try to write about it for this column.
    It is a fine High Victorian dresser or bureau that was made between 1880 and 1895.  It has the original cast brass hardware and marble top, and is in excellent condition.  The wood appears to be walnut, still with its original finish, and the secondary wood is most likely poplar.  From e-mail I judge the mirror to be original.  The marquetry and veneering are quite good, and the serpentine front demonstrates a high level of sophistication during the design phase in n the factory or cabinet shop that produced it.

Read more: Antiques Considered - April 21, 2010

Antiques Considered - April 14, 2010

London, England, U.K. This week our family is spending spring break from school here in Merrie Olde England. We have been visiting friends, doing the usual tourist activities, i.e., the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Canterbury, the White Cliffs of Dover, Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor, where we stopped for Prince Philip to pass in front of us driving his wagon with four ponies down the Long Walk.
I had seen these places many times previously, and my wife and I wanted our two teenagers to experience them as well. New to me on this trip were visits to the Cabinet War Rooms where Winston Churchill led the British effort against the Nazis for five years, and Sir John Soane’s Museum. The latter is the subject of this column.

Read more: Antiques Considered - April 14, 2010

Antiques Considered - April 7, 2010

An e-mail writer has sent this picture of a Jacobean-style chair she recently acquired. The upholstery is new, and the condition is good. The writer does not mention the type of wood, but I assume it is walnut. She was told that it is Jacobean, but asks if it could be Jacobean Revival from the 19th century.
Indeed, this piece is the latter, a 19th-century version of a style that was popular in the Tudor and Stuart reigns in England. It dates from the 1840s, and exhibits Jacobean arms and legs, with the back panel being a fine example of the folded linen style popular in Tudor times, particularly during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Read more: Antiques Considered - April 7, 2010

Antiques Considered - March 31, 2010

A lady in the lower Northern Neck sent this picture of her letterbox, with the interesting information that it had belonged to her husband’s ancestor, who had taken it with him while on service during the War Between the States.  The box is walnut, and it retains the original paper lining, as well as the lock, but the key is missing.
This box is a fine example of nineteenth-century craftsmanship.  The tone of the wood is good, indicating that its finish is original, and the presence of the original paper lining is quite impressive.  Many times people thought they were improving such pieces by re-lining them.  Happily, in this case that never happened.
As to the oral tradition that it went through the War with the ancestor, the age and appearance of the box conform perfectly.  The problem in attributing such provenance comes with the lack of documentation.  Clearly, the tradition must be accurate, but without documentary evidence, rather than word-of-mouth passage, that aspect of its value cannot be substantiated.  

Read more: Antiques Considered - March 31, 2010

Antiques Considered - March 24, 2010

Earlier this month I attended the meeting of the Lancaster Woman’s Club in Lancaster Courthouse, one of the most delightful villages in the Northern Neck. The president, Jean Nead, had engaged me to conduct a session evaluating objects that the membership brought to the meeting.
I saw many fine pieces including the American pattern spillholder that I am pictured holding. Today many people refer to these items as “spooners” because after the invention of matches they no longer served their original purpose of holding the spills that folks made to light their fires. In those days people took newspaper and rolled it into long twists with which they could transfer fire from the fireplace to candles.

Read more: Antiques Considered - March 24, 2010

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