Chest-on-Chest & Wallace Nutting Windsor Chair
Appraised Value: $1,600
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:45)
Clocks & Watches, Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Furniture
Director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts, Partner, Executive Vice President & Chief Auctioneer
GUEST: My mother's maiden name was Nutting, and her great-grandfather's cousin was Wallace Nutting.
APPRAISER: What do you know about Wallace Nutting?
GUEST: Well, I know that he originally was a pastor, and then he found some older homes in New England and restored them, and that's how he really got interested, I believe, in furniture.
APPRAISER: Wallace Nutting, actually, is from Massachusetts. His "Furniture Treasury" is one of the earliest and best known reference books on American furniture and decorative arts. We've learned an awful lot since then, so much of what you see in the book, the information, isn't necessarily accurate. But he was a pioneer in that area, so you have to give the guy an awful lot of credit. And Wallace Nutting made some serious money selling prints, and he was part of the whole Colonial Revival interest in this country, in that they assembled rooms and set them up in a manner that they thought would have been appropriate for that time frame. This is a good example, a relatively small example, and the water stain doesn't help its value.
APPRAISER: Let's move to this Windsor chair over here. Now, this is a terrific example of what Wallace Nutting did best. This is an accurate copy of an 18th-century comb-back, continuous-arm Windsor chair. Beautifully proportioned, it's made the way an early chair would be made. It's branded and labeled by Wallace Nutting. When he made this chair, they were finished in natural wood. Period Windsor chairs, when they were new, were painted. He was making furniture at a time where people routinely refinished things. Today there'd be a totally different approach and, in fact, Windsor chair makers today generally make the chairs and then paint them in colors. Now let's get to this chest-on-chest. This particular piece is not made by Wallace Nutting.
GUEST: Oh, it isn't?
APPRAISER: Wallace Nutting, in reproducing furniture, went for accuracy. He went for quality. The materials used, the techniques that were used in assembling the piece very closely resembled the original cabinetmaking techniques. This piece you don't see that. These various design elements have been a bit exaggerated-- the proportions are off. These fan-carved, double-top drawers. These exaggerated, turned spiral-carved quarter columns repeated on the bottom are pretty heavy. The gadrooning on the base, the claw-and-ball feet-- these are all elements that you wouldn't see in a period piece of furniture, at least not in this configuration. So right away I was suspicious of it. And then in looking at this drawer, we see a label in here, and this label I recognize. This is made by Charak Furniture Company in Boston. They were making furniture during the same time frame as Wallace Nutting, but there's a major difference. This chair is an accurate and very beautiful reproduction. This is quality, but it's not accurate, and it really doesn't look like an antique. Wallace Nutting also probably would have used pine secondary wood. The drawer bottoms would have been chamfered... (wood rattles) Not a flat piece of plyboard, that kind of thing. Nonetheless, it's a good piece of furniture. What'd you pay for it?
GUEST: Well, I think it was roughly $800.
APPRAISER: Well, that's exactly what I was going to tell you it's worth, so you're okay.
GUEST: So I'm all right.
APPRAISER: And what did you pay for the chair?
GUEST: We have a set of four, two armchairs and two straights. The set... I believe it was in the neighborhood of $1,500, I believe.
APPRAISER: That's a good deal. In Massachusetts, this chair would sell for probably about $800.
GUEST: Oh, is that right?
APPRAISER: It's increasingly valuable, so you're on the right track with this.
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