19th-Century Aesthetic Movement Elephant Table
Appraised Value: $4,000 - $6,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:22)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
GUEST: It belonged to my great-grandparents, and passed down through the family from them. He was the youngest surgeon in the Confederate Army.
APPRAISER: And this book is the book he wrote about his experiences as a surgeon during the Civil War. Do you know how he acquired the table?
GUEST: They were on their honeymoon in New Orleans in 1872, and they bought it.
APPRAISER: What's neat about this table, what I really love, is these fabulous elephants. And of course that's the first thing that hits you about this table. But the neatest thing about this as a piece is this plate here. You have these wonderful butterflies. And what we call this is the Aesthetic Movement. This was the idea of art for art's sake. People like Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler and they were all interested in the Orient. And this became a real fashion. They dressed in kimonos. They all bought Japanese prints. They bought Japanese and Chinese ceramics. So you have the elephant-- the absolute symbol of the Orient, right? And then this Aesthetic Movement, this Japanese aesthetic being brought into America. So those two combined, along with the absolute certainty that it was bought in 1872, tell us absolutely when it was made. But I've got a question. Do you think people who look at this table will know what it's made of?
GUEST: No, they don't. They never know.
APPRAISER: It's actually cast iron.
GUEST: Oh, it's heavy.
APPRAISER: Oh, it's wonderful. Each of the sides are cast-iron plates, and the elephants come together as two, and the tusks are actually iron as well.
GUEST: Yes, they are.
APPRAISER: They're not ivory, so that's neat.
GUEST: That is good.
APPRAISER: How do you use it now?
GUEST: I use it as a dining table now. My husband was very tall and a large man and he couldn't sit at the table. His knees would hit it, so we put croquet balls under there.
APPRAISER: Well, happily they don't ruin it because they can be removed.
GUEST: Right, right.
APPRAISER: Now, the balls aside, I don't think the top is original.
GUEST: I don't either. My mother said it wasn't.
APPRAISER: Well, very good for her. I think it probably had either a marble or another type of wood top, but this is too many boards and it's too late. Now, that affects value. Now, I know you wanted to know where it was made, but I've got to tell you, I've asked every appraiser who I think could know, and we cannot come to a conclusion about where it was made. Now, one clue may be it comes out of New Orleans. And what's neat about that is New Orleans has that great cast-iron history for all the balconies and all. So it's possible that it was made either in New Orleans or by somebody who was shipping things to New Orleans-- somebody on the East Coast. We've also had suggestions that it was French and even possibly English. So we're a little bit in the dark about where it was made. If it were to come to market, even with the issue of the top and the ball feet, it's such a rarity and such a wonderful piece from the period, I would have it, if I were selling it, priced at at least $4,000 to $6,000.
GUEST: Wonderful. I didn't know that. Thank you.
APPRAISER: Well, I'm glad to know it's still in the family and I hope it stays that way.
GUEST: Well, I have an only child, so I know who'll get it next.
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