Italian Baroque-Style Cassone
Appraised Value: $4,000 - $6,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:39)
Decorative Arts, Furniture, Silver
Vice President & Generalist Appraiser, European Furniture
GUEST: We've had it for about 20 years. We had a pawn shop for several years and we just purchased it from a guy... came by, and he had inherited it from his grandfather's estate. And we can't really remember. I thought he was from West Virginia and my husband thinks South Carolina.
APPRAISER: Okay-- so you know it might have come from the mid-Atlantic area, but other than that... Nothing. This has had a very long journey.
APPRAISER: It's life started out in Italy a very long time ago, and it's made it now all the way to Oklahoma. This type of furniture is called a "cassone," which is a casket. And they were used for dowries in Italy for women, and they'd pack all their linens and their clothes when they'd go to their husbands when they got married. So it'd be like a dowry chest or a hope chest that we'd have in America. This type of furniture was first made in the Baroque period and Renaissance period, so 15th, 16th, 17th centuries. And then there was a huge revival of interest in the late 19th century-- people like William Randolph Hearst and Henry Clay Frick. Those sort of industrial robber barons were going over to Europe and buying up so much furniture to fill their new houses and castles to look like they came from these very fancy, illustrious backgrounds when they really didn't. And the Italians were no fools. Because they knew that these things were really popular and there were Americans with a lot of cash to spend who wanted to buy these things and maybe or maybe didn't know that much about Italian furniture. One of the first things that I noticed were the feet. And they've got these fun little animals, you know, who look like they're holding up this very, very heavy chest.
APPRAISER: If this piece was originally made in the Baroque period, which it would have been-- this is made out of walnut-- and I were, you know, a maid cleaning the floors, and over 500 years, would I start knocking on those paws? Probably. And if we look, a lot of those paws, apart from the ones on your and my end which are a little worn, they're pretty much there. The other thing, when you look at the keyhole-- I don't know about you, but every now and then I kind of jam that key in and so there's usually a little scaring or marks around it. And if we look at this keyhole, there really isn't. You know, it's pretty crisp. So already we've got two things that sort of say, "Mmm, maybe not so old." Let's open it up. So grab an end. The other thing which you can see on your end-- see how these carvings come away?
APPRAISER: These were applied to the surface. Originally this would have been one piece. So right away the carving-- although a lot of it looks very much like the Baroque period and certainly have elements-- it's something that was probably put on later. The other thing you'll notice is here, right where they join it, this very diagonal line. We want to see more of a horizontal line. Because it would have been a type of joint called a mortise and tenon. So that's another strike against it. The third thing, you'll see these little thin channels on the edge. All those little holes are from wood worms. When you see those holes, and if you see the channels, it means the wood's been cut away, because worms go down deep into the piece. So when you see all that together, that means it's been carved out of old pieces. A lot of these things were made out of old, you know, pieces in peoples' homes like wood paneling, and sold to unsuspecting people who wanted this type of look. They still do pretty well at auction. You're probably looking, in terms of a value, of probably about $4,000 to $6,000. So I don't know what they pawned, but you may or may not have gotten a good deal.
GUEST: I did pretty well.
APPRAISER: You did pretty well?
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.