Appraisal Video: (3:32)
Decorative Arts, Furniture, Silver
Vice President & Generalist Appraiser, European Furniture
GUEST: My parents bought it from an estate sale at an old 19th-century mansion in Springfield, Massachusetts, and where it came from before that, I have no idea, except I think it was very old already, because so much of the brass work and tortoiseshell work were falling off and peeling off. So the first 30 years we owned it we had paper wrapped around the legs tied with twine--
APPRAISER: Oh, no! Oh, no.
GUEST: --to keep the brass from popping off more.
APPRAISER: So, you... it's had some surgery.
GUEST: In 1969 I had a man in Tampa who was an expert restorer do what he could to fix it up.
APPRAISER: Well, it's the type of thing that usually happens with this form of table, with all this brass and the tortoiseshell. This type of design, where you see the brass and the tortoiseshell, A-C B verified is named after someone called Andr -Charles Boulle, who is known to have popularized the technique in the court of Louis XIV. There was a big revival in the mid 19th Century of this Boulle types of furniture, and at that point they were able to do this all by machine and manufacturers could buy these panels already premade and then put them on their own pieces of furniture. So, they'd buy a panel like this, and then you'd also see the panels here for the leg and also for the drawer, so it's very easy for them to have a plain piece of furniture and then add these panels on and customize it. As you know, the Boulle part is fragile. You probably had more bits of brass and little bits of tortoiseshell.
GUEST: We saved it all in the drawer until I got it restored.
APPRAISER: Yeah, and that's the best thing to do, because it's very hard to find pieces that you could fit in. I wanted to show you what your restorer did on this leg. Right here you can see there was a bit where he just stained it to make it look like part of the tortoiseshell, like the figure, but it's just really black stain. But it's a great way-- and a good restorer will do this-- to sort of cheat it to make it... the piece still look continuous without this big gaping bit of red missing. These ladies, with this type of mount, is called a "chute," and it's spelled "c-h-u-t-e," and the little bit at the bottom which protects it, are called sabot, which is a French word for "shoe"-- very typical of furniture both in the Louis XIV period and when it was revived. Now, you probably spent a lot of money, because this is not cheap to do, to get something like this restored.
GUEST: Oh, yeah, I think my father paid maybe $50...
APPRAISER: For the table?
GUEST: Originally back in 1940. When I had it restored in 1969, I paid $1,500 plus the four-percent Florida sales tax.
APPRAISER: So, not a cheap sum especially then-- it was quite a lot.
GUEST: That was a lot of money to me then.
APPRAISER: And it's because it's so painstaking and there's a lot of labor involved. If you were going to do that kind of work today, it would probably cost several thousand dollars. Because the restorer was in this mass-produced area where you could buy these different parts, this table has many sisters, brothers, cousins and relatives in all different shapes and sizes. And at auction, if you were to sell the table, you d probably get in the region of between $4,000 and $6,000. Are you surprised?
GUEST: No, I'd guessed $5,000 or so.
APPRAISER: Oh, wow.
GUEST: I had a little bet on with my daughter. I bet $5,000, and her husband bet a million.
APPRAISER: Well, the neat thing about it is that you got it restored. If this table wasn't restored, we might not even get $1,200 for it at auction because it's such a daunting task to have to fix it, and many people don't save all the bits.