Philadelphia Dressing Table, ca. 1750
Appraised Value: $70,000 - $80,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:27)
Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Furniture
GUEST: I grew up around this piece of furniture. It's been in the family for several generations, four that I was told about. And it was in Fairfield County, Connecticut, in the family homestead, but I always remembered it and loved it, and it was given to me by my aunt in the '90s. I believe it's walnut.
APPRAISER: You are correct; it's black walnut. It has a really nice, mellow old surface. It's not an original finish, but it has great color, and the walnut has great figuring in it. On the top and on the drawer fronts, you see that great curly figure in the grain, and that's solid-- it's not veneer. Does it look like a Connecticut piece to you?
GUEST: I saw an appraisal from the '70s that said it was period New England.
GUEST: But I don't really know. I thought this kind of wood was more... prevalent in Pennsylvania, Ohio area.
APPRAISER: Well, you're right. This is a classic Philadelphia dressing table, or lowboy, probably made in the 1750s, so this is a very early piece.
GUEST: Oh, wow.
APPRAISER: And I've been through it top to bottom, and it's in really pristine condition. No major repairs. In looking at the top, it has the original pegs that hold the top on. It's never been off as far as I can tell. If you look at the front, these big, beautiful brasses are original. They were driven through, and they've never been out of the piece.
GUEST: Oh, wow.
APPRAISER: And those were expensive in the period, so to have six of them like that is a real expensive detail. Now, this skirt is particularly interesting. In studying the early Philadelphia cabinet shops, there's one shop that seems to be using that exact skirt pattern a lot, and it has relatives in Irish cabinet making, and we think maybe there was an Irish influence going on in this cabinet shop, but we don't know the cabinetmaker. So when I saw this piece, the first thing I did was go through it hoping maybe there would be a signature in it, because none of the other pieces have any... any clues about who made this. Unfortunately, no signature, but it's one more piece that we can add to that group that's coming out of mid-century Philadelphia. Now, if you look at the knee carving here, you have fairly shallow shell carving. That's something you see in this shop, but also in this sort of earlier period in Philadelphia. Another early detail are the stocking feet, or the trifid feet, as people sometimes call them. You see this in Philadelphia by the 1730s. In the '40s, ball-and-claw feet start appearing, but there's a big crossover. From a collecting standpoint, the best detail about this piece, I think, other than condition and brasses, is the big overhang on the top.
GUEST: Yeah, even in the back.
APPRAISER: Even in the back. That was so it could go flush to a wall over a chair rail, so it would be stable. A lot of these that we see have less overhang on the top and the proportions are not quite as pleasing. I think at a major antique show, it would be priced retail probably at $70,000 or $80,000.
GUEST (stammering): Come on!
APPRAISER: So it's... it's a great rarity, and it's a real... it's a real treasure, so... so congratulations, um...
GUEST (exhales loudly)
APPRAISER (laughing): Yeah. Is that a... is that a surprise?
GUEST: Well... I guess I didn't thank her enough for the gift. Yeah, it was... Seventy?
APPRAISER: It's... it's... It was quite a gift.
GUEST: That's amazing. Lord have mercy.
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