Burl Walnut Tantalus, ca. 1860
Appraised Value: $8,000 - $12,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: ()
GUEST: I was privileged enough to deliver some medical supplies to Cuba a few years ago. It was a group of lawyers who sponsor a cancer clinic who found me. I was in the medical surplus business at the time. And once they found out I was a bit of a collector, they took me to an old woman's house (she was a widow actually) to buy a little Weller vase, and asked her if she had anything else to sell. She didn't think she did, but I asked, "Can I look around?" And on top of the kitchen cabinet in the dim light, I saw what looked like a basketball.
APPRAISER: And this was the basketball.
GUEST: And this was it. You know, it's not quite the kind of thing I buy, but it just was too neat to pass up. There's a coat of arms on all the pieces. It was identified as belonging to the Marquis de Pinar del Rio.
APPRAISER: Wonderful. Who was, I believe, a senator, very wealthy man. It makes sense that he's very wealthy because at time of purchase, it would have been an expensive object. What we actually have here is a "tantalus" or decanter box. This globular form is something that is known to be made in Vienna. What threw me slightly, I have to say, is when we think about these sort of globular forms, they tended to be sort of adorned in more neo-classical ornament. What we have here is more of a kind of rococo ornament on this wonderful sort of burl walnut, ivory-and-brass-inlaid carcass. And if we look down here at the scroll feet, this is very typical of that sort of rococo scroll casting you would expect to see on maybe something from the 18th century. Which would make sense when we come to the date of this piece. I think it's around 1860 in date. If you think about that time period, they were looking back on the 18th century and the earlier part of the 19th century with a great deal of fondness, and producing these charming, slightly eclectic pieces as we see here. So what I'm going to do is open this up to reveal inside the three little decanters in the center and the little liqueur glasses. Let's try and just do that without knocking any of those over. So that slides back, and actually, this will-- I'm not going to lift it out all the way-- but this will come out so it could be rested on the table for easier access to the smaller glasses. I'll just take one out and we'll have a look at that monogram. So this is the monogram that alerted you to the fact that this was from the marquis from Cuba. The other thing I thought with something so lovely as this with the wonderful patina, the burl walnut veneer that they have used here and the brass inlay and the ivory inlay, I wonder whether this applied bronze mount that we see here and the bronze mount that we also see on the base may have been gilded at some time. Now the bronze is more in a kind of natural state, but I think this may well have been gilded. It's a very nice piece and very, very desirable being in this sort of globular form. It's very unusual. You don't see many of this form. What is also very nice about this one and I found quite unusual, when I actually checked all of the little glasses, I actually only found one that seemed to be a replacement, which is kind of remarkable.
GUEST: I had it made.
APPRAISER: You had it made? All of the decanters in the center are also intact. I think it is an absolutely charming, charming piece in wonderful condition. I would think if this came up for auction today, I would put a pre-sale auction estimate on it of between $8,000 to $12,000.
APPRAISER: And now can I ask what you paid for it when you went over to Cuba all that time ago?
GUEST: Well, $200, $50 to the picker, $300 to get it out, you know, a couple little touch-ups.
APPRAISER: So, all in all, you did very well.
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