French Porcelain Centerpiece, ca. 1853
Appraised Value: $2,000 - $4,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:20)
Decorative Arts, Glass, Pottery & Porcelain, Silver
Vice President of Special Collections
GUEST: I found this in 1971 at an antique shop at New Market, Maryland. Years later, I happened to be looking through the White House memento book that you get when you take the White House tour. And lo and behold, on one of the pages was a picture of this. It was said at that point, thought to be a punch bowl from the Andrew Jackson era. So years later, after I retired, I called the curator of the White House, and she in turn sent me some material that had again the photograph in it and the dimensions, and it said that it was a centerpiece from the President Pierce collection from about 1853.
APPRAISER: Well, let me tell you a little bit about presidential china as we call it in general. There's a tradition going back to George Washington, of course, of the president and the First Lady, typically, furnishing the White House with their own china;
APPRAISER: their own porcelain. And you're absolutely right that Franklin Pierce did purchase porcelain for the White House. He went to what was called the Crystal Palace Exhibition of New York at Bryant Park in 1853. And subsequently, he bought a service for himself and for use at the White House including a centerpiece which was almost identical to this one. And that's the one you saw in the White House or you saw photographs of.
APPRAISER: And it is indeed a well-documented and well-known centerpiece. Now, when I say almost identical, that's very important in determining the value. There is, of course, only one centerpiece... Of course. that belonged to President Pierce, and it's still owned by the U.S. government.
GUEST: Well, it's said to be the most spectacular piece of White House china.
APPRAISER: Well, I wouldn't argue with that. It is a fabulous object, made to look impressive, made almost certainly for the American market, by the way, but not unique. This was made in the early 1850s. It's a French piece, probably made in Limoge and decorated in Paris. We don't know how many they made at the time. But this is another one. Now, because it's not the presidential one, I'm afraid it doesn't have the value that a presidential-associated piece would have. However, it is quite a valuable object. It's so impressive in its scale, proportion. It's quite early. Beautifully painted, by the way, on the top of these roses.
APPRAISER: These figures of the three graces, we call them.
GUEST: Yes, that's right.
APPRAISER: Very well-modeled and finished in unglazed bisque porcelain. Everything about it is appealing in many ways. Now tell me, how much did you pay for it?
GUEST: It was $208, the eight dollars being sales tax.
APPRAISER: And you've still got the receipt?
GUEST: Still have the receipt, yes.
APPRAISER: I would say if this came to auction, it would attract a lot of attention. And to a certain extent, the similarity between this one and the Franklin Pierce one would help it along, but only to a limited extent. I believe that this would bring today at auction at at least $2,000 and perhaps as much as $4,000.
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