"Tuttle Group" Kentucky Chest, ca. 1815
Appraised Value: $30,000 - $35,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (4:34)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
GUEST: It was purchased from an antique dealer about, probably about 20, 25 years ago.
APPRAISER: Do you remember how much you paid for it when you bought it?
GUEST: It was approximately about $4,200. I had it appraised about 15 years ago. The appraiser attributed it to Peter Tuttle.
APPRAISER: And did he tell you anything to look for in terms of why he thought it was a Tuttle?
GUEST: No, he really didn't.
APPRAISER: What did they appraise it for then?
APPRAISER: Okay. Well, for our people who are not in Kentucky,
APPRAISER: we need to let them in on a little about who's Peter Tuttle. About 30, 35 years ago, there was an exhibition on Kentucky furniture. And there was a piece of furniture like this, and it had a drawer that you pulled out. And inside of it was a little slide drawer, and inscribed in it was "P. Tuttle." So everything that looked like that piece became a “Tuttle.”
APPRAISER: Okay? So what makes it a “Tuttle Group” piece? It's what's called a "chest-on-frame." Your basic chest goes down to the bottom where the inlay line is. That's a chest, below that, that's the frame. It's not a skirt, it's a separate frame to which this chest is attached. So you have that deeply scalloped skirt, and these short cabriole legs, which are absolutely distinctive to the “Tuttle Group.” Don't see that anywhere else in America. It's a purely local phenomenon. And this “Tuttle Group” is a distinctly Kentucky group. What we've discovered is that Tuttle may not be the only guy making these. There's a whole group of them and I'm going to show you some distinctive features. I'm actually going to pull it apart so that we can look at this. First off, I'm going to pull out this drawer. And we can see here this extra hole.
APPRAISER: Which tells us that the brasses are not the original brasses. Not uncommon. Second feature is, I'm going to pull out this drawer. And we're going to look in the case, because a lot of times it's what the cabinetmaker did inside that tells us as much about the piece as what we see outside. If you look in there, there's a back rail. Now, that's not a Kentucky feature, it's actually a Valley of Virginia feature. This framing for the drawer support: very distinctive of the Valley of Virginia. So it makes us think that the man who brought this tradition of cabinetmaking came from the valley into Eastern Kentucky. There we go. Here's the hard part. We have no idea where the frame and the cabriole legs come from. Absolutely none, total mystery. But that's the most distinctive feature. We don't know exactly when these were made. When we tracked the cabinetmakers that were working in Eastern Kentucky, we think it's the first quarter of the 19th century. There's some thought that maybe the earliest ones are as early as 1790. There's some sense that these might be as late as 1830. Now, here's the other wonderful thing about this. Outside of Kentucky, not a lot of people even know about Peter Tuttle. But in Kentucky, the “Tuttle Group” is king. Absolutely, they're the blue chip. Collectors all want a “Tuttle Group” chest. This piece has a lot of what we consider, in more formal furniture, condition issues. It's got new brasses.
APPRAISER: Okay. Actually on this, the feet are replaced.
GUEST: Are they?
APPRAISER: If you look on the back of it, you can see that the back of the legs are finished where they wouldn't normally be.
APPRAISER: And if we turned it upside down and crawled under it, you'd see some repairs to indicate the feet are new. But because it's a local rural form, these have all had hard lives.
APPRAISER: They were not sitting in fancy front parlors in big city houses. They were in country farmhouses in small towns, so on a piece of purely regional interest-- the folks in Kentucky want this and want to keep it home-- that's less important. Now, you said you had it appraised for about $7,500.
GUEST: Mm-hmm. About 15 years ago.
APPRAISER: Market for these is extremely strong. In today's market, with all the condition problems, at auction or in any good shop, this chest would sell for about $30,000 to $35,000.
GUEST: Oh, my!
APPRAISER: If the feet were right, had a few less repairs, we'd probably be at $40,000 to $50,000.
GUEST: Okay. That's wonderful. That's wonderful, thank you.
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