Virginia Federal Pembroke Table, ca. 1800
Appraised Value: $15,000 - $25,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (4:14)
Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Furniture
GUEST: This table has been in my family for seven generations. It was a wedding gift from Thomas Jefferson to his first cousin's daughter. And it always sat in our dining room, and at Christmas we'd put our Christmas village on it. And it's just part of our family.
APPRAISER: It has a connection to Jefferson, it sounds like. Is there any documentation of the gift?
GUEST: We can trace the family tree back to Jefferson, and it's just that's always been the family story, so...
APPRAISER: Okay. A lot of times those sort of family histories are very helpful. We always take them with a grain of salt. We always look at the object and see if the object can help reinforce your own family history with it.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: This is a Pembroke table. A Pembroke table is a versatile form. It can be placed in a collector's house in a lot of different places. Tell me what you think is the most interesting or striking part of the table.
GUEST: The wear bars on the bottom side of the drawer that show how old it is. Because when you flip it over, you can see that it was hand worked and that it's just got the wear marks on the sides that are down, you know, an eighth of an inch. So I know that it's an old piece.
APPRAISER: Well, you're right about that. It's an old piece, and it's very carefully crafted. You see the nicely shaped glue blocks here that are helping hold the drawer bottom on. You can see the cut here where they trimmed the edge off. When I look at this, the most striking thing is the color. And you've got beautifully oxidized yellow pine there. And it's a great sign of age on the piece. Yellow pine is also what you would expect to see in a Virginia table, or one of the different woods. So that's a good first clue that your family history may well line up to what the table actually is. Let's get this back in.
GUEST: We also always heard it was American made.
APPRAISER: Everything about the table does line up with an American manufacturer. When was her wedding date?
GUEST: I would suspect it was in 1774 to 1775.
APPRAISER: Okay, well, I think the table probably dates more...based on the style and what we know of other tables, it probably dates more to the 1790 or 1800 period. To me, the most striking thing when I first saw the table was the inlay, which you see on all four legs. Inlay was available to cabinetmakers through catalogs, and you could order it from specialized inlay makers that provided inlay to cabinetmakers. You notice that subtle shading and color and the green background?
APPRAISER: All of that suggests that that is something the cabinetmaker didn't do himself.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: But then you get down to the bell flowers here, and you notice they don't have the shading. He's taken a chisel and just tried to give the veining to the leaves and that sort of thing. This little motif at the top, that motif turns up in other Virginia tables. Another striking thing about the table to me is the beautiful color. It has a rich, wonderful color about it. The top is beautifully figured, as is the leaf. Do you think it's ever been refinished?
APPRAISER: I don't think so either, but there's one thing that tells me it may have had a later varnish put over it. There's a little patch at the corner of this leaf, which is a common thing. It's near the hinges, and oftentimes, you know, they've got a patch there.
APPRAISER: But if you look closely, it has the same finish on the patch as it does on the other part of the table. What do you think about the brass pull on this?
GUEST: I think that was probably added later, but I don't know that.
APPRAISER: It was added later. The nice thing about this replaced pull is that they didn't drill new holes in the drawer front. I think that drawer pull dates to probably the 1880s or so.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: And I suspect that's when the work was done on the table. So I think the table is confirming, at least at some level, the family history here. I think this is a Virginia table. It may have been made around Charlottesville. It could have come from the coast and traveled there. But Jefferson, I think, was in Charlottesville at that...
GUEST: Yeah, he was in that area.
APPRAISER: During that period. Although I do think it postdates the marriage that you reference. If you were to bring this table to auction, I suspect it would bring probably in the $15,000 to $25,000 range.
GUEST: Oh, wow. Okay.
APPRAISER: I don't think the Jefferson connection impacts the value very much.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: If this table was owned by Thomas Jefferson...
GUEST: Oh, yes.
APPRAISER: and we knew that he sat by this table, or it was in his house, it might be worth ten times that.
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