New York Empire Sofa & Footstools, ca. 1837

Value (2007) | $2,500 Retail

GUEST:
This is a family heirloom from my mother's side from Green Bay, Wisconsin. And we inherited it when my aunt died in 1970. My mother brought this back to Chicago, where we were living, and she had it reupholstered. At that time it had a black leather top and horse hair stuffing. No one else in the family wanted it, and I enjoyed it and I grew up with it, so this is mine. And we, occasionally, will sit on it, but generally it's a show piece. It just sits in the living room.

APPRAISER:
So it's in a kind of a formal place...

GUEST:
Exactly.

APPRAISER:
...used for special occasions, not an everyday piece.

GUEST:
Correct, correct.

APPRAISER:
Well, this piece has its original finish. There's no question about it. It's in perfect, undisturbed condition in terms of the finish. This piece looks just dark brown, almost black. It's very hard to tell what the wood is. It's choice crotch mahogany veneer. Mahogany. When the tree branches off in two directions, the compression of those two ends form the crotch, and you get that beautiful feather grain that's so treasured by cabinetmakers the world over. They took all the best crotch mahogany veneers, laid them out in small sections. It's an exquisite piece. This piece was made around 1835, 1840.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And the veneer usually chips and cracks, and that's really something that we see with a lot of pieces of this make and style. And this one's in perfect condition. They made a lot of these, and rarely can I say to somebody, "I have a pretty good idea who made this one." But in this case, I can actually tell you who I think made it. There was an article that came out only a few months ago about a family collection down in Louisiana. It was the bills of sale still exist. And they bought their seating furniture, which is nearly identical to this sofa, from a firm that we've totally forgotten about named Edwards and Baldwin. And this commission was in 1836. The furniture still survives, and this is a great piece of American furniture from that time. Here's the downside-- people don't like this style anymore. I mean, it's horrible because this is a great piece of American cabinetwork. It's a very formal piece. It's what we typically call a box sofa. But within that box form, every line is curved, every edge is delineated. It's beautiful. It's actually a very comfortable sofa.

GUEST:
Correct.

APPRAISER:
I mean, this is not stiff, formal, furniture; it's very relaxing but still formal furniture. So, you know, we lead less formal lives, and that's made this a victim. What I also love is that you've got the footstools.

GUEST:
Correct.

APPRAISER:
So we can actually be a little less formal. We can put our feet up, relax like anybody else. Having said all that, the tough part is I don't think the market's coming back for this. And much as I wish it would, I just think we're going to lead less formal lives and that's just not going to happen. I would insure this, because I know you want to keep it in the family...

GUEST:
Correct.

APPRAISER:
...for about $2,500. But that's about the maximum retail value that you're ever going to see.

GUEST:
Well, I'm glad to find out the information about it because we knew nothing. But, really, I was shocked, only $2,500.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
Baltimore, MD
Appraised value (2007)
$2,500 Retail
Event
Las Vegas, NV (August 18, 2007)
Period
19th Century
Form
Sofa
Material
Cloth, Mahogany

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