Federal Bow Front Chest of Drawers, ca. 1805

Value (2010) | $40,000 Auction$70,000 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
I got this chest in Washington, D.C. I had a Georgian Federal house at the time and I was collecting items for the house. I bought it from a very reputable dealer. I like the satin inlay. There are a lot of qualities about the dimensions of the piece that I like.

APPRAISER:
You like all this inlay, okay.

GUEST:
Even more important, it had an interesting provenance. It came from the estate of the family of Nicholas Gilman, who was a New Hampshire patriot. And he was also in the Revolutionary War and he was a signer of the U.S. Constitution.

APPRAISER:
What did you pay back then, please?

GUEST:
In 1990, I paid $6,500 for it. The chest is in use every day.

APPRAISER:
On a scale of one to ten, this is sort of an 11 in terms of Federal... Portsmouth, New Hampshire, chest of drawers. These bow-front chest of drawers are classic examples of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, furniture. And during the Federal period, which is really a reaction against all the asymmetry and carving and cabriole legs of the Chippendale period in America…

GUEST:
Right, right.

APPRAISER:
… now we have this Federal period, about 1805. Everything's balanced, everything's symmetrical. And it goes along with all the ideals of the new nation. And here we have in the front-- I mean, this is incredible. This stuff makes me... this makes me wake up in the morning, I'll tell you. This is about it for Federal furniture. We have these rhythms that are passed, and all these things that match. And it's very pleasing, pleasurable to look at. These are flame birch panels. They slice the log, and this is the crotch of the tree, so it's spread out. Flame birch is the light. Rosewood, which was imported from the islands, this is all rosewood banding. And then we've got mahogany on the transverses. The primary wood up here on the sides, which didn't show, was local birch wood. And this is ivory, of course. And the tall feet are what really makes it. I have never-- I've handled a lot of these-- I've never seen one with this tall feet.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Ever. It's very rare to find them with this beautiful shape skirt. They normally have a drop panel. Now, what do you think about the brasses?

GUEST:
I assume they're original, but I don't know.

APPRAISER:
You're right, you're absolutely right. You don't have any other holes back here.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And also they're period brasses. And we actually know who made them. Right up in front is "HJ" for Thomas Hans and William Jenkins.

GUEST:
I never noticed it.

APPRAISER:
It's stamped by the maker. Birmingham, England, foundry who made brass handles, imported them to America. One of the factories we see. So they sold them to American merchants. So, now, condition-wise, the color's great, it's in great condition. I love all these sort of burn marks that show the usage on the top. The veneer's intact. We do have in the back some replaced corner blocks. These corner supports are stained.

GUEST:
I see.

APPRAISER:
In fact, I'm going to scratch this one here. See that? It's steeped in stain so it doesn't... there's no mark. If I scratch this, the backboard, which is original, you see it makes a mark. That's how we tell something's fake stain or real oxidation.

GUEST:
Is this pine, this back panel?

APPRAISER:
This is pine. Exactly, exactly. So, in terms of value, I would put an auction estimate on this, as a range, about $40,000 to $70,000.

GUEST:
Very good. Well, I promised my friends I would not say "wow," but I will say I'm impressed.

APPRAISER:
You can say it.

GUEST:
Wow. Okay, thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Appraised value (2010)
$40,000 Auction$70,000 Auction
Event
Miami Beach, FL (July 10, 2010)

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