Paul Sormani ”Table Ambulante,“ ca. 1867

Value (2010) | $4,000 Auction$10,000 Insurance
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GUEST:
I got it at a garage sale a Saturday morning. Picked up a few things. Had a lot of pottery, some jewelry, some crystal. And I put it all in the box and I said, "Can I put it inside?" Because I was going to look more. He said, "Sure." When I went in, he says, "If you come with me around the corner, there is a table we have to sell." So I walked in and there it was. And I'm looking at it and I'm thinking, you know, I know it's French.

APPRAISER:
How do you know this?

GUEST:
Well, I mean, the legs, the shape, the detailing, the marquetry. You know, it looks French.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
So I opened the drawer, and when I opened the drawer, I saw that right here where the lock is there was this name and an address. It really felt right to me. So I said to the guy, "How much do you want for this?" And he said, "I want $60."

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm...

GUEST:
And I didn't dare bargain, which I always do.

APPRAISER:
Okay, okay.

GUEST:
So I took it and I brought it home, very carefully, and it's been sitting in our living room. We're not paying too much attention to it. We just put some linseed oil on it sometimes because Miami's very dry.

APPRAISER:
Well, as you saw immediately, the lock on this piece is signed. And it's signed "P. Sormani, Paris." So we know that this is a Paul Sormani table. He was an eboniste in Paris in the 19th century, and he was at this address starting in 1867. He had a very, very successful cabinetmaking shop. He made wonderful quality furniture. He had a wife and son who continued his business up until the 1930s.

GUEST:
Oh, really?

APPRAISER:
So they were in business for a long time. His specialty was really French 18th-century furniture, which of course this looks like. Now, you described what you thought the form was. Shall we put the... let's put the drawer back.

GUEST:
Well, I read that a table like this is called a chiffonier, is what they called it.

APPRAISER:
Okay, it's not what I would call it.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
I would call it a table ambulante…

GUEST:
Ambulante?

APPRAISER:
Which would be that you can move it.

GUEST:
Ah...

APPRAISER:
It is able to be moved around. Because it's so small. Let's pick it up. And it's very light. It's light as a feather. And it's a little occasional table that a lady in the 18th century... Now remember, this was made in the 19th century. A copy of an 18th century.

GUEST:
Of an 18th-century piece?

APPRAISER:
He is known for his really masterful cabinetwork, and you can see this is all rosewood veneered on the top, probably ebonized flowers, cabriole leg, tiny little foot, all capped with Dore bronze. I just wanted to point out some of the ormolu mounts. This wonderful curvilinear line here, all of the leaves and the berries on it, his hand is apparent there. He's just got a very high quality bronze mounting. The other thing that I like about this piece-- and it sets his work apart from other cabinetmakers-- is this cant back.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
It's not just a front fade. So there's a lot of movement going on in the fade of this piece.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Now, you said you have been putting what on it?

GUEST:
Linseed oil.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
No?

APPRAISER:
No. No, feel... You know, when I saw this table, I touched it and I can still... I can smell the linseed oil on it, and when you oil furniture, it is going to soak into the surface of the wood...

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
It's going to, over time, oxidize, turn black and there's just nothing you can do to reverse it. So, actually, you said Florida's very dry.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
It's not that dry. It's pretty humid down here. A piece of furniture should just be fine. I wouldn't oil it again. There are things that need to be done on this piece. I would probably want to get a little bit of the veneer fixed on it. There's got to be a museum locally that has a good decorative arts collection. You call the decorative arts curator and you say to them, "Who do you use locally?" Find out who is a really good cabinetmaker.

GUEST:
That's a really good idea.

APPRAISER:
So you have $60 invested in it.

GUEST:
Sixty dollars.

APPRAISER:
I would say that a piece like this is probably in the $4,000 to $6,000 range in terms of an auction estimate.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Were you to get this really in top-notch shape, we're probably looking at $8,500 in terms of an auction estimate.

GUEST:
Thank you so much. It's been really helpful to know about it.

APPRAISER:
Thank you so much for coming.

GUEST:
Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2010)
$4,000 Auction$10,000 Insurance
Event
Miami Beach, FL (July 10, 2010)
Period
19th Century
Form
Table
Material
Bronze, Wood

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