Modern Gothic Walnut Secretary, ca. 1870

Value (2010) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
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GUEST:
This piece came into my family we think about 1890s.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
It was my paternal great-grandparents'. They bought a boarding house in Congers, New York, and this piece of furniture was in the boarding house. My mom and dad had it, and Mom decided she wanted to sell it without telling the family.

APPRAISER:
Aha.

GUEST:
And she put an ad in the paper, so I talked to my teenage daughter and I asked her if she could disguise her voice and call Grandma, pretend she was somebody else,

APPRAISER:
Right.

GUEST:
and say that she wants to look at the desk. So she did that, and a little while later I called my mom and said, "Oh, mom, how are you doing?" She said, "Oh, fine, I'm so excited. Somebody called to see the desk." So we went over and mom's all excited, waiting for the woman to come, and then I had my daughter disguise her voice and talk like she did on the phone. Then my mother realized we were the ones who wanted to buy it. She just laughed. She thought it was really funny.

APPRAISER:
Now, did mom name her price?

GUEST:
She wouldn't give me a number, so I said, "I could give you $100 a month." So it was about $600.

APPRAISER:
Seems like a fair payment plan.

GUEST:
Yeah, yeah.

APPRAISER:
That works.

GUEST:
And it kept it in the family.

APPRAISER:
Well, what I love about this is the fact that it's all very architectural. You have this wonderful pent roof up here, and the supports for this and on the bottom part of the desk, too, are like big timber framings for an early structure. This is a piece that embodies the aesthetics of the 1870s in a great way. There were sort of two things happening during that period of time. That's the time of the Philadelphia Exposition, the Centennial in 1876. People were exhibiting lots of this sort of furniture. Some of it has a very Japanese flavor to it, which was very popular, but this has a very distinctive Gothic flavor to it.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
And if you look at these wonderful trefoil piercings and, up top, these sort of clover leaves, all of that is drawn very much from early Gothic architecture. This is a modern Gothic desk, and as such, it has sort of a great presence, I think. At the time, this was high art. There's a company called Kimble & Cabus that was working in New York during that period. They exhibited at the Philadelphia Exposition, and they exhibited things very, very similar to this. I think this is probably made by that company in the 1870s. Now, we don't have signed pieces, but we have parts of a catalog that pictured a lot of what they were selling, and they're very much working in this aesthetic, so I think it's a pretty good attribution. It's made out of walnut, top to bottom. The hinges and mounts on it are silvered or nickel-plated brass, so it was meant to be very showy. So from a value perspective, it has a lot going for it. I would say at auction, this piece would probably bring $3,000 to $5,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Brunk Auctions
Asheville, NC
Appraised value (2010)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Event
Washington, DC (August 21, 2010)
Form
Secretary
Material
Metal, Walnut, Wood

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