Micromosaic & Pietra Dura Table, ca. 1860

Value (2011) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction

I inherited it from an aunt whose father-in-law was an estate dealer in Rochester, New York. I was the only one in my generation, so I inherited everything that my aunt owned. I have it sitting in my home, and the grandchildren put their drinks on it, and I know all that stuff you say...

Great, great. The grandkids put their drinks on it. Well, tell me, what do you think the top is?

My husband says it's slate. I would have thought it was some kind of marble or something on top of it.

What do you make about the scene in the middle?

I really don't know. It looks Italian to me, which was surprising, since I thought it came from upstate New York.

Well, you're right. It is an Italian scene. There's a long tradition in the 19th century and earlier of wealthy people traveling to Europe, especially Italy, on grand tours, where they would go and see the sights of Rome and Florence, and they would bring things back with them. The top probably came with someone coming back from a grand tour. The stand for it is rosewood, which is a very high-quality wood. But the form of it and the way the carving is done says to me that it was probably done in Boston. So I think the table was made to fit the top in Boston, probably in the 1850s or '60s.


The scene on here, this is St. Peter's Square in the Vatican in Rome. And there are lots of things going on with the top of this table. It makes for a really exciting visual statement. The outside of this is called pietra dura, which in Italian means "hard stone." There are all different kinds of marble here. You see the rose-colored rings?


That's scagliola, which is actually painted on, but they grind up marble to use as pigment and paint it on there. The tiny micromosaic here, every little piece of that is a tiny piece of glass. This kind of decoration was being made in the Vatican workshops, which are still going today. Micromosaics have also been made in Florence and other places. But they painstakingly put all of that together. The roots of this come from ancient Rome and ancient cultures where... those great mosaic floors and that sort of thing. I would say a table like this at auction would probably have, an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.


So if your grandkids are putting their drinks on it, it is marble, so I don't think they'll hurt it too much. But don't let them knock it over. It really is a beautiful example of a grand tour survival here in America.

Oh, well, thank you.

Appraisal Details

Brunk Auctions
Asheville, NC
Appraised value (2011)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Atlanta, GA (August 06, 2011)
19th Century
Glass, Rosewood, Wood

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