Late 18th-Century George III Tambor-Front Desk

Value (2011) | $2,000 Auction$4,000 Retail

We have what I was told was a late 18th-century, early 19th-century architect's desk. I got it in Georgetown.


In D.C., I was walking along the street one day, it was in the window, I fell in love with it, I thought it was beautiful, I thought it was graceful and charming and very interesting. And later on, my husband went back and bought it for me as a commemorative gift when my daughter was born.

And where do you think it's from?

I was told it was English.

Okay, it is English, and it's from what's called the George III period, which ran from around about 1755 through until 1820, although towards the end of George III's life he went mad, so his son, the prince-regent, took over. But it's George III, and it does date from around about 1780 through 1800. It's made of mahogany, and it's got this tambour top. It is not an architect's desk. An architect's desk would be much larger, and there would be no tambour. It would just be completely flat, so you could roll out large sheets of architectural drawings. So you have a tambour front which opens here, as we slide it up... there we go. And what's nice about this is this slides out here, and then we have what's called a ratchet reading stand. It clicks up, and it's a really nice touch to the piece that you've got this letter inset, ratchet reading stand. It would be called anything from a tambour front desk to a bureau, writing desk, a secretary, many different terms for it. What's quite nice about this desk is the construction. The secondary wood here is mahogany, as is the case.


And with most English furniture, oak is the secondary wood on it. Mahogany at the end of the 18th century was hard to get hold of. So for someone to use it as a secondary wood, at the time was sort of a big deal. The marbleized paper lining was probably added at a later date, but it doesn't really affect the value. There are some condition issues with it. Do you see these little pierced fretwork corner brackets?


Those are associated. I also think, down here, that either it had brass caps or casters, one way or another. The legs sort of stop rather abruptly. How much did you pay for it?


You paid $2,000 for it retail. Okay, I would give you an auction estimate of around about $2,000 to $3,000. If you were to see this in a retail setting, in its current condition, it would maybe be $3,500 or $4,000. And with minor investment and cleaned up, it could be as much as $5,000. When you bought it in the end of the '70s, the English market was doing very, very well. At the moment, this traditional English mahogany furniture is not doing that well, hence the lower value.

Well, I would never sell it anyway.

Well, good.

Appraisal Details

Rago Arts & Auction Center
Lambertville, NJ
Appraised value (2011)
$2,000 Auction$4,000 Retail
El Paso, TX (June 18, 2011)

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