Paul Sormani Vitrine de Milieu, Paris, ca. 1890
At the outbreak of World War Two, the French consulate in Boston was called back home, and they weren't allowed to take their furniture because it was wartime. So, places in Boston took these on consignment, their pieces of furniture, and my grandmother bought it there.
Well, it's interesting that you say that the French consulate had this in their residence because the quality of this piece is superb. It is a vitrine by Paul Sormani, and we know that because the piece is signed, with the Sormani name, Paris, and the address that he worked as an ebonist. He opened his shop in Paris in 1867. Their family actually had it going into the 1930s. I want to show how it appears on the back side as well. Do you want to help me sort of move this around?
If you take a peek at the back, you'll notice that there are these wonderful bronze panels around the whole piece, and that the back looks very similar to the front. So, not only is it a vitrine, but I would be more specific and call it a vitrine de milieu, which means that it can be viewed in the round. These pieces were made to house beautiful objects. And if you notice, the top has got a bronze gallery and then the bottom also has this bronze gallery, and all of these bronze panels have got these wonderful putti. The piece is in the style of Louis XVI. However, it is a 19th-century piece of furniture, made in probably about 1890. Paul Sormani copied a lot of the very important French makers from the 18th century. You’ll see him going Louis the XV and Louis the XV styles. This one, as Louis XVI, you'll see he's doing this very straight leg down with a little cap at the bottom in acanthus leaves. All of these style motifs are done to copy early Romanesque furniture and architectural details. Italianate.
Were their methods the same as the old originals?
Yes. And when you examine his ormolu mounting, you'll see that it's very well-defined, highly carved, and highly figured, which again is evocative of his great quality. Sormani used exotic veneers. I would say that this is kingwood and also some fruitwood veneers. You can see this great play, back and forth, of the light and the dark. One of the interesting things about these vitrines is that when you see them in the 18th century, actual ones, it's very rare to see them with these four glass sides because the glass was much more difficult to make at that time period. They're often solid wood, and you had to open the cabinet to see the objects inside. I would say that as an auction estimate, we probably would estimate it in the range of, say, $12,000 to $18,000.
If you are intending to keep it in your home, you might want to think of an insurance value, say, in the $25,000 range.
I think we should.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.
Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.