French Cartonnier Bureau Plat Movie Prop, ca. 1920

Value (2011) | $8,000 Auction$20,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I just walked into an antique gallery this past March, and it was sitting there with this photograph. And there's some writing under here, and then one of the drawers shows it belonged to 20th Century Fox.

APPRAISER:
Uh-huh.

GUEST:
And I had to go home and talk to my wife about spending, for me, a great deal of money to buy this. But I was just so blown away by it that I just had to have it.

APPRAISER:
What you have is a French Cartonnier bureau plat. And essentially the Cartonnier part of the description refers to this part which sits on the top of a desk and is meant to hold papers. And the front of this Cartonnier is covered with tooled leather. The whole piece is mahogany, and overall decorated with this very glitzy ormolu. They're bronze gilded mounts. And it's done in an Empire style. I think it's probably around 1920, and it is copying an early 19th-century design with all of these classical influences. You can see the caryatids on the leg by you, which is a figure with feet on the bottom. She's really very nicely formed. And then on my side here are these griffin supports with great bronze wings on them. So it's an anonymous French maker, and made probably for an export market. But I think that under the lights, it just knocks your socks off. I mean, it just works in so many ways. And I think that's probably its appeal for being in the movies. And the nifty thing about this piece is the documentation which you alluded to. So let's look at it. We can see those accession numbers, which the studio had on their piece. And studios sold things from time to time. I think now you'll see that much of what is in movies is leased or rented.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
But, you know, back in the day they had these warehouses filled with studio sets.

GUEST:
Now, we know it was in two movies, correct?

APPRAISER:
Right. It was in this 1954 movie Desiree, with Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando.

GUEST:
Yeah, great movie.

APPRAISER:
And we see the Brando picture. He's standing next to the desk. It couldn't be a better match to have Marlon Brando playing Napoleon.

GUEST:
Yeah, he was great.

APPRAISER:
You believed it. He sold it. It was really good.

GUEST:
Yes, yes, yes.

APPRAISER:
And then we also know that it was in the movie What a Way to Go with Shirley MacLaine. I don't know, she marries a whole bunch of rich guys, and they all die mysteriously.

GUEST:
Yes. and it's pretty wild.

APPRAISER:
That was a '64 movie. We have '54 and '64. And then we find out it gets sold at auction by 20th Century Fox. Now, you said you paid how much?

GUEST:
Paid $4,500.

APPRAISER:
$4,500. Well, were this to be put in an auction, I think you probably at this stage would be looking at an estimate, say, of $8,000 to $12,000...

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
...on the piece. But because Brando stood next to this...

GUEST:
Yeah, right?

APPRAISER:
I think that we could probably bump a premium up of about $20,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Skinner, Inc.
Marlborough, Massachusetts
Appraised value (2011)
$8,000 Auction$20,000 Auction
Event
Minneapolis, MN (July 09, 2011)
Period
20th Century
Form
Desk
Material
Bronze, Mahogany, Wood

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