French Brass-Inlaid Corner Cabinets, ca. 1885
These have been in our family for about 60 years. And I don't know the history of where they've come from. They've been in the houses of my aunt, and my mother, and they've been in an office building that I've owned for the last 15 years. And I think they're French, so I'm assuming somewhere from that region, but I don't know.
You are right. They are French. And they're in a style, this decoration is often referred to as "Boulle work". And it's named after a guy named Andre Charles Boulle, who was sort of synonymous with the technique. And it's this technique of laying brass into ebony. He actually used tortoise shell and pewter as well. And he was a cabinet maker for Louis XIV and for the royal court. So that's the late 1600s, early 1700s. These cabinets actually date from probably about 1870 to 1900.
And one of the reasons we kind of know that is partially this form. Because we didn't have really corner cabinets when Boulle was active. And the other thing is the type of technique of how this is done. And one of the interesting things you'll notice about them is you've got these fun monkeys on it. And my monkey here...
Is the reverse of here.
I am aware of that. And why? Did they cut it out and didn't want to waste the material?
That's the technique. It's like making cookies. You know, when you put the cookie cutter in, you pull something out, you've got the reverse. So they basically use one pattern for one side of the cabinet, and the other for the other side.
And is the ebony a veneer on this piece?
Yes, because ebony's expensive, and so it'd be like a skin on top of a less expensive wood, and so that you would have this lovely cover. One of the things with these type of furniture is that it's somewhat out of fashion. And right now, people aren't living quite so formally. And these pieces belong in the corners. That's why they're called "corner cabinets." And, at the moment, at auction it's a little tough to sell them. And with the crack in the glass, that's going to be probably about, you know, several hundred dollars to get something...
I've actually already had it priced at $250.
That's a great price. The other sort of hazard with a lot of this brass inlay in that it pops out. And that's sort of a hazard with a lot of this type of furniture. Probably at auction, you'd be looking at about $1,500 to about $2,000 for the pair.
Okay. Well, that's better than nothing.
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