Mahogany Carved Cellarette, ca. 1825

Value (2017) | $8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
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GUEST:
We call it a fox chest, but my understanding is it's a wine cooler, cellarette, and I've also heard sarcophagus used.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, that refers to the form, I think. How did you acquire it?

GUEST:
The story is that my mother went to an auction in Jamestown, New York. Everyone was bidding, and then all of a sudden a piece of this kind of came out, and everybody stopped bidding. And so she ended up getting it. And that was in the '60s.

APPRAISER:
So did she ever like tell you why she bought it?

GUEST:
She loves horses. And so this just fit in the theme of the hunt and the horses.

APPRAISER:
You bet. There are a lot of cellarettes around. This is not the most common form in furniture, and cellarettes were often owned by families with wealth. Basically, it kept spirits-- wine, spirits-- cold.

APPRAISER:
Yes.

GUEST:
So this is a real luxury item. In this particular instance, the cabinetmaker-- who we're quite sure was from England-- produced this in the early 19th century, for probably a family who lived in a pretty fantastic country house, with a lot of land, and I imagine they may well have been involved in the hunt. And fox hunting, throughout the 19th century, was something that rich people did.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Well, look at "Downton Abbey," right?

GUEST:
Yeah, I know.

APPRAISER:
So I imagine that this piece was ordered up by someone, and they wanted some specific details-

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
…namely, the foxes. Because the cabinetmaker was very confident with what he did, these decorative devices... you almost get the impression he could do it in his sleep. They're very authoritative, and so beautiful, and so perfect. And you could start at the top here, this is a gilt-bronze handle, and there are vestiges of the gilding, it's still on there. But these motifs, the use of this beautiful crotch mahogany, matched veneer. This was an expensive item. When you travel down the case, you can see this sort of beaded detail. These are all things that you will see pretty frequently on furniture of this early 19th century period. The thing that differentiates this piece from others is the fact that it's flanked by these two fox.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And they have almost kind of a whimsical, sort of folksy quality about them. I could see them coming into the cabinetmaker and saying, "This is what I want, but I want these." And it almost seems as if the cabinetmaker wasn't perhaps quite as used to carving, let's say, animals as he was these devices, but he did it very successfully. Let's take the top off. Now the top was originally hinged to the back, and the hinges are gone. And as we can see, the interior of the piece is lined with zinc or lead, and that's so water-- in other words, melting ice-- wouldn't damage the cabinetwork. So this piece dates from, I think the mid-1820s. And the things that point to that are... well, stylistically, it's from that period.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
These classical elements were very much in vogue then. The locking plate on here is marked as such that you can date it in the mid-1820s. Now did you say what she paid for it?

GUEST:
I'm not quite sure what she paid for it, and unfortunately she is kind of forgetful at this point in her life. But I know that her dad would not talk to her for six months after she bought this. So I assumed it was much more than she could afford. There are cellarettes, and then there are cellarettes that are quite special.

APPRAISER:
So, in my opinion, this is one of the ones that's in the quite special category. So I think for, certainly in an auction situation, I'd estimate its value between $8,000 and $12,000. And there are some opinions, they said, if this was sold at a really top end show, in London or New York, fixed up a little bit, it obviously would be priced for considerably more money. Because I can see a wealthy couple who have an English country home looking at this...

GUEST:
Oh, yeah?

APPRAISER:
...and saying, "I don't care what I have to pay, I've got to own it."

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2017)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
Event
Harrisburg, PA (June 03, 2017)
Category
Furniture

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