George Nakashima Dining Table, ca. 1953

Value (2003) | $9,000 Auction$12,000 Auction

My father was an architect, and he was a friend of Mr. George Nakashima. And Mr. Nakashima was having a studio built, and my father drew the plans for the studio that was built in Pennsylvania. And that was in 1953. And in exchange for that, Mr. Nakashima gave my father this table, four dining room chairs and three living room chairs.

It seems like a fair trade. Mr. Nakashima had been living in a tent on Aquetong Road prior to the building of the structures your father designed. This is a table from the early Nakashima period, which would be pre-1955, as you've just said. This is called a book-match top, and what he would do is get a plank and cut it in half and then butterfly it, and so the elements on each side are mirror images of each other. And then he would join them with usually butterfly splines down the center of the table, as you have here. What's unusual about it, though, is what happens underneath it. There are several things that distinguish this as an early table. First of all, the top is made of English walnut, but the foundation is made of either mahogany or cherry. It looks like mahogany from here. You don't really see two different types of wood used in later pieces of Nakashima furniture, except for some of his chairs. Number two, a couple of structural details. The trestle comes through in a through tenon, a keyed through tenon, and I've never seen that through-tenon construction before on a piece of Nakashima, and I've probably seen about 30 or 40 of these tables. Also, the pins on the bottom, which hold the joint in place, usually there are flush pins, and I've not seen them raised like buttons before. But I think the coolest thing is the shape of the crossbar, which is almost oval. They tend to be rectangular on the rest of them. So I would call this a prototypical table. I think this is something that Nakashima was working through to develop what would later become a standard trestle table in the Nakashima style. If this was your standard later Nakashima trestle table with this wood, which is what he tended to use the most, it would be an auction estimate, I would say, $5,000 to $7,500. Because it's a prototype, I think it's more like $9,000 to $12,000.

Wow. That's wonderful; I had no idea.

Appraisal Details

Rago Arts & Auction Center
Lambertville, NJ
Appraised value (2003)
$9,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)

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