18th-Century French Provincial Commode

Value (2004) | $14,000 Insurance

APPRAISER:
It's nice to see a little bit of a French accent out here in Portland, Oregon. Did you know this was French?

GUEST:
I knew it was French.

APPRAISER:
You knew it was French, okay.

GUEST:
Legend has it-- it was French. My grandparents had it and then my parents, and I'm the third generation with it.

APPRAISER:
I'm excited to see this because we do not see a lot of 18th-century French provincial pieces...

GUEST:
It's 18th century?

APPRAISER:
Well, it's in the style of the 18th century. What I want to do with you is try to figure out whether it's 18th century or something later. What they were doing in the big cities like Paris is making these ornate rosewood and mahogany and really high-style ormolu mounted pieces, bomb-shaped pieces, kind of like this with a shaped front. And they were very, very fancy. But out in the provinces of France, the cabinetmakers were using fruitwood and walnut and more inexpensive local woods to make these very ornate pieces. But they're made in the style of a local cabinetmaker, not like the really, really fine pieces in the city. This is fruitwood. It's really a hard wood. The top, and you can see on the edge here, is walnut. But this whole front and the rest of it's fruitwood. You have this rococo asymmetry. And each drawer is different. This drawer's concave; this is convex. As you come down the front all of the C scrolls, down here you have the shell, and it's all the essence of the rococo, which is typical of Louis XV style--

GUEST:
Oh, it is.

APPRAISER:
--but it's done in this provincial way. Now, we need to find out if it's period, though. Because you know with us furniture people, we always have to pull things apart, right? This thing weighs a ton. And one reason for that is that it has... it has oak. Now, if you look at this here-- this dovetail, these huge dovetails-- this is what you want to see. These project because they have to match the bomb that you see over on the case here.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
Okay. This drawer side never touched... for 200 and some years never touched the side of that case. There was an air space. But this color looks absolutely good. And if we look inside and feel... Put you hand here and feel the hand planing. That's hand-planed conifer, a pine.

GUEST:
Oh, it's a...

APPRAISER:
Yeah, that's what you want to see on an 18th-century piece. But I'm still not convinced, okay? I'm going to put this back. And look at the back. I love this. Over here, you have worm damage. When you tap it, there's no powder coming out really. So you know this is not an active infestation of insects. So you don't have to really worry. These insects stopped eating probably 50 years ago, okay?

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Um, but here, the original pins, which hold this up board into this rail-- see how they project a little bit?

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
So the shrinkage on this piece of wood... it shrunk this way, but these have not shrunk. It's what you want to see. And the oxidation, the exposure to the air is what you want to see. It's 18th century. It's mid-18th century French provincial. Were you worried ever that this wasn't period?

GUEST:
I had no clue.

APPRAISER:
You had no idea.

GUEST:
With my luck, it would have been a fraud.

APPRAISER:
Okay, now I have to tell you on these pieces, especially on these French provincial pieces, you had repairs. Over here, somebody has tried to pull this open, and it's a heavy drawer, and they pulled this off. So this little corner got replaced. You come over here, this whole lip is repaired because somebody tried to break this open. And over here on this side, that's... that's all new. Do you see that line?

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
So it has a lot of repairs. But on 18th-century European furniture, repairs do not affect the value as much as they do with American pieces. Because it still has a great look, people love them. And there are always three drawers. I've never met a four-drawer French provincial chest. So, you've gotten it appraised once.

GUEST:
It was appraised for estate purposes, like, back in 1985, from a photograph.

APPRAISER:
From a photograph for how much?

GUEST:
$6,000.

APPRAISER:
$6,000. Okay, that was 1985, which is a fairly strong price. You could put about $14,000 for insurance value on this. So, you've got a nice piece. It doesn't have bugs. You can enjoy it.

GUEST:
How do I take care of it? Can I wax it?

APPRAISER:
I would say just a light wax, just a very, very light wax. Nothing heavy, because heavy wax builds up and darkens the surface. So a really thin, light wax would be the best thing.

GUEST:
Okay, great.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Keno Auctions
New York, New York
Appraised value (2004)
$14,000 Insurance
Event
Portland, OR (August 21, 2004)
Period
18th Century
Form
Bureau
Material
Oak, Pine, Walnut, Wood

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