19th-Century Baltimore Painted Table

Value (2004) | $20,000 Auction$25,000 Auction

GUEST:
I always assumed it was a desk, but, um, I use it as a dessert table, as an hors d'oeuvres table.

APPRAISER:
Do you know anything of its history?

GUEST:
It came from an elderly woman who lived in my grandfather's apartment house. And when my mother would go down to pick up Gramps, to take him shopping, then he would ask if she could come along. And then after my grandfather died, Mom continued to go down and visit her. And on one of her trips, the woman gave her this table.

APPRAISER:
I got to tell you, when I saw this table, um, they could of scooped me off the floor.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
This table is a great piece of American furniture. How old do you think it is?

GUEST:
Well, I always assumed it was from the 1920s because that would have been about her age for buying furniture and stuff.

APPRAISER:
Well, in the 1920s, this table was already over a hundred years old.

GUEST:
No!

APPRAISER:
Yeah.

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
This table was made in Baltimore, and the painted decoration that you see that's so wonderful, that was what made Baltimore famous in decorative arts. Baltimoreans lead every other city when it came to decorating their furniture with paint.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And this piece is just an incredible survival. Now, the bad news is-- just to start off with the bad news--

GUEST:
Okay, okay.

APPRAISER:
--they stripped the top.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
And at some point, it had been painted just like the face.

GUEST:
Oh, really.

APPRAISER:
And they cut the legs.

GUEST:
No!

APPRAISER:
It was about six inches taller, and it was used as a console table when it was made. So the way you use it is just fine.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
They would have used it probably between windows, maybe in a dining room, maybe in a drawing room, um, but it was taller, and this top was decorated, not painted as in pictures, but probably at least the green that you see on the skirt.

GUEST:
The legs... yeah, the legs are green, yeah.

APPRAISER:
Now, the most wonderful thing about this is that when we look at early American painting-- forget about furniture, okay-- we have a lot of portraits, still lives. So we have, on this table alone, more early American landscapes than you'll find in many museums.

GUEST:
Oh, oh.

APPRAISER:
Now, we don't know who painted these. I'd love to tell you we did. There were a lot of shops working in the early 19th century. The Finlay Brothers were the most famous, but this one-- we're not sure. I know of at least a half dozen other tables that are from this shop and have this form,

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
but we've never been able to put a name. Nonetheless, we do have the largest collection of romantic landscapes that you're going to find on a single piece of furniture ever. I've never seen this many.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Now, we have to factor in the fact that they've refinished the top and they've cut the legs. But just counting the landscapes as great American painting, this table is easily worth $20,000 to $25,000.

GUEST:
(laughs) No...

APPRAISER:
And listen, if we clean it up, it's going to look even better.

GUEST:
Can you clean that?

APPRAISER:
Oh, absolutely-- this is like cleaning a great painting. (laughing)

GUEST:
I... I don't believe it.

APPRAISER:
I promise you, we don't make this stuff up. (laughing) It's a great piece of American furniture, a great table.

GUEST:
That is incredible. Oh, my gosh. Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
Baltimore, Maryland
Appraised value (2004)
$20,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
Event
St Paul, MN (June 26, 2004)
Period
19th Century
Form
Table
Material
Wood

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