Goanese Serving Shelf, ca. 1860
I bought this in 1979 at an antique shop. I was told maybe it was a couple hundred years old.
Did they tell you where it was from or anything?
No, I just thought it was a shelf unit I'd keep knickknacks and pieces on.
What'd you pay for it?
$1,365 in 1979.
First thing is the basic shape, and it is essentially a Western shape. You use it as a shelf unit, so you've got three shelves here. It was actually probably used as a server. You've got a lip on each shelf so the objects don't fall off. Number two is the material it's made from. It's made of a hardwood. It is, in fact, an Asian hardwood, and it's a variety of rosewood. You've got a very wild mix of decoration here. It's very different. Very intricate. The first key, though, is looking here at the top, this repeating pattern of molding. This is sort of the bead-and-reel pattern here, which is a Western pattern, and these are little upright leaves. You find these quite early in Western art-- in fact, back as far as Greek and Roman decoration. This sort of icicly effect reminds me of things that were made in the Gothic period. And then you've got this crazy kind of pattern on the side which encompasses the whole thing. It's pierced-- this very sinuous, interlaced bind, which reminds one of what is called the Rococo period. I think this dates to about 1860, made in Asia, but then says, "Where was it made in Asia?" And the big key here is the feet. It's got these funny little crouching animals grimacing from bearing all the weight of all this stuff. These come from the Portuguese colony of Goa on the coast of India, where there was a lot of things made for the Western market to a Western style essentially, incorporating native design. And you bought it for $1,300, which I have to say is a bargain. In fact, I think because this is so crazy and wild, it's the kind of thing that if one put it up at an auction sale on the right day with the wind behind you, I wouldn't be surprised if you got $10,000 to $15,000 for it.
Wonderful, wonderful. Absolutely.
I'm delighted to go through it and tell you about it.
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