Three Ways to Pray.

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of prie-dieu

plural prie-dieux prē-ˈdyər(z), (ˌ)prē-ˈdyə(z), prē-ˈdyœ(z)\

1a kneeling bench designed for use by a person at prayer and fitted with a raised shelf on which the elbows or a book may be rested
2a low armless upholstered chair with a high straight back

 

I recently became aware of this hyphenate while reading Ron Aylor’s  An Unplugged Woodworker blog. I was studying his blog in the hopes of gaining some insight as to why an intelligent and literate person might spend time reading my blog. Still a mystery.

His blog featured two magnificent prie-dieux he had built. The timing was fortuitous for me in that I had just found three of these on my trip to Shreveport and Dallas and wasn’t sure what to call them. This is another example of finding more than one of a new item within a few days when exploring a new area. My finds are not as interesting as the one he built, undoubtedly just mass-market vernacular prie-dieux of the day. I believe that I have seen more of these in the past but that was before my Great Chair Awakening of March 2017 and probably didn’t take note.

I found the first one in Shreveport:

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A ladderback prie-dieu.

I didn’t understand the lower seat on this chair until I did some research and discovered that most likely the upper seat is hinged and folds up to allow the one that prays to sit on the upper seat and kneel on the lower. You can see an example HERE.

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Here you can see the rear hinge presumably allowing the seat to flip up.

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Who was Me. Michon?

 

The following week, I found this one at a shop in Dallas:

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A prie-dieu with beaded turnings.

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Another rush seat but this one is not hinged.

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Owned by M L Holvoel.

 

Also from the same shop in Dallas:

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A rather plain ladderback.

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Another fixed rush seat.

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No sign of ownership but a storage shelf for prayer book or hymnal or collection envelopes.

 

It would be interesting to know more about the life of these prie-dieux. Were they used in a residence or in a congregant worship facility? Were there cushions on the seats? I can’t believe that it was confortable kneeling on rush seats but then again, depending on the church, comfort might not have been a consideration.

 

Common Influences. (Revised)

I’m down South now spending time in Shreveport via Dallas. It’s easier to fly into Dallas with a few more things to see there as well. Only a three-hour drive to Shreveport with plenty of diversions along the way. Efficiency in transport is not always a priority.

My first stop was at the Dallas Museum of Art to see whatever might be on display of the American furniture from the Bybee Collection,  98 pieces of primarily New England furniture collected by Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee of Houston. The entire collection is not on display but just enough to make it interesting.

There was a display highlighting two similar period chairs:

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This one is from 1803 Virginia and from the Bybee Collection.

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This one from New York, 1790 to 1810, on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, part of the Bayou Bend Collection.

More on the Bayou Bend Collection when I have the energy to post all the pictures from there.

The two chairs seem to be from the same family but there are differences. From the display card:

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First, the legs:

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The Virginia chair has plain tapered legs with an H stretcher.

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The New York chair has tapered and fluted legs, a spade foot and no stretchers. The difference in the tacking could be original or an affectation of the reupholstering.

Then there are the similarities in the squared off backs:

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From VIrginia.

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From New York.

And in more detail:

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Virginia. Bellflowers.

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New York, a bit more formal with flutes and a better drape.

And down bellow:

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Virginia.

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New York.

The carvers of both chairs are better than I am but I think the New York chair is the better carved of the two. The Virginia piece seems a bit flatter, in one plane; the New York chair is more rounded, more three-dimensional as it were. It could just be the different regional styles.

I will be back in Dallas soon and would appreciate any suggestions you might have for things to see beyond the Woodcraft and Rockler stores.

Thanks

 

More of the Same.

Just because I have written a blog on a subject doesn’t mean I suddenly stop finding things of the blog. They’re out there and I keep finding them. Lacking any adult supervision, I can, if I so choose, share some of the more interesting of these finds. I so choose.

Following up on More Work Than Necessary is this diminutive chest:

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It’s diminutive.

That blog was about doing work that wasn’t required such as joining a case with half-blind dovetails in situations where the pristine area is then covered with a crown molding. Like this:

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Here you see the diminutive half-blind dovetails covered by the diminutive crown molding.

Nice work but they could have just as easily done through dovetails. It’s under the molding, the end grain of the tails would never be seen.

Sidelocks Not of the Religious Variety dealt with chests locked by a hinged rail the runs up the side of a carcass that when closed and locked physically keeps the drawers from opening. A recent discovery is this one:

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Looks like a pale variation of a sidelocked chest.

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The sidelock open.

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Gratuitous close up view of the sidelock.

Every sidelock I’ve seen has been on the right except for the rare example that were sidelocked on both sides.

The drawers were constructed with Knapp joints meaning it was most likely built between 1890 and 1900. No dovetails.

I just found this diminutive sidelocked chest:

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Like a chest only diminutive.

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Open the sidelock and liberate the drawer.

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The diminutive drawer has diminutive tails and pins.

Locking a chest this side confuses me. It is very portble. It here are things of value with, it’s gone.

In It’s Gone Commercial, I lamented the fact that Steam Punk has gone corporate or at least now being built by MFA’s. Here are two recently found examples of Steam Punk:

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Big, Steam Punk Plus?

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It doesn’t make any more sense head on.

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Might be the waste of a perfectly good camera for which there is no source of film. Unless it takes 120/220 film.

Finally, I celebrated a misunderstood category of seating in Corner Chairs. Or Are They?  My relentless search for this obscure chair has rewarded me richly with rare images of this underappreciated decorative arts form. I will present them to you in increasing levels of sophistication:

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The most basic turned and woven corner chair.

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A ladder back with more sophisticated turnings.

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Here is a pair of English barley twist corner chairs.

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This gem looks like it could be from the venerated Bombay Company.

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Moving up in sophistication we come to this classic tiger oak round barrel back corner chair.

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With its carved, pierced splats, cabriole legs, ball and claw feet and turned X stretchers, this chair screams sophistication.

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The decorated top rail and superior fabric selection makes this chair even more sophisticated.

I looked through page after page of corner chair pictures to search in vain for the precise terminology to describe the decorated top rail on the above chair. If you know it, please share.

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But the most sophisticated of the lot was this 1800’s ornately carved Black Forest figural corner parlor chair. The celadon moire taffeta fabric sells it. Only $2,695 for the pair.

Yes, you read it right. There are two of these available!

I Just Don’t Know What To Think.

Many say that brown furniture is dead. There are times I fear they are right. Take a recent auction. It wasn’t a great auction but it wasn’t a bad auction either. Nothing fabulous but no box lots.

At the end of the auction, I reviewed the results and was alarmed by what I saw. The most expensive piece of furniture was this:

Southern Yellow Pine Painted Jelly Cupboard

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This lot has sold for $2,300.

Description: Late 19th century, green wash, top with downswept backsplash, hinged doors with shelved interior, on bootjack feet.

Size: 54 x 37 x 20 in.

Condition: Likely original surface, with paint loss and staining throughout; shrinkage cracks; later hinges and pulls.

This struck me as the type of money paid for antiques by people who hire people to buy antiques for them. Or there is something about the provenance that I am not sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate.

The later hinges and pulls were of the Ace Hardware variety, not period or even attractive. Mercifully, drywall screws were not used.

More troubling was the prices realized for some of the other furniture. Like this:

George III Mahogany Chest on Chest

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This lot has sold for $310.

Description: 18th century, oak and pine secondary, two-part form, applied cove molded cornice, two over six cock beaded drawers, raised on straight bracket feet.

Size: 67.5 x 58 x 25 in.

Condition: Chips and losses to cornice; shrinkage cracks to both sides of case; breaks and loses to cock beading; later re-drilled pulls; no key.

The American Classical Miniature Chest of Drawers on top went for $290.

An interesting thing about this chest on chest started life as a tall chest:

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The tall chest was made a chest on chest at the drawer division which did not align with the panel division on the back.

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The lower half in the foyer a few days later awaiting Uber.

You can see in the above photo that the back was sawn at the drawer blade. It would have been interesting to have examined how the upper chest was terminated.

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Dovetailed and cockbeaded drawers are signs of true period furniture.

Another underappreciated chest was this:

English Hepplewhite Inlaid Semi Tall Chest of Drawers

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This lot has sold for $400.

Description: Circa 1810, mahogany, light and dark wood inlays, pine secondary, top with projected corners, with line inlay frieze, six graduated drawers with triple banded inlay and corner fans, raised on square tapered legs with spade foot.

Size: 56.75 x 39 x 20 in.

Condition: Top reset with later nails; later pulls with re-drilled holes; some looseness to case; no key; shrinkage crack to left side of case.

At 56.75″ it’s only Semi Tall? As I’ve said before, we need some enforceable Federal standards on furniture terminology.

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Here are the sand shaded fans and banding.

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Of course the drawer was dovetailed. Overcutting is fairly common.

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Small blocks glued on to extend the profile.

There were also these small rectangular blocks with stringing glued to all upper corners to match the sides being proud of the drawers and drawer blades.

This chest also went for far below retail:

American Federal Cherry Chest of Drawers

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This lot has sold for $300.

Description: New England, circa 1800, white pine and chestnut secondary, five graduated lipped drawers, raised on later Queen Anne style feet

Size42.5 x 36 x 19 in.

Condition: Replaced feet; replaced pulls; several areas of lip repair.

No dovetailed drawer pictures. It means that the drawers weren’t dovetailed (not all are), the chest was difficult to get to or I forgot. Forgive me.

The last undervalued piece is one that I personally benefited from:

Southern Walnut Tilt Top Candle Stand

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This lot has sold for far too little.

Description: Early 19th century, circular top, ring turned standard on spider legs.

Size: 26 x 16 in. diameter.

Condition: Refinished; later metal bracing to legs; crack and repair to top; repairs and chipping to leg joints.

It is ironic that I bid on this (over that interweb thing) on Saturday, picked it up on Monday and left on Wednesday for Building the Hancock Shaker Candle Stand with Will Myers class at Joshua Farnsworth’s new Wood and Shop Traditional Woodworking School near Charlottesville, VA. Even with the 18% buyer’s premium and 7% sales tax, the old one was cheaper than the class. And no hotel stays required.

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Did I mention the old one tilts?

The next most expensive piece of furniture was a 24 x 24 x 31 in. Butcher Block Table that sold for $1100. The legs were turned. Next was a Contemporary Industrial Bookshelf  (with no redeming social or aesthetic value (to me)) that fetched $1000.

If you are a fan of quality furniture, I think you see you can do quite well for yourself at an auction. You might have to wait a bit to get exactly what you want, but I hope you consider it before you go to the mall furniture store.

Is brown furniture dead? I dunno but I not feelin to good myself.

 

Unusual But Not Rare

When looking at furniture, the are things you see occasionally but are not necessarily rare. The more furniture I see, the more I realize there is no single right way to do things unless you ask Frank Klausz. There are some techniques that are more common but that doesn’t always make them right. There are a few things about this piece I saw at a recent auction that caught my eye and I thought I’d share.

First, the piece:

American Chippendale Pine Chest of Drawers

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This lot has sold for $140.

Not a very good angle on it but the showroom was not optimally arranged for my purposes. I am beginning to believe they don’t care. I’ll add their picture.

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Amazing what you can do in a studio with controlled lighting and a seamless background.

Description: Likely New England, circa 1800, white pine, bold molded and applied top molding, two side-by-side drawers above three graduated drawers, all with molded edge, raised on bold shaped bracket foot base.

Size43.5 x 40 x 20 in.

Condition: Replaced pulls; expected wear; good estate condition.

 As you have come to expect, I took a look at the drawer construction. Dovetailed, but:

 

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Hand cut but pins and tails are roughly equal.

Not the thin pins that I seen so much of recently. Not a big deal, you still end up removing the same amount of wood no matter your pin/tail preferences. Just not seen very often.

The a look at the drawer blades/dividers:

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Sliding half dovetails but with the flat side up where typically I’ve seen flat side down or sliding full dovetails.

Also interesting to note how much the sides have shrunk in 220 years.

Looking at the back:

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The top is attached to the top with sliding half dovetails. Part of the tail (side) has fallen victim to the rabbet for the back.

The two piece molding is something else you don’t see every day. The lower piece builds out to compensate for the overhang. For the dovetail to work, the top must extend out beyond the sides. The upper molding finishes the look and hides the end grain.

Keep looking at furniture, you never know what you might see.

Blog of a Thousand Chairs

Since the Great Chair Awakening of 2017, I have taken lots of pictures of chairs for a select group of chair nerds and aficionados. Chairophiles if you will. I have decided to magnanimously share many of these pictures with you, my loyal readers. Whether you are interested or not. The continued lack of interest in historic keyboards, classic cars and tractors leads me to believe that you all are a selective and discerning and interested only in furniture.

Well, chairs are furniture.

And I’m giving you a fourth chance…

It must be understood that I take pictures of all kinds of chairs:

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Little chairs.

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Big chairs.

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Older chairs.

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And reproductions of really old chairs.

The above chairs are from the Late November photo set. (170 pictures.)

From the Early November photo set (123 pictures) we have:

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This primitive rocking chair.

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And some Mid-Century Modern commercial seating.

From Auctions,Show and a Shop (102 pictures) there is:

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A chair with wings, of a sort.

At the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (43 photos) we have historic and contemporary:

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From The Charles Pendleton House exhibit, there is this Samuel Gragg Elastic Armchair, patented 1808. `

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And this contemporary George Nakashima Lounge Chair from 1970-1990.

From the John Brown House Museum (1788) we have this mini set of 15 pictures:

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An 18th century corner chair.

From the twice-yearly Liberty Antiques Festival are 64 pictures including:

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A ladder back chair that would be difficult to climb.

An Auction had a the chairs in the 29 pictures in this set:

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A woven rocker?

And from three days driving around Georgia and South Carolina (166 pictures):

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A fancier caned chair with a floating medallion.

Finishing Up The Italians.

To finish up this topic, I went back through nine months of auctions looking for more Italian furniture. I discovered I didn’t take pictures of a few I thought looked too French. I am not a big fan of overly decorated French furniture. My prejudice got in the way of my search for the truth, a mistake I promise not to repeat. In the future, I will check the online catalog first and then ignore only the true French furniture.

Apparently, the commode (a chest of drawers or chiffonier of a decorative type popular in the 18th century) was also very popular with regional collectors of Italian furniture. Or the Italians made a lot of this very common form. The form may be common but the level of decoration is not. Then again, it could be that the collections of primitive/undecorated furniture has not yet hit the market. Or people don’t collect primitive Italian furniture. Or maybe it was just burned as much old furniture was.

First up is this:

Antique Italian Parquetry Inlaid Commode

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This lot has sold for $1,200.

Description: 18th century, walnut, with burlwood, ebony, and mixed wood veneers, rectangular form, banded top with geometric and star inlay, three drawers with repeating star inlays to drawer fronts and sides, raised on square tapered legs.

Size: 39 x 51 x 24 in.

ConditionFair condition; with veneer chips and loss; shrinkage cracks throughout; ill fitting drawers; insect damage; replaced and repaired legs

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Detail of the parquetry on the top.

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Similar to the parquetry on the drawers.

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The side is equally decorated.

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And here is a non-historically informed repair. The mmending plate is Chinese.

Parquetry or marquetry. Click HERE for one opinion. For this blog, I quote the source. Spelling errors are theirs.

Next is this:

Italian Parquetry Inlaid Commode

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This lot has sold for $5,500.

Description: 18th century, mahogany veneers, light and dark wood inlays, pine secondary, rectangular top with allover geometric inlay, the molded edge with notched corners, the case featuring three long drawers with geometric inlays, flanked by corner posts featuring lightwood inlays to each side, left and right side panels feature complementing geometric inlays, raised on square tapered legs.

Size: 34.5 x 49 x 23 in.

Condition: Top with light warp; shrinkage separation cracks to left and right side panel; three later support boards to underside of case.

Estimate:   $1,000 – $2,000

The estimate was a bit off. It always depends on who shows up.

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Unique escutcheon.

And then there is the:

Italian Marquetry Inlaid Commode

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This lot has sold for $900.

Description: 18th century, mahogany veneer, pine secondary, the rectangular top with a banded veneer border featuring a lightwood inlaid central urn flanked by swans, the case with three long drawers, featuring inlaid lion heads, swags and tassels, paneled stiles with inlays, side panels with inlaid with wreath torch and archery bow, raised on square tapered feet.

Size: 34.5 x 48 x 22.5 in.

Condition: Replaced pulls; cut and repair to right front corner edge; light veneer buckling and separation shrinkage cracks; veneer chip and loss to lower drawer edge; some veneer patches to drawers; estate condition; two brass handles need repair or replacement; drawers do not operate smoothly; will need a tune up.

Estimate: $800 – $1,200

A much better estimate.

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There be swans.

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A replaced pull but still quite interesting. But when was it replaced? And why?

And finally our parade of commodes come to an end with the:

Italian Neoclassical Inlaid Commode

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This lot has sold for $3,200.

Description: Circa 1800, mahogany veneers, satinwood inlays, the rectangular top featuring centralized figural scene featuring a soldier with mother and child set within a rectangular vine and leaf border, the case with three inlaid drawers, the upper drawer with urn and dragons, each stile with ebonized applied half column, the whole raised on straight rectangular inlaid feet, inlaid side panels with figural scenes.

Size: 32.5 x 45.75 x 20.5 in.

Condition: Minor chipping and veneer losses throughout; replaced pulls; some replaced back boards, needs some tune-up.

Estimate: $600 – $900

Any commode tuners out there? Estimate was again a bit off but in a good way.

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They like to decorate the sides, as well. Undecorated boards on the back., however.

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Cupid in brass.

To finish with something completely different:

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One of two. This lot has sold for $50. A bargain. Canes not included.

Description: 19th century, walnut, scrolled carved ears, molded arms, stretcher base with relief carved shoe feet.

Size: 52 x 25 x 21 in.

ConditionNeeds upholstered; insect damage; chips and losses especially to arms.

Shouldn’t that be Needs to be upholstered?r Needs upholstering?

Enough of the Italian for now. I’ve run out of major pieces. Maybe some Italianate  furniture down the road a bit.

You Can’t Ignore the Italians

I am embarrassed to admit I don’t feature much Italian furniture. But it’s not my fault. There just isn’t that much identified Italian furniture at the local auctions and antiques shops. Identifying Italian furniture in the absence of clear labeling would require research and actual knowledge, things I avoid as contrary to my better nature.

Recently, a local auction house had two sales with an interesting selection of identified Italian furniture. They frequently have things like mirrors, lighting fixtures and paintings that are allegedly Italian but this blog is The Furniture Record not The Decorative Arts Record. 

Here, I present three desks identified as Italian.

Antique Italian Inlaid Diminutive Knee Hole Desk

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This lot has sold for $240.

Description:  19th century, walnut, pine secondary, top with barber pole inlay and applied molded edge, seven lipped drawers with repeating barber pole inlay, spiral twist carved quarter columns, paneled and inlaid sides, repeating inlay and carving to back, raised on fluted legs.

Size32 x 36 x 20 in.

Condition: Insect damage; surface scratches; shrinkage crack and small loss to top; age appropriate wear throughout.

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Reverse/public view.

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I thought i’d never admit it. but there are drawers without dovetails. Rather thick drawer bottom.

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Sides are decorated as well.

 

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Greg legs as well.

Next desk is this:

Antique Italian Paint Decorated Secretary on Chest

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This lot has sold for $625.

Description: Circa 1800, pine, enhanced painted surface, hinged lid, with monogrammed floral panel, interior with three drawers, lower cabinet with three lipped drawers with repeating floral panel decoration, on square tapered legs.

Size: 46 x 50 x 24.5 in.

Note: Piece is accompanied by letter in Italian attributing it to the Val Pusteria region.

ConditionEnhanced painted surface with scratches and staining throughout.

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Is this the enhanced painted surface.

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Turned pull.

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A very simple gallery.

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With three dovetailed drawers.

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Interesting hinge on the slant top. Note how the hinge is nailed onto the carcass.

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The hinge is attached to the slant top with clenched nails. This is not how Thos. Moser  does it.

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Main drawers are dovetailed as well. More thick drawer bottoms.

And saving the most fanciest for last:

Antique Italian Inlaid Secretaire Bookcase

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This lot has sold for $1600.

Description: Circa 1800, fruit wood with burl wood, light and dark inlays, pine secondary, two-part form, upper case with applied molding and banded inlay, upper cabinet door with paper lined interior over open compartment and two small drawers flanked by faux drawer cabinet doors with shelved interior, lower case with slanted double panel inlaid lid with three drawer interior flanked by two canted inlaid panel drawers over two block front inlaid panel drawers raised on square tapered legs.

Size: 75 x 42.5 x 22 in.

Note: Attractive diminutive size for this form; appears to retain original brasses.

ConditionInsect damage; crack and repair to pediment; loose escutcheon; shrinkage cracks to sides and back panel of case; veneer chip and repair near front left leg; other areas of restoration.

It has issues, OK?

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Paper lined interior needs a little work.

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On either side, doors not drawers. What’s Italian for trompe l’oeil? Actually, it’s trompe l’oeil.

The center door locks, the outer two doors have a unique and elegant locking system:

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A wedge is inserted through the carcass and engages with an outer door. One lock but three doors are locked.

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A fiche hinge on a piece of furniture that’s not French.

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SOme dovetailed drawers in the gallery.

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Four differently dovetailed drawers.

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Six dovetailed drawers below.

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Genuine Italian ring pulls.

Next up, more Italian furniture.