Being an antiques appraiser is a little like being an archaeologist or treasure hunter. Sometimes in the course of an appraisal in a big, old house, as we’re scurrying from room to room, attic to basement, opening closet doors, and exploring out-buildings, great antiques get unearthered—and I mean that almost literally.
This fall a colleague and I were doing a rather lengthy appraisal at a Rhode Island estate. It was a gorgeous property, partially wooded, with glimpses of the sea. When we entered the secondary garage, after pushing open the heavy doors garlanded with spider webs, we had to pause a moment to let our eyes adjust to the darkness.
There was a worn concrete floor, stacks of old storm windows, and boxes and objects wrapped in old brown paper and tied with twine lining the walls. Off to the right, two dark, hulking shapes that looked a little like silent buffalo turned out to be furniture on closer inspection. Tables, to be exact… and elegant tables at that: American Classical mirrored mahogany veneer and marble top pier tables. They imparted the air of Eliza Doolittle when first discovered by Professor Henry Higgins: on the surface they were sooty and dusty and looking a little rough, but the fine bones (à la Audrey Hepburn) were most definitely visible beneath the grime.
Have you ever heard an appraiser use the term “as-found condition”? This pair of antique marble top tables is a pretty amazing example of this. The layer of dust coating the elegant curves of the legs and the surface of the mirrors shows that they haven’t been used or touched in years. The tables have what we’d call the good, honest dust of age. They certainly get my imagination going, and make me wonder what they’ve been doing in the garage all these years.
These American antique tables were made in New York or Boston circa 1820-25. Their restrained lines and the slightly substantial styling were typical of New York and Boston furniture design from these cities during this period. As fresh and unworn as they are BELOW the dust, one wonders if they were ever really used at all. Maybe they didn’t fit in the space the buyer had intended, or maybe they didn’t fit the taste of the buyer’s spouse (mistakes like these happen no matter the century!). Or maybe the homeowners’ decorating scheme changed, and they were sent to the garage for storage.
Whatever the story, these pretty marble top tables are now here on consignment at Skinner, and will find a lucky new owner in the Skinner American Furniture and Decorative Arts auction on March 6 (Sale #2538B, Lot 359).
You can see the tables in our online auction catalogue, or stop by and view them in person during the American antique furniture auction preview. Don’t they look fabulous now that they’ve been dusted and cleaned, brought into the light of day? I hope they’ll enjoy their new home, and their new life story.
For information on this pair of antique marble top tables, feel free to contact Americana@skinnerinc.com, 508-970-3200.