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Unearthing Treasure: Classical Pier Tables in As-Found Condition

antique marble top tables

Pair of Classical Mahogany and Mahogany Veneer Marble Top Pier Tables in as-found condition: straight out of the dusty garage

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.

antique marble top table as-found condition

Detail of the dusty, untouched surface

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).

classical mahogany marble top tables

Lot 359 in the March 6, 2011 American Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction: Pair of Classical Mahogany and Mahogany Veneer Marble Top Pier Tables, Est. $1,500-2,000

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.

7 thoughts on “Unearthing Treasure: Classical Pier Tables in As-Found Condition

  1. Not only are you knowledgeable about your art, you are truly a wonderful wordsmith. I love the way the article was written. It was almost as if I was in the garage clearing cobwebs away with you.

  2. Obviously, “as found” literally means in the state an item is in when come upon. It has been my experience, though, that when antique dealers, auctioneers and collectors use the term, it means that something is wrong with the item, e.g., a chair has been cut down or a vase is chipped.

    • I was indeed using the expression “as-found” to describe the condition of these tables when they were discovered. I agree that “as-found” is sometimes used to mean “as-is.” Your comment brings up one of the best tips to keep in mind whenever shopping for antiques (and many other items, really): if you have a question, or you need clarification about an item, make sure to ask the seller. At Skinner auction previews, for instance, potential buyers are welcome to view items, take measurements, and inspect objects from every angle, and there are specialists from the department on hand to answer any questions.
      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Your welcome Sara.
    You write the following. “If you have a question, or you need clarification about an item, make sure to ask the seller. At Skinner auction previews, for instance, . . . there are specialists from the department on hand to answer any questions.”
    Certainly that is prudent advice. At the same time, though, potential buyers need to be mindful of disclaimers that auction houses specify in their catalogues. Skinner’s, for example, states the following it its catalogues.
    “All property is sold ‘as is,’ and neither the auctioneer nor any consignor makes any warranties or representation of any kind or nature with respect to the property, and in no event shall they be responsible for the correctness, nor deemed to have made any representation or warranty, of description, genuineness, authorship, attribution, provenance, period, culture, source, origin, or condition of the property and no statement made at the sale, or in the bill of sale, or invoice or elsewhere shall be deemed such a warranty of representation or an assumption of liability.”

  4. Sara,
    Thank you for the interesting article. As to the phrase, “… now that they’ve been dusted and cleaned….,” what actually was done to prepare these items for sale? Are these types of cleanings included in the fees charged for consignment or are these additional fees charged to the consignor?
    Rick D.

    • Before being photographed for their inclusion in the auction catalog, the tables were gently wiped down and dusted (for the first time in a long time!). This type of treatment is included in the consignment fees. We chose to spiff them up so they would show to their best advantage in their photo shoot: it was a little akin to applying some eyeshadow and lipgloss to a fashion model before a shoot—the beauty was inherent, it just needed a little cosmetic touchup.

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