Continuing on from Picture This LIVI, I was perusing Bonham’s catalogue of their upcoming Arts and Antiques sale in Oxford on the 9th of September and thought the following lots worthy of discussion.
Lot 481 is catalogued as “A 19th century walnut and ebony strung chest on stand. The moulded cornice above two short and three graduated long drawers, the base with single drawer in a deep apron, on short cabriole legs“.
Fig. 1. Lot 481. A right good amalgamation. (Bonham’s)
Sadly, it appears to be the upper tier chest from a circa 1735 chest-on-chest or chest-on-stand, now residing upon a twentieth-century stand comprising a newly veneered carcase on Victorian (or later) legs.
The figure of the stand’s veneers does not remotely match those of the chest and neither have they been book-matched. The rawness of the new veneer has not been subdued let alone any attempt made to colour or age it to harmonise with the chest.
Lot 528 is a late seventeenth-century geometrically moulded oak chest, which Bonham’s admit stands on “later bracket supports“.
Fig. 2. Lot 528. A rare survivor. (Bonham’s)
Interestingly, the chest is again, the upper chest of a chest-on-chest or chest-on-stand – a relatively scarce configuration for the late seventeenth-century.
Just to round out a rather lacklustre bit of cataloguing, lot 480 is presented thusly:
An 18th Century oak and crossbanded low dresser,
Three drawers, shaped apron, cabriole legs,
152cm wide83cm high, (59 1/2in wide32 1/2in high)
Please note this lot is NOT 18th Century but a modern reproduction.
Another fascinating post.
For those of us who are wanting to learn, what is it about Lot 3 that shows it is a modern reproduction?
thank you in advance for your insights.
It’s not always that easy determining a reproduction from an image. It was Bonham’s who made the call, not me; however, I was suspicious of the glitzy finish and too-black antiquing – signs of factory production.
I’m so glad there’s someone left who understands the meaning of the verb “to comprise”, and can use it correctly. Thank you, Jack.
All said and done, lot 480 looks (at least from the photography) to be the nicest of the lot…actual antique or not…are those back legs typical of the “period”.
I am only moderately familiar with the auction world, but does a buyer have any recourse if what they buy isn’t as advertised? It’s scary that a seemingly reputable auction house like Bonham’s could be so far off base.
Caveat emptor applies in all cases, however, most auction houses will attempt some reparation or recompense if something untoward is later discovered.
While acknowledging the veracity of your observations, I must confess I’m not as vexed by it as others might be.
The retrofit of these old cabinets into what was (at the time) the modern taste is not unattractive. They are no longer authentic, it’s true, but they are not without some charm. I have seen worse; much, much worse!
I’m not totally adverse to some of the more subtle modernisations that crop up (such as bun feet replaced with bracket feet) as long as the work is well executed and can be reversed. However, the stand in figure 1 is totally incongruous with the 1735 vintage of the chest and is appallingly made and finished.
This is an example of how it might have looked as a chest-on-chest or chest-on-stand.
Admittedly, I too have encountered greater crimes.
What are the tipoffs that the low dresser is a modern reproduction. And how modern? To my eye the skirt throws the proportions out of whack.
Stylistically, it’s outwardly a faithful reproduction. I’m certain the dresser is factory-made and the sprayed finish may not ring alarm bells for the average cataloguer, but if the drawers are dovetailed (as I suspect they would be), then even the experts at most auction houses would be capable of differentiating between hand cut- and machine cut dovetails.
There are several long established English furniture manufacturers who make reproductions of this quality. A quick Google turned up this company.