One of the most common items of furniture to find in an auction house is the chest of drawers. Many models pass through the Saleroom weekly with Georgian and Victorian mahogany chests commonly found at affordable prices. However, every now and then something special turns up. Last month Auctioneer Paul Keen visited a house in Plympton, Plymouth to inspect some furniture stored in the garage. When the owner pulled away the old blanket covering the furniture, Paul’s eyes lit up. There standing nearby an old push bike and car parts was a stunning antique chest of drawers (Lot 303).
Paul says “As soon as I saw this chest I was taken back by the rich colour and patina, my thoughts immediately turned to a similar chest I sold over twenty years ago”.
Fitted with two short and three long drawers, the chest is veneered in a beautiful pattern of walnut called Oystering. This was fashionable on premium items of furniture for the 1660’s until around 1710. The veneer is a type of parquetry, the technique using thin slice of wood branches cut in a cross section, often in walnut but can also be found in olive, kingwood, and other rare woods. The circular or oval veneers are laid side by side to provide various patterns, and these often resemble an oyster shell.
This chest has a rich decorative top, side, and drawer fronts, enhanced further with inlaid and cross banding. It stands on small bun feet and is fitted with brass drop handles and escutcheons.
Paul continues “The chest is a good decorative piece and whilst it has had some reconstruction on the inside, it’s all about the look and I would expect bids in the region of £1,000.” The last one sold at Plymouth Auction Rooms in 1994 to a US buyer, for a respectable £6,800!
The chest will be up for auction at the antique sale in Plymouth on the 2nd February. The same auction also features two miniature paintings, they were brought along to the Saleroom for a routine valuation, after having been acquired by the owner some twenty years ago in lieu of a debt for a painter and decorator.
What they lack for in size they certainly make up for in quality. They are painted in oil on panel and depict 19th century interior scenes of a family in a drawing room dancing and playing the piano, and also a more humble cottage interior appearing to show a young gentleman bringing news to the owner.
On close inspection one can make out the signature of ‘Vibert’ and these paintings are very much in the manner of popular Parisian artist Jehan George Vibert (French 1840-1902).
Vibert debuted at the French Salon of 1863 and later served in the military during the Franco-Prussian War, which he was wounded in, and later in 1882 became an Officer of the Légion d’Honneur.
The fineness of his work was highly collected in France and America, with regular exhibitions and a notable element of humour to some of his small scale work.
The auctioneers say “These are exceptional saloon painting, it would have been great to have known the story behind each subject”. These will be Lot 200 in the February Sale, and carry an estimate of £1,000 to £1,500.
These lots and many more can be viewed online now here.