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posted: 9/1/2012 2:54 AM

Brass table an example of Eastlake's Gothic style

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  • This brass plant stand is late Victorian in the Gothic Revival style.

      This brass plant stand is late Victorian in the Gothic Revival style.

 
By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. I received this brass table as a gift from my grandmother in 1962. I believe it was a wedding gift to her in 1910. There are no markings that I can see. I treasure this table and would like to know when it was made and what it is worth.

A. The Victorian Gothic Revival Movement started early in the reign of the young English queen.

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The earlier, Thomas Chippendale Gothic Revival version was very elegant, and rather light, but in the reappearance of this style in the 1830s and '40s it became rather dark, heavy and brooding. The style was characterized by pointed arches, tracery and strong vertical lines.

Americans adopted it as an ecclesiastical style, and even today, when we see this type of Gothic furniture, we think of churches and the chairs that often flanked Protestant pulpits. But in its purest form, the Gothic style of the early Victorian era was an architectural movement that did not find its way into most of the homes of the day as furniture.

The Gothic style of the 1830s and '40s passed quickly from the scene, but in 1868, Charles Locke Eastlake, an English architect, author, designer and style-setter, published his "Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery and Other Details," in which he rejected conventional Victorian furniture as being too flimsy and too fussy.

He proposed a more rectangular profile decorated with machine-executed geometric designs. His designs also drew heavily on Old English and Gothic designs, and in 1872 he published "A History of the Gothic Revival." Unfortunately for Eastlake, American manufacturers in particular debased his ideas and produced furniture that was cheaply made, boxy and, for the most part, unattractive.

This brings us to dating the piece in today's question, and it is undoubtedly from the last quarter of the 19th century and its design is greatly influenced by the thoughts of Eastlake. Victorian interiors were often cluttered with furniture, and among the sofas and chairs (both arm and straight) there were often a variety of tables.

Most collectors would not actually call this piece a "table," but would refer to it as being a plant stand. It was designed to hold a jardiniere on its top surface and perhaps another less-light-loving plant on the medial shelf below.

This piece is typically Eastlake, and is much more attractive than many of the items that carry this designation. The flared top, the curved arches that converge in decorative points and the splayed feet that have the shallow line embellishment that is so characteristic of Eastlake-style furniture are very attractive on this piece.

The metal construction of this stand is not surprising because plants do not live well on wooden surfaces where the water they need warps and discolors tops and causes veneers to pop up. Many of these plant stands have (or had) marble tops that are impervious to this liquid assault.

It is unfortunate that the value of most things Victorian has declined rather sharply over the past decade, and the value of this piece is only a fraction of what it once was. For insurance purposes, you should value this piece in the range of $600 to $800.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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