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Jay Lake
Date: 2010-10-18 05:57
Subject: [help] Identifying a piece of furniture
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, family, help, photos
calendula_witch's mother has a china cabinet that has passed down through several generations of the family. The origin of this piece is completely unknown at this point. It is perhaps a century old. We're hoping that someone among you can help identify the provenance, or give us clues as to what to look for by way of maker's marks, etc. Given the success of you guys in identifying such things as china patterns and German bridges for me, I'm hoping we can score a hit here, too.

Any thoughts?

China cabinet 1

China Cabinet 2

Photos © 2010 D. Salonen, reproduced with permission.

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Jim Hetley
User: jhetley
Date: 2010-10-18 13:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Looks "Victorian" in era and possibly European. Any maker's marks would be on the back or bottom, possibly burned into the wood. Or a paper label, which may have fallen off . . .

Are the decorations painted or decal?
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Laura Anne Gilman
User: suricattus
Date: 2010-10-18 13:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
look for staple marks in the bottom, if there's no paper tag - that's a hint there was a tag at one point. Also, a square of discoloration where a label might have been glued on. The shape/size of the label can be a clue, in some cases.

Can you post a close-up of the painted design?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-10-18 13:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I will ask for closeups of the furniture detail, and pass on the suggestion to look for a tag.
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Kevin Roche
User: kproche
Date: 2010-10-18 13:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Also, what you are looking for is a "vitrine" or curio cabinet, as opposed to a china cabinet.

It was specifically designed for display as opposed to storage.
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Oz Whiston writing as Oz Drummond
User: birdhousefrog
Date: 2010-10-18 13:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
if it's not a copy made at a later date, it's more than a hundred years old. Definitely. Check the joints for how it was put together, with screws or with joints or with glue. Look for veneer vs. solid wood. And the quality of the glass, look for aging in it. Partly you're looking for indications of whether it was mass-made or individually made.

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User: madrobins
Date: 2010-10-18 15:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We'd call it a "whatnot."

Along with all the other fine suggestions, look at the colored detail: is it stamped, inlaid, or (perish the thought) some sort of sticker?
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User: gvdub
Date: 2010-10-18 15:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The detail looks French rather than Victorian to me. Especially the decorations along the upper wood. Another thing to look for is whether those are inlaid or decals.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2010-10-18 15:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I went to the flickr image and looked at the highest resolution available. I am no expert, but I think this was certainly mass produced - the gilded ornamentation is metal and nailed on, and the flowers and such are painted on, not inlaid - I had a couple of things like this in my possession for a while, and they turned out to be produced about 1910. They had a very similar look to this, which I understand is common to furniture produced shortly before The Great War, after which tastes and styles took a decided turn toward the functional.

The curved parts and the top are probably veneer. The uprights and legs are probably solid. There certainly as at least one label on it somewhere, most likely the back and/or bottom.
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User: e_bourne
Date: 2010-10-18 15:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You have several useful pieces of information from the earlier posts. I suspect it's early 20th century, a remake of a quasi-French design by the legs and scrolly bits. I don't think it's Victorian, too light in the legs. Or limbs as they would say.

If you want to do some online looking, or talk to some of the antique dealers in Sellwood, you're asking about a curio cabinet.

However, here are the things that need to be checked to know age and manufacture for sure:

1. As someone else pointed out, are the decorative pieces painted on or stencils or decals? They look like decals to me, but it's impossible to tell at this distance.

2. How is the back finished? Is there paper over the back? Was there ever paper over the back? You can tell this if there are staples with some paper remaining.

3. What materiat is the door to enter the cabinet made of?

4. What kind of joints are used to connect the pieces?

5. What kind of manufacturers mark, if any, can you find. Often, if you don't know what a manufacturers mark might look like, you'll miss it. It could be a black stencil, or a pencil scribble, or black writing, or a stamp, anywhere on the back of the piece. I'm sure there's one there if you look carefully enough.

6. Are the shelves made of wood? Compressed wood? Plywood? Pine? Oak? All refer to a specific age when different wood were common, and different woods in dfferent places.

7. Do the shelves have their original covering? If so, what is it?

Early 20th century furniture (assuming it's American-made), at the beginning of industrialization, is pretty fascinating. I have some pieces that are a pretty cool mix of factory work, and hand work that they hadn't quite figured out how to build machines to do.

Hope that's helpful, have fun!
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User: e_bourne
Date: 2010-10-18 15:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, and nice cups by the way. I'm a china addict. A girl can't have too much china. My mother used to collect cups. I collect teapots. And china. Beautiful, beautiful, china. The house, it doth overfloweth.
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shelly_rae: Now <i>that's</i> a Piano!
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2010-10-18 17:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Now that's a Piano!
I'd say 1920s especially if its provenance is SF or the area. Definitely a whatnot or curio cabinet. Are the roses and other decorations painted or transfers? If painted then it may have been a department store purchase that was painted by the housewife who bought it. If transfers then maybe even 1930s.
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User: evaleastaristev
Date: 2010-10-18 17:13 (UTC)
Subject: Unproductive comment is unproductive
I have no idea how to date/identify furniture. But I just wanted to say that it is pretty and I would love to have one all of my own.
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User: twilight2000
Date: 2010-10-18 17:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
it looks almost exactly like a curio cabinet my grandmother brought over from Poland.
It appears you have electricity for light - if that's not a retrofit, it's a real clue as to the age.

If those roses are laid-in-wood vs. if painted vs. if decals - that will tell you something too.

Past a certain age, the glass should have "texture" as well - If you can figure out which generation first had it for certain, that will obviously help as well. My grandmother was born in 1900, in Eastern Europe - which gives us good information to work with furniture - the further back you can go, the more you can define ;>.
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calendula_witch: Patchwork
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2010-10-18 21:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The picture is unclear, but I know that the electricity is for the clock that sits atop it--not for the cabinet itself.

Alas, there's nobody left to ask where it came from before it arrived in the family around 1940. :/
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User: lindadee
Date: 2010-10-18 19:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I own a similar curio cabinet (a little wider than the one in your photo), but alas I don't know the providence either. I bought it from a friend who was moving to California, and IIRC, she said originally there was another piece that it fit on (because there are no legs) or that fit on top of it.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2010-10-18 21:15 (UTC)
Subject: More details
Hi all - I am Calendula's mother, and I really appreciate your helpful comments. I will try to add some more info that might help, and we will send Jay some detailed photos soon.

This cabinet has been in our family since at least 1940. It came with a 2nd husband (aged about 50 at that time)of my grandmother. He had inherited it from his wealthy New England family. They originally came to this country from Germany, and his father became a naturalized US citizen in 1885.

The decoratations are painted, not inlay or decale. The design on the top includes a lyre on top of a scroll of sheet music. It seems mostly solid wood, except for the top surface, which is veneer. The gold accents are metal, tack-nailed on. There is no label or mark we can find. There are 2 metal keys. The shelves are thick glass, with a mirror on the back inside wall. There is no light in the cabinet.

The curved glass has no distortion. The solid pieces of wood are butted, and probably joined with dowels that can't be seen.

A while back I found something similar on eBay that was French from about 1850, so this may be the same or a later reproduction. It would be nice to know. It is about 4'8" tall.

Thanks again for your help.
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User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2010-10-18 23:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My mother has her Prussian Grandmothers china cabinet, which looks very similar (but without the painted decorations), but the rounded curves and the glass shelves are very familiar. I would say 1880s and from Ye Olde Country myself. There should be some furniture markings on it somewhere.
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User: cithra
Date: 2010-10-19 03:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's the same unusual shape as my mother's china closet - wrong technical term, perhaps, but that is what she calls it - although hers is much plainer (no painting or scrollwork) and of a darker wood. The glass shelves are the same, though, as is the mirror at the back of the top shelf. What I know about hers is that her father bought it in the early 1900s while they were living in Idaho. If that helps...

Edited at 2010-10-19 03:12 am (UTC)
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User: chessdev
Date: 2010-10-19 05:29 (UTC)
Subject: MAN.....
Your friend list is **BAD ASS** at identifying
or finding clues to identifying stuff...

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