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A few comments about "condition" of antiques and folk art
Posted 28 Jan 2013, by Don
I am a dealer known for offering special pieces in superb original condition, and condition will always be a very important criteria of what I invest in, and what I offer for sale. Yet sometimes one can get so hung up on condition that one can walk away from a very special piece. Take for example this fabulous candlestand I recently sold (Connecticut, ca. 1790, in cherry wood). It has a wonderful design, delicate form with slender legs, tapered ankles, thin ring-turned column, dry and rich and possibly original surface, and a beautiful carved top that is a rare form, if not a unique survival. It would fit well with the finest early furniture of the highly coveted 18th century CT schools. Yet, I have some clients who would not buy this piece because of a black ring on the top, and a minor shrinkage crack that probably occurred over 200 years ago. In my opinion, that is CRAZY! If this stand were a common form, and not distinguished in design and other aesthetics, then maybe the ring and crack would be an additive reason to pass it by, but not on such a special and rare piece. Ask yourself: Does a minor aspect of the condition impact the aesthetic, the intent of the maker or artist, is it an expected consequence of being 150 to 250 years old? We have to look at these pieces as precious survivors of our material culture from Colonial America, not as objects that we want to be old yet in the same condition as if we had bought them from a 21st century maker, that is just not realistic. And more importantly, one may pass up a remarkable piece over concern for the inconsequential details. Significant repair or damage on a mundane piece is not desirable and should be avoided, yet understanding and accepting minor issues with a distinguished piece is all part of becoming an experienced collector.