Naylor Antiques

Early American Furnishings

A Sad Commentary………The Case of the $2,056.25 Eagle (addendum: and The Subsequent Eagle that Came Home to Roost)

Posted on Jun 11, 2017 by   No Comments Yet

Most period inlaid American furniture was enhanced with said inlay at the time of its’ manufacture.  Ideally, the embellishments themselves were important components, integral to the design and final fabrication of the piece.  In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, however, inlayists, or “ebonist(e)s”, would sometimes actually make house calls to add inlay to furniture.  Advertisements for such services have been documented in the Maryland Gazette.  Sometimes it might have been in an attempt to “update” a piece stylistically, while in other instances the owners simply might not have been able to afford the “extra” ornamentation at the time of purchase.  Then, in the earlier 20th Century, inlays were again added, often somewhat illicitly this go-round, in hopes of making a piece more desirable for the blossoming American antique furniture market.  Some of those inlays were undoubtedly leftover vestiges “of the period”, others reproductions.  Now, in 2017, the internet has once again proved to be more of a blessing than a curse in the great leveling of the playing field.  The information is certainly out there, but the collector needs to educate himself or herself.  Who knows? The added Baltimore “frog legs” eagle (see “before” and “after” below), almost certainly of the period, might well be from that famous box of inlays, 238 “shells”, that William Patterson bought in 1800 from the estate of Thomas Barrett, the earliest professional “eboniste” documented in Baltimore.¹

¹The Genesis of Neoclassical Style; Priddy et al, Chipstone 2000


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