Q: This game table was given to my parents as a wedding gift in the late 1920s. The top swings open to a green felt top and the drawer holds gambling and gaming paraphernalia. Underneath it is marked "Made in France." Any information would be appreciated.
A: Was someone trying to tell your parents that married life is a gamble? Or was there some other less pointed motivation behind this somewhat unusual but very nice wedding gift?
Tables used for playing various games have been around since the 14th century, but the example in today's question is certainly post-World War I. The late 1920s date you supplied is on the money. Age is important here, but the quality and intricacy of workmanship is much more critical to the overall monetary value.
The table is an attractive example of "marquetry," or wood veneers that have been applied to a structure, be it a floor or furniture, to form a pattern that is often pictorial in nature. "Parquetry," on the other hand, consists of wood veneers applied to a surface to create a geometric design. Squares, triangles, lozenges, stars, sun forms, herringbone and chevron designs fall into this category.
And while the table in today's question has some parquetry work, its swag and floral design is marquetry.
The table is in a style that is sometimes associated with French artist Louis Majorelle, who was born in Toul, France, in 1859 and died in Nancy, France, in 1926. Located in the country's northeast region, Nancy is said to be one of the epicenters of the French art nouveau movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was also the home of the Ecole de Nancy ("School of Nancy"), which was a group of artists, architects, art critics and industrialists who as a loose association worked in the naturalistic, flowing lines of the movement.
Majorelle was a founding member of the group, and he was both a decorator and a furniture manufacturer. The piece in today's question is reminiscent of his style. But unfortunately, it does not have his quality or attention to artistic detail.
This does not mean the piece is poorly made — it is not. It means it is a later, more commercial interpretation of Majorelle's style. Tables with this type of art nouveau inlay and bronze fittings were made in a variety of styles — some much more intricate than others — and the quality can range from the highly artistic to the commercial. The table in today's question falls more into the commercial end of the scale and its late date near 1930 is also a bit of a detriment to its monetary value.
Art nouveau Majorelle-inspired game tables can retail in the $5,000 to $6,000 plus range. But this one should be valued for the $1,200 to $1,800 range because of its later date and standard quality inlay.
Glass pitcher depicts legend
Q: My wife inherited this pitcher from her great-grandmother in 1952. The great-grandmother was born in 1864 and family lore says this pitcher predates her birth. Any information about this pitcher's history and origins would be appreciated.
A: This type of glassware goes by a variety of different names. Today it is often called by the initials "EAPG" (Early American Pattern Glass), or just "pattern glass," or less descriptively, "pressed glass."
Pressed glass is made by taking a molten blob of glass and pushing it into a mold using a plunger. When the hot glass has cooled and the mold removed, the object formed has a smooth interior and either a raised or indented interior.
Sometimes these exterior patterns were floral or geometric. But sometimes they were pictorial and could depict anything or anyone from George Washington, Adm. George Dewey, famous actresses and Mephistopheles to scenic representations such as a mule-drawn wagon stalled on a railroad track, or dancing goats or pigs among the corn.
This process was first done in the United States in 1827, but its height of popularity began near 1850 and lasted for more than half a century. Many hundreds of different patterns were made, and at one time. Collecting this type of glass was a huge hobby.
Extensive collections could be found in museums such as the Houston Museum in Chattanooga, Tenn., the Corning Museum in Corning, N.Y., the Sandwich Glass Museum in Sandwich, Mass., and institutions such as Berea College in Berea, Ky.
The pattern on the pitcher in today's question is known as "Psyche and Cupid." Its maker is unknown, but it is a pattern that is thought to have originated in the 1870s and was popular well into the 1880s. It can be found on a variety of different pieces, including celery vases, compotes, jam jars and covered sugar bowls, but most commonly on water pitchers.
The image on these pieces is based on "The Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass)" by Apuleius Madaurensis from the second century A.D. In the tale, a king and queen have three daughters — one so lovely that she receives worship from mortals and makes the goddess Venus jealous.
Venus sends Cupid (or Eros) to prick Psyche with his arrow to cause her to fall in love with an unsuitable or grotesque man. Instead, Cupid accidentally pricks himself and falls madly in love with the first person he sees — Psyche. The legend goes on and on, but this is the bare bones, and it is a tale that has fascinated artists and writers for many generations.
Early American Pattern Glass tends to be most valuable when it was made in colors, but we could find no examples of this pitcher in anything other than clear, colorless glass. The pitcher, which should be about 10 inches tall, should be valued at retail in the $85 to $100 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you'd like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail them at treasuresknology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.