DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I am asking for some help identifying a table that belongs to my aunt. One of the table’s features is the use of a shield with stars and stripes that appears on both the drawer front and the back. I am excited to read what you have to say.
—Thank you, D. B.
DEAR. B.: The Victorian period lasted for a very long time. Queen Victoria, for whom the period was named, reigned in England from 1837 to 1901, and during that time span, furniture styles came and went.
We are not going to beat the notion of Victorian furniture to death, but we should say American Victorian furniture is sometimes a bit different from British Victorian furniture. In the United States, different Victorian substyles include forms such as Eastlake (named after English architect Charles Locke Eastlake), Rococo Revival (aka Louis XV Revival), Gothic Revival, spool furniture, cottage furniture, Aesthetic Movement, Arts and Crafts, Oriental Influence (aka Egyptian Revival) and so on.
Today, we are most concerned with a Victorian substyle called Renaissance Revival, which was popular between about 1860 and 1885. It was influenced by the Italian Renaissance as well as by Greek and Roman (neoclassical) designs. Victorian Renaissance Revival tables often have marble tops, but this one appears to have never had this stone embellishment.
The shield with the stars and stripes that appears on both the drawer front and the back panel suggests the piece was made at the time of the American Centennial celebration in 1876 (plus or minus a few years). The piece is rather restrained for Renaissance Revival, but the flambeau (torch legs) and areas of burl accents plus the time frame for its manufacture date place it in this substyle.
This was intended to be a parlor piece with both sides visible in the room. It could have been used as a center table or perhaps a small work table/desk. The wood is walnut, and the stretcher base is very nicely turned. This turned wooden dowel would have allowed a chair to be used if the piece were used as a work table or desk.
The castors on the legs appear to be original, and they suggest the piece was designed to be rolled out of the way or moved, perhaps for cleaning. In the photograph, the top appears to be a smidge warped, but this could be the angle from which the photo was taken.
It is unfortunate that the value of Victorian furniture has fallen drastically over the past decade and a half. Still, the patriotic nature of the table does help its value a bit. If the top were pictorially inlaid with images such as George Washington and the American flag, the piece would be a bigger deal, but the restrained embellishment of a shield with stars and stripes inside plain “C” scrolls only helps a little bit.
For insurance replacement purposes value this table in the $250 to $300 range.