Once again I had the pleasure of speaking at The Antique and Design Center of High Point during Fall Market Week–a talk for which the designers and appraisers all receive Continuing Education Points/Recertification Points, depending of the organization. This time I explored concepts for discerning value and spent time comparing new products on the market with antique and vintage pieces that I spotted on the floor of the Center. It was a lot of fun, brought some extra sales to several dealers (some items sold before I gave my talk, so can only say in those cases others agreed with my assessment!). I thought I would share both a few points from the talk and some comparisons that I discovered.
The Key to Value Comparisons
I am a strong believer in mentally grading everything you encounter on a style quality continuum: good, better and best (and horrid if you want to add a fourth category!). This is of course a manner of assessment first proposed by Albert Sack in his seminal book on American furniture: he showed examples of nearly every form and period, grading them into these three categories. Eventually “masterpiece” was added in one of the final editions–sadly disingenuous in my opinion. It was a ploy to promote pieces sold by his family firm most of which fit nicely into “best” or “better”. Anyway it is easy to do with a couple of photo examples.
This is a 19th century Rose Canton punch bowl, 16 inches in diameter. It is of fine quality BUT it is a type of Chinese Export porcelain known as famile rose and it has several relatives in the 19th century which are more valuable. In Rose Canton there are quadrants of decoration (note how they move out from the center) which are only decorated with birds, butterflies and flowers. Closely related to this is Rose Medallion–next photo–which also builds on quadrants, but this time they alternate between panels (medallions or reserves are the correct terms) of human figures in various settings and the bird/butterfly/flower motif. To be classified as Rose Medallion there must be people! Rose Medallion is a second 19th century category of famille rose (pink family in French). Interestingly, any Chinese porcelain of any period which incorporates any pink (rose) in the decoration has historically been categorized by westerners as “famille rose”.
This is smaller than the first example, yet has the identical value. It is ALMOST the highest category of value–Rose Mandarin–which has no medallions or quadrants but simply a single, massive figural design. However this must be categorized as medallion as it has a large central panel surrounded by four large figural panels interspersed with four small bird and butterfly panels. Compare in these two bowls the Greek Key motif which separates panels–the first quite simple, the second heavily gilded and of superb quality.
While we do not currently have a Rose Mandarin example, it is simple to imagine–simply mentally expand the center of the second bowl to cover the entire interior and that is Rose Mandarin!
Complicating things slightly, I decided to show a pair of huge Rose Medallion platters because they are rare in design and the finest quality of Rose Medallion. These platters are of a design purchased by President Grant and used as his presidential china in the White house. Thus these are known as the Grant Pattern of Rose Medallion.
Do you see the remarkable change in these pieces?
I hope you have taken a minute to contemplate this photo and noticed the exceptional design change.
While panels or medallions radiate from the center, they are unique in that there are six and each is a slice of mellon! Notice the shape of the medallion and then the stem at the top of the medallion. Exquisite. And the medallions are separated by elaborately painted and gilded motifs again of exceptional quality. Were this a 16″ bowl like the Rose Canton example, it would be at least four to six times more valuable.
Good Better Best
Think in such terms and you can value anything from antique to newly made, from porcelain to silver to furniture–every object can be judged by this mental structure.
MORE TO COME
In a few days I will share some comparisons between new objects and antique/vintage pieces I spotted at market.