Provenance Rules with Ancient and Modern

It has long been said that antique ‘brown furniture’ is out of fashion. Surely the fact is that the bog standard pieces became far too expensive for what they are, and within the

last twenty years we have seen the introduction of so many other attractive and functional options. From the 1960’s until the 1980’s brown furniture, that is 18th and 19th century household items of mahogany, oak and walnut went up in value at a rate of 25% per annum.

For most of it, its only merits were its age and its ability to imbue a bygone period into an otherwise soulless room. The Chippendale period chair you sat on and the Sheraton desk you wrote at were worth more money this year than they were last. But like the Tulip Bubble in the 17th century, the South Sea Bubble in the early 18th century and the Train Bubble in the 19th century this was unsustainable. And so brown furniture lost its appeal.

But only that of the ordinary, mass-produced mundane category for if the Chippendale Chair you were sitting on was actually by Thomas Chippendale it is a different matter. This, when accompanied with authentic documentation, is not just an old chair but an object of significant historical importance. And if the desk was made precisely to a design by Sheraton, by an important maker and belonged to a person of note, together with its original invoice, then that too is something else and will have continued to grow in value and interest. But such items are highly prized and highly priced and are no longer collected as they were to create an 18th century gentleman’s room, library or salon. Now, thank goodness, it is the fashion to place them with contemporary works of decorative and fine art where they can stand alone, still to be used, but admired together with the equally important contemporary pieces being created today by the finest artists, sculptors, masters in metalwork and glass and of course cabinet makers.

Forward thinking dealers are encouraging their clients to see their traditional items in a very new light. And it works.