Art Nouveau: Is this a dresser or washstand?

jlc102482October 14, 2012

I picked up this great quarter sawn oak Nouveau piece today at the antique market for a whopping $65. It looks like it has a backsplash like a washstand, but most washstands I've seen have a cupboard door. I don't think it could be a sideboard, since again there are only drawers. But why would a dresser have a backsplash like this one? There are two marks on the back where either a mirror or a towel rack used to be (see photo). The mark on the left is easier to see than the mark on the right.

Can anyone date it (I was thinking 1890s) and is anyone able to tell if this is a dresser or a washstand? Thanks!

Drawer dovetail detail:

Closeup of pull:

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I forgot to post a photo of the leg:

They look odd to me. I wonder if they were trimmed at some point? I'll have to wait til I have help to turn it over and look!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 7:09PM
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It's been modified. At one time it had legs likely 8 inches tall and a mirror on top.
Nice hand done dovetailing but I have my doubts if the brasses are brass and are original to the piece.
The style says 1900 to about 1920-ish....the hand done dove tails say earlier....even than 1885....unless it's a thing made by a little old wood worker in his shop.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 7:22PM
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It's a beautiful piece and I think you got a good deal!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:39PM
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I thought the same thing about the pulls at first, but upon closer inspection, I changed my mind. I took a pull off to peek underneath, and there are no holes anywhere else other than where the current brasses' tiny screw holes are. The screws don't go all the way through the drawers, as there are no holes anywhere on the inside of the drawers. The dealer said he thought it was European, but he didn't say why and I find it's usually best to take those comments with a grain of salt - or not at all. ;)

It's a shame about the legs and the missing mirror! Linda, do you have any idea what the mirror might have looked like? I'm wondering if you or someone could post a link of a likely suspect so that I can keep an eye out for a replacement.

Here is another close up of a pull, this time with a flash, to show the wear/patina (or lack thereof) on it. I wonder what they're made out of, if not brass?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 9:25AM
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lindac sounds like the pulls are original then....perhaps the dealer was right and it is European....or South American.
I have no idea about the might do a search for images of mirrored oak chest with mirror.
Remove one of the brasses and wash it with dish washing soap.....then check with a magnet to see if it sticks to all parts. the bale looks like it might be iron....and perhaps the "gold" is also painted iron. What does the back of the brass look like? what color is it?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 10:02AM
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this looks like arts and crafts style to me. The pulls are very arts and crafts with a little art nouveau trown in. Great piece by the way!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 5:47PM
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Wow, what a deal! It is beautiful no matter what its history.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 1:39PM
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OMG. Who would ever sell that for $65? Can't s/he see the beauty in it? And you can't even get a fraction of the timber - old growth or not - at that price.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 4:48PM
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I think it may be a British piece and that the hardware is brass-plated, possibly on iron for the bail and on tin (or something!) for the backplate. It reminds me a lot of what was offered at small-town auctions when we lived in England many years ago. And I think Linda is right on the date.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 7:48PM
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Yes. I would agree it certainly points to British origins c. 1890 with the quintessential Art Nouveau stamped and plated (typically tin) backplates of drawer pulls, and it has the same tiny English handout dovetails (& similar feet) of a piece I had with label FA Galletly, Esq. Tower of London. As well it shows those same tiny dovetails on small golden oak chest c. 1880 I have that came from England to Victoria. BC.
Washstand to even a utility chest, it is lovely. Gut feeling is that it is a purpose-made chest, a mix of quarter sawn, flat sawn and rift sawn oak while using the cheaper, lighter weight secondary timber.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:55PM
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It's interesting that it might be British in origin. Maybe that would explain why I have never seen a piece with handles like that in my area. That is why I had to snap it up! I love quarter sawn oak in any incarnation, but those pulls - I had to have them.

Sue, I couldn't believe the vendor was selling it for only $65, either. I had to ask twice because I thought he had said $165 and I was hearing him wrong. The sides are made of two wide pieces of oak and they have come apart a tiny bit, which may account for the price. However, the sides are held together with wooden pegs (they're visible through the gap) and I'm quite sure all it will take to put them together again is a few taps of a rubber mallet.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 11:55AM
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