Trash or Treasure?

A Victorian Renaissance piece fit for a bacchanalia


Q. We are interested in identifying the date and place of origin for this cabinet which has two pieces, a pedestal base and cabinet top with a drawer a door with shelves inside and elaborately carved figures of a man and woman. We would appreciate any information including value you could provide. We love the old wood and carved figures and trim of this piece we acquired many years ago.

A. This cabinet appears to be made of oak and was likely made in the late 1800’s. While it is possible that it was made in Europe, it is more likely it was made in the United States. This type of high relief carving was popular during this time and I would describe the style as Victorian Renaissance. The carvings include half nude figures of a man on one side and a woman on the other. They both have what looks like fruit on their heads. I believe the man is the Greek god Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) and the woman would be a Maenad (also known as Bacchae). Dionysus was the god of grapes and winemaking while a Maenad was a follower of Dionysus. This definition is extended to include intoxication and dancing. This leads me to believe your cabinet is a wine or liquor cabinet.

You did not mention the dimensions of your cabinet but I found similar cabinets to yours that sold at auction for between $250-$1,200.

Karen Waterman is a fine art, antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions regarding your “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter or email with a question you give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos preferred ) to Send snail mail to Waterman Appraisal and Consulting Services, PO Box 134, Barrington, RI 02806.


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