Giltwood Gold

At Alex Cooper Auction House, there are days and weeks where nothing exciting comes along. The same chairs, chest of drawers, and fern stands show up in the receiving room, waiting for me to “lot” and write them up for the next auction. However, one June morning, next to an 18th century, English, tilt-top table sits a pair of Louis XVI, giltwood fauteuils (lots 1436, 1437) – French for arm chairs! Beautifully carved with oval backs and whimsical cresting ribbons, and, best of all, they’re upholstered in their original 1775 fabric. Yes, their original fabric! Understand that for the upholstery to still exist, the silk embroidery had to be taken off, backed onto another silk panel, meticulously sewn, and reattached to the chairs. A labor of love. It’s very rare to see 18th century upholstery.

Next, looking for the maker’s stamp (French master furniture makers stamped their names onto their finished pieces), I uncovered underneath one chair in painted letters “MGM”! Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios was known for their period movie sets elaborately furnished with authentic period pieces. MGM had thousands and thousands of square feet of warehouse space full of furniture, lighting, and accessories from the 15th to the early 20th century, and these two chairs were owned by this magical movie company. The question was, “in which MGM movie were they filmed?” Luckily, the client who consigned the Louis XVI giltwood fauteuils decided to send the rest of the suite, a pair of chairs matching the first and a settee (lot 1434). Attached to the back of the settee was an old label stating “F-1 MARIE ANTOINETTE, Dir: W.S. Van Dyke, Stars: Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, John Barrymore”.  We have our answer: the 1938 MGM film “Marie Antoinette.” What a history!

For more than 25 years I have surrounded myself with beautiful Continental and English antique pieces knowing very little of each piece’s individual story. Finding a maker’s stamp or mark may tell me about a piece’s beginnings. And sometimes it’s had a famous owner. That’s rare and valuable information. However, with these French Louis XVI gilt wood pieces, we struck giltwood gold.This is a chance for you to own history and beauty all at the same time.

Click here to see detailed auction lots and to view the rest of our August 24 & 26 auction.

Mark Boultinghouse                 Furniture Specialist