Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

October 9, 2013

What's in a name? Antiquity has its own language

I you think that ‘Provenance” is type of cheesecake, if you are willing to bet that “Gesso” was a famous 17th Century Italian artist, and if you are almost certain that “Patina” is that new rap artist your kids are listening to, then this week’s column is definitely for you.

The world of antiquity has a language all its own and as those of you who travel that world can attest, if you are going to venture into the territory, you’d best know the language. So let’s take a look at a few definitions that will help you be armed and ready the next time you go antiquing.

Two terms that are often confused are original finish and original condition.

Original finish is just that. It is the finish (stain, varnish, paint or polish) the piece had the day it was made. It is very important on primitive and fine antique furniture alike to be able recognize original finish as it is one of the main factors in determining value. When a piece has been stripped of its original finish, it has lost part of its integrity as an antique and therefore part of its value.

Original condition refers to the overall state of a piece. Does it have all of its original drawers and doors? Is all the hardware original? Has the patina been disturbed? It is important to really look at a piece closely to see if old square nails have been replaced by newer nails or screws. Has the piece been stabilized over the years by the addition of inappropriate wood? If anything has been removed or replaced, the piece you are viewing is of lesser value that it’s “original condition” counterpart.

Other common terms you may find helpful include:

Patina- The coloration of a piece that can only be developed with the passage of time. It can be the result of dirt, grease, wear, or temperature and chemical changes. Patina is what gives it character and beauty.

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