Fit for a Queen

A rare bill of sale dates the parlor set to the Civil War.

Thank you for sending me an image of your Victorian parlor set. It is a great example of its type and is unusual in that it is a full set. Typically I only see a chair, settee or table individually.

The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign in the United Kingdom from 1837 until 1901. In those days furniture for the parlor, or formal living room, was always important. This was the furniture that impressed the neighbors, entertained politicians and was used for more formal family occasions.

Your set is particularly special because you also retain the original bill of sale dating to 1863. This is quite significant since it dates to the time period of the Civil War. It is hard to imagine that during this time that furniture was still being made, yet your set is a testament to that fact. Your set, consisting of two side chairs, a low armchair, a settee and marble-topped table, is well-carved and adorned with a common Victorian motif of grapes and flowers. The armchair is a lady's chair - the low arms would accommodate the hoop skirts in fashion at that time. The table is often called a "turtle" top because the stone is carved in a serpentine shape reminiscent of a turtle and rests on a conforming base.

This early Victorian period was also a period of ingenuity. The Belter furniture company in New York City invented plywood during this time in trying to seek out curvilinear forms. They laminated sheets of rosewood to create parlor sets making chairs that were comfortable, refined and embellished with carving. This new style, as yours is, departed from the earlier classical style of clean straighter, uninterrupted lines and became more opulent in its carving, curved shapes and upholstery.

Today, Victorian furniture is not bringing as much as it once did and presents a good value. Your set breaks the mold, particularly in value, as you also have its original bill of sale which documents who, where and when it was made.

With the bill of sale I would estimate your set at $4,000.

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