Another Furniture Maker Attribution Rant
You’ve seen my previous posts on the problems with attributions. I wanted to share one more related theme that I tend to encounter too often when I write to antique sellers about the pieces that they are selling.
If I’m looking at a piece that a seller attributes to a particular maker and something looks awry, I will often ask a seller what their reasoning is for the attribution. I’m expecting to get: “it is a pierced-carved piece with 7 1.6mm thick lamination layers, so it must be…”, or “we have a picture in a reference book that matches” or “family records provide proof”, or “it’s labeled/stamped”, etc., or at least something meaningful about the piece itself. What I often get instead is “I’ve attributed it to Belter based on 30 years in the business” … which speaks nothing of the piece itself. I’m surprised at the number of people who will talk about their 3 generations in the business and not convey any particular observations about the piece itself. I’ve had two different sellers in the past two weeks provide that as their foundation for attribution.
A trained eye is essentially what they are getting at. Once you’ve seen 1000 Belter or Meeks furniture pictures, you can pick one out of the furniture equivalent of a police lineup quite easily. But hopefully 30 years in the business allows one to convey to a potential customer the detail elements of a piece that make it attributed to a particular maker. The Belter/Boudoine piece is a recent example of a seller who is standing by their 3 generations of business reasoning and, in my opinion, discounting or ignoring photographic evidence that I have provided to them. It is their right to have their perspective and I respect their decision to stick with the Belter attribution.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t intend to be the “attribution police” and I don’t have the years of experience to be the right person do to so, but I do think that the marketplace is rife with flippant attributions. I will politely question them when I run across them and respect their positions.
Thanks for listening and I welcome other comments. By the way, here’s one more Boudine chair that matches the “Belter”.