Having viewed the Patricia Kluge sale being held by Sotheby’s on site in Charlottesville, I have to say that it was mildly depressing. The furniture, some of it quite good, seems to have been cleaned to the extent of having lost its patina. I recognized a walnut stool that I sold to Stair and Co. that was for sale and it almost looked naked, no dirt, no nothing, just a monchromatic brown tone. This is the brown that gives the brown in brown furniture its bad name.
The key to great furniture is condition. As important as style, craftsmanship and materials are, condition is what makes you want to own a great piece. It is a function of patina and patina is everything. A replaced leg on a chair with great patina is forgivable, whereas on a chair with no patina, the missing leg becomes a bigger issue. Patina will frame desire in other words.
For many years, I have been trying to convince my clients that a “dry stripped” gilded frame is preferable to a regilded frame. Dry stripping is the cleaning off of successive repairs to old frames to return to what one hopes is the original gilding. The old gesso and clay have a distinctive look, but one thing is for certain, the frame hardly looks gilded when it is dry stripped. Most buyers of gilded furniture want to see gold, however. One of those regilded frames is hanging over the fire place in the Kluge drawing room–the base is beautifully carved. The mirror practically gleams.