This Old Thing: Chairs Beloved by Mid-Century Modern Designers


Q. I recently purchased this vintage table and chair set. The four chairs fit around a circular four-legged table made of the same wood. They are marked Medea (from Italy) underneath and were sold in Canada by Albert White and Company Ltd. I am curious about their value.

A. Your striking ensemble falls into the desirable umbrella of Mid-Century Modern – in furniture it includes teak and, as in your case, the even more desirable rosewood veneer. This particular high quality set is the ‘Medea’ line designed in 1955 by Vittorio Nobili from Italy, for Fatelli Tagliabue. It was a combination of accelerated industrial production and design experimentation, mainly in the mid-1940s of the 20th century, which resulted in hundreds of new and interesting styles of furniture. These “modern” sets are very popular, especially when the designer is identified. This bundle is worth $ 4,500, and don’t be surprised to see retailers in major cities charging twice as much.

Q. Twenty-five years ago my family and I spent a few hours in one of the many castles in Copenhagen. My youngest discovered this tiny mosaic of a dog, encrusted with earth by pricking into the grass with his fingers. It measures 3cm by 2.2cm (1 inch by 0.86 inch). The metal around the image appears to be brass or bronze. Any ideas of what this is?

A. Mosaics have been around since the days of British Columbia and are still made today – the mosaic walls of the Disney World castle. The Italians and Greeks made most of the world’s mosaics. Using rectangular pieces of glass or pottery, called tesserae, patterns or images of different sizes are created by securing them to a backing with adhesive. Thinner micro-mosaics have up to 1000 pieces per six square centimeters (one square inch). I think your little treasure was probably made around 1860. It might have already had a little collapsible case much like the first photo frames. This micro-mosaic is quite finely made. The finest examples were often framed in gold. At auction this might come as a surprise and start at $ 1,000 with the hammer ending in a space where “no bids have been made before”.

Q. I wondered what could be the history of this family object and its age. It appears to be a monk with a monkey on his back. It is a pouring pitcher and measures 13 cm (5 ½ inches) high. The caseback is marked with the number ‘6822’ and a very pale crown with a star below. I would love to hear your thoughts on this piece.

A. I think any proper use will work, like milk, syrup, or a sweet sauce. The crown above a nine-pointed star containing the letter R is the hallmark of the Schafer & Vater porcelain factory of Rudolstadt, Germany. This business operated from 1890 to 1962, manufacturing all kinds of decorative porcelain, figurines and dolls. The four digit number at the bottom is simply a code for the mold. This piece was made in the 1920s as part of a bizarre figurative tableware line the company was known for. Schafer & Vater has been avidly collected in the past but much less today. It is worth $ 65 today.

John Sewell is an antiques and fine art appraiser. To submit an article to his column, go to the ‘Contact John’ page at Please measure your part, say when and how you got it, what you paid for and list any identifying marks. A high resolution jpeg photo should also be included. (Only email submissions are accepted.) * Evaluation values ​​are estimates only. *

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