Antiques Guide - SIDEBOARDS

Item #577

Sideboards first appeared in England and America sometime between c. 1750 – 1770 to meet the dining and entertaining needs of the 18th century upper class.
Usually constructed in mahogany, sideboards were comprised of various drawers and cabinets for the storage of items used during dining – cutlery, linens, condiments and wine. The drawer for storing wine is called a cellaret, and thus sideboards originally had the name “cellaret sideboards”. At the opposite end from the cellaret you will usually find a cabinet. Some of these drawers and cabinets were made to look like two stacked drawers, however these were only dummy fronts. Most had a brass gallery, or small railing along the back, on which a silk curtain would have hung to protect the wallpaper from the food. Many sideboards that you find today have had this gallery removed. The holes have either been filled or the back of the sideboard was cut off to reduce the depth.

The bow-fronted and serpentine versions are typically more valuable and desirable than the straight fronted sideboards with the serpentine considered the most coveted.

The bow-fronted sideboard pictured is typical of the English style c. 1790 – the circular inlaid panels on the side drawers or cabinets, square tapered legs ending in spade feet, the use of inlay and cross banding, one central drawer flanked by a cellaret on one side and a cabinet on the other side.

Most early sideboards (c. 1750 – 1810) had straight tapered legs with four front legs and two legs in the back. Later sideboards (after 1800) might have had turned legs. Be on the look out for 19th century sideboards that may have had turned legs replaced with straight legs to give the appearance of older and more valuable sideboards. The legs should form part of the carcass (the stiles) and not be joined to the bottom of the carcass. Check the grain of the legs to see that it continues up.
Some 18th century sideboards may have had inlay added at a later time or drawers converted into cabinets. These alterations do not necessarily effect the value and may even have a greater appeal to some.

Even the best made and maintained sideboards are expected to have some level of wear. Because of their function sideboards had a fair amount of use and abuse.

Late-Victorian and Edwardian sideboards were typically made in the 18th century style, but on a smaller scale as seen in serpentine sideboard. Notice the smaller scale and only two front legs instead of four.

The mahogany sideboard is a classic English piece and will still serve the same purpose in the 21st century as it did in the 18th century.

Sources:
Field Guide to Antique Furniture, Peter Philp & Gillian Walking
Miller’s Collecting Furniture, Christopher Payne