Leigh Keno – an American antiques expert, author and on-air furniture appraiser for the PBS series “Antiques Roadshow”- was on hand at the Nichols House Museum last Tuesday to view a rare piece in its collection.
Keno came to see a painted pier table crafted by famed cabinet-makers John and Thomas Seymour that Robert Mussey of Robert
Mussey Associates, a Boston-based firm specializing in the conservation of furniture, architectural woodwork, historic finishes and upholstery, described as “among the finest known examples of Boston Federal painted and gilt furniture, perhaps the finest.” Adding to the piece’s significance is the inscription “Painted in M___ 1809 by J P____iman,” which Mussey said is the signature of Boston’s leading decorative painter, John Ritto Penniman.
“Penniman was unquestionable the greatest decorative painter in Boston during the period, which coupled with the Seymours’ cabinet-making, is a great combination,” said Keno, who also serves as founder and president of Keno Auctions, a Manhattan-based, full-service auction house. “It’s a very important table, an important document and an important part of American history.”
In 2005, Mussey was conducting a survey of the Nichols House Museum’s wood furnishings and was immediately taken by the table that was housed in the museum’s entryway. His subsequent research revealed the true significance of the piece, which was previously unbeknownst to the museum.
“I love discoveries,’ Keno said. “It’s great that it’s been so well preserved at the Nichols House Museum. I can’t think of a better place for it…and it makes the museum a destination.”
Keno encouraged Flavia Cigliano, executive director of the Nichols House Museum, and members of the museum’s board of governors not to touch up the piece. “It can only be original once,” Keno cautioned.
Keno came to the museum at the request of Sarah Hollenbeck Valelly, president and CEO of The Curator’s Eye, a self-described “online marketing and advertising platform for art dealers.” The museum had first asked Valelly to help assess the item. She, in turn, referred Keno, whom she knew from working in New York’s auction world prior before she relocated to Beacon Hill.
To learn more about the Nichols House Museum, visit www.nicholshousemuseum.org.
Visit www.curatorseye.com for more information on The Curator’s Eye.