The patinas on furniture through waxing and polishing are produced over many years. It is the combination of aging and wearing which produces the wonderful rich sheens that experts wax lyrical over when they assess the quality, age and value of antique tables, chairs, cabinets and desks.
The value in the patina is that it takes many years to develop, and becomes tangible evidence of its social history. As Michael Flanigan, a Baltimore antiques dealer, describes it:
“The nick in the leg of a table, a scratch on a table top, the loss of moisture in the paint, the crackling of a finish…. All these things add up to create a softer look, subtle color changes, a character. Patina is built from all the effects, natural and man-made, that create a true antique.”
No wonder experts frown very deeply at anyone who has removed the patina to re-varnish in an attempt to update an antique. It is obvious that by removing it, not only the value, but also the social history of the piece is removed and with it, its character. So what we are really waxing lyrical about becomes psychological where the patina on a piece of furniture is integral to us as human beings and is built up from years of dirt, sweat and polish. When regarded in these terms it tends to take away rather the poetic notion of the patina although extols the virtue of the human condition.
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