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    Auction Finds

    Comics-book pages all over a chest of drawers

    I didn’t grow up reading comic books, but I’ve found myself as an adult drawn to the Marvel Comics movies. I think I’ve seen every “Iron Man” and “X-Men” movie. I love “Guardians of the Galaxy” for its playfulness.

    So when I saw that an auction house was selling a chest wrapped in comics and shaped like a piece of furniture called a commode (not a toilet), I had to see it up-close.

    On the day of the auction, I narrowed myself through slim aisles of heavy antique furniture looking for the two squat tables. I finally found them atop a walnut dresser, with playing cards beneath their feet to keep them from scratching it.

    A pair of chests, or commodes, with decoupage comics at auction.

    A pair of chests, or commodes, with decoupage comics at auction.

    They were indeed interesting, and would have been even more so had they been handmade. They had originally been sold by Bombay, the company that sells reproduction antique furniture and more. At one point, you could find them in just about any mall throughout the country.

    The comics-book chest seemed to have been done in a process called decoupage, in which decorated paper is glued onto an object such as furniture and then varnished.

    One of the comics on the furniture was DC Comics’ Superman, but none of the others included the hero’s name. These were enlarged pages from comic books. The Superman strip bore the names of Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr., who created the newest Superman series starting in 2014.

    A bathroom chest, or commode, from one of my visits to an auction house.

    A bathroom chest, or commode, in the Louis XV style, from one of my visits to another auction house.

    The decoupage comics were placed on a type of furniture called a commode, or chest of drawers. These first appeared in France in the 18th century in the bedroom of Louis XIV. That one was fit for a king – with ebony veneer, brass and tortoiseshell. They became fancier and quite popular during the reign of Louis XV, but later became a bit more restrained in their look.

    The style was picked up across Europe. A commode that the Philadelphia Museum of Art described one of the great masterpieces of English furniture of the 18th century is believed to have been made by Thomas Chippendale.

    Commodes were usually made in pairs, and that has been the case of many of the ones I’ve seen at auction.

    A decoupaged image of the Superman comics on the front of one of the chests.

    A decoupage image from the Superman comics on the front of one of the chests.

    By the late 18th century, commode was also the name given to a cupboard or cabinet that held a chamber pot, which has its own place in the history of the toilet. Commode could also be a chamber pot hidden away in a piece of furniture resembling a chair.

    Here are various views of the comics-book chest from the auction:

    A side view of one of the chests.

    A side view of one of the comics-book chests.

     

    The top of one chest shows that someone has left an absentee bid - as indicated by the green sticker.

    The top of one chest shows that someone has left an absentee bid – as indicated by the green sticker.

     

    An up-close front view of the chest bearing the Superman comics.

    An up-close front view of the chest bearing the Superman comics.

     

    A side view of one of the comics-book chests.

    A side view of one of the comics-book chests.

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