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March 3, 2013

Metal chest likely worth up to $800

Do you have any idea what this chest might be? I have been looking for information about it for years and have found nothing. It is marked “Vers L’an 1480” and, below that, “M. Le Verrier.”

This is an extremely decorative metal chest or “casket,” and the inscription on the bottom translates as “about the year 1480.” This is meant to suggest that the design of this piece is based on one originally made circa 1480.

The “M. Le Verrier” refers to Max Le Verrier, a French sculptor and metal caster, who was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1891. This “commune” is located on the banks of the Seine River a little more than 4 miles from the center of Paris.

Early on, Le Verrier showed talent as an artist and sculptor, but he did not actually study art until after his service in the French army during World War I. He began his art education at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, Switzerland, and returned to Paris in 1919 to establish his own studio.

While studying in Switzerland, Le Verrier met several sculptors who would become his lifelong friends. In 1925, Le Verrier exhibited at the famous Paris L’Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industrial -- and won a gold medal for his sculpture. The term “Art Deco” is derived from the name of this very influential exposition.

Le Verrier opened his own foundry in 1926, and developed a reputation for producing high-quality castings with exceptional detail.

In 1944, Le Verrier was arrested for his role in resisting the Nazi regime in France, but he lived to reopen his studio and continued to sculpt until his death in 1973. Le Verrier produced many fine works of art, but he also produced items that were meant to be more decorative than artistic -- and this casket belonging is one.

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