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Catholic Communion font may be worth $400

Dr. Marchelos provides history and market insight related to a Catholic Communion font, in a response to a reader's inquiry to Ask the Experts.

QThis religious item has been in our family for 65 years. It was brought (to the U.S.) from France or Italy. It has a marble background with brass and inlays. I believe it had a receptacle to hold holy water. It measures 19 inches by 8 inches.

I foolishly remolded the Madonna and erased the markings on the back (oily fingers!). It was marked with charcoal pencil, and read: M Renoir 1760626 Bil 124.

I’m wondering about its age, what it may have been used for and value.
– H.J.C.
Springfield, Mass.


A H.J.C. sent photos of a Madonna with a marble back and brass fittings with inlay. He also states that he erased the mark which appeared to include the name M. Renoir. He also remolded the Madonna. All of these factor into the market value of the item. But first, we have to know what it is.

This is a Catholic church Madonna communion wall font with the bowl missing. It appears to have been removed from the wall based upon the appearance of the holes where it was screwed into the pillar or partition which held it. There is an M(arcello) Renoir but also a M. Lenoir listed as artists, but we will never know for sure because the mark is erased.

Also, although beautiful, we will never know the original image, which has been altered. Finally, the age is framed by the construction and is probably middle 19th century. With the size measured at 8-by-19 inches, this was definitely a wall font. There are several types of these, including a crucifix font but, as stated, this is a Madonna font. Because of the names, it is almost certainly French and not Italian. It also has the feel of French religious items, which tend to be more reserved than Italian equivalents.

Fair market value, based upon the issues involved but also the nice appearance, should bring the price to $400 or a little more. This would be the same value for insurance purposes. If intact and all original, the value would be much higher.


Q I found this sterling weighted object and can’t figure out what it is. It is 6 inches long and weighs 78 grams. Marked Italy and sterling. The end has clip that would hold something. It is not a cuticle cutter. Thank you.

– R.L., via email

A R.L. sent a photo of his sterling item marked Italy. The most important part of the item, is the clamp at the end which is not really shown.


In any case, a piece is missing. This is almost for sure the handle of a clamp used at the dining table to hold the bone in cuts of meat served. It probably came from a restaurant, but many are found in homes in Europe, although they are rare in the United States. The most collected ones are for legs of lamb. At the end of the handle is normally a clamp with a screw device which tightens once the device is fitted over the bone. Then it is easy to carve the meat while holding the handle with the clamp with one hand and wielding the knife with the other. The silver has value, but the overall price is compromised because a part of the device is missing.

A new clamp could be made for the handle, but it really is not worth the effort unless a conversation piece is wanted. The value, as is, is really very low.

About our columnist:
Dr. G. Marchelos is an honors graduate and certified appraiser of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. Additionally, Dr. Marchelos has a PhD in history, is a professor of antiquities at the University of Alabama, and is a nationally recognized appraiser working for both private and public institutions across North America. Dr. Marchelos is also a well established antiques dealer, operating both in the U.S. and Europe.