Carolean chairs

Discussion in 'Furniture' started by Phil Harrison, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    Hello everyone
    Views/opinions/observations welcome. My sellers images, so apologies for the quality. Walnut, profusely hand carved rococo backrests, seemingly hand embroidered seat covers with apparent 17th/18th century motifs. These appear contemporary to the chair. Ball and claw feet. Italian/french? If you look closely at the chair seat you’ll see an image of what appears to be two female figures, portrayed from the rear at a 3/4 angle, looking out to sea, perhaps at the sun, which seems to be represented in ovoid form. They appear to be either dark skinned or silhouetted - you can see their foreheads, cheekbones and chins, in profile - and wearing light-coloured headscarves tied at the nape of the neck. Wondered if there might be a connection to the slave trade? Thanks in advance.


     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
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  2. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

  3. Ghopper1924

    Ghopper1924 Well-Known Member

    Beautifully carved, but I'm thinking late 19th century revival piece, especially when looking at the legs and stretchers.
     
  4. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    deleted
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
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  5. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    It’s possible, although I’d prefer to think otherwise, obviously! Let me ask you, if they are C19th, what would you see as the last safe purchase price before I stand to lose money on them?
     
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  6. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    I wondered what you thought of the nail/tack heads holding the cloth to the underside of the chair seat? To my eye - and I’ve only seen these images - they appear pretty irregular, which I felt might suggest hand forging. Not easy to see though.
     
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  7. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    Scratch that - I think there’s oxidisation staining around the nail heads causing them to appear irregular. And, of course, the material could have been replaced in any case, so that’s probably a dead end.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
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  8. James Conrad

    James Conrad Well-Known Member

    Agrees, late 19th at best.
    There is zero chance your chair is period. (1660-1680)

    "The Carolean style or Restoration Style denotes the English decorative arts style that became popular after Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660.
    The return of the King, after the Puritan severity of the Cromwell period, resulted in an outpouring of enthusiasm for opulence and magnificence and the introduction of French and Dutch artistic styles.
    Furniture from this period uses floral marquetry in walnut instead of oak, twisted turned legs and supports, exotic veneers, caned seats and backs on chairs and sumptuous upholstery in tapestry and velvet."
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
  9. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    Yeah, I’m prepared to accept that. I think the seat covers may actually be older and transplanted to this chair. There seems to be another seat cover underneath, partially visible at the edges.

    Any thoughts on this one?

     
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  10. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    This is interesting. This is a screenshot of a website that sells modern, brand new, reproduction louis XV furniture. It’s the same chair. It isn’t merely similar - it is, to all intents and purposes, identical. Look at the two back rests closely. Work your way down the back rest, forensically, noting the points of similarity. Every element is near identical. Same arms, legs, stretchers. I’d say they are 95% the same.

    Clearly, my chairs are at least 100 years old. Equally clearly, the creator of the modern repro has closely referenced a period louis XV chair in creating his piece. Either that, or he’s referenced a revival piece/pastiche (of which there are 1000’s) that just happens to resemble mine in practically every particular. Seems unlikely.

    Given that my chairs have spent the last 50 years in a barn, it seems reasonable to suppose that both my chairs and this made-yesterday repro were based on the same chair - not the same general type or style of chair but a known, specific, particular piece.

    My chairs were bought on the south coast of England, close to a sea port on the English Channel, 25 miles from France. It seems clear to me now that my chairs are French and at the very least a close facsimile of a Louis XV chair that was sufficiently well known/archetypical as to allow an online manufacturer of reproductions to reference it, entirely independently, comparatively recently.

    I’m not sure where the consensus that my chairs must be post-1880 (let alone C20th, which strikes me as borderline ludicrous; no one was hand carving back rests like this, or creating hand embroidery of this sort, in England at least, in the early twentieth century) is coming from? I’d like to hear the evidence that’s allowing you to be so emphatic.

    Clearly the thread title is a misnomer - these aren’t, and never were, Carolean chairs, either period or revival. That much I can grant. But might they be Louis XV chairs, 1715-1774? I believe so.


     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  11. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    That’s a remarkably forthright observation. Especially the ‘at best’ part. Can you substantiate it, in light of the above post? The intimation that these chairs might have been created in the twentieth century - that this is 20th century carving and 20th century embroidery - strikes me as bizarre, frankly.

    Why ‘at best?’ I see nothing here remotely indicative of 20th century construction processes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  12. Ghopper1924

    Ghopper1924 Well-Known Member

    I had a high-backed chair that was a reproduction of one of the dining room chairs at Chatsworth in England ca. 1680, only the chair was maybe 3/4 scale...definitely smaller, but otherwise identical to the original. It was made in Philadelphia ca. 1900. It was just as convincingly carved as yours.

    For your pair of chairs, France seems right, probably ca. 1880-1900. the turnings below seat level look like that time period, you can believe me or not. I'm not going to get into a detailed argument about it. Suffice it to say that your chairs are beautiful, carved in an accomplished fashion, and should be a point of pride in your household whether they're from 1880 or 1780.

    Oh, and the chair with the striped upholstery? I'd say another revival piece, this one utilizing 17th century-style carving, but with the dimensions adapted to the late 19th century. There were lots of different revivals in the late 19th century, some mix n' match, some more academic, that created this kind of chair, and many others. The level of execution was often very high, just look at the Meeks and Belter rosewood chairs coming out of New York City in the 1850s.

    We don't usually provide values on this site because there are so many variables in reader's locations, economics, etc. If I were to see your pair at auction in the U.S. midwest, I would not expect them to go higher than $150, unless there was some kind of reliable provenance to go with them. Sadly, chairs are often overvalued. Yours are beautiful and took a lot of effort to create, but here in the era of the depressed antique market they don't usually get what they seem to be worth.
     
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  13. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    I take your point. Very hard to speak conclusively based on photographic evidence alone. And, in fairness, I don’t think that you have sought to present your opinions in this thread as anything other than informed speculation. My disagreement, such as it is/was, wasn’t with you. Nor was it your opinion that I was soliciting on the stripe-backed chair. You’ve given me context and technical justification for what might well turn out to be an accurate response. Hard to take issue with that.

     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  14. James Conrad

    James Conrad Well-Known Member

    Because your chair could just as easily be 1900 rather than 1880.
     
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  15. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    Based on what, specifically? Or to put it another way, what is preventing it from being, say, 1800? What evidence of circa 1880-1900 construction processes are you seeing that would preclude this possibility?

    Also, the embroidery work. The central motif appears to feature two black women looking out to sea. Isn’t that an oddly particular image to incorporate into a revival piece, given the tendency of revival/pastiche pieces to trade in the most archetypical, generic tropes associated with a given style? Seems like a remarkably left-field design choice to me.

    Further, look closely at the ornamentation incorporated into the embroidery. Those aren’t simply generic Rococo curls - they’re literal representations (if that isn’t an oxymoron) of the carved elements of the chair itself - embroideries of carved wood. When did you last see embroidery like this on a circa 1880 chair seat? Perhaps it’s more common than I realise, but that’s what I’m here to find out.

    Believe me when I say that I’m not on some bloody-minded quest to delude myself here. I just want something that is fact- rather than intuition-based.

     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  16. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    From what I've seen of the replies to your question, they are experience-based, not intuition-based. Experience comes from studying the facts and handling a lot of similar items. Intuition-based is your assumption. People are really trying to help you.
    For anyone who comes across this thread in future, we have identified that since Phil posted this. The seat is in fact jacquard woven, not embroidered, and the decorations are acanthus leaves, not black women looking out at sea.
    https://www.antiquers.com/threads/embroidered-chair-seat-perhaps-you-can-help.41051/#post-873515
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
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  17. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    Some people - the great and blessed majority - undoubtedly are. This being a cross-section of broader society, however, some are more or less curt, more or less dismissive, and more or less condescending, than others.
     
  18. Jivvy

    Jivvy the research is my favorite

    And yet that does not change the value of their experience and/or knowledge.
     
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  19. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    Phil, you can always show your chairs to a local furniture historian, who can look at them in person. Hands on is always best. And more certainty is better than being unhappy about the replies you got here.
     
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  20. Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison Active Member

    Hi. Let me try to be clearer. And before I go any further, the sale of the chairs has actually fallen through, so from that perspective it’s somewhat moot. But anyway...
    It isn’t that I’m unhappy with the replies, per se. The replies may not be what I wanted to hear but that isn’t quite the same thing.
    People come to forums like this hoping to receive considered advice from those that potentially know better. It’s always nice when that advice comes wrapped in a little civility. When imparting an opinion that obviously collides with the OP’s hopes/expectations, it seems reasonable to expect that some explanation of/context for that opinion might also be forthcoming. Of the two voices that have contributed to this thread, only one, in my view, has offered some context for his opinion - and even in doing that, he explicitly stated that he would not offer an explanation of his claim, which amounted, in effect, to: ‘this is what I think, I’m not going to tell you why I think it, take it or leave it.’ The other respondent simply offered bald, conclusive pronouncements, not remotely admissible of the possibility of error, in a manner which at best might be described as curt/discouraging. The same curt/discouraging (yet utterly conclusive) tone, incidentally, in which he misadvised me about a previous piece.
    But again, it’s not really about the opinions. It’s about the tone in which they’re expressed and that air of wafty condescension in which they’re sometimes - very occasionally and by an unrepresentative few - swathed. I’m not an authority on antique furniture generally or Louis XV chairs specifically. I suspect that very, very few genuinely are. But I am sufficiently well versed in other, closely related areas within the decorative arts to have made a career out of them. I have long since become intimately acquainted with the casual superiority of the faux-expert. I’ve almost certainly evinced a good deal of it myself over the years. You can be confident that this isn’t my first brush with human nature. I feel like I know when someone is genuinely trying to be helpful and when they’re doing something else.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
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