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This chair really gets around. As seen at a recent, local auction:
A Set of Chinese Huanghuali Folding Horseshoe Chairs and Table
Description: Late 20th century, very finely crafted set in the Ming dynasty style, made with huanghuali wood and brass mountings, round top rail continuing in a curve to the arms terminating in out swept ends, each arm supported by the hooked upper extension of the front leg suspending a long shaped spandrel, the back carved splat with qilin and clouds, a soft mat seat with a front stretcher, the hinged round section legs terminating in rectangular base stretchers, the footrest mounted with a central brass plaque of three conjoined lozenges, raised on a shaped apron and small feet, with brass strap fittings and joint pins, includes a folding side table in the same style, a very handsome set.
Folded, it looks like this:
The chair looked vaguely familiar but Chinese furniture is not an area of primary interest of mine at this point in history. I took my pictures and moved on.
Looking back through the library, I found this chair in my pictures from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO:
Close-up of the same:
I am now slightly more interested.
I just received my copy of Christian Holmsted Olesen’s 2014 book, Wegner: Just one Good Chair. On page 123, I found:
(Hans Jørgensen Wegner was a world-renowned Danish furniture designer as was Ole Wanscher.)
Looking for a copy of Ole Wanscher’s book Furniture Types, I found (and could afford this book instead:
One page 247, I found this:
Apparently, this is an iconic chair and I didn’t know it. Why didn’t anyone tell me?
It is interesting that this 18th century Chinese chair is an inspiration for Danish Modern furniture.
And I’m not done looking at books.
I found a Danish copy of Furniture Types (Mobeltyper) that should be arriving shortly.
I just received my second copy of The Art of Furniture by Ole Wanscher. Seems I forgot to cancel one on Abe Books when I decided to go with the ex-library copy. I like ex-library copies in that they not only generally have a dust jacket but the dust jacket has a protective mylar sleeve.
It is fortunate that the second copy was only $15. Anybody out there interested in my spare?
From time to time, the views for this blog spike. I would like to think that the brilliance of my writing has finally been discovered by the masses. Then I examine the stats and realize that one of the cool kids with the popular blogs has thrown me a mercy link. As expected, my numbers return to normal within a few days. My brilliance has not swayed them. They abandon me.
I’m OK with this. I have my 47 loyal followers/readers. If you include my family and friends I have 42. (It doesn’t make sense to either but I’ve checked the math. Numbers still don’t lie.) I’m OK with this in that if I had thousands of followers I might feel the pressure to write informed and well-reasoned blogs instead whatever it is I’m writing now.
In this case, it seems to be John Hoffman’s partner, Chris Schwarz of Lost Art Press, etc. what threw me link. I’ve known him for years (You can check out our history HERE.) He doesn’t owe me anything. He’s really just that nice.
I have seen a few minor spikes that come from one Rude Mechanic on Instagram. Odd name.
Defying conventional thinking, I will just write a normal blog and not try some stunt blog to try to snag new readers. Eventually you would just be disappointed and leave.
In the referring blog, mention was made of settles. According to the wildly popular Wikipedia: A settle is a wooden bench, usually with arms and a high back, long enough to accommodate three or four sitters. I don’t always agree with them but in this case I think they are right enough.
I have photographed enough settles to know that there doesn’t seem to be any one predominant type of settle.
There are some really formal ones:
A settle for loners and thinkers.
Settles that followed my wife home.
Click HERE to see album
And do come back.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an informal meeting of the professional refinishers’ group at the shop of Martin O’Brien, well-known Winston Salem conservator and cabinetmaker. One of the presenters was Brandy Clements of the Silver River Center for Chair Caning in Asheville, NC. She is the first person named Brandy I’ve ever met, male of female, Thankfully it was Brandy and not Brandi or Brandee. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Ms. Clements demonstrated both caning and weaving techniques and gave background information on different materials and the history of each. Good stuff all.
Needing to make this blog about me, I went into the archives to see if I had and pictures of chairs with caned or woven seats. Turns out I found 110 pictures without raising a blister. Pointing and clicking can be painful.
I’ve largely avoided becoming too involved in chairs because, to paraphrase a popular poet/philosopher, “Who knew chairs would be hard?” There’s so many different types of them. Casework is comparatively simple by comparison.
What I found were some fancy seats:
Some very nice chairs:
Some better than nice chairs:
Some utilitarian chairs:
Some chairs with stretched leather seats:
Chairs of all sizes:
And finally no collection would be complete without a chair from the Far East:
The whole set is available for your viewing pleasure HERE.
Just when you think we know everything about gaming tables, more information surfaces. I was at the preview of a local auction house when I came across this rather chunky example:
Georgian Game Table
Description: 19th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, oak secondary, unusual dual hinged top with storage compartment, gate leg, cabriole legs with pad foot.
Most game tables have some style or elegance, not this one.The heavy apron and the graceless pad feet lack a pleasing aesthetic.
But that’s not why I called you here.
It is a four-legged table with the fourth leg being a traditional gate leg:
Note the sprung hinge on the right side. This is important.
The hinge is still sprung. Also note the screws on the lower table surface.
What caused the crack? The lower table section is hinged to the frame covering the storage below:
This isn’t the only design challenge. If one tries to access the storage area with the table closed, the sections stacked, when the sections are opened beyond around 30°, the table falls over. Empirically determined. The table is not very deep and when the weight is shifted too far to the back, bad things happen. If I recalled my vector analysis, I could calculate the tipping point.
I did not bid on this table.
On a more positive note, I found two examples of another method of table support. I reveal to you the extension gaming table:
I found the above at the Raleigh Antiques Extravaganza.
A few hours later I found this one at a Raleigh consignment shop:
On the back rail was this label:
The dealer believes that these tables are from the 1930’s. A search for the patent shows that Patent 2,153,262 was granted April 4, 1939. There were simple practical and novel improvements in extension tables in Patent 2,316,448 on April 14, 1943.
I couldn’t find much on the Big Rapid Furniture Mfg. Co. of Big Rapids, Michigan other than by their own admission they are Manufacturers of Medium Priced Furniture. They obviously survived beyond 1939.
Given the right tools, expert instruction and hours of practice I believe I stand a good chance of becoming a mediocre carver. It’s something to which I aspire. Eventually. Aim for the stars…
I was watching the famous and talented Mary May do another carving demonstration today. Not for the first time and not, I hope, for the last. We are at a furniture seminar at MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) in Winston Salem, NC.
I have a special relationship with MESDA, I give them money and they let me into the museum. I give them more money and they let me come to seminars. With food. All very civilized.
Knowing that it will be a while before I create my own most excellent carvings, I choose to honor them with the only way I know, take pictures and share skilled people’s work.
This is a set of pictures of carved shells and shell-like objects I have dcoumented between January of 2016 and now.
Shell-like carved objects come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and styles. There is:
You can see the entire flickr set HERE.
I can hear the derisive snickers out there. You’re all thinking:
“It followed his wife home? Sure!”
As Roy as my witness, I promise you the story I am about to tell is true. I can’t make this stuff up.
I can embellish…
It is a closely guarded secret that I spend my spare time visiting auctions and antiques shops, recording and documenting the rare treasures I find there. It is our past. It is our legacy. It defines who we are as a species. It’s a bunch of old stuff people don’t want anymore yet has some perceived value.
On occasion, my wife will accompany me to an auction preview. It is usually my second visit. I know she has no interest in spending two hours admiring and photographing every item that was made before McKinley was president. It is one of the things that makes our marriage work. I don’t insist she spends hours staring at old wood objects and she doesn’t insist I accompany her to the beach. Exceptions have been made in certain extreme situations. We must all be flexible.
A recent auction caught my wife’s attention. It was the quarterly catalog auction and it included wine. One cannot actually preview the wine but one can read the list and do research. My wife is very organized and likes to read lists and do research. She found a lot of three bottles of Napa wines that she managed to get significantly below current North Carolina retail, if she could find it.
Buoyed by this success, she decided she wanted to hit the auction preview with me. The evening before the auction, I made my second visit and she made her first. She was better prepared. She has studied the online descriptions and had a list of items she wanted to see. I had a vague notion of what I needed more pictures of.
She quickly dismissed most of her list. The rugs were the wrong size or color. The decorative accessories were in worse shape than the casual collector could tolerate. There was one item on the list she really liked, an English settle.
English Style Settle
Description: Early 20th century, oak and pine, barrel form with shaped arms, curved seat.
About settles. We have had a front porch in need of a settle since we moved in. I know just the settle I want to build. The problem is that I have not delivered said settle. The wood is not even in the shop. Nothing on the calendar. I was slightly hurt that she wanted to buy one but I got over it.
The morning of the auction, I attempted to enter our carefully considered maximum bid, saw that we were already $80 below the current bid, talked and bumped it $100. Then when my wife wasn’t looking, I added another $40.
That night she asked what it went for. I told her that it closed above our second bid. I waited ten minutes to tell her of the third bid that was successful. She forgave me my subterfuge.
And here it is:
We had to place it flat against the wall. Being relatively lightweight pine, it makes a great sail. I was going to build mine from whire oak.
Here you see the barrel form:
A relatively shallow settle:
Relatively simple construction:
Nothing fancy on the sides:
Looking at the bottom, I could see that it has been stripped. It had gone through most of its life covered with mustard colored paint:
I suggested to my wife that for the sake of authenticity, we restore the mustard paint. She was not impressed by this notion.
I expressed my concern that this pine bench might not survive long outside, even on a covered porch. Her response was, “Well, if it only lasts two or three years, it gives us time to find something else.”
I thought, “I have shared a bed with this woman for 26 years and right now, she is a stranger to me. I don’t know this person.”
Fortunately, as an adult, I have a filter and what came out was, “Well, OK.”
This brings up two questions. Firstly, is this a historic and significant piece of furniture or just old? On some level I believe that every piece of furniture ever built needs to be lovingly preserved until we run out of PODS and U-Haul storage units. This is not realistic. Some furniture must die so others can live.
Second question, what is the best non-opaque finish to use on this settle? It will require a fairly high level of UV resistance. My first thought was a good marine spar varnish.
I am willing to entertain other suggestions.
It is impossible to spend any significant time in Barcelona without feeling the influence of Antoni Gaudí. Being easily influence, I couldn’t get enough of his work and am truly fascinated by him and his works.
For those not so influenced (or aware), I offer the following paragraph copied and pasted from a Wikipedia article:
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet; (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a Spanish Catalan architect from Reus and the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works reflect an individualized and distinctive style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família.
Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
As an introduction to Mr. Gaudí, we will explore some of his furniture then. In time, several of his buildingswill be explored.
Much of this furniture was designed for specific buildings. It is firmly in the Art Nouveau style with its organic fluid lines with direct references to nature.
Reproductions of these and other Gaudi pieces are still available.
I am not sure if the following furniture is designed by Gaudi but it does exist within Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera. This was the last civil work designed by Antoni Gaudí and was built from 1906 to 1912.
The furniture may not be Gaudi but it is era and style appropriate and in Barcelona.
Shortly, we will examine some of Gaudi’s s iconic buildings.
There is a fairly common type furniture, many variations with the word setback almost always being in the name. Usually made in two pieces, stacked with the upper section being shallower than the lower. They often look as if they could exist as two pieces of furniture. The base of the upper section is the same as or reflects the base of the lower section as in the following examples:
I ran across this piece in a Raleigh antique/consignment shop. I believe mistakes were made in stacking:
(Although this style is fairly common, I still had to go through 8,000 picture to come up with these the three exemplars. I really need to get an intern.)
I go to all these auctions so you don’t have to. As our fearless leader says, “Believe me”. It’s not always enjoyable but it is necessary. I do what must be done.
Take an auction from the fourth quarter of 2016. The weather was miserable and I didn’t want to go. But I knew I must. And how was I rewarded? I walked in and this is the first thing I saw:
An end view provides you with important construction details should you want to make one of your own:
I did see one of the nicest gout stools I’ve seen in a while:
I will be saving the examination of this book for a time in the future whenI will compare it to the original 1917 volume as to form and content:
The genesis of this blog was a visit to Atlanta in February of 2012. I attended the Cathedral Antiques Show, which I think is the finest antiques show I have ever attended. Nothing but the best with prices and hors d’oeuvres to match.
A dealer there had a game table I had read about but never seen. It has a mechanism for table support that is unique. It was a gorgeous table with a high level of appropriate decoration. The dealer was anxious to show me the table and explain in great detail the history and construction of the table. It was amazing.
Only problem was that the show had a rather strict “no photography” policy. The dealer was sympathetic but was more concerned about his status as a dealer than my blog. That I wasn’t writing yet.
I finally found another table of this design at an auction a few weeks back. I can finally share this different table with you, my loyal reader.
But first, a prime on game table technology. The game table or card table for the purposes of this blog refers to a relatively small table with a folded top that opens to reveal a flat surface that is meant for playing cards or other games. There are many forms and variations of this table including:
The one-legged table:
I have not seen a two-legged table. It could be that there is a trestle table with a folding top, but I’ve not seen it.
A three-legged table might be possible but, again, I’ve not seen one.
What comes close is actually a four-legged table:
In this implementation, the fourth leg pulls straight out of the rear apron to support the top.
A variation of this table:
Then we advance to the four-legged table. This variation has a hinged or gate leg that swings out to support the top:
This table needs two legs to make it happen:
(I was looking for through my library for a picture of this type table without luck. Then I went over to an auction Wednesday to preview on online auction and found this one being readied for the next auction.)
Let’s not forget the five-legged table:
This is an example of the table for which I have been searching for these five long years:
English Queen Anne Card Table
Description: Mid 18th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, shaped top with molded edge, opening to reveal felt lined interior, skirt with herringbone line inlay, cabriole legs featuring acanthus carved knee, raised on pad feet.
The side view led me to believe that I had found it:
Using my spiffy camera with live view and rotating/swinging back I was able to shoot up and see what lay beneath:
There was a mechanism that unfolds and allows the back apron to fall back well over 18″ to support the top:
This view shows the board that slides in the groove to lock the back legs into place.
This blog has been five years in the making. Was it worth it? We’ll know when awards season arrives.
The two better local auction houses each had an 18th century Bible box in the same week’s auctions. As best I can recollect, neither has had a Bible box before. Both of them having one in the same week is really unusual.
The first one up is this:
Eighteenth Century English Bible Box Desk
Description: Mid 18th Century; 10.75 inches height, 23.5 inches width, 16 inches depth; made of old English oak, has fully carved front panel of interlocking scrolls, interior has two upper fitted drawers, has original hand forged butterfly hinges, and locking clasp, constructed with hand forged rose head nails, overall condition is outstanding and original.
This one could be used as a writing desk. The lid is plain and it has a pencil ledge.
And the other auction house had:
English Relief Carved Bible Box
Description: Mid-18th century, oak, top and hinged lid with chip carved edge, wrought iron hinges, the lid is relief carved and dated 1740, open interior with three upper horizontal divisions, front with relief carved stylized dragons.
This one has a carved lid:
Not useful as a writing desk unless you just plan on writing Post-Its.
The first one has two drawers in the gallery:
Oddly, the drawers are not dovetailed:
The second box has a divided gallery:
The first one has a single board back with some interesting bead details:
The second has a single board back without decoration:
Front edge has decoration on the first:
Plain edges on the second:
One of them followed me home.
Actually, I had to go back and get it.
A Morris chair is an early type of reclining chair. The design was adapted by William Morris’s firm, Morris & Company, from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex, England. It was first marketed around 1866.
Morris chairs feature a seat with a reclining back and moderately high armrests, which give the chair an old-style appearance. The characteristic feature of a Morris chair is a hinged back, set between two un-upholstered arms.
Morris chair is a fairly flexible term. If you add the word Style, it becomes positively elastic.
Below are two from a recent auction. The first is considered a traditional Morris chair:
Morris Style Reclining Arm Chair
Description: Circa 1900, mahogany and pine, transitional mission style frame, later paisley upholstered cushions.
For some reason the auctioneer listed this under Furniture – English and Continental.
It has a robust back adjust mechanism:
The other is more of the “Mission” or the “Craftsman” Morris chair. This one is listed under Furniture – American:
Morris Style Reclining Arm Chair
Description: Circa 1900, later blue upholstery, oak frame, adjustable back with iron support bar, raised on shaped feet.
This back adjustment seems a bit less robust:
The content of this blog feels a bit light. I am obligated to add a few more chairs from the same auction. Third up is this chair just ready for you and your designer to make your own:
Queen Anne Wing Back Chair Frame
This lot has sold for $310.
Description: 18th century frame, oak and other hardwoods, with later front cabriole legs.
One way to get rid of all the vermin in your horsehair stuffing.
And one last chair to round things out. Or, in this case, a pair of chairs:
Pair of Transitional Carved Arm Chairs
This lot has sold for $400.
Description: Early 20th century, mahogany, floral needlepoint over upholstery, bowed arms terminating in eagle head, legs with acanthus carved knee and ball and claw foot.
One of a pair, the other looks just like it.
What really amused me about these chairs are the carved arms: