- Published on Wednesday, 04 July 2012 00:00
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A gentleman from Northumberland County recently purchased this chair, or should I say chair frame?, at a house sale for $25. Both the primary and secondary woods are walnut, and the frame is sturdy, although the finish on the arms in spots has been worn away. The fabric that has survived is not original, as evidenced by the previous nail holes in the frame.
This chair is a fine example of the mid-nineteenth-century return to seventeenth-century motifs. The Victorians on both sides of the Atlantic became enamored with Gothic and Jacobean designs, and began replicating them in furniture, architecture and the decorative arts. In the present case the motif is Jacobean, the name coming from the Latin for James, meaning King James I of England, who ruled from 1603 to 1625. From the style and wood turnings this chair is American, rather than English.
The twisted arms and legs are typical of the style of King James’ reign, and the curved seat, stretcher base and chamfered legs complete the attempt to repeat that earlier design. I advise against having the piece refinished, and urge that the wear on the arms and legs be left as it is. From the back one can see that the last fabric was a tapestry, which would be an appropriate choice for the next one.
The chair, even in its present condition, is worth $125, making the purchase price a bargain indeed. Properly re-upholstered with the correct hobnail tacking on the borders the chair will make a handsome addition to any setting. With respect to the hobnails, they should be tacked individually, rather than by using the strip nails, which would cheapen the overall effort.
Today medieval and seventeenth-century revival pieces have made a comeback. Few people design entire settings around them, but as accent pieces they are popular, and continue to appreciate in value. Happy Antiquing!
Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc., at 5150 Jesse DuPont Hwy., P. O. Box 35, Wicomico Church VA 22570.