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Antiques Considered - April 27, 2011

This parlor chair comes from one of the earliest families in the Northern Neck.  It has a mahogany frame, but as the owner had it recovered a few years ago, we cannot determine what the secondary wood is.  The casters are brass, and the chair is quite sturdy.

This chair is transitional between the Empire and Victorian Periods, and dates from 1850.  Fortunately, the recovering retained the original pattern of the tufting in the back. Undoubtedly, it was part of a parlor suite consisting of a sofa, gentleman's chair, lady's chair, at least two of these straight chairs, and

possible a center table, all in the same motif as far as the wood goes.

Unlike its later, more Victorian cousins, this chair appears to be comfortable, perhaps not to the extent of using it for watching a three-hour athletic event on television, but certainly sufficient for a social visit.  The lines are good, and the carving is excellent, although the fabric is not of the Period texture or color.

As a single piece the chair is worth $150, but I caution that individual suite pieces often are difficult to sell.   The Empire Period produced good quality furniture, and has retained the popularity it first experienced after the favor it received in Jacqueline Kennedy's refurbishment of The White House.   By the 1950s American Empire had sunk to a new low in both worth and popularity, but for the past half-century, it has been on a steady rise.

If the time comes to consider recovering, I suggest a simple pattern with a smooth texture, rather than the rough, burlap-like covering that is presently on it, but by all means keep the pattern of tufting.  As a general rule, I advise that whenever an antique is going to be re-upholstered, after the stripping of the fabric and stuffing, have the upholsterer send word that he or she is ready to begin putting the new material in place.  That is the time to go photograph the frame in its unadorned state, where in addition to learning what the structure is, one also might find a label or signature.

Happy Antiquing!

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