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Antiques Considered - February 27, 2013

This chair was an estate sale purchase some years ago.   It still has its original black lacquer finish, which, with its gold decoration, is worn in spots, and the rush seat is very old, if not original.  The latter is real rush, rather than the twisted brown paper type that is more common today.

Reputedly, until the estate sale, the chair descended through the same family since it was new.  The new owners recently had the chair strengthened, but in a way that is not apparent to others.

This chair dates from the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the high point of the Federal Period.   From the painted and gilded finish, it could be of Baltimore origin.   On the East Coast during the Federal Period Baltimore was the principal center of painted furniture, which remains highly in demand.  I doubt that the rushing is original, as 200 years of sitting should have taken a significant toll.

As to the “strengthening”, in many such cases structural action is literally necessary to keep the piece from coming apart at the seams.  The design is quite good, showing a level of sophistication on the part of the maker, but it is also a delicate piece.  From the photographs the strengthening is not visible, and did not affect the chair’s value.

The chair is worth $250.  If it could be documented as a Baltimore piece, the value would increase exponentially.  Baltimore pieces command significant prices, and have come into their own market over the last 40 years.   Mrs. Harry Hughes, the wife of the former Governor of Maryland, undertook to restore the Governor’s Mansion during their tenure there.  In the process she highlighted Maryland craftsmanship, which popularized the State’s decorative history, thereby increasing the demand for good Maryland pieces.

Happy Antiquing!

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