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Antiques Considered - July 16, 2014

This French armchair belongs to a lady whose father used it as his desk chair.  She thinks it is 200 years old, and she has owned it for over 50 years. She has had the seat re-rushed by Amish craftsmen in Southern Maryland, who also strengthened the structure without obviously altering it.  She also thinks the wood is oak.

This chair is an excellent example of French provincial furniture.  The fluting on the legs indicates that it follows in the Louis XVI-style prevalent at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. The turning and carving mimics the more sophisticated products that came from Parisian cabinet shops, all the while exhibiting its own charm.
Provincial cabinetmakers were quick to copy the latest styles emanating from the capital, but often did not have the tools and skill to produce the more ornate furniture. This chair is typical of that tradition.  The wood never had a gilt gesso finish, as we might have expected from similar Parisian pieces.   

Gilt gesso refers to the application of plaster of Paris, which upon drying then had a covering of gold paint or gold leafing to give a brilliant, shiny finish. Ironically, today, the provincial pieces such as this one are more in demand than their gilt gesso cousins from Paris.

This chair is worth $350, and perhaps more in a good urban auction.  It has good lines and a natural finish with the correct patina from two centuries of wear. The rush seat is well done, and fits with the style of the piece quite successfully.

That no one has undertaken to refinish this piece is a distinct mark in its favor when appraising its value. French furniture is always popular, and this piece is a good example of a significant period of its history.

Henry Lane Hull and his wife, Lisa, operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie duPont Hwy. in Wicomico Church, VA.  Write to him at P.O. Box 35, Wicomico Church, VA 22579 or e-mail questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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