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Why did a chair without upholstery sell for nearly £6,000 at Hansons?

Posted on 09/04/2018 in Press Coverage

An antique chair soared to glory at auction despite having no upholstery and being in need of restoration.

Looking at it in its basic form, with its hessian cloth awaiting a colourful swathe of fabric, it may be hard to imagine why this had bidders champing at the bit.

But it did and the chair, which dates back to circa 1750, sold at Hansons Auctioneers Spring Fine Art auction for £5,900 from an estimate of £1,000- £1,500.

Edward Rycroft, head of the furniture department at Hansons, said: “We had interest online, from telephone bidders and in the room and, though I knew it would exceed its estimate, I was surprised at how well it did.

“It was so sought after because it was a rare and particularly fine wing back armchair dating to the reign of George II.

“The wing back chair is widely recognised throughout the world as typically English and yet these were built by Huguenot craftsmen in the late 17th Century.

“Huguenots were 16th Century French Protestants who were persecuted. About 200,000 left France, settling in non-Catholic Europe, and around 50,000 came to England. Some were artisans and craftsmen.

“In the 18th Century, the wing back chair was remodelled. It has been produced on a large scale in England ever since.

“The earliest versions were derived from the high back chair with attached wings to block out cold draughts in a large room. Consequently, earlier examples have deeper, more functional wings. Like all furniture design, the originals were made for a practical purpose but later examples carried the design for aesthetic and historical reasons.

“The chair sold at Hansons (lot 784) was a perfect example of an early design.The winged back was deep and substantial, which had the ability to protect the sitter from cold draughts.

“However, one particularly important feature of this chair is how plain and simple the overall design is.Designs throughout the centuries were born out of reason and in this example the design was raw but right.

“It wasn't until the design had been mastered that variants developed.In addition, the legs were simple but inspired by animal legs with paw terminals.

“The whole piece had the appearance of being unfinished but no restoration was necessary except the required work of covering it.The upholstery was in sound condition and was ready to be covered in a fabric of the buyer’s choice

“The fact that the chair did not have any covering over the frame meant prospective buyers could bid with confidence having seen it in its raw state.If a frame is covered, you can’t inspect the timber beneath.

“Wing back chairs as old as this do not come up often and, since these are the original designs upon which later versions are based, it had historical value.

“All these aspects made the chair particularly desirable to both private and trade buyers.”

Hansons Auctioneers, of Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, is inviting furniture entries for its May and Summer Fine Art sales. The deadline for the May auction is May 4 while items for the summer fine art sale can be consigned until June 8.If you have any furniture you would like Hansons to appraise, call 01283 733 988 or email [email protected]