Early 19th-Century Virginia Federal Armchair
Appraised Value: $8,000 - $12,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:28)
Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Furniture
GUEST: It was my great-great-great-grandfather's chair. I believe the chair was made in Petersburg, Virginia, which is where my mother's family was from.
APPRAISER: Well, at a glance, I would have thought this chair was made in New York City, because this was a very popular style in New York in the 19th century. Thomas Sheraton published the designs in the late 18th century in England and a lot of people adopted those designs. But there are some things about this that, when we look closely, will tell us it's not a New York chair, despite the fact it has this box-shaped back with the bump-out here and these scrolled arms-- the sort of classic details of a New York Federal armchair. But in its details it is different and I think it probably was made closer to home. Now, whether Petersburg, or maybe a little bit further north in Fredericksburg, somewhere in central Virginia seems to be a good possibility. If you look here, the way the carving is rendered on this little feather or leaf, and on these, if you compare that to the way they were done in New York City, you find that it is different. And I think this chair was made by somebody who was looking at one of those chairs that had come down from New York. We're going to put it on its back here. Sometimes when you pull off one of these scrims, you find exactly what you hope to see under there, and sometimes you don't. So, with your permission, we'll take this off and we'll see if there's anything about the construction that's going to tell us any more. The way this corner brace has been done, the way that's been left open and set in like that is a classic way that Virginia and Maryland chairs were made. The heavier brace in the back is also a good telltale sign. And this looks by eye to be hard yellow pine, which was one of the favorite secondary woods in Virginia and in the South. Virginia is probably where this chair was made. Now, were there others from the set?
GUEST: I only know about this one.
APPRAISER: I see. Okay. Well, oftentimes these were made in bigger sets, sometimes two arm and eight or ten side chairs. And underneath the upholstery you'll sometimes find a Roman numeral that'll tell you what number in the set that this was. So we'll set it back up here. Do you think the needlework is original, or is that something the family had done?
GUEST: You know, I've never seen this chair without this seat on it.
APPRAISER: It's meant to look older than it is, and I suspect it's only been on there maybe 50 years. A lot of times these had black horsehair covering and they'd have a decorative row of brass tacks that would follow along on the front of the seat. Now, you'd have to take that off to see if it has that row of holes where those brass tacks would have gone. On a chair like this, you might want to consider putting that horsehair back on and those beautiful brass tacks. I think if this was a New York federal chair... This chair dates to about 1800 or 1810. As a New York chair, it's probably worth maybe $2,000 to $3,000-- something like that. But as a Southern chair, it actually is much more rare and much more prized at the moment because there are a lot fewer of them out there. So I think, at auction, with this great old surface that you see and in very good condition, I think it's probably an $8,000 to $12,000 chair.
GUEST (laughing): Oh, my gosh!
APPRAISER: And if you had a pair, it would go way up from there.
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