Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Furniture Mystery

It's late October, and Lovely Daughters #1 and #2 are fully settled in to the Funny Looking House. They have all the furniture and furnishings they need now.

They don't need me to Dumpster dive or bring home any more things left out by the side of the road.

But I can't stop noticing what my insane neighbors leave out for the trash man, and it drives me nuts to see useful things go to waste.

A few weeks back, I noticed three side chairs abandoned on a curb. I was with LD #2 at the time, and I said, "Aww, look at that! Some body is trashing perfectly nice chairs!"

But it wasn't anything she or her sister needed, so I let them be.

A day later, the chairs were still there.

I couldn't stand it.

I drove my car over and tossed all three of them into the back, with the intention of giving them to Goodwill an hour later. But when I pulled them out of the car and took a closer look, I was intrigued. Two of them looked the same, and one was slightly different.

The lighter-colored chair on the right (in the photo below) is one of two. The darker-colored chair on the left is the odd one of the three:

But it is beautiful! It has graceful lines, the wood feels silky and smooth, and its construction is far better than the other two.

I mean, look how doofy the lighter-colored chair on the right looks in comparison:

The back splat on the darker chair is all graceful curves, and the lighter one on the right is just...awkward.

Here's a closeup of the better chair:

And here's a closeup of one of the dorkier chairs:

It's almost painful to contemplate those awkward bends and angles! By contrast, everything about the dark chair chair flows. One part leads gracefully to the next:

Look past the stained fabric seats: that's just a simple upholstery change.

From the back, you can see the darker chair has graceful, "sabre"-style back legs, and the lighter chair has legs that look...knock-kneed:

I apologize for the slightly out-of-focus shot, below. But even in this fuzzy image you can see how the darker chair has nicer lines. It's more elegant. More--I don't know--more sure of itself:

Intrigued, I turned them over to look for clues.

I found this old-fashioned label, in a shaky hand that looks like an old person wrote it, on the bottom of one of the dorky chairs:

It says, "Modern copy of Victorian fiddleback chairs." Then I turned over the prettier, darker chair, and I found this label, clearly written by the same hand:

It says, "Victorian fiddleback chair. Same style as Se*g****ret chairs from New Orleans." And above all that, you can just make out in the photo above, is a date: "1840."

1840??!! I nearly fell over!

Is it possible this chair is actually from the 1840s? And what is that proper name, so unfortunately scribbled in a shaky hand, only halfway legible?

I jumped on the Internet and confirmed that the Victorian period of decorative arts stretched a long time. Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837 and ruled until her death in 1901.

The beautiful lines, silky finish of the wood, and construction of the lovely chair make me think it could, indeed, be from the 1840s. Or at least some time during the long Victorian era.

But what is that halfway illegible name? I have searched and searched, and I can't get anywhere. I've Googled every combination of "Victorian," "New Orleans," "Fiddleback," "Chair," "Furniture Makers," "Manufacturer," "Factory," and "1840s" I can think of, but no use.

Does anybody recognize this maker's name? It definitely starts with "Se" and ends with "ret," but it gets kind of hard to figure out, beyond that:

In the meantime, I'm giving the two dopey-looking chairs to Goodwill.

But this one? It's a keeper. And I still want to solve the mystery of its origin.



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