Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 01-27-2005 07:08 PM:

Tekke Trapping as Period Upholstry

Greetings All

In my travels I have come across this interesting roundabout parlor chair in the empire style, circa 1860, which seems to be upholstered with a Tekke chuval fragment.

While I do follow antique furniture, I am by no stretch of the imagination any kind of expert, but believe the above mentioned date seems appropriate for this type and style of earlier manufactured American furniture. Kind of expensive for this type of chair, but does seem to be exceptional . There is always the question of the fabric being a replacement (origional seat covers are rare and command a premium), but being the excellent, well cared for, and delicate though in good condition (these parlor pieces were rather more for looking than sitting) piece that it be points toward a complete and origional condition.
An unusual aid to dating, this use as upholstry, but could it be accurate in this instance?


Posted by R. John Howe on 01-28-2005 08:07 AM:

Hi David -

Did you buy it? If not, are you free to say off board where you saw it?

I own a very similar Tekke fragment taken from a chair seat.

I do not think that the encountering of this chuval fragment on this particular chair says anything about the likely date of manufacture of either the fragment or the chair.

Think about this. No matter when either were made this fragment could have been placed on this chair the week before you encountered it.

It is true that one rule used with antique items is that no piece can be older than its youngest feature. But that would need to be applied separately to both the fragment and to the chair.

I don't think that the fact that you have encountered them joined in this way says much about the age of either.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Farber on 01-29-2005 01:15 AM:

dear mr howe

the rule that you stated

"It is true that one rule used with antique items is that no piece can be older than its youngest feature. But that would need to be applied separately to both the fragment and to the chair."

cannot really be true if the other statement is true

"No matter when either were made this fragment could have been placed on this chair the week before you encountered it."

a house is not the age of a replaced door bell . . .

nor is a chair the age of a replaced seat cover.

but basically the question might be how much has to have been replaced before the piece ceases to be the piece.



sorry about this letter . . .its too early on a saturday morning

Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-29-2005 06:07 AM:

Hi John and Richard,

Think John says:"applied separately to both"

But isn't it: An item can't be younger than the oldest adjustment that has been done to it.

So one has to know when the adjustment was done. Old pieces need dated pictures and discriptions about the work that is done.

A bit later on this saterday morning.

Best regards,

Posted by Steve Price on 01-29-2005 07:41 AM:

Hi People

I think you're getting pretty tangled up in semantics. Every unit of every item is its own age. That's simple and straightforward, and (I think) undeniable.

Items that have been assembled from units, and this includes nearly every artifact of interest to us, have ages that can be defined arbitrarily in various ways. Among antique collectors, I think the general rule is that an item is as young as its youngest component. I suspect that this is a "quick and dirty" rule, and that collectors of antique furniture actually treat the subject more or less as rug collectors do. That is, a 100 year old rug with some recent repairs or restorations is still a 100 year old rug. If the extent of restoration is very large, the rug may no longer be thought of by collectors as 100 years old. That extent is not well defined.

In the case of the chair, I'm sure antique furniture collectors would value it more if everything (including the upholstery) is original, but would consider it to be an antique chair even if the upholstery is new or some repairs or restorations have been made to the chair itself.

We don't become younger every time we eat a meal.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 01-29-2005 10:45 AM:

Richard, Steve and folks -

Sorry to be unclear.

The rule as I have encountered it is "no piece can be older than it's most recent feature."

Now "feature" may be ambiguous but let me use a furniture example to try to be clearer.

My wife and I own a mahogany low-boy that seems generally to be in the Queen Anne style. It has the usual cabriole legs but not the usual Queen Anne feet. Instead about three inches above where the legs of the piece touch the floor there are "knee-forms" that protrude a little and then the "feet" are straight tapered pieces below that.

It is my understanding that these "knee-like" devices began to appear on such pieces in the 1860s, so this piece, it would seem cannot be claimed to have been made in the "Federal" period that ends about 1830. These "knees" are a later and disqualifying feature.

Similar arguments are made about the types of nails and screws and other features of construction that are used to identify pieces old enough possibly to have been made in the "Federal" period (read "more expensive"). The fact that synthetic dyes began to appear in the 1860s operates to some degree in a similar way. One reason why synthetic dyes might be looked at with askance (even if they turned out to be very pretty) is that their presence in a textile bars the use of the sentence "possibly before 1850," something collectors like to be able to say.

That is what I intended to refer to here. I thought we'd have to evaluate the age of this seat and of the item of furniture separately.

I think David was wondering, since this Tekke fragment was found on a piece of furniture possibly made in 1860, whether we might be able to use that to argue that the fragment might be that old as well. I think it may well be that old, but not for that reason.

Hope that's at least clearer.


R. John Howe

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 01-29-2005 05:01 PM:

Dating and Age

John and All
I came across this chair on a road trip to Gettysburg a week or three ago, and thought everyone might enjoy seeing it. As it turns out, John is right on the money, as this fragment is mounted as a drop seat instead of being secured directly to it's frame. It was mounted with new staples, could have been a repair, but really no saying now.

Dating furniture made after the federal period is pretty straight forward, and if the tag is still there you might be able to determine if this production was upholstered with carpet.

It is true that "one rule used with antique items is that no piece can be older than its youngest feature" but as stated above,
this applies more to techniques of manufacture or style and design features than to repairs and/or alterations made at a later date. One distinguishing characteristic of genuinely old pieces is that they are often altered or repaired through the course of their long lifetimes for entirely practical reasons. I own a federal work/tavern table which has drawer that is an obvious addition, made some time ago, and now can serve as a nightstand. In this instance, the alteration is a sign of authenticity.

In older pieces, designs were more constant, and some "primitive" styles of furniture may have been made in essentially the same style and design for over a century. It is here, that the "youngest component" principle, at it's most exacting, comes into play. Hinges are prime indicators in early "primative" construction, and especially mortising, which might suggest hinges have been replaced, as they ofter are, with more recent hardware which belie the age of the piece. There is a also a "quick and dirty" dimention to this youngest feature principal, as in looking for machined instead of hand joinery.

One of the great ironies of finding really old upholstered furniture lies in the fact that one need practically destroy the fabric in order to determine if the piece is genuine, for the prime indicators to age line in the wooden frame. As for this chair, no telling, unless there is a label secreted somewhere which might lead to further information.

I don't own this chair but do plan on buying, if I can talk my wife into it . I took some photos, and on a whim, put it on E-bay just to see what would happen. I lost $20 . I own a set of four chairs from this same period, simple turned joinery with rush seats, and for what this roundabout costs I could buy almost ten of the above sets of four. A tad expensive, as even a pristine painted "fancy chair" of this age might command a couple hundred bucks in general. It is a nice chair, with much detail, both applied and carved, yet I suspect the vendor considers it "special" if you know what I mean .

I checked Mackie and Thompson, and it seems that" twelve triangle banner gul "+ " other than shrub border" = early, and those Kochanok borders, trucked under the edge of the drop form, are all there.


Posted by R. John Howe on 01-29-2005 10:45 PM:

Dave -

The design and coloration of this fragment is so close to mine as to make one ask whether they might not have come from the same chuval. I have no trace of border on mine but do have some of the elem.

Let me know if you can't convince your wife. If it's as it looks in these photos, this is a piece that one of us ought to pick up.


R. John Howe