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What's It Worth?

Victorian Chairs Re-Create Past

March 11, 2000|KATHY BRYANT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WHAT IS IT?

This is one of a pair of Victorian hall chairs with mixed elements of design and form. It was probably made in the late 1890s.

WHAT'S ITS HISTORY?

The Victorians had a fondness for the past, so from about 1820 to 1890, furniture styles from around the world were copied, transformed and re-created.

The range of styles included Grecian, Elizabethan (which was often combined with Gothic and Roman or Italian), the French style of Louis XIV, as well as Persian, Medieval and Chinese, among others. This re-creating of styles is considered indicative of the Victorian age.

WHAT'S THE LEGEND?

This pair of chairs was bequeathed to the owner from her grandmother. "I have a picture of me as a little girl sitting on it," says the Fullerton resident. "And that was over 60 years ago. I've always wondered about its history."

WHY IS IT POPULAR TODAY?

It has only been in recent years that Victoriana has become popular. Before then, the furniture was often considered heavy or even ugly. Because of that, this furniture was often more reasonable to buy than other pieces of comparable quality.

One or two pieces in a room can act as conversation pieces.

WHAT'S IT WORTH TODAY?

"The late 19th century or Victorian period was eclectic in taste, and mixed styles and periods to appease the desires of the public taste," says John Jacob-Schram, an antiques and fine arts appraiser in Corona del Mar. "This chair has a Gothic crest with a grotesque, or fanciful, design over a pierced splat back. Grotesque designs are composed of small, loosely connected motifs including human or animal figures.

"The banister back and arms are indicative of the Hepplewhite revival style. The X-frame or Savonarola base shows elements of the early Italianate period. The wood appears to be walnut. I'd estimate the value at around $550 to $600 for the pair."

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?

There are many books on Victoriana. Among them are "Victorian Interior Design" by Joanna Banham, Sally MacDonald and Julia Porter (Studio Editions, 1991), "Victorian Furniture: Our American Heritage" by Kathryn McNerney (Collector Books, $9.95, 1991) and "Victorian Furniture: With Prices" by David Lindquist and Caroline Waren (Krause Publications, $19.95, 1995).

On the Internet, visit http://www.victoriana.com.

* To have an item considered for this column, send information, a photograph of it and a phone number to: What's It Worth?, Home Design, The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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