Merklen Chair Weekend Puzzler Winner

by John Werry on June 2, 2008

merklen chair Merklen Chair Weekend Puzzler Winner

Thanks to all who responded this weekend on the puzzler that I posted on Friday. Above you will find another version of the chair that was pictured and here you will find another version as well. The big differences between the chair I posted on Friday and above are the brass swan finials as well as the brass ball-and-claw feet. I have never before seen an all-wood version and neither have some of you.

Here are some other known variations of unknown frequency:

  • The chair arms often have wooden or brass curved terminations (though not always) that reconnect down by the seat (see the chair at the link above).
  • There are versions without a finial in the stretcher
  • The height of the seat from the ground can be lower when there is not a finial in place
  • There is usually a spiral stretcher piece in the front

There were some very observant comments that I’d like to address:

  • “The seat is usually square or rectangular in shape” – I’ve seen this to be the case on this chair design but not the above chair.
  • “There is often lattice incorporated in the seat or back of the chair” – yes, but I consider that chair to be a completely different model or design, seen here.
  • “Griffins are commonly employed or other traditional Victorian finials, unlike the swan-shaped finial here” – yes, but you generally see them on this chair here, which I view as a different design.
  • I can’t address Tom’s comments about the seat shape. The pictures are not complete enough for me to directly compare and I don’t know enough about woodworking to comment on the lathed/milled seat. He very well could be right.

Other notes

  • The brothers’ name is spelled Merklen without an “i” present
  • There is never a glass ball in the foot of a Merklen piece, only wood
  • This is not a Hunzinger and he never produced anything similar to this chair. If you find one, it is probably also a mis-marked Merklen.

The Conspiracy Theory

It was suggested by Tom that this chair was a reproduction. This is possible and can be suggested by a few points:

  1. The patina does not look to be typical of Merklen pieces of this age. It appears to be lighter than the norm, though light exposure, environment, refinishing, etc., over it’s lifetime could have caused this.
  2. Take a look at the turned spirals in the back. There are some hardly noticeable, but clearly important differences in them. The early originals have more detail where the spirals come to contact with the crest rail and the seat.
  3. The wooden finials and feet. No one that I am aware of has ever seen this on a Merklen chair of this style.

Someone would have to inspect the chair in person to put this theory to rest. I’m not sure why one would reproduce this chair since so many are available for purchase at auction and it is not exactly a chair that retails in the 5 figures. I asked the seller their perspective, though I’m not fully understanding their response:

Hi, this Merklen STYLE chair looks too new, or has been really refinished to dimish the value from $ 2500 down to my estimates. I would GUESS its an old chair refinished way to well… Cant find any screws etc…

I believe there are two winners in this case and I’d like to send Tom and Connie both a copy of the book. Nice job, both of you, and please send me your addresses when you get a chance.

Thanks to Yesterday’s Antiques for permitting me to take the above photo from their showroom (which is mindblowing in person, by the way).

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