George Hunzinger Renaissance Revival Chair

by John Werry on December 9, 2008

george hunzinger chair George Hunzinger Renaissance Revival Chair

This past weekend saw a pair of these George Hunzinger chairs go for $6,000 at auction and now there is a single chair currently seeing some bidding with six days left in the sale, above.  It is currently bid up to $1,825.  I did not inspect the chairs at the Rago Auction from this weekend, but this one has a few areas to point out.  With all the accoutrements that Hunzingers ususually have hanging off of them, it’s not unusual to find some of them missing.

hunzinger crest George Hunzinger Renaissance Revival Chair

The finials on the crest of the chair are missing small balls, which you can see in this reference image from the Barry Harwood Hunzinger book, above.

This chair design originally had casters, which you can see on this reference image below, but are missing from the sale chair.

hunzinger casters George Hunzinger Renaissance Revival Chair

The chair also has some finish wear, nicks and scratches and has some old repairs that are more readily visible from the other images from the lot listing.  We’ll see how this sale goes and whether the $3k mark is hit.  One thing is sure – I don’t ever expect to see $12k and $18k as we have in past.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane December 9, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Seems like this is a Neo-Grec style . . .

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woodwright December 9, 2008 at 3:56 pm

The chairs @ Rago’s were a little different than this one (it say’s a pair of these sold for $6,000). I like the style shown here/ on ebay now better. The Rago chairs w/ the curving back rails terminating in what looks like a sceptor is sort of odd. Nice upholstery though, but I’m not sure I’d use white to upholster a chair, or any seating furniture. woodwright

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misslilybart December 9, 2008 at 6:53 pm

The chairs at Rago were actually upholstered in a very pale creamy yellow (or pale yellow-y cream). It is a color that “shows well” with reddish woods (as does green), as evidenced by the many federal dining chair seats you will see upholstered in pale yellow silk. One probably shouldn’t expect to actually sit on those chairs, though, as noted by woodwright.

(Though I think I’d take pale yellow – or even white – upholstery any day, over fabric that is almost exactly the same color as the show wood and the blankety-blank double-welting on the eBay chair.)

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james conrad December 10, 2008 at 7:26 am

HEY, wait a min. here, are you guys/gals talking about antique chairs that one can’t sit on?

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misslilybart December 10, 2008 at 9:24 am

All antique chairs can be sat upon, in theory. ‘Tis whether the upholstery of a given chair will survive repeated sitting upon that is at issue. ;)

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RareVictorian December 10, 2008 at 9:39 am

I have 2 Hunzinger chairs and neither of them do I look at and think that it would survive my sitting on it. … And they are in as about as sound a condition as they will be at this age and my 5’9″ frame is not overly substantial.

They’re really diminutive chairs and the component pieces are relatively thin.

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james conrad December 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Gee Wiz, well, how about when they were new, could you sit in them then?

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RareVictorian December 10, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I think humans were smaller then:

“In the late 1700s, for example, American-born colonialists made good use of their sparsely populated, protein-rich environment to become taller than their European contemporaries: average height was five foot eight for American men, judging from military and prison records. That was nearly two inches taller than the average British soldier. Just decades later, however, a strange stunting started to occur that researchers don’t fully understand. American incomes rose from the early to mid-1800s, but that didn’t equate to better living conditions. As Americans became richer — as a group anyway — they also shrank.”

source: http://www.macleans.ca/science/technology/article.jsp?content=20050404_103140_103140

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woodwright December 10, 2008 at 9:55 pm

I agree w/ MLB – the frabric is not a good choice it looks like it is from the 50′s (1950′s) and it does nothing positive for the chair. The double welting should also be left to modern chairs – period antiques should be trimmed w/ gimp. Scroll gimp or even some of the more ornate styles of gimp, it’s available in a huge variety of colors to match almost any upholstery – but definately not double or even single welting. I would also not upholster anything with a fabric that would not wear well (like silk), or was impractical like white or pale yellow. We have a houseful of antique furniture and a B&B – very few pieces that are not antique. We & all of our guests use every piece. I can’t imagine owning a chair that could not be sat in and having to tell someone not to use it – to me those belong in museums behind a rope to be admired, but not used.
Chairs take a lot of stress from the forces of sitting down, leaning back, sliding in and out, etc. Chair parts typically are not massive – sometimes quite diminutive. Most chairs are designed to handle the stress they will receive. The legs are generally splayed (angled rather than vertical) which adds a great deal of strength to them, stretchers, aprons, backs and braces all add to the strength of the chair and collectively help to bear the stress. It amazes me how strong a well fit tenon in a mortise or socket actually is. What fails is typically the glue at the joints – it is fairly rare to see actual wood breakage under normal usage (barring abuse or accidents). Because the weakness is the glue itself, I usually reglue chairs with epoxy (I use West System epoxy – DO NOT use 5 minute epoxy – it has a much weaker bond, sets up too fast to assemble parts, and is not waterproof). Epoxy is one of the strongest glues available, 100% waterproof (it’s used extensively in boatbuilding), it has excellent gap filling ability (most other glues do not have a good gap filling ability), can be tinted to match a wood/ finish, and it has a slow set time to allow enough time to assemble all parts (different hardeners will speed up or slow down the set time). A word of extreme caution – it is very messy (sticky) to work with (I use disposable gloves), and will bond to anything it gets on including the finish of the chair (I apply a liberal coating of paste wax to surrounding areas to insure it will not make a mess that cannot be cleaned up). This would make most furniture restorers & conservators gasp in horror since epoxy is not reversible as are the water soluble glues. I put things together to stay together, not to come apart. What sold me on epoxy for chairs is: I have a shop stool that I abuse badly – sitting, standing, dragging, piling things on, etc. it is heavily used. I had reglued it a half a dozen times w/ the usual water soluble glues cleaning out all of the old glue first until I finally got tired of regluing it and resorted to epoxy to reglue it. That was probably 10 years ago and it is as tight today as the day I glued it up – many years, and much abuse later – super strong glue. Because epoxy is so messy to work with, it should only be used when needed – not for most repair work, but I love it for regluing chairs that I’ll never have to reglue again. woodwright

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james conrad December 11, 2008 at 7:03 am

LOL @ “they also shrank.”

Yeah, i was aware that people were smaller years ago. Perhaps chairs such as these were placed in ladies parlors.

In the queen anne i once owned/restored, there were 2 parlors and one was i think, a ladies parlor. It was the only room in the house that had the trim and fireplace mantle painted.

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RareVictorian December 12, 2008 at 12:41 pm

My “ladies parlor” has the tiled fireplace surround and purportedly at one time had an identical twin fake fireplace with the same surround and mantel.

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james conrad December 13, 2008 at 7:42 am

Interesting article in ACN on “sex and seating” during the victorian age.
http://acn.liveauctioneers.com/index.php/columns/furniture-specific/68-furniture-specific-sex-and-the-seating

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zeke December 18, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I was very impressed with these chairs when I viewed them in person at the Rago auction. They were in incredible shape and were restored to museum condition. Most of the furniture there was restored (perhaps over-restored!) but it all “showed” well. These 2 chairs were massive and very heavy, I picked one up and it was sturdy and solid. I sat in one and it was very comfortable. That fabric had to go though. The upholstery job, even if inappropriate, was done very well and looked expensive. The shirring gave an authentic look if not the welting. The problem with upholstered furniture is if it is newly done like this the seller has to include the price of the upholstery in the selling price. If you don’t like the upholstery, you are stuck with the costly job of having it reupholstered and the chairs can turn into a money pit. It would be much better if they were offered with no upholstery and you could examine the condition of the frames etc and pick your own upholstery if you bought them. Every time a chair is redone, the extra nail holes do nothing positive for the integrity of the wood.

Of course, the crowd at Rago would probably not go for this approach and these chairs were ready to just put in your home and use, that is if you didn’t want to sit on them

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