Q: I recently purchased this rocking chair at a consignment shop in North Georgia. I paid $98. Attached was a note reading, "1820-1860 probably New England." It is pegged and has a split oak seat. I do not know if the seat is original. Please share any knowledge you may have on such a rocking chair.
A: Rocking chairs are not the hottest ticket in the antiques furniture world. They are kind of a cliché that brings to mind a world that no longer exists. And they tend to take up too much room in modern homes where space can be at a premium.
That said, the chair in today's question has some pizazz and is certainly a more interesting example than most country-made rocking chairs we see. The most serious question is whether the chair began its life as an armchair and later had rockers added or if it has always been a rocking chair.
Only an in-person examination would determine this with any certainty, but if we had to make a bet based on the photographs, we would probably go with the rockers as being a later addition. This would not be all that unusual.
We feel the 1820 to 1860 time frame is a bit optimistic. Looking at the quality of the work plus the overall design, we think it is post-Civil War with a probable date of origin in the late third quarter or early fourth quarter of the 19th century. This does not materially affect the value or detract from the interest.
We can call this a Windsor-style chair, but it is not a true Windsor because it was constructed using pegs and does not have a typical Windsor plank seat. Instead, it is an adaptation of the 18th- and early-19th-century Windsor furniture that was made in both England and North America. The top has a comb back (named for what it looks like) and urn-shaped turnings on the chair's side posts. Both are interesting design features.
The comb back was probably added as a headrest, or it could have just been decorative. The scrolled arms are well made and at the right height for the seat. Now we come to the split oak seat, which appears in the photographs to be so fragile we fear it would not support the weight of a well-fed house cat.
Fortunately, this is not a big issue because the rule of thumb is such seats had to be replaced every 30 years or so. A well-done replacement seat would not hurt the value significantly (unless the new seat looks too fresh and incongruous and is jarring to the eye). Insurance replacement value with a new seat is in the $175 to $225 range.
Royal Bonn vase
Q: This vase belonged to the aunt of a friend of mine. It is 13 inches tall and the gold trim on the flowers and leaves is raised like it was applied with an outlining brush. We hope you can tell us about its history and its worth.
A: This vase looks neoclassical in form with its winglike handles and funnel-shaped base. It is tall for its genre, and it is decorated primarily with a bouquet of colorful flowers, leaves and buds.
What may not be quite so visible in the photograph is the rather strange, matte-finished gold patch that appears to contain representations of two bluebirds on the wing. It is a bit odd, but it does add a touch of richness to what would otherwise be ho-hum floral designs.
The mark is located on the bottom, mostly inside the funnel portion of the foot. On the flaring part of the base is the word "Bonn." That tells the story. The rest of the mark (not easily seen in the photograph) is an oval, shieldlike reserve with fancy initials and the number "1755" inside, a crown and the word "Royal" above.
This is the mark of the earthenware factory Franz Anton Mehlem, which was founded in Bonn, Germany, in 1836 and is commonly known as "Royal Bonn." Mehlem made household and decorative pottery plus some pottery used for technical applications. It also made sanitary wares (bowl and pitcher sets, soap dishes and the like) as well as some decorative porcelains, which included reproductions of figures originally made by the famous 18th-century Horst factory.
The factory was sold to Villeroy & Boch in 1921 and finally closed in 1931. The particular mark found on your vase was in use from about 1890 to 1920, and we believe the vase is circa 1910 or so.
Collectors tend to like the Royal Bonn pieces that have exquisite figural work and rich background colors. Larger sizes do bring better prices. (We have seen vases as tall as 47 inches and palace urn on stands at more than 70 inches.) Royal Bonn is also famous for its tapestry surfaced wares and clock cases.
This vase is upper-middle range in quality and has a good size. It should be valued for insurance in the $200 to $300 range.
Q: We found this lamp buried in an attic closet and are guessing it once belonged to my wife's grandmother. Can you tell us who made it, when it was made and the value? It stands about 2 feet high, is extremely heavy and on the bottom it is marked "Made in France."
A: Lamps are meant to give light. There are table, floor and even pole lamps to illuminate a room. There are boudoir lamps to throw a little light on dressing tables. And there are even task lamps used to focus a beam on a written page or on a work project. But the lamp in today's question is none of these.
It is a newel post lamp, used in Victorian and Edwardian homes to light the staircase to avoid falls and other misadventures. The newel post lamp was affixed to the top of the newel post, which is the column found at the foot of a staircase and used to support the railing or banister.
If the stair curved as it rose to the second floor, there might have been a newel post at the turn, and one of these lamps might have been placed there, as well. On occasion, in really large houses, lamps of this kind might have been placed on posts along the railing on the upper landing. But for the most part, the lamps were used at the foot of the stairs on a post that could be very ornamental.
Sometimes newel posts were lathe-turned wood, but sometimes they were hollow and could be architectural in style. For the most part, lamps started being placed on newel posts in the mid-19th century, but most of the ones collectors find today are from the late 19th century and early 20th centuries.
Early newel lamps could be fueled with various fluids, including whale oil. Later, gas, kerosene and finally electricity fueled them. The example in today's question appears to one of the later models and probably graced a newel post sometime in the early 20th century. We feel the piece is from the first quarter.
Newel post lamps often have a central figural component. They often feature neoclassical style women, Cupids, Mercury or Hercules, blackamoors, gladiators, perhaps a boy with a pole over his shoulder or representations of agriculture, which describes the figure in today's question with its mustachioed man walking in a field with a rake and a basket.
Newel post lamps can be found carved from wood or cast from metal — such as brass and bronze — but a large portion of them were made from spelter or pot metal, the main component being zinc.
The glass components that cover the light bulbs on this newel post lamp were probably made in Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic), and the base appears to be gilded and painted spelter. And as the marking says, it was "Made in France." Fair market value on the piece is probably in the $200 to $300 range with a retail value in the neighborhood of $500 to $600.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques.
Do you have an item you'd like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Av., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail them at treasuresknology.net. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.