Furniture pieces often have unexpected names that honor the maker or a connection to a famous person.
A Chippendale or Sheraton chair is named for the designer. Larkin desks are named for the company that gave them away. The Wooten desk was named for the maker, William S. Wooten.
But the Recamier sofa is named for the woman who posed for a portrait on the lopsided bench. For many centuries there had been armless benches and window seats — small benches with arms at each end that did not block the view from the window. By the 1800s, there were long chairs with the French name "chaise longue," made so your feet were kept as high as the chair seat. But by 1800, the seats included the "meridienne," a bench with arms but no back made for lounging, not sitting.
Madame Juliette Recamier had her portrait painted while stretched out on one of these. The portrait, by Jacques-Louis David, became so famous the Directoire piece of furniture was called a Recamier by the public and the name stuck. The end of the story is strange.
When the portrait was almost finished, she hired another artist to do another portrait. David was so angry he never finished his picture. Part of the canvas shows in the background — her head was missing details and the artist did not glaze the painting.
It was given to the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1826 and because it is unfinished, it has been a guide to the methods and brushwork used by the artist. Recamier sofas have remained in fashion.
A Regency-style mid-19th century example was offered at a New Orleans auction in the summer of 2014 with an estimate of $2,000 to $4,000. Like many of these pieces, it has a cylindrical pillow tucked at the base of the scroll arm. But it also has a partially curved back.
Barn cookie jar
Q: My grandmother left me a cookie jar shaped like a barn. It's brown with some details in yellow. The farmer's wife is standing in the door to the barn, hands on hips, and the farmer is in the background. It says "Dutch Treat" in yellow across the front of the barn. There are no markings on it. Who made it and what is it worth?
A: This Dutch Treat cookie jar is said to have been made by McCoy between 1968 and 1973, even though there is no mark. It sells for about $50.
Q: I am giving my grandfather's antique brass barometer (circa 1930) to my sister for her birthday. Should I polish it, or does that detract from the value?
A: Don't polish it. If it needs to be polished, you should have a professional restorer do the job. Someone who repairs clocks might be able to polish it.
Terry and Kim Kovel will answer as many letters as possible through the column only. For return of a photo, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope. Write to: The Kovels, c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The website is www.kovels.com.
Prices are from shows nationwide.
Radio, Zenith, Consol-tone, model S-17697, plastic, tabletop, AM tube, 13 3/4 by 6 inches, $50.
Bookends, Indian, End of the Trail, spear down, paint, cast iron, Hubley, 6 inches, $270.
Civil War broadside, Robert E. Lee farewell address, April 10, 1865, printed, frame, 13 by 9 inches, $375.
Iron boot scraper, H-shape, scroll terminals, limestone block, Southern, about 1865, 12 1/2 by 18 inches, $375.
Adventures of Mickey Mouse book, No. 3, Walt Disney autograph, pencil, about 1949, 8 by 6 inches, $750.
A. Walter, glass figurine, rabbit, resting, pate-de-verre, about 1910, 3 inches, $985.
Candelabrum, three-light, Louis XV style, gilt bronze, marble, putti, bouquet support, about 1890, 22 inches, pair, $2,305.
Huckster, Toy truck, green, rubber tires, Kingsbury, windup, 1930, 14 1/2 inches, $2,370.
Baccarat vase, flowers, painted, white opaline glass, flared, rim, about 1870, 13 3/4 inches, pair, $2,500.
Chair, Chippendale, mahogany, ribbon back, rosettes, serpentine apron, Philadelpia, about 1780, pair, $2,950.