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Low seat, high price

30 January 2012Written by ATG Reporter

THE Oak Sale at Bonhams Chester is not the obvious place to find a 16th century Indo-Portuguese chair. Hiding in plain sight at the January 19 auction of predominantly British vernacular design was a rare survivor.

Catalogued as "a 17th century and later carved walnut side chair", and estimated at £400-600, it measured 2ft 5in high, 22in wide and 2ft 2in deep (73 x 56 x 66cm).

For many years, chairs such as this were thought to have been made in Spain or Italy.

However, the stout low shape (it had not, as was thought, been greatly reduced in height) originated in the area around the Bay of Bengal, in what is now eastern India and Bangladesh. Similar lacquered stools were produced here in the 16th century for export to Europe, combining local forms with motifs inspired by the European Renaissance - in this case a bold arch-shaped cresting headed by a shell, scrolling strapwork and serpents. There were traces of gilt decoration.

Three bidders who had spotted it were prepared to pay more than £10,000 before it sold to a Portuguese buyer at £13,500 (plus 25 per cent buyer's premium).

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