Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Intitial reports from the Institute said that the horseshoe-shaped back had broken in three places, but along old break lines. However, the curator of Chinese furniture, Dr Bob Jacobsen, confirmed that the damage was more extensive. “Let’s just say that there are old breaks and new breaks,” he said. “This is a very serious and tragic incident, but we have found all the pieces and should be able to put together the chair without diminishing its aesthetic appearance”.

The chair will be sent to London to be restored by leading specialist Christopher Cook, barely four years after he last worked on it for the institute. The chair, one of only three of its kind with iron damascened mounts, was purchased by the Institute’s benefactor Bruce Dayton at Sotheby’s New York in September 1996 for $410,000.

“I have spoken to Mr Dayton on the phone,” said Dr Jacobsen, “but he has not been in to see what happened.”