It came from a deceased estate near Penrith and was deemed a Victorian example made in William Morris’ lifetime.
Catalogued as ‘The Morris Chair, a Victorian walnut armchair’, it had torn upholstery to the arms and some damage to one tenon on the back. While the fabric covering was probably added in the 20th century, the horsehair upholstery was thought to be the original.
It was duly estimated what proved to be a highly attractive £600-800 at the auction on August 8.
Bringing a contest between it a number of bidders, it was eventually bought by a bidder on thesaleroom.com.
Epitome of Aesthetic movement
These chairs with adjustable backs and on brass casters do not appear at auction very often but, when they do, prices generally relate to how early they date and their state of preservation.
The idea for the reclining chair came from Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co’s business manager Warrington Taylor. He made a quick sketch of a Georgian vernacular chair that he saw in a carpenter’s workshop in Sussex and sent it to architect Phillip Webb.
With a few modifications by Webb, the chair was put into production in 1865. Becoming the epitome of Aesthetic movement style, the reclining armchair remained a staple in the Morris & Co line until the early 20th century.
The popularity of the design led to other furniture makers, including Liberty & Co. in London and Gustav Stickley in the US, to start producing their own versions.