The two oak and rush side chairs, offered for sale with other house clearance items by the Cotswold Auction Company in Cirencester on March 4, were spotted online by two knowledgeable bidders. The contest opened at £80 and concluded at £16,500 (plus 22% buyer’s premium).
John Ashton Beer, a collector and dealer with a private Arts & Crafts museum in Painswick, Gloucestershire, was a frustrated underbidder.
“I drove there in the morning and arrived only five minutes before they came up for sale,” he told ATG.“It was just enough time to view, register, bid – and then underbid. On to the next discovery, I suppose.”
The winning bid at some 825 times the low estimate was tendered online via thesaleroom.com. Two other phone bidders did not get a look in.
Chairs such as these with splats pierced with a heart are perhaps the best known furniture design by Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941).
Versions of the chair, sometimes with slightly different proportions, were made from 1902, with most thought to have been produced by the London cabinetmaker FC Nielsen which also made other furniture designed by Voysey. A tell-tale construction detail is the large dovetails joining the splat to the frame (see inset detail).
Chairs of this much-imitated type reside in a number of English and American private collections and they do occasionally appear for sale: the example in the Paul Reeves collection selling at Sotheby’s in 2008 for £8000 (plus 25% premium).