Antique and vintage bentwood armchairs



2015-06-26 11:14:33

Antique and vintage bentwood armchairs are collectible items of furniture fashioned using a steaming technique.

Chairs are among the most common form of furniture produced using the bentwood method, with armchairs, especially rocking chairs, particularly prevalent.

Bentwood techniques

Bentwood, or "bent wood" furniture is formed by steaming wood, manipulating it into the desired shape and then allowing the wood to cool and harden.

The process is employed throughout the world, but is most synonymous with Europe, with Austrian designers and manufacturers, such as Michael Thonet and Jacob & Josef Kohn, particularly revered.

The Michael Thonet Model 14 bentwood chair - an armless chair - is widely regarded as the archetypal bentwood design. Thonet unveiled the chair in Vienna, Austria in 1859.

Antique or vintage?

Items produced more than 100 years ago are classed as “antique” according to the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act’s definition.

“Vintage” refers to pieces manufactured within the last 100 years and can include items made as recently as the 1980s.

Notable sales of antique and vintage bentwood chairs

  • A circa 1808 painted bentwood armchair, produced by Boston, US artisan Samuel Gragg, achieved $1,900 at Freeman’s in April 2006.

  • A 1900 Windsor barrelback armchair sold for $5,000 at a Garth’s Auction sale in November 2005.

  • A circa 1910 Austrian “Seven Ball” bentwood armchair, made by Jacob & Josef Kohn, realised $12,200 at Sotheby’s in December 2003.

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