Historic 'Brady' chair could bring $250,000 at Bonhams



2015-10-09 09:20:58

The 'Brady' chair, a simple wooden chair which connects many of the United States' most important historical figures, is heading to auction at Bonhams this month.

The carved oak chair spent almost 100 years in a New York photography studio established by Mathew Brady, regarded by many as the "father of photojournalism".

During this period, five U.S presidents were photographed whilst sitting in the chair, along with countless senators and civil servants, Civil War soldiers, Justices and Native Americans.

"There is perhaps no other single object that connects with so many important people, all prominent figures in 19th-century American history," said Madelia Ring, Bonhams specialist of American & English Furniture & Folk Art. "What also gives the Brady chair such distinction, is that while other commissioned chairs occasionally surface at auction, those bearing the stamp of Bembe & Kimbel are rare."

The chair was one of 262 commissioned for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1857, and was reportedly gifted to Brady by Abraham Lincoln himself. Lincoln sat several times for Brady during his life, including the portrait which was later repurposed for Lincoln's likeness on the $5 bill and penny.

Brady's career saw him photograph a remarkable 18 American Presidents, along with important Civil War figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, Nathaniel Banks, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

He sold the studio and its contents in 1893, just three years before his death, and it changed hands again in 1903, but the chair has now remained in the collection of the same two families for over a century and has never before been offered at public auction.

It will cross the block as part of the Bonhams Fine Furniture, Silver, Decorative Arts and Clocks auction in New York on October 26, where it's expected to sell for $150,000-$250,000.

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