Antique Lolling Chairs
Antique Lolling Chairs are original pieces of furniture also known as 'Martha Washington chairs'.
The lolling chair is amongst the most distinctive furniture forms to have arisen from the United States. Popularly referred to in its native country as the ‘Martha Washington Chair’, the lolling chair is an antique which divides opinion amongst collectors, as whilst some consider them uncomfortable, others believe them to be both aesthetically pleasing and practical.Brief history and description
Originating during the Federal Period (1790-1815), the chair features a tall, upholstered back, supportive wooden arms and secure, straight legs. Symmetrical in form, the chair is largely associated with the furniture maker Lemuel Churchill, whose pieces in this design are considered amongst the most masterfully designed. There has been a growing interest in the chairs amongst antiques dealers in recent years.
Guide for collectors
Antique lolling chairs are popular collectables, yet not always the easiest to obtain, both due to their possible expense, and their general availability.
Many of the models which appear as antiques are in fact refurbished originals and therefore the authenticity of the piece is tarnished; prospective collectors are advised to seek expert opinion and read any small-print pertaining to condition with great care when considering making a purchase. Damaged antique lolling chairs are predominantly the cheapest on the market and the buyer will have to arrange any repairs, whilst if in good condition the chairs can fetch enormous sums of money.
It would be worthwhile for those seeking to purchase a lolling chair to pursue not only both the mainstream auction houses such as Sotheby’s (where the chairs frequently appear) and the more obscure auction houses, but also traditional antique shops, in search of interesting and authentic finds.
Notable auction sales
The most expensive lolling chairs ever sold at auction were a pair of Federal inlaid mahogany lolling chairs thought to originate from Massachusetts. Dated from 1800, they sold from Sotheby’s New York on 19th January 2002 for $98,500.
This is not the only time that the chairs have sold for such a large sum;
A federal inlaid mahogany lolling chair dated from 1795 sold for $18,000 from Sotheby’s in New York on 20th January 2002. Similarly, a Chippendale mahogany lolling chair dated from around 1780 was sold by Skinner auctioneers on 8th June 2008 for $19,000 and CRN Auctions, Inc. sold a Massachusetts Federal mahogany lolling chair on 29th January 2012 for $6,500.
In the middling price-range, an 18th century American lolling chair auctioned from MV Auctions on 3rd August 2005 for $100, and at the same price point, a mahogany upholstered lolling chair with carved lion head detail was auctioned on 14th May 2004 from Apple Tree Auction Centre for $110, and a 19th century lolling chair sold for $450 from Burchard Galleries, Inc. on 21st March 2010.
The lowest price paid for a lolling chair at auction was £10 at Flomaton Antique Auction on 3rd June 2005, for a Chippendale-style lolling chair in mahogany, closely followed by the sale of a centennial lolling chair on 23rd July 2011 from Aristocrat Auction Services, LLC, for only $20.