Whalebone Chairs for Sydney Fine Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction

Two of the rarest chairs to ever come onto the market will go under the hammer at Bonhams & Goodman’s Fine Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction in Sydney on Monday 10 November.

whalebone-chair.jpgConstructed entirely of whalebone, the chairs are the only known life-size examples of whalebone furniture. Bonhams & Goodman’s National Head of Decorative Arts, James Hendy, says that the chairs are probably American and could have been created by a ship’s carpenter. During the Golden Age of American whaling in the first half of the 19th century, whalemen developed and perfected the nautical folk art of scrimshaw (the carving and decoration of bone) to pass the time on long voyages. Whilst scrimshaw art was common, the range of objects created rarely included furniture.

The design, shape and form of the chairs suggests they were made during the late Federal Period (1810 – 1830). One of the chairs is thought to have been constructed from the jaw of a sperm whale and has been made using traditional mortise and tenon joinery with whalebone pins. Even the interlaced strapwork seat has been attached to the seat rails using dovetails and pins (now replaced with screws). It shows similarities to the Pilgrim slat-back armchairs of New England, Connecticut and Massachusetts, where they rated their chairs on the quality of the tunings on spindles and stretchers.

The two chairs are amongst 340 lots on offer at Bonhams & Goodman’s upcoming November 10 Decorative Arts and Fine Furniture auction. Sourced predominantly from 6 private collections and with a focus on quality and rarity, their owners’ fastidious care has ensured the outstanding condition of the pieces. Of the 6 private collections represented, the most significant is that of the late Nancy Hall of Vaucluse, which features English and Continental furniture from the 17th to the late 18th century, 18th century Italian commodes, and a Charles II period japanned cabinet on stand. Most still have their original receipts. Also on offer is a lovely collection of Australian furniture, 21 lots of which are from one from one collection.

James Hendy, National Head of Decorative Arts, enthuses, “It is without doubt one of the best sales that I have put together at Bonhams & Goodman. The wide variety of interesting and top quality antiques offers collectors, dealers and first time buyers a range of high quality privately sourced goods at affordable prices. The whalebone chairs have already attracted interest from American collectors.”

Auction info www.bonhamsandgoodman.com.au