This chair is NOT by Philip Clissett, but I have a few reasons for discussing it here.
Firstly, it’s an armchair version of one of the chairs featured in the painting by Edward Thompson Davis that I discussed in a previous post. It’s likely to have been a common style of chair in the Worcestershire area in the mid-19th century. It was purchased by me from a private seller in Brierley Hill in the West Midlands.
Secondly, there’s a clear link to Clissett’s famous ladderback chair in that this chair has a similar taper and ball arm support (see below). Bill Cotton’s The English Regional Chair contains no clear examples of this particular pattern of support other than Clissett’s chair. A couple of Lincolnshire examples come close (NE196-197), but they lack the ball turning (well, half-ball, in reality). On Clissett’s chair, the underarm support looks at one with the overall Arts and Crafts look of the chair, and might be attributed to the influence of James MacLaren who commissioned the first of these, and made some design input. But the existence of a similar support on a this rather different West Midlands chair proves that it was in use as a local motif long before MacLaren arrived on the scene – there are other chairs that support this point, and I’ll post on them before long.
Thirdly, it’s an example of the sort of local chair that Philip Clissett must have been aware of, and that his own work must have stood alongside.
A more detailed description of this chair would not be amiss. It’s made entirely in ash and, unusually for a West Midlands chair, is pegged only at the rear of the top slat. There are the usual signs that it was made in cleft green wood, so that it would have been held together entirely by the shrinkage of the mortices around the tenons. That this has failed in the case of one of the arm supports is evidence by a large, old, iron nail having been driven into the edge of one of the through tenons.
The chair is quite heavily constructed with legs of about 1½ inches in diameter, tapering to 1¼ inches at the top. Aside from the tapered arm support, the stand out features are the sinuous arms – they are really beautifully shaped (see below). There are vestiges of green paint in places – I haven’t got a clue whether that is original.
Overall height is about 40 inches, about 5 inches shorter than Clissett’s tall chairs. Seat height is 15 inches, about 2 inches lower than Clissett’s adult chairs – low chairs like this seem quite common. But it’s quite a wide chair – the seat measures 21⅜ inches at the front. With the sinuous arms, it will accommodate a substantial person.
There’s a lot of wear to this chair. The top left finial is part worn away. The arm ends are well worn, particularly to the right where much is missing. The lower front rung is well worn, a good indicator of age. But the best indicator of substantial use is the amount of wear to the inside of the arm supports which has completely removed the ring turning at the bottom.
No indication of maker, I'm afraid, which is a pity but pretty standard for chairs from this area.