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Antiques: Modern chairs inspired by early designs

Furniture made by earlier workmen often inspire later designers who create a modern version. The series of chairs by Robert Venturi (born 1938), first sold in 1985, represented the work of nine periods of furniture. Queen Anne, Chippendale, Sheraton, Empire, Biedermeier, Empire, Gothic Revival, Art Nouveau and Art Deco chairs made by Knoll all are made of plywood. Each is a cut-out form shaped like the 18th, 19th or 20th century chair it represents. The chairs were covered in a plastic laminate and some had fabric cushions. One version of the Chippendale chair is covered in the “Grandmother’s Tablecloth” pattern. The pastel flowers actually were inspired by a friend’s grandmother’s tablecloth. The chairs are seen in homes, shops and auctions today. In the 1980s, a chair could sell for up to $16,000. But many more of the chairs have been made and prices are lower. A “Grandmother’s Tablecloth Chippendale Chair” sold by Skinner in 2015 brought $6,150.

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Q: I have a picture frame that I treasure. It was given to me by my grandmother and I’d like to know more about it. It is white porcelain with painted flowers and gold trim. The mark on the back looks like an E over an S with 1811 in the bottom curve of the S and Prufsia (is it Prussia?) below. Do you know the history from the mark? And can you give me its value?

A: The mark on your frame was used by a company founded in 1861 by Leonard Schlegelmilch (1823-1898) in Suhl, Germany, and named in memory of his father, Erdmann Schlegelmilch (1782-1844). The Schlegelmilch names and factories confused collectors for years until extensive research was done in the mid-1980s, and the families and companies were sorted out. The Erdmann Schlegelmilch company made porcelain kitchenware, tableware, giftware, figurines, coffee and tea sets, and for a time, containers for perfume lamps. After Leonard died, his son Julius Martin ran the business, which reached its peak in 1913. Work declined between 1933 and 1935 and the company finally closed in 1937. Erdmann Schlegelmilch items are marked “ES Germany” or “ES Suhl.” Other pieces, like your frame, made at a factory in Saxony, Prussia, are marked “ES Prussia.” The mark on your frame has the date 1861, the founding date, not 1811. “Prufsia” is Prussia; the double “s” is in old German writing. The value of your frame is $75.

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Tip: Specialized antiques and collectibles shows are becoming more popular. Makes sense, the serious collector can see more of interest at a one-theme show.

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Write to the Kovels, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.