acquiunk. Thanks for the correct title for the chair. I googled the info cause I keep a file on "Famous fakes". I was amazed at how many of the experts got bamboozled by the woek.
Here is a short description of the incident by an "expert" at Brown U. who knows all parties concerned and obviously has a bias. I have worked with and in museum for 30 years and have met many curators who were very knowledgable, excellent teachers and colleagues, good friends and from whom I learned much. But many of them also set my teeth on edge. I can understand the reasons why that chair was faked.
incidently "furniture restorer" is a slight or put down and illustrative of the entire problem.
Nor is there always a profit motive. One local restorer of antique
furniture here, a decade or two ago, had his nose put out of joint
once to often by some museum curator and decided to take revenge on
the entire profession. His specialty was early American furniture, and
in that field the "holy grail" is something called a Great Brewster
Chair (made at Plymouth soon after the pilgrims arrived). Two are
known and have excellent provenances. As is common with "holy grails"
in all fields of interest to museums, there have long been rumors of a
third Great Brewster Chair. Our restorer of furniture made a replica
Chair, using 17th-century wood and old tools, invented a plausible 350
years of history for it, put it through those 350 years by about 3
years of intense work in his workshop, and was ready to roll. (He
deliberately, however, used a modern bit to drill the holes in which
the rungs of the chair were inserted; and he carefully saved all the
pieces which had apparently gone lost due to hard usage over 350
years.) He then took this masterpiece out to one of the islands off
the Massachusetts coast, where a friend owned an early 18th century
house; and they set it out on the front porch, all battered and dirty.
The first roving antique scout who happened to drive by screeched to a
halt, spent the better part of the afternoon dealing for lesser
antiques at prices way above the normal market value, and then, as the
sun was setting and he was getting ready to depart, asked casually,
"By the way, what about that old chair on your porch?" The answer
was, "Oh that? That's a piece of junk. I had been thinking about
burning it. You may have it for free." [Observe, O reader, that no
fraud has been committed in the legal sense of the term.] Over the
next several years the chair passed from dealer to dealer, from
auction to auction, ever increasing in price, until it finally came to
rest in one of the premier museums for early American furniture. Then
our local craftsman called a press conference, produced the missing
pieces, stated that were one to pull out the rungs, one would find
that the sockets in which they fitted had been made with a tool that
had been invented only in the 20th century, and watched the fur
fly.... He had, I am told, the satisfaction -- pretty thin, by my
lights, but pleasing to him -- of utterly destroying at least one
curator's career without committing any crime that could be proven in
any court of law; which was what he had set out to do (he didn't much
care who got hurt, so long as somebody did). The chair, after a
period of seclusion, is now once again on display at the museum, as
the centerpiece in an exhibit on *forgeries* of early American
furniture (a large and usually profitable industry, albeit criminal)!
I do not know what the former curator is doing now, but the furniture
restorer continues to practice his craft and prosper.
Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1992