12 Walnut and Leather Antique Dining Chairs

Item 4120 by M. Markley Antiques


12 antique dining chairs leather

(scroll down for additional-photos -- color differential is due to shadow) 

Item 4120

12 Walnut Dining Chairs Upholstered in Leather


Width 17½, Height 45½  Depth 16½ (in inches)

17½ inches from floor to top of seating surface






Circa 1890


It is almost unheard of to find twelve matching dining chairs from the 19th century, and then for them to be walnut instead of poplar or some other less desirable wood.  And while they needed restoration, as described below, we knew they would be fabulous.  But then came the challenge of photographing all twelve - please ignore the color differential in the front row from  sunlight on the day we photographed them.

In form, they are classic Italian dining chairs made up of a seat and back resting on a base of four legs united by an H-shaped stretcher.  But it is the espresso-colored Spinneybeck leather and the intricately carved ornamentation that make them unique and unforgettable.  One of the most unusual elements is the "angelot" atop the back of each chair.  Instead of an angel's head positioned between wings (the "seraph" of Renaissance paintings), the head of a lion has been intricately carved and blends with the broader arabesque design of the top panel.  A uniting theme is found in the interlocking circle motif on the base of the back and the frieze below the seat as well as on the two vertical members comprising the back.  The verticals are topped by intricately carved scrolls reminiscent of a violin or viola da gamba.   The legs consist of fluted shafts over an ornamental, circular base atop a square pedestal supported by a bun foot.  The corners of the frieze, atop each leg, are ornamented by an intricately carved flower in a square panel.  Under the back upholstered portion, is a sinuous arch with carved flourishes at each end, and in the middle with flowers in each corner of the arch.

That these chairs evoke Italian Renaissance style is fitting, since they went through a rebirth of their own.  They were in a poor state when we discovered them. Most had loose joints, their finishes were in need of re-vitalizing, the original leather had turned to dust, and the seat suspension needed replacing  But their basic construction was sound and the walnut such a rich, beautiful wood that we knew they would be magnificent once again. So we set about the extensive work of restoring the entire set, including re-gluing all of the loose joints, which required stripping the chairs to the frame, in order to access them.  We next used a special technique to re-amalgamate the finish, so as to retain the original patina and luster, while there was no upholstery to accidentally soil. Then our expert upholsterers installed new seat webbing to hold new dense foam for cushioning. Finally, they covered the seating surfaces in an espresso-colored Italian leather from Spinneybeck. If you are considering these chairs, we can supply a sample of the leather for your approval since photos cannot do it justice.

These are some the highest quality and most extraordinarily carved Italian dining chairs we have ever seen.  As with all pieces this old and with such fine detail, there are small bits that have broken off from the carvings and dents to details of parts that protrude more than others, and other signs of age and use that are not capable of being fixed without jeopardizing the integrity of the chairs as antiques. None of this is apparent without considerable going over, as we have, and will be invisible to users.



Fioratti, Helen Costantino, Il Mobile Italiano dall'antichita allo stile Impero (Giunti, Florence, 2004); Rousseau, Francis, Le Grand Livre des Meubles (Copyright Studio, Paris, 1999); Wilk, Christopher, Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day (Cross River Press, New York, 1996).



These chairs were born, and reborn, for a formal dining room with a large dining table.  Lighting design will be important in showing their magnificence by contrasting the smooth grain and dark hue of the leather with the rich patina and intricate carving of the walnut.


4120-top of antique dining chair


4120-chair top detail


4120-side view of antique dining chair


4120-back of leather dining chair


4120-upper chair


4120-frieze around seat of antique dining chair


4120-side view of seat


4120-chair leg with acanthus carving


4120-detail of chair leg acanthus carving


4120-fleurette bracket


4120-bun foot







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