Provident Provenance

Several decades ago the Earl and Countess of Rottingdown were in the midst of refurbishing the dining room of Rottingdown Abbey in Oxfordshire. The Countess determined the twenty-two George II walnut dining chairs were uncomplimentary to the revised décor and that a set of mahogany Chippendale chairs would be more in keeping.

His Lordship, having difficulty abnegating family heirlooms, begrudgingly contacted a respected Knightsbridge antiques dealer, Dragfärt Pinker, who informed the Earl he knew of the whereabouts of an eminently suitable set of dining chairs and could in all probability secure them for his Lordship for around £220,000. Lord Rottingdown thought this reasonable (despite the low trade-in figure for the walnut chairs) and instructed Pinker to proceed.

Pinker promptly had his old restorer, George rustle up a goodly set of twenty-two faded mahogany ‘Gothic Chippendale’ dining chairs which were then delivered up to Oxfordshire the instant the last lick of polish was dry.

At the first dinner party in the newly appointed dining room, the Earl facetiously asked his daughter’s fiancée (an ambitious director of auctioneers, Botherby’s) for his assessment of the new chairs. A somewhat apprehensive Nicholas Blythering-Twitt, whose meteoric rise through the furniture department was due entirely to his social connections and the tenacious grip he had of the coat tails of others within the auction house; and, not knowing the difference between a stool and… a stool; and being of the opinion that all “old stuff” was, at best, questionable, took a punt and announced with great authority to the attentive diners that his future father-in-law’s recent acquisitions were Victorian copies!

The following morning, the infuriated Earl telephoned Dragfärt Pinker in London insisting on the removal of the counterfeits and demanding their immediate substitution with an incontrovertible set of chairs, failing which, legal proceedings would quickly ensue.

Pinker, realising the game was up, took the twenty minute jeremiad on the chin, managing only the occasional interjection of “as you wish” and “of course your Lordship”. Then before the Earl burst a supraorbital vein, Pinker, with true equanimity, succeeded in convincing Lord Rottingdown that the mix-up was entirely the fault of Crispie’s saleroom… or the warehouse manager… or possibly the lurdan carrier… and that heads would most definitely roll that very day!

Pinker immediately telephoned his workshops and directed old George to dust off the superlative set of twenty-two genuine ribbon-back Chippendale chairs residing in the back of the warehouse. To further calm the waters, Pinker personally accompanied the eighteenth-century mahogany chairs up to Oxfordshire to seek his Lordship’s approval and to reiterate his sincerest apologies for the earlier misunderstanding.

The following week, a freshly waxed set of twenty-two mahogany Gothic dining chairs took their place in Dragfärt Pinker’s Knightsbridge shop. Suspended on a navy silk ribbon from the back of one of the elbow chairs was a neatly hand-written card bearing the inscription…

A very fine set of twenty-two faded mahogany Gothic Chippendale dining chairs. Provenance: The Earl of Rottingdown, Rottingdown Abbey, Oxfordshire.
Price: £244,500

Jack Plane

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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1 Response to Provident Provenance

  1. Paul says:

    Caveat emptor!


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