Some years ago, a client imported a set of 6 antique Provencal chairs from a Paris fleamarket. They were brought to me for an assessment of what it would take to restore them. Tout alors! They were exquisitely charming little chairs but were in such bad shape that if nudged a bit they could have shimmied across the floor like an articulated skeleton marionette. I don't think there was one tight joint in the bunch. The cost for restoring them as a set was more than anticipated so I was asked if they could be taken apart and a couple of sound chairs be made from the parts and toss the rest. As a set, they told a story. As a couple of random chairs they were just cute. Not wanting to break up the story, I bought them all for the price paid in Paris.
These chairs are VERY old. Professional appraisers have put their age to be certainly early 19th century and quite possibly late 18th. They've been repaired many times, many generations of bugs have feasted on their various parts and the rush seats were tattered and frayed.
There's a classic French country dish called "pot a fue". The literal translation is "pot on the fire". It's made from whatever small animals a country farmer might find on his morning hunt or out tending his fields. The critters are layered in the pot then cooked for many, many hours over a fire. I've had the dish before and it is absolutely delicious! Five of the backs of these chairs have a hand carving of one of these field critters. A chicken, dove, weasel, beaver and a squirrel are each wonderfully rendered. The sixth chair...(drum roll, please)...has the pot to cook 'em in.
I have finally started the restoration. It's a journey of discovery as I figure out how to dismantle, repair, replace and restore without disrupting the story line. I shall keep you posted on my process and progress.