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Brief history & description
Thonet bentwood chairs are some of the most successful commercial products in the world. Still referred as the definitive “coffee shop chair”, the Model 14 bentwood chair, first manufactured in 1859, is still being produced today. It is suggested that over 50 million were produced between 1860 and 1930, and many more have been built since.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, furniture was constructed from flat pieces of wood and featured numerous joints that were concealed by ornate and decorative carvings. However, Thonet sought to distance himself from these traditional methods and instead began to design chairs that were simpler and more economical. For example, the Model 14 is made of just six pieces of steam-bent wood, two nuts and ten screws and, for over 150 years, the design has remained virtually unchanged.
Guide to collectors
As Thonet bentwood chairs were produced in huge numbers they are frequently sold by both international and local auctioneers and prices rarely exceed $1,000.
Moreover, eBay regularly advertises several pages of antique Thonet bentwood chairs, ranging from rocking chairs, stools and the prestigious Model 14, and prices range from $80 to $400.
Whilst there are many types of Thonet bentwood chairs, the most recognisable is undoubtedly the Model 14, which is typically sold between $100 and $300.
Collectors can find more information regarding antique Thonet bentwood chairs on Patricktaylor.com and Thonet.de.
In February 2003, at Sotheby’s in Amsterdam, a Thonet bentwood armchair, made in Vienna, circa 1900, realised a price of €1,422.
In September 2010, an Art Nouveau Thonet bentwood and leather armchair, circa 1904, was sold through Neal Auction Company in New Orleans for a realised price of $700.
In June 2006, a set of six Thonet bentwood and caned chairs was sold through Doyle New York for a realised price of $600.
In November 2005, an early Thonet bentwood armchair, Model no. 11, was sold for €500 through Von Zezschwitz Art & Design Auctions, Munich.
In November 2011, at Bonhams in Knightsbridge, a set of eight Thonet bentwood chairs, circa 1900, realised a price of £2,375.
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