There are few terms more misused in the antique business than "attributed to".
Most major auction houses now have a fairly high bar before they decide to add the "attributed to" label.
Many dealers, however, set the bar ridiculously low. Similarity to a signed example, alone, is never enough to make
for instance, the fruit-wood desk chair shown. It is circa 1820-1830 from both form and construction. Now
compare it to the black and white photograph of a chair made by J.J. Werner for the Tuileries Palace during the Restauration.
The stamped Werner chair is gilded and more complex, but it is known that Werner frequently used fruit-wood in his
chairs and furniture. Note the carving on the sides of the back stiles and the carved design on the sub-pediment crest. Obviously,
these chairs were either made by Werner or by two makers familiar with this specific design. So, can the unsigned chair
be attributed to Werner?
|Restauration Fruit-Wood Chair
|Stamped Werner Chair from Tuileries
|Chair Design by Mesangere, Circa 1810
Some additional research yielded a similar image from Mesangere's
influential Meubles et Objets De Gout.
These folio plates of furniture designs were issued from the 1790s until the 1830s. While they certainly
inspired many furniture makers, it is certain that Mesangere himself was inspired by some of the existing production
of the leading furniture makers in Paris.
It is therefore
impossible to know if the Mesangere design inspired Werner or vice versa. However, it is clear that the fruitwood
chair and the Tuileries chair share more design elements with each other than either does with the Mesangere design.
As the Tuileries chair was in a fairly public space and therefore would have been widely viewed, it is not an unlikely
scenario that a visiting noble saw the Tuileries chair and had his preferred menuisier make a copy.
My conclusion, the fruit-wood
chair is in the style of Werner, but cannot be definitively attributed to him.