Monday, May 2, 2011


I don’t really ask for much. But when I first laid eyes on this chair – which happened to be on a recent Antiques Roadshow program being appraised – I knew that it was the chair of my dreams. Oh, Man!!! If I only had that chair, I would never ask for anything else!

If you saw the program too, you’ll remember that appraiser Leslie Keno called it the “Green Man” chair and said it was made from mahogany wood. The chair was American, designed around 1890 and used to be painted green. He said the mask (or face) is fairly traditional and has appeared in Europe a lot – on churches, medieval castles, sofas and the like – and has symbolized rebirth, life, regeneration and nature. Keno, who set its value at $3,000, said he has never seen the whole body of the Green Man until he saw this chair and he was so nonplussed he could hardly talk.

Well, I’m sure the lady wasn’t selling it, but I still would like to have it, and when either my boat comes in or I win the lottery, whichever comes first, I think I'll go after it. (I hear Jerry in the background muttering “Over my dead body.”) Imagine being able to look at something wonderful like that in your house all day long.

Furniture like this is spoken of as Fantasy Furniture. And it’s just not old, either. I was nosing around to find other pieces depicted on the internet and I came upon this most interesting book which appears to be of more modern interpretations of Fantasy Furniture. I know that Abebooks website will be a good place to find the book if it isn't in B&N present stock (and truthfully I don't really know if they'd ever have enough call for such a book to justify any stock at all!)

I ran across this book which looks mighty interesting, although if the Green Man chair is the height of interesting then the book may be more instructional than interesting. But then it might show me a replacement piece in case the Green Man chair never turns up to be in my future!

But I do think that this more modern piece is quite interesting.

Now it isn’t what I would want in MY bedroom, but I do think it is intriguing and can see myself at a younger age going for something like this. I am not sure how long it would take to get used to seeing all those weird shapes hovering around the ceiling at night if you woke up. Probably would give certain people the heebie-jeebies, but I think I could probably do ok with it. However, I don’t have that feeling about this piece of furniture that I do about the Green Man.

Yes, I admit to liking weird things and I do love gargoyles, if they aren’t too raunchy. (Well, the raunchy ones can be funny as well as a bit shocking, but my more prudish side prefers a face-only gargoyle.) One of the delights of spending a month in England back in 1985 was being able to look at the multitudinous gargoyles. Finding gargoyles in England is like finding rainbows in Hawaii: there's one on every corner!

About 15 or so years ago I found a counted cross-stitch pattern – a medieval house-blessing - that incorporated some gargoyles in it and I decided to make it to hang by my front door. The pattern specified a cream colored background, but the lady who owned the shop where I bought my supplies talked me into using a color called “eggplant” instead of “cream.” The color was more like the inside, not the outside, of an eggplant, and since she had not steered me wrong on color before, I took her advice.

By the time I got well into the pattern, I decided her idea of color was full of hooey! I kept going because I hoped I would warm up to it by the time I finished. Although I did love the sentiment and I especially loved the gargoyles, I so thoroughly disliked the background color that I have never had it framed. For all these years it has been sitting in my "unfinished projects" drawer. When I die if any of my kids like it enough to have if framed and hung, they can have it. If not, it can go in the trash next to my genealogical research.

In case you can’t read the sentiment, it says

St. Frances and St. Benedict, Bless this house from wicked wight.
Keep it from all evil spiretes, Fairies, wezles, Bats and Ferrytes.
I guess it has worked its charm from inside the chest drawer, because we’ve never had any of these wicked wight, especially Bats!


Olga said...

Good luck on your quest for a Green Man chair. I am quite happy with my 30 dollar yard sale chair even though it would never leave one of the Keno brothers speechless.

Friko said...

Well, I can't get you a Green Man chair, but it shouldn't be difficult to get a Green Man plaque or carving. The explanation you gave for them is the right one, the green man is a fertility symbol and with May spring having officially arrived, there are May fairs in many villages. I dare say the reason for both of us posting on the Green man is that his time is now.

What's wrong with the colour of your pattern? It's quite realistic, like an illumination in a manuscript. Go on, finish it and put it up.

Anonymous said...

I bought a chair exactly like the one on roadshow about 2 years ago from an outside dealer at black angus antique flea market in Adamstown pa. When my wife and I walked up on it, it was one of those must have pieces so we pulled the trigger on it. After we bought it, I felt as though I had seen one before so I searched the roadshow archive and found the appraisal for the same chair. So I must have seen the episode And somehow stored the info in my mind I don't know how many the company made but now you know there are at least two of them in existence. Our chair has much of the original green paint in the crevices of the carvings and on the back legs and on the back. It's a great chair, very pleased to have it. Good luck with your quest.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot, if you want to email me I will send you photos of the chair in my dining room,

Anonymous said...

This is NOT a Green man chair! Green man's face is always surrounded by foliage and leaves.
The appraiser is mistaken. This is simply a carving of an old man with a bald head. I don't see any leaves or foliage around his face,do you? Also, Green man doesn't have a body. He is NEVER depicted with a body because he is the protector of the forest and he peers out from behind trees and bushes. The only time his body is ever mentioned is in a story from the 1300's called " Sir Gwain and the Green Knight", but in it he loses his head. Perhaps a way for medieval folk to explain why his body is never seen or depicted...EVER!
I write books and have spent a good part of my life studying Green Man motifs in architecture, literature, etc.