An Auction Memory from the 1970s

Whenever I think back to the 1970s there are a number of rather special items of furniture that come to mind. But then, that’s hardly surprising. I was working for an auction firm at the time, and there was a steady stream of furniture entering and leaving the premises.

These chairs made a lasting impression on me. I can still recall them even now, forty years after I first laid eyes on them.

They turned up together with a two-drawer bureau, all painted blue with silver ornamentation and details. German Rococo from the mid-1700s. The chairs were upholstered in a blue-patterned silk damask with chinoiserie patterning.

Auction Memories #2

There was a great deal of discussion about the provenance of the furnishings. In the auction catalogue the bureau was described as “formerly owned by Prince Joachim of Prussia, Potsdam, Berlin”.

Many years after the auction someone in the know said that the buyer had “returned” the bureau to Sanssouci Palace, which had been built in Potsdam in the 1740s for Fredrick the Great, King of Prussia.

The bureau spoke loud and clear of its origins, but most talk of the chairs was conducted in rather more hushed tones and mumblings.

Naturally, I took photos of these eye-catching Rococo confections. I was already irresistibly attracted to chairs even back then.

The whispers and the mumblings may have suggested that the chairs had never really belonged together with the bureau. That might explain why they weren’t sold in the same auction – and maybe not in any subsequent auction either. It’s not unusual for experts to authenticate the provenance of one item in an auction, but not of another; it can happen even if the origins of a piece appear to be undisputed and, as in this case, the furnishings are submitted for auction together. Reproductions is one thought that may readily spring to mind …

Be that as it may, the armchair in particular looked truly exquisite, flaunting its brilliant blue for all to see.

Yet no one seems to know where the chairs finally found a home.

Let me show you what this armchair looked like, so you can see why I was so smitten by it.



If you’re interested in genealogy, there are endless opportunities to indulge your passion in the auction world.

Take Prince Joachim, for example, whose parents were Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, and Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.

Prince Joachim’s great-grandmother on his father’s side must have been Queen Victoria of England if I have interpreted the WIKIPEDIA entry correctly.

By Gun Bjerkander Handberg

This blog is an extension of the beautifully produced hardback books published by Vind & Våg Publishing, where the author shares more tales of inspirational chairs and musing of a four-legged variety! If you enjoy the blog, both books are now available online and at all decerning bookshops.  Buy online here

Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell  ISBN: 978-0-9927084-7-4

Please Be Seated – More Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell ISBN:978-0-9927084-8-1





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