Once upon a time there was a Swedish antique dealer who found the love of her life in England, somewhere in the Home Counties on the outskirts of London. It was in the days when it was still worthwhile to hunt for antiques in rural England and bring them back to Sweden.
In this case, however, that isn’t quite what happened. The antique dealer married, you see, and she remained in England. She and her husband had a couple of magnificent, big brown poodles – almost teddybear-like in terms of their colouring. As time passed, the two dogs came to realise that neither of their owners was particularly enthusiastic about early morning walks, so the poodles would set off by themselves instead, making their own morning round of the neighbourhood. It was a solution that everyone was happy with and one which continued for many years. Neighbours and others whose paths crossed with that of the dogs while they were out and about considered it to be a most excellent arrangement that brought a smile to their lips whenever they caught sight of the elegant dogs.
Fast forward many years in time and a change of setting to Sweden and the home of a close friend of the couple in England. She, too, is an antique dealer, and not only did she inherit this sturdy, handsome oak chair, but also the couple’s interest in poodles – as demonstrated most recently by the companionship of a cheery male poodle with white curls, an eye for mischief and a knack for making sure he’s always the focus of attention at home.
It’s a sweet little story that illustrates how a shared profession and a mutual affection for a chair and a special breed of dog have played a great role and left indelible traces in this family.
But what kind of a chair is it, exactly? Well, it’s known as a Carver chair, which immediately raises the question of who or what Carver might be – a woman, a man or a place, maybe?
Here the waters have been muddied somewhat by the fact that there are at least two very different theories about how the name came to be.
One claims that a man called John Carver, the first governor of what was then Plymouth Colony in the USA, gave his name to this type of chair, which he is believed to have owned. The entry in one dictionary states: “American 17th-century chair named after a governor of Massachusetts ….”
Another theory, less specific, is that the name dates back to the days when the master of house would sit at the short end of the table and act as “carver”, carving the meat that was served for dinner.
Today the term carver chair is used mainly to describe dining room chairs with arms.
By Gun Bjerkander Handberg
Note from the editor:
INTERESTED IN CHAIRS AND THEIR TALES?
We might have the perfect book series for you.
“Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell” and “Please Be Seated – More Historic Chairs” are two charming little books, each with 17 chapters recounting tales of famous and not-so-famous chairs. Both books are written by author Gun Bjerkander Handberg, published by Vind & Våg publishing House and are available online and to order at all good bookstores.