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Heinz (1993) gives us a chair from the Robie house, and tells us a little about the variations of the chair.
Maddex (1999) is a bit more forthcoming; she does not identify the chair she presents,
though it has a coloration one might associate with Wright's Oak Park home.
I assume that all of these early chairs were made with a solid wood back panel. Today, we would think first of plywood, the single most commonly
used material in the furniture- and cabinetmaking world for at least 70 years. If the chair for sale has an edgebanded 1/2" plywood back, would
that rule it out as a period Wright piece ?
If of solid wood, such a panel would ideally be made of a single board, to avoid a joint. But there would be nothing wrong with using two pieces
(of identical width). The chair Maddex provides has a split nicely centered and nearly straight---though I'm sure it wasn't present when the chair
was made !
The chair was photographed with a dusty seat, and a back that appears to have been waxed
and then incompletely rubbed down. Looking closely one can see the typical flat-sawn veneer,
with seams, that one would find today on hardwood plywood.
Curiously, the reverse side of the back panel has rift-sawn grain; this is another indication that
production plywood was used. The rift side would have been the "good face" of the sheet, with
the pieced and mismatched flat-sawn veneer as the secondary or unseen face.
The rear top stretcher is shown in closeup, revealing both the messy worked-over (and partially
removed ?) stain, and the poorly plugged and off-center screw holes holding the back in place.
Close-ups of the bottom show metal glides and feet with wear; the piece isn't new. But it may
not be 115 years old . . .
Last, we compare it to the chairs shown in period photos of the Larkin Company Administration Building, in Jack Quinan's
book. (Neither Monograph 2 nor Taschen I exhibit the Larkin chair, drawn or photographed.) Three photos in Quinan show
the chair: in the library, in the classroom (chairs with tablet arms), and here, in the restaurant.
The chair is not quite the same as the offered chair. Note the top rail supporting the back, in each case: