An extremely rare pair of French Second Empire patent mechanical reclining chairs by Le Maigre.
These highly unusual and ingenious chairs are comprised of numerous moving parts to allow for differing positions for the sitter. From an upright position, a push button to the side of the chair unlocks a spring loaded backrest which can be reclined to a number of positions and returned to an upright position by releasing the button again and removing the sitter’s weight from the chair. Both arms are equally adjustable by means of a catch below the arm, allowing them to be moved outwards and inwards according to requirement.
Perhaps the most ingenious part of this chair is the way in which the footrest is deployed. Akin to most English versions of this type such as the Robert Daws chair, the footrest is pulled out from under the chair, however its initial deployment reveals the rest in an upside down position. The footrest is attached to an iron bracket that when fully deployed, allows it to then be turned over to reveal the top and be put in position. The turning action also releases two further rosewood legs which make contact with the floor as soon as the footrest is turned to its full extent.
I have seen no other armchairs of this kind and from this period with such ingenuity involved. The use of springs incorporated into the frame of the backrest allows for the sitter to remain seated and to exert very little effort to put the backrest into a vertical position and the armrests allow the sitter to exit from a seated position whilst the chair is fully extended. The footrest is of particular note and is unlike anything that I have seen. The company Le Maigre were quick to patent this invention and the ironwork to the base of each chair is marked “Le Maigre (LM) Brevete SGDG”.
The wording can be seen on many items of French manufacture and is often wrongly attributed to being the manufacturer. In fact, the word brevete means patented in French with the initials SGDG meaning Sans Garantie Du Governement (without governmental guarantee), a legal requirement of the French Government from 1844 until the mid-twentieth century.
In addition to the patent stamps to the ironwork, both chairs are ink stamped with manufacturing numbers, 5289 and 6894 respectively and with the makers name and brevete stamp to the inner rails. The earliest is stamped “Le Maigre” and the later one with just the initials “LM”. Unfortunately, little is known of the inventive company although there is a French patent record for 1845 lodged by a Luet (furniture manufacturer) and Lemaigre (upholsterer) for a “mobile reversing seat” (sieges a renvers mobile). This may well refer to the reversing mechanism associated with the footstool. Luet does not feature on any of the stamps on the chairs so it may also be assumed that Le Maigre took over the manufacture of these chairs following the patent.
Both chairs have been fully reupholstered in the same style as the original coverings. The springs in the originals had both failed so it was necessary to replace to ensure their continued use and they have been recovered in a quality black leather with buttoned backs consistent with the original design. The legs of the chairs are constructed of carved rosewood and are complete with the original brass and wood castors.
An extremely rare pair of Second Empire French mechanical chairs in full working order.