Jennifer Harrison of Illovo, Gauteng writes: I’d like to know more about this chair; it’s been in my family for years. Can you help?
Jo-Marie Rabe of Piér Rabe Antiques replies: This is a beautiful example of a Cape stinkwood Volkwyn chair, named after the Volkwyn/Volkwijn family who were known for this particular variant of the Cape Regency chair.
The family worked as furniture makers in the Southern Cape between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The earliest Volkwyn furniture was made at Friemersheim, a German mission station near Great Brak River. Mission station furniture often represents an interesting variant within the existing furniture tradition. Many of the German missionaries who came to South Africa were trained furniture makers who passed on their skills, as well as their own aesthetic background and preferences, to local people. Volkwyn chairs are identified by a tall and relatively narrow backrest, mostly with twisted spool-like slats.