How a replica brought the original Metz & Co armchair to the surface

When Titus Darley was looking for a new Rietveld chair to produce for his company in 2014, he stumbled across the chair Rietveld designed in 1942 for the Amsterdam department store Metz & Co. Darley, owner of Rietveld Originals, was intrigued straight away by the unusual slender wooden base and curved seat. There is a special story behind this armchair for Metz & Co.

When Rietveld designed the chair at the time, Holland was occupied by the Germans, who had set up a Kultuurkamer. Rietveld refused to join this institute, so the armchair was never produced. The original drawings were saved, and the chair went into production in 2017.

A special phone call

When Darley received a special phone call a while later, things got really interesting. ‘I looked on your website and I think I have an original copy of the armchair Gerrit Rietveld designed for Metz & Co.,’ a voice sounded through the phone. The first thing Darley thought was: ‘That is almost impossible.’ But when he was shown photos of the chair, he immediately realised: this is not a DIY kit. Intrigued by the caller's story, he asked if he could bring the chair by so he could see it up close. And so it happened. After inspecting the chair, Darley’s curiosity grew and he decided to take it to Jurjen Creman, a furniture restorer and, above all, a Rietveld furniture expert.

Creman was also immediately impressed by what he saw, first in a photo and afterwards in real life. He knew that only one other copy of this chair existed, namely in the Stedelijk Museum collection in Amsterdam. They probably had something really special on their hands here. Firstly, this was a chair from the 1940s; secondly, this design had never been published, making the chances of a fake one futile. Finally, the chair had the same paint marks and application of material as the one at the Stedelijk Museum.

And what was the ultimate verdict? After thorough research, Creman and Darley discovered that it was an original Metz & Co. copy. The chair had ended up in a thrift shop, where it had been bought by its owner, ending up in his garden. You could tell by the condition of the chair. Because the chair had been outside, the wood was quite damaged, and the chair's once beautiful iconic shell had lost its shape. In other words: there was work to be done. Darley bought the chair and had it restored by Creman.

The chair needed to be refurbished so that it would return to its original state. Since then, the curved shape has been brought back to the backrest and the wood and paint have also been treated.

Want to admire this special find live? From 23 September 2023, you can see it at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht’s 'Chair takes position (Stoel neemt Stelling)' exhibition.

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