A recent email from a site visitor had me thinking about the fact that most of the famous cabinet makers of their time were at one time not so famous. They had to have an apprentice period in their earlier years and they created furniture for their employers before their own shops were opened and their own signature styles were cemented.
I would imagine that it would be a rare scenario where we could run into a piece or set of furniture produced by John Henry Belter, as an example, before 1844 when he opened his first shop at 40 1/2 Chatham Street. Imagine a Gothic Revival or Empire piece created by John Henry Belter, which is possible given the timing of when he was first in America (he left for America in 1833 and became a citizen in 1839).
The pictures accompanying this blog entry are of a set of 6 chairs probably ca. 1840, early Victorian or “Late Classicism”. I’m no expert and my reference material on this era/style of furniture is slim for me to match the exact back splat, but one of my books suggests similar chairs could have been made in New York or New Jersey (other similar chairs from Massachusetts, etc.).
The curious element of each of these chairs is the “J.H.B” signed on each chair. Could these be pre-Rococo Belters? The chairs may be from New York – during the time he was there – and the initials are correct. How many JHB furniture makers could there have been in New York around 1840?
My sanity checker immediately says it can’t be early Belter work (to which some of you who know Belter work reading this say duh, John, look at them!), but I’m not one to be too lazy to open a few books and think about it for 5 minutes. I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that these are by John Henry Belter. It could be that the markings were the eventual customer’s initials or a later addition. We could also find with proper research that they weren’t from New York. However, the chairs did spur me to think about the fact that he had a life before the mid-1840s and 1850s. I view that earlier work no less interesting than the work that he is most famous for.
Thanks to Jerry for stopping by and sending in the pics.