Did George J. Henkels Make This Chair?

by John Werry on December 4, 2007

George Henkels Chair 752915 Did George J. Henkels Make This Chair?I am unsure as to whether this chair was produced by George Henkels as the seller prescribes. I have profiled this identical form of chair from another seller previously and now that I have seen a few of them, I’d like to know who truly produced them.

As is often seen with spiral-turned furniture being over-attributed to George Hunzinger, pierced-carved chairs with circular backrest cushions are always attributed to George Henkels. See pages 88-89 in American Furniture of the 19th Century by the DuBrows and you will see several chairs that represent this form.

The problem I have is that the chairs attributed to Henkels in these reference books are often much simpler in design than this particular chair. The pierced-carvings in the books look somewhat 2-dimensional, as if a jigsaw cut them out. The carvings on this chair are more naturalistic and 3-dimensional. The skirts on the chairs in the books are simpler and do not have the Belteresque carvings on the front of the skirt.

What is impressive about this particular chair is the side bolster carvings. They are substantial and unique to this chair. There are no arms – only beefy pierced carvings to surround the person when seated.

I’m not saying this isn’t Henkel’s work – I just have nothing to use as a reference to confirm or deny.

Apparently, Samuel Sloan’s Homestead Architecture book (Philadelphia 1861) has images of Henkel’s furniture so I will need to take a look at it the next time I visit the Winterthur Library. I have also just snagged an October 1973 edition of The Magazine Antiques featuring Henkels, so in a few days I may have more information.

An interesting footnote about Henkels is that he was a big opponent of steam-powered machinery. He wrote in Household Economy (1867) that: “Hand-made work is much better than machine-work, and all cabinet-makers of reputation have their own designs, so as to have a pattern exclusively to themselves. The machine-work is sold mostly by those who have no factory, but merely keep the furniture stores. Persons who understand this prefer to pay the price for good hand-made work.”

More info on this particular chair at the listing.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 9, 2007 at 5:20 am

I have the Henkels catalog and the chair does not correspond to any of the illustrated examples. Allen Bros. also produced carved rococo parlor furniture before he adapted more creative egyptian revival and renaissance revival designs in the 1870s.

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John W December 10, 2007 at 3:19 am

Thanks for the comment. How accessible is the Henkels catalog? Care to share scans?

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