I took a breather from Rare Victorian this weekend to attend to important priorities – gambling in Las Vegas. I’m sitting in the Las Vegas airport on the wireless with hours to spare before takeoff so I thought I’d peruse the wild world of Victorian furniture. I’m operating on about 12 hours sleep accumulated over 3 nights so if you catch me conveying gibberish then you have something in common with the Blackjack dealers on the strip.
I had to write about this chair that I ran across today due to the lengthy writeup that was done on the attribution that they are providing. It is obvious that they went to a lot of trouble to write it up; which I applaud. The seller makes an attribution to this chair as either R.J. Horner or Herter Brothers and date the chair to the 1880s. I am highly suspicious that this chair is actually made by Karpen Brothers, though we don’t have a label or photo of a comparably labeled chair, nor a surviving catalog image to prove it.
As an attribution exercise, I will point out a few issues with their conclusions:
- This chair is undoubtedly done post 1880s – closer to the turn of the century. This chair could even date into the early 1910s. This is suggested to me by the cumulative combination of the smooth scroll arm design and chair back, griffin and satyr detailing, and type of Mahogany and stain used in this chair. There are many images on the web of Karpen furniture and you can use Google or use the search on this site in the rightmost column to find other Karpen furniture images to see the stylistic similarities.
- The seller points out that:
THE BOOK OF HERTER BROS SHOWS VANDERBUILT [sic] ON PAGE 201.SITTING IN A CHAIR, WITH THE FEET IDENTICLE [sic] LIKE THE ONE, WE ARE SELLING & WE GOT OURS FROM THE FAMILY WHO DEMOLISHED THE VANDERBUILT [sic] ESTATE.
In reality, they are not “identical” to the photo that they mention and provide from the book. The feet in the chair above has 3 toes while the Vanderbilt photo has 4 or 5 toes, so the qualifier “identical” does not apply here. As is commonly known, paw feet have been pervasive in furniture for many centuries and have been employed by many makers in many configurations, with varying detail. A labeled Karpen sofa at Flomaton Auction exhibits 4-toed paw feet as a recent example of a paw foot Karpen piece.
They’ve obviously received a few phone calls asking them to not attribute this chair to Herter Brothers:
WE JUST RECIEVED A FEW PHONE CALLS TO SAY DAVID PLEASE DO NOT SAY THAT THIS MAY BE A HERTER BROS CHAIR .UNLESS YOU CAN BACK IT UP WITH A PHOTO, OF VANDERBUILT SITTTING IN ONE LIKE YOURS & LET US BE THE JUDGE
I agree with the callers that I would not mention the name Herter in conjunction with this chair. The heydey of the Herter Brothers had ended over a decade prior to the creation of this chair, not to mention that none of the Herter pieces I have seen or are in the Herter Brothers book show anything comparable.
Horner, however was a contemporary to Karpen Brothers and did produce furniture of similar style, and quality, and materials, so Horner’s name cannot be removed from the equation. My feeling is still that this fine chair was produced by the Karpen boys.
You can decide for yourself, but any way you look at it, this is still a fine chair and one that I would be happy to own. Please stop by this disabled Vietnam Vet’s listing for the chair and take a look for yourself. Thanks, nineballdave, for the service that you provided to our country and good luck with your sale.