Rare Victorian - Side Chair Manufactured by George Henkels?

Side Chair Manufactured by George Henkels?

george henkels chair 752915 Side Chair Manufactured by George Henkels?

george henkels chair 752915 Side Chair Manufactured by George Henkels?

It always gives me great pleasure to nail down a maker of a piece of furniture that we often see being sold as “attributed to” and be able to turn that into a definite “made by”. No further need to attribute this chair to anyone other than George Henkels (which is usually what the “attributed to” is).**

An original ad done by George Henkels documented in Victorian Details shows this very chair design prominently on page 43. The drawing is somewhat stylized, 19th Century style, but the unmistakable side bolsters are identically presented.

I’ve blogged about this chair previously here and most recently here, where someone in N.J. probably got a good deal at an estate sale.

** NOTE: Based on new information received after this post was made, I’d like to temper the above statements with caution.  There is documentation that suggests this chair is made by Robert Renwick of Baltimore.  Stand by while I look into it.

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  • vickypicker - June 26, 2008

    CONFIRMED? MAYBE NOT YET. Please see attatched page 97 from “Decorative art of Victoria’s era”……F. Lichten….pub. 1950…scribner’s sons N.Y. They show this chair as being made by “Robert Renwick…Baltimore ..1850….courtesy of “Index of American design….National gallery of art.”


  • vickypicker - June 26, 2008

    By the way, the chair sold recently in N.J was knocked down for $1300.

  • RareVictorian - June 26, 2008


    Thanks for chiming in. This is an important find and new book to me (which I have ordered for $9).

    Oftentimes in the ’50s and earlier books would throw names around, especially Belter, on furniture. A lot of Meeks furniture was “by” Belter at that time. So that earlier tendency to do that tempers my confidence in their Renwick association.

    However, Robert Renwick is not a name you hear often “thrown around” in attributions flippantly, so I think this information has merit.

    I usually don’t edit posts after I put them up but will do so to temper my earlier statement. I’d rather have it documented correctly.

  • woodwright - June 26, 2008

    The chair pictured above with the blue upholstery has a definate taper to the back (like an inverted teardrop) – both the wood frame, and the center upholstered area. Like the chair shown by vickypicker. The chair pictured in “Victorian Detail” p. 43 from Henkel’s is uniformly oval (no taper) – more like the chair from the NJ auction w/ the floral upholstery. You’ll notice the carving at the front seat rail is also different, and the crest carving also differs slightly. I think it’s possible that there are 2 very similar chairs, but different, possibly by 2 different makers (one copying the other w/ a slight twist). The NJ chair – looks like a close match for Henkel’s, and the blue chair a close match for the chair by Renwick. woodwright

  • RareVictorian - June 26, 2008

    Woodright, I think you nailed it. It does appear that there are two chairs of similar form. Philadelphia and Baltimore aren’t too far away. I discounted the variations in the drawing due to the 19th century drawing style which tend to be stylized.

  • vickypicker - June 26, 2008

    “The book that __SHE __has”????? Now, why would you assume I’m a female?…..WRONG…..” VICKY” is short for Victorian!!!!…albeit a terrible knickname for victorian, but freely used in the trade. This is the second post by you that is NOT based on solid ground…..tsk. tsk. oh fearless moderator.

  • RareVictorian - June 26, 2008

    Thank you, vickypicker for the spot on the Henkels chair. Maybe I should have stayed with my December stance. Be assured that I’ll be doing a follow up post with chair comparisons and more analysis. I also apologize for the assumption that vicky implied female. Although we’re talking Victorian here, I made the false assumption and I’ve corrected the gender issue.

    For us (I mean myself, John, and the readership) to accomplish anything with this blog, I have to put the information out there as best as possible and with hundreds more experts out there you can call me on it as was done in this case. I don’t consider the case closed yet in either direction (Henkels or Renwick) and I’ll keep working on it.

    I try to do as much research as possible (and this is not my day job), but it is inevitable if we’re breaking some ground here that mistakes will be made, but they will never go without correction when identified. I don’t want to go “safe” with the blog and not stick my neck out there, but I don’t want to fly fast and loose either.

    This is also a blog and not a textbook so you will watch as I evolve my knowledge over time. Lest anyone forget that this is a journey for me, they can read the About Us and Disclaimer.

    In the end, all I care is whether we ultimately document the correct information on the blog, whether I have to reverse my stance or not. I’ll will be as transparent as possible.

    Mistakes get made in books all the time and we shouldn’t assume Lichten (the book’s author) is necessarily correct in his 58-year old book unless there is more in the book to back up his assertion. I won’t know if there is more meat in there than a photo and caption unless vickypicker lets us know or until I see the book in a few days. I have many reference books and this rare book is the only one that I am aware makes this assertion.

    If I had two shaky posts out of 293 over a year and a half in total, I take that as a good thing. This one will be updated and revised, so that should leave the other one you mention. Let me know which it is and we’ll work on that one too.

  • misslilybart - June 26, 2008

    I’ve just skimmed my copy of Miss Lichten’s book and there does not seem to be any other reference or supporting material for the attribution. The Index of American Design collection is held by the National Gallery of Art; you might want to contact them with a query regarding what documentation (if any) was gathered when the chair in question was recorded by the WPA artists.

  • RareVictorian - June 26, 2008

    Thanks misslilybart. I will try that. I’m worried that the passage of time will be against us since the book was published so long ago.

  • renaissanceman - July 1, 2008

    I own an original copy of the only catalog printed by George Henkels in 1861. I reviewed the catalog which includes a number of parlor suites and the above-described chair is not in the catalog. I have personally owned at least four pieces of Henkels furniture that actually appears in his catalog, including a massive walnut desk, parlor furniture, and dining chairs. Henkels used oak has his primary subwood and used walnut which he pigmented to look like rosewood (very dark with little grain). He also of course worked in rosewood. His most distinguishable furniture are those pieces heavily carved with grotesque masks, animal-like heads, such as serpents or dolphins, and very deep floral carving. He produced a lot of medium-grade furniture and he produced custom furniture as well.

    I would also like to point out that Allen Brothers also produced a great deal of rococo furniture before they moved in more Renaissance styles in the late 1860s.

  • Lex Henkels - July 15, 2008

    I would very much like to contact renaissanceman regarding the George Henkels furniture catalog he owns. I wonder if he would be willing, for a price, to scan the catalog and provide a copy.

    thank you,

    Lex Henkels

  • RareVictorian - July 15, 2008

    Lex, I already hit up renaissanceman about sharing the catalog and they will be trying to publish it sometime in future. Until then, we can ask for attribution help. It is a sick condition that I have, but I would love to have a copy of that. Unfortunately I must wait for some indeterminate time to purchase a copy.

    Meanwhile, aspects of Henkels history will remain much a mystery – not that a catalog from one period in time can solve all of them.

    Lex, what is your relation, if any, considering your conspicuous last name?

  • Lex Henkels - July 21, 2008

    thanks for your response. I am interested in your discussion because my great grandfather, Charles H. Henkels, was George Henkels’ brother and cabinetmaker business partner.

  • Lex Henkels - July 28, 2008

    I made an error in a previous post. The name of my great grandfather who worked with George Henkels was John A. Henkels, not Charles. My apologies. My astute cousin corrected me.

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