Allen & Brother or Herter Brothers Bedroom Suite

by John Werry on August 17, 2008

renaissance revival bed1 Allen & Brother or Herter Brothers Bedroom Suite

I was contacted by the recent buyer of the above bedstead, which is part of a two-piece suite. There is no question it is a very desirable set and I’d be happy to have it in one of my bedrooms. It is constructed of solid Rosewood, has gilt incising and a bronze plaque inset into the headboard.

The buyer contact me to see if I had any opinions on whether it was Allen & Brother, which was the attribution during the sale, or Herter brothers as had been seen on a similar bed sold recently as well.

One aspect of the design of this bed stood out for me as something that needed further research – the broken pediment. I have heretofore not seen either a Herter or Allen piece exhibiting a broken pediment, let alone one terminating in rosettes.

I have a Rosewood and Ivory inlaid cabinet that I believe to be an English piece that demonstrates a similar broken pediment style and from my research is representative of “Queen Anne” revival from the late 19th century. Not a style I’ve heard much of in the American Victorian decorative arts timeline.

img 1337 Allen & Brother or Herter Brothers Bedroom Suite

Anyway, I’m not suggesting yet that the bedroom suite is not necessarily American, I just feel that a jump to Herter or Allen & Brother attributions might require further dissection. The bedroom set is highly desirable however, regardless of maker.

As a side tangent, I continue to be concerned with the state of attributions and the upward impact on price for the buyer and the potential for lost history.  Here’s a recent example.

Turned furniture is not always = Hunzinger; aesthetic, ebonized, inlaid furniture is not always = Herter Brothers; hunt sideboards are not always = Alexander Roux;  Modern Gothic with strap hinges is not always = Kimbel & Cabus; laminated Roswood parlor furniture is not always = Belter … I can go on forever.

With hundreds or thousands of makers active at the time in EVERY major city throughout America and Europe, each copying each others’ work and using the same commonly available design guides published at the time, it’s a wonder we can determine who made anything without a label or stencil or tag.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

misslilybart August 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm

“With hundreds or thousands of makers active at the time in EVERY major city throughout America and Europe, each copying each others’ work and using the same commonly available design guides published at the time, it’s a wonder we can determine who made anything without a label or stencil or tag.”

Truer words were never, ever written!

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woodwright August 17, 2008 at 11:01 pm

I have a Dover paperback book titled “A Guide to American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900″. Copyright 1990 – I believe it is out of print, but readily available from Amazon and other booksellers. It lists known trade catalogs (w/ a brief description of each and # of pages of each and the source of the catalog – most are from libraries, historical societies, or museums) – in over 60 categories – including Furniture. There are hundreds of Furniture Trade catalogs listed (almost all are from the Victorian period) – I & probably most readers have heard of very few of the companies listed – yet they all produced furniture (most of it not labeled or marked) and some of it still exists today. All furniture today tries to get pigeonholed into the small handful of known/ recognizeable brand name makers. So yes – there are thousands of makers that are not even considered when triying to make an attribution for any given piece. woodwright

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RareVictorian August 17, 2008 at 11:14 pm

What makes it even more fun is trying to extract what cabinetmaker/retailers made themselves vs. imported (from down the street, domestically, or abroad) and then mixed all together in their showrooms and catalogs.

Then you’ll see familiar pieces across 3 catalogs (or ads) from 3 different makers …

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max November 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm

There are numerous examples of Herter using the broken arch pediment. I have seen a bed, dresser and several cabinets. I would however have to see more details of the bed to make an attribution.

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