Rare Victorian - Charles Tisch Aesthetic Inlaid Sofa

Charles Tisch Aesthetic Inlaid Sofa

charles tisch sofa Charles Tisch Aesthetic Inlaid Sofa

charles tisch sofa Charles Tisch Aesthetic Inlaid Sofa

Neal Auction will be selling the above Aesthetic sofa in the remaining day of the Louisiana Purchase sale today.  It is being attributed to Charles Tisch who was a cabinetmaker in New York starting in 1870, categorized himself as a “designer and maker of furniture” in 1886, and an “art dealer” in 1889.

1889 Charles Tisch Gift To The Met

Tisch gave one of his cabinets to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1889, stating in an accompanying letter that it:

Received the first prize at the New Orleans Exposition (18)84/85. It is a purely American production of my own Manufacture and consider it worthy of a place in the Museum

Fast forward 40 years – In an article  from the Magazine Antiques in January, 2000, there is a 1929 quote about Tisch’s cabinet by Joseph Breck, who was the curator of decorative arts for the Met at the time:

“I think I may safely say that [the cabinet] is a piece we will never want to exhibit.” [6] Despite another attempt to deaccession it in 1941, the cabinet remained in the collection until 1950, ostensibly because the museum was unable to trace Tisch or his descendants. In 1950 it was deaccessioned and put into off-site storage, but fortunately in 1957 James J. Rorimer (1905-1966), then the museum’s director, returned it to the American Wing, and in 1969 it was reaccessioned. [7]

Breck’s quote is an example of the great “disdain” in the early 20th century for late eighteenth century furniture.  Antiques goes on to say about another memo by Breck:

in October 1928, Joseph Breck (1885-1933), then the curator of the department of decorative arts, addressed the subject of more than three hundred objects in his charge that he wished to dispose of, among the furniture, “many 19th century atrocities.”

Charles Tisch Furniture Today

Not a good time for Victorian back in the 20s, but 2003 was a better year for Tisch furniture.  A cabinet was discovered that was a match for the one in the museum and it fetched $98,812.

There must have been a lot of these cabinets because here is another that Post Road Gallery currently claims is also a match.

In March, 2007, an easel attributed to Tisch fetched $5,500.


Unfortunately for Tisch, the end of his life was not a good one.  He was found in the East River in 1900 after leaving his home for a walk due to insomnia.  The original NY Times article is here.

The Neal Auction sofa bidding will be starting at $2,000 and expected to bring $3,000 to $5,000.  I think it will do better, but we will see…

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  • james conrad - October 12, 2008

    Interesting story and sadly this sort of thing happens way too often, even today.

    Reminds me of a comment made during a talk/lecture in the 60’s by an art historian/curator who’s name escapes me at the moment who said “American southern furniture was not worthy of study or collecting”.

    Fortunately, this led to a firestorm of criticism and an explosion of research into southern decorative arts.

    For whatever reason, the art world seems to attract snobs and every era of art has to go through a sort of ” trial by snobs”.

  • RareVictorian - October 13, 2008

    Disappointing $2,200 at the sale…

  • Steve Sika - October 14, 2008

    $2200 OUCH! Happy Birthday to the buyer. Don’t tell me that figure includes the buyers premium?

  • RareVictorian - October 14, 2008

    Yes, ouch. I would have bought it for that.

    Doesn’t include buyers premium nor shipping, if required.

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