Kimbel & Cabus Attributed Bedroom Suite

by John Werry on December 5, 2008

The printed Neal Auction catalog and NealAuction.com website has some additional substantiation that does not accompany the Ebay listing for the attributed Kimbel & Cabus bedroom set in their upcoming sale. I thought I’d share that information here since some of you may have viewed the set on Ebay and not had access to that additional information.

There was some discussion about this set in the prior post’s comments section, so I thought I’d share the additional information from Neal Auction about this set a few sentences at a time:

Note: Several significant design elements link this important suite to pieces known from the Kimbel and Cabus firm’s c. 1875 trade catalogue in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum and Smithsonian Institution. The distinctive Gothic crests with curled crockets and a trefoil panel on the bed and dresser are very similar to those on cabinet #323 in the catalogue mentioned above [RV: image above]….

To me, the comparison of the finial and crockets to K&C cabinet #323 is not as strong as a comparison between their set and the design patterns in Talbert’s 1876 Gothic Forms book below.  The image below demonstrates this comparison.

The three layers I combined in the image are as follows, starting in the back:  Kimbel & Cabus #323, Talbert’s Gothic Forms plate #8, and the bed crest on top (lower right).  To me the Kimbel & Cabus #323 is the least similar of the three.

I would suggest that the presence of curled crockets is an element of Gothic designs in general and not a tie to K&C.

gothic comparison Kimbel & Cabus Attributed Bedroom Suite

On the next point:

The strap hinges and dormer roof on the bedside commode are very similar to those on a bookcase #235 and cabinet #380 respectively.

In my opinion, the comparison of this particular set’s strap hinges to Kimbel & Cabus catalog hinges is also not a conclusive match.  If one were to squint and compare the two quickly, there is similarity, but a closer examination shows notable differences.  I don’t think “similar” is good enough, for my purposes, to tie the set to K&C.

strap hinges Kimbel & Cabus Attributed Bedroom Suite

Incised decoration comparison:

The incised spiral decoration on the bed footboard panels and commode sides on this lot are identical to those on desk #381.

image 00722 Kimbel & Cabus Attributed Bedroom Suite

K&C 381 is in the center, above, with Bruce Talbert designs on the far left and the bed footboard on the far right.  I don’t see a match with the bed and the K&C catalog image.  Here’s the same comparison with the commode incisings:

image 0072 Kimbel & Cabus Attributed Bedroom Suite

I think that they have more of a case with this comparison, but it is not “identical”.  I just think that the foliate scroll is a design element commonly used at the time.

Stiles Comparison:

The columnar stiles on the bed headboard and dresser mirror frame resemble those on desk #318, cabinet #323 and desk #381.

stiles Kimbel & Cabus Attributed Bedroom Suite

Columnar styles are commonly used in Modern Gothic/Revival pieces and I don’t see a meaningful resemblance in the group.

Overall, I just don’t feel that it is attributable to Kimbel & Cabus.  I think we’re just seeing the recurring themes of the style at the time and Kimbel & Cabus is the most famous name attached to that style.  I’m more than happy to be proven wrong and very well could be.  In fact, I’m only familiar with this one catalog from K&C and they were in business for many years.  Other years of their production could have provided a set such as this one.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David Bea December 27, 2008 at 9:31 pm

This is a great analysis and I agree with your conclusions. I had Neal Auction send me some close ups of this bedroom set and I noted that the dresser had machine-made dovetails. They are the type woodworkers refer to as “cove and pin” although some people refer to them as “scalloped.” Whatever you call this type of joinery, they are definitely machine made. I think it is very unlikely that K & C made case furniture with machine made joinery.

I have a fine aesthetic bedroom set that bears the same type of machine made joinery. This set is signed “Mitchell and Rammelsberg.” They were a large factory in Cincinnati, and although they are best known for Renaissance Revival furniture, they made some very good aesthetic designs in the late 1870s (my bedroom set being one rare example) that were also strongly influenced by Bruce Talbert’s “modern gothic” designs. For a good article about M&R’s furniture that mentions their aesthetic designs, see the article by Donald Peirce in “American Furniture and its Makers,” Winterthur Portfolio 13. On page 223 of that publication there is a photo of an M&R sideboard with a crocketed top that is very similar to the headboard and the top of the dresser of the bedroom set sold by Neal Auction. I think it is possible this bedroom set was made by Mitchell and Rammelsberg or another factory although it would have clearly been one of their finer works, not the “run of the mill.” In any case, I agree it probably isn’t by Kimbel and Cabus.

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