Rare Victorian - Victorian Transitional Sidechair – Gothic Revival Meets Rococo Revival
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Victorian Transitional Sidechair – Gothic Revival Meets Rococo Revival

gothic rococo revival Victorian Transitional Sidechair   Gothic Revival Meets Rococo Revival

gothic rococo revival Victorian Transitional Sidechair   Gothic Revival Meets Rococo RevivalSometimes in the Victorian era of furniture making, you can see the confluence of two styles in one piece simultaneously as you can see with this sidechair to the right. Both Gothic Revival (spires, arches, crockets) and Rococo Revival (serpentine & foliate seat, cabriole legs) are represented at the same time.

This Rosewood chair design pops up fairly regularly at auction and is often attributed to J & JW Meeks, though I’m unaware of any watertight attributions on this chair based on documentation.  It is represented in the wonderful book, “The Gothic Revival Style in America, 1830-1870” by Katherine Howe and David Warren for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.  I don’t recall where I’ve seen this chair in reference material otherwise, but if someone does, please let me know.

UPDATE: This chair was likely made by Klauder & Deginter.  Thanks to “curtywurty’ who left the comment with the information and “misslilybart” who found this document online.

It is one of my favorite (accessible) designs and is coming up at auction and I just might have to put a bid in on it.  I have no space in my house for another chair but I’m a collector, not a decorator.  I buy things that appeal to me and round out a collection that I try to assure is diverse, with representative samples of all Victorian styles.  Finding transitional pieces with multiple styles is even more enjoyable, especially when found in such an attractive silhouette.

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18 Comments
  • Andrew - December 30, 2008

    This model (or a very similar one) was featured in the Philadelphia Antiques Show loan exhibition a few years ago, and a part of it was used on the cover of the show catalogue. I am not convinced it was done by Meeks, but in any case it is a melange, as the French call this mixture, and not successful.

    It would certainly not have been endorsed by the serious architect/designers of the Gothic Revival movement, in England, America or France.

    While we have a huge and growing collection of the Gothic Revival, we do not want to include one of these.

    On the other hand, someone interested in Victoriana per se might find it interesting. But serious Gothic Revival collectors do always not exclude mixtures: there are important and beautiful examples of Gothic/Classical and Gothic/Egyptian Revival pieces.

  • RareVictorian - December 30, 2008

    This chair was not put forth to represent anything to be held against any standard of Gothic purity or what would be “endorsed by any serious architect/designers of the Gothic revival movement” but simply as an example of the confluence of Rococo and Gothic Revival styles that happens to have come up for sale.

  • james conrad - January 1, 2009

    ” I buy things that appeal to me ”

    EXACTLY, there is no right or wrong form. There is really only one question, does one connect emotionally to the piece.

  • zeke - January 1, 2009

    Interesting chair, it’s a bit clumsy but I sure wouldn’t mind having it in my collection.

    Quite frankly I don’t think the “Victorians” were so puritanical that they aspired to strict interpretations of any style. This furniture was meant to be displayed in their homes and used and if anything, Victorian America was enamored with eclecticism.

    I think the phrase “Transitional” can be useful in describing a piece that doesn’t adhere strictly to one paradigm, but, strictly speaking, furniture styles did not mutate into one another.

  • Andrew - January 2, 2009

    The point of collecting, at least traditionally, was connoisseurship. This does not exclude personal taste, but does ask for consistency and some explanation. There are a number of known models of American rococo/Gothic Revival chairs which are superb, admired by most of the people who study and collect them. Several are shown in the book, Gothic Revival Style, mentioned above.

    I appreciate this posting, because it gives a good idea of how much is too much in rococo-ization of the Gothic.

    Do not forget that Chippendale, with his Gothick splats, was an early proponent of mixing Gothic into the rococo, decades before the 19th century Gothic Revival.

    It will be interesting to see how much the market thinks this is worth. Clearly it evokes controversy, even if not beautiful.

  • RareVictorian - January 3, 2009

    Went to the auction to check on some items and this chair was Walnut, not Rosewood as some of these are, and was very small – quite possibly a child’s chair. I didn’t hang around to see what it went for …

  • james conrad - January 4, 2009

    Theres nothing unusual about 2,3 or more victorian styles on the same piece, whether it works as a whole is highly subjective.

    Mmmmmm, Thomas Chippendale, cabinetmaker, decorator of the first rank however, some call his work “Queen Anne with rococo carving slathered all over it”.

    John Goddard & John Townsend of Newport, the most celebrated and researched cabinetmakers during the chippendale/colonial era, rejected the rococo aspect of chippendale design and, GOT AWAY WITH IT in spectacular fashion with their ” block & shell” masterpieces.

  • james conrad - January 4, 2009

    Hmmmmm, interesting, box chairs? Heres an example of a 17th century joined box stool.
    http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5135117

    The longer i am around old furniture, the more i come to realize that no matter what style or era, most furniture forms are very much connected to one another in fundamental as well as decorative ways.

  • woodwright - January 4, 2009

    I always thought that chairs with lift seats/ storage beneath them like this Gothic/ Rococo chair were used as hall chairs – the storage area under the seat used for gloves, scarves, hats, etc. Yes, no, maybe so?

  • zeke - January 4, 2009

    I always thought the storage was to keep your bible in. The hard, un-cushioned seat reminded you of your piousness while reading it!

  • Phil - January 8, 2009

    I think because of the relative plethora of Victorian furniture and decorative objects that are available, we can easily choose to assemble a more narrowed, purist-type of collection or a broader, eclectic, transitional collection. I was thinking how much more difficult it is to apply the same purist standards to buying Victorian houses. There is a goodly chunk of Victorian real estate out there that is transitional, influenced by local architects/builders, or just plain unique. Our choices are majorly influence by economic, familial, and sometimes recreational considerations. My passion is for pure, unadulterated, over-the-top Second Empire, but we are happily ensconced in a Colonial Revival with, oddly, a some dashes of Craftsman.

  • Andrew - January 8, 2009

    Phil is right. It is easier to build a collection of furniture, works of art, and books that is focused than it is to find the perfect house to put them in. We are confirmed Gothicists, broadly construed, but it is almost impossible to find a Gothic Revival house in San Francisco. Given that we have strong preferences for neighborhood, and needed a big house, we bought a formal neo-Classical boxy house, c.1901, with touches of Arts&Crafts in the entry, a grand paneled living room with plaster molded neo-classical ceiling (and an angel over the fireplace), and dining room with Richardson Romanesque arched fireplace.

    The Gothic Revival collection, which includes French Charles X cathedrale furniture, English Gothic Revival and modern Gothic, and American Classical/Gothic and high Gothic Revival, nevertheless works well in the house. We are using period wallpaper, and Gothic chandeliers and curtains. Since I am a truecollector, and not a decorator, my wife makes all the final decisions on how to put it together. So far, it is working well, even though it would be better if the architecture of the house were more sympathetic.

    As one of my friends said, if you do not watch out, people will think it is a theme park!

  • Curtywurty - March 7, 2009

    This chair was made in Philadelphia by the firm of Klauter and Deginter.

    • RareVictorian - March 8, 2009

      How did you come about that assertion? Can you share with us? Thanks.

  • Curtywurty - March 8, 2009

    The attribution is made by Robt. F Trent and H Mack Truax in their lengthy discussion of Philadelphia gothic furniture in the essay for the 2005 exhibit, Vaulting Ambition, Phila. Gothic Revival Furniture and Other Decorative Arts 1830- 1860. If you go to the Philadelphia Antique Show this April, they usually have older copies of the exhibition catalog for sale. This chair is related to other furniture made by the firm Klauder and Deginter made for Loudon, a large home in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.
    I have even seen this form as a plank bottom hall settee with double backs, side by side. Very strange.

  • misslilybart - March 9, 2009

    The 2005 loan exhibit essay is also available as a downloadable pdf file @ the Philadelphia Antiques Show website:

    http://www.philaantiques.com/exhibit/

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