John Henry Belter Lion & Serpent Decoration

by John Werry on March 24, 2009

johnhenrybelterserpent John Henry Belter Lion & Serpent Decoration

In a recent post I mentioned a John Henry Belter sofa design that integrated uncommon Belter themes of sea serpents, lion arms and carved paw feet.  Photos of this sofa can be found on page 65 of the Belter book and are shown in this post.  Another less common attribute of this particular sofa is Belter’s use of Oak construction (he also used Mahogany as a primary wood on occasion, which can be seen in a sofa on page 62 of the book).  Not only is this Oak, but laminated Oak in 7 layers with an open back frame rather than an enclosed, laminated back panel.

I’d like to order one of these in Rosewood, please.

Seriously though, something tells me that a Rosewood version may never have existed.  I’ve not personally seen an instance of this sofa design come up for sale, ever, which makes me wonder if it was unique.

belter lion sofa John Henry Belter Lion & Serpent Decoration

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

james conrad March 25, 2009 at 6:00 am

LOL @ I’d like to order one of these in Rosewood, please.

Hey, while we are ordering, i’ll take an American 17th century side hung chest of drawers.

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james conrad March 25, 2009 at 6:44 am

NO, WAIT! I’ll have one one these handy dandy lil boxes please.

http://www.eldreds.com/sales/detail.php?itemID=134267

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zeke March 25, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Amazing sofa and in many ways more visually compelling than the standard Belter designs. Lise had a set of Belter laminated oak dining chairs that I got to see in person and inspect. They were much more plain and generic than this sofa and more interesting than anything because of the unusual choice of wood. My biggest impression was that oak did not lend itself near as much as finer grained rosewood to Belters lamination process, but the chairs were cool to say the least. This sofa looks to me like Belter meets Horner, on friendly terms of course!

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RareVictorian March 26, 2009 at 6:18 pm

James, yeah, don’t you wish we could order what we wanted from these long-gone makers – new. I’d be happy to pay $350 for a pair of Arabasket (ie. Fountain Elms) sofas from Belter.

Good analogy, Zeke. Horner meets Belter. I guess that’s why I like it so much – two of my favorites.

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james conrad March 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm

John, oh yeah, that would work however, i find that the hunt is a very enjoyable part of collecting, although sometimes frustrating. Like that recent box deal of mine, i just KNEW i had a winner until a known authority crushed me with 2 or 3 “reservations” in the same email. OH WELL, nexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxt

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Gregory Hubbard April 3, 2009 at 1:25 am

Hello. Yes, be lovely to have the option to order great furniture back in time… The fantasies are endless. I’d order a complete house lot from Tiffany & Co.

Better still, can you imagine stepping back in time to prevent the federal funding of local Urban Renewal projects that destroyed something on the order of 100,000 historic buildings in America’s cities and towns from the 1930s to the 1970s. The ’60s and early 70s were the most destructive. San Francisco took down about 15,000 wooden Victorians.

My father and I pulled up in front of one San Francisco home where they’d used a chain saw to cut out the side of the house to pull out the grand stairs – which they burned to salvage the sterling silver stringing inlay. We’ll never know who created it. I’ve never seen photographs of the interiors of that house… And the wreckers were smashing the home’s signed Tiffany light fixtures on the front lawn. Dad bought several just to save them. Picture all those great lost houses with fitted cabinet maker’s interiors…

HOWEVER, it would be just as nice for everyone to stop stripping furniture of its original upholstery foundations. This poor sofa has been mutilated! This is not anything close to the state the maker intended! Sharply angled and carefully shaped Victorian era foundations can be restored more cheaply than they can be replaced, and they’re very different from poofy, shapeless modern stuff – it always looks like someone has attached a bicycle pump to the chair, or perhaps it’s been made seaworthy like some crazed variation on a ‘Mae West’ life preserver. Please, stop stripping the furniture of it’s original upholstery foundations! It’s no better than dip-stripping it’s frame. Or spray-painting it chartreuse.

Gregory Hubbard

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