I’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday For A Hamburger Today

by John Werry on June 19, 2009

Jelliff Hamburger1 Ill Gladly Pay You Tuesday For A Hamburger Today

No sooner do I put up a post about J.W. Hamburger than woodwright points out the Great American Auction sale coming up tomorrow.  I had previously reviewed the lots, but since I just did the post earlier this morning, one stuck out for me this time around.  The “Jelliff” chair on page 2 favors greatly in a comparison to a J.W. Hamburger “King William” armchair.  A few minor differences are the bottom of the seatback is rounded and the legs are reeded in the catalog.

The yellow arrows are elements that compare favorably.

(clicking on the photo will zoom it)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

zeke June 19, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Great comparison John and i think those unusual “grooves” in the backs of the arms are a real telltale sign, those are very unusual, indeed, I’ve never even seen those on a Victorian chair.

I do believe one should exercise caution when comparing woodcuts from old catalogs to actual furniture. The design could change in subtle or more significant ways when the actual furniture was made from the drawings. Compare the Henkels drawings of furniture in “Philadelphia Furniture and its makers” by John J. Snyder Jr. to the actual pieces illustrated in that very same book. There is no denying that the furniture is the same as the drawings, but many small differences abound. It’s fascinating stuff to ponder. I think you pegged this one though.

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woodwright June 19, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Looks like you’re on a Hamburger roll today John. Get it – Hamburger – roll. Maybe not so punny.
Is it just me, or do the faces look different? Whoever drew the catalog images certainly wasn’t a portrait artist. I think the chair is a closer match than the sofa, many similarities, but also still quite a few notable differences. The legs, the incising on the front rail, the bottom rail of the back, the carving on the crest rail.
Same opinion for the sofa you compared earlier – many similarities, but also many differences. There are currently 5 different, but all similar style Renaissance Revival sofas on ebay under a “Jelliff” search (3 parlor sets from Antiquarian Traders – all BIN – 15k. All w/ crappy, small pictures – I don’t understand how anyone can expect to sell anything over $500.00 w/ crappy pictures. Who would spend 15k on something they can barely see?). 4 of the 5 sofa’s have 4 front legs – only 1 sofa has 2 front legs. 2 sofa’s have male busts. All seem to bulge out more on the front rail than the Hamburger sofa, most seem to have carved incising on the front rail (maybe all – hard to tell from the Ant. Traders pics). Possibly different variations from the same maker, but I think there are too many differences & it looks like different makers to me – but most definately some copying of many details here. woodwright

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RareVictorian June 20, 2009 at 10:43 am

I’m with Zeke on this:
“I do believe one should exercise caution when comparing woodcuts from old catalogs to actual furniture. The design could change in subtle or more significant ways when the actual furniture was made from the drawings”

I think it is expected that there will be changes when an item is transformed from drawing to wood, especially as a design is reproduced over a period of years and it evolves. Customers could also ask for custom tweaks on the design when ordering, too.

woodright, thanks for the chuckle. Hamburger roll indeed.

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mayerwagner June 21, 2009 at 10:51 am

I agree that this chair is a good match to the J. W. Hamburger “King William” armchair. Great work!!! And now would also be a good time to collect a little more data — the dimensions of the chair and the caryatid, as well as detail photos. The more facts, the better. If this were done for all the “Jelliff’s” it might become a little easier to see if there are any patterns that fall out.

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Ulysses Dietz July 6, 2009 at 8:37 am

The Hamburger “King William” chair is a hugely important clue. Someone sent me this link, so I don’t know where the Hamburger woodcut comes from or where the firm was located.

Of that group of images you appended to your entry, the large suite of parlor furniture is the most likely Jelliff candidate. The other sofas are hard to see and the armchair is a clear no–to my mind. But what does it all mean?

The entire Jelliff story began in 1926 with the donation of three pieces of parlor furniture in rosewood to the Newark Museum by Miss Grace Trusdell of Newark, NJ. The sofa from this partial suite has the caryatid neo-grec armrests, and a carved female head on the crest rail. Miss Trusdell referred to these pieces as her father’s Jelliff parlor set. That’s it. If you’re going to buy into the story, as I do, it has to start with these pieces. We do own a Jelliff armchair with MALE armrests that came from Jelliff daughter Phebe Jelliff Lemassena.

In all my 20 years of studying Jelliff, I’ve seen lots of neo-grec armrests, with both male and female figures, that I can attribute to Jelliff based on OTHER details–drawn from the original 1926 gift and using links among other surviving pieces. I’ve seen even more that I am sure is NOT by Jelliff, based on that same checklsit. There are no signed neo-grec Jelliff pieces, and no survivng catalogues or advertising images. The well known Schrenkeisen catalogue at Winterthur suggests NOT that Schrenkeisen made this style, but that they were wholesaling Jelliff furniture nationwide. The mystery remains to be solved.

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John Werry July 6, 2009 at 10:08 am

Ulysses, welcome to Rare Victorian. I’m hoping to stop by your employer one of these days when I can.

The 1872 Hamburger catalog is also at Winterthur and they were a New York firm.

I personally have a few oddities when it comes to these caryatid arms:

I have an unusual Rosewood chair with sea serpent arms and paw feet that appear to be in the style of the bergère’s that Schrenkeisen and Jelliff produced. The casters have the beaded trim found on some of the “Jelliff’s”. See slideshow here. I attributed it to “Jelliff” in 2007 when I uploaded the photos, but as time has passed and I have learned more, I am less sure.

I also have a male caryatid chair matching the figures in the museum but with a different overall form. The odd addition of Gothic crockets is a curiosity to me. See here.

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