A Real Galusha In Our Midst

by John Werry on August 25, 2009

It’s not as frequent as Belter, Meeks, Horner, Hunzinger, and the other usual Victorian-era furniture makers, but it isn’t unusual to see furniture somewhat liberally attributed to Elijah Galusha. Galusha was a cabinetmaker based in Troy, NY who was most famous for his exceptional Rococo Revival furniture and less for his earlier Sheraton, Empire, and Gothic styles.

There have been some active discussions on some possible Galusha furniture attributions in the forum here and here, but in the midst of it all, I looked over the pictures of a site visitor’s furniture as just another maybe and didn’t have time to do the detailed comparisons that one should do before attribution.  I am sometimes overwhelmed by photos sent to me from Rare Victorian visitors and can’t always dig into the details of everything that comes my way.  However, the recent resurgence in activity in the forum with Galusha invited me to look at them again in detail.

Galusha chair A Real Galusha In Our Midst

The chair on the above right is from Gordie in the forum while the chair on the left is a documented Galusha from the collection of Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, N.Y.

Simply looking at the overall form and where the carvings seem to coincide from a distance is a start at identifying Gordie’s chair as a Galusha, but digging into the details is what needs to be done.  The presence of a daisy (a common Victorian-era motif) or the top-heavy silhouette is not enough for me to say it is Galusha.

Let’s use the crest as a comparison point.  Shown below are the RCHS chair crest and Gordie’s crest.  I chose the most seemingly unique design area to compare – the part where there is a very unusual C-scroll with incised lines and a leaf protruding and bisecting the C-scroll.  Surrounding it are identically positioned flowers (one daisy and one rose), all shown on Gordie’s chair below.  Please excuse the poor image I borrowed for the RCHS chair and look beyond the scale of the two images, which are surely not to scale or on angle with one another.

This unusual but highly comparable combination of carvings continues through the center of the crest with the over-arched Acanthus, and more flowers and another C-scroll to the other side.

RHS Galusha Crest A Real Galusha In Our MidstGalusha c scroll A Real Galusha In Our Midst

I would love to go into a more detailed comparison but the the reference chair images do not permit a detailed comparison.  I need to head to Troy, NY and take some better images of the source chair.  However in looking at the skirt carvings as well as the carvings below the arms, it seems the favorable comparisons continue throughout the chairs.  (If someone is near Troy and can get some better images of the documented chair we would be very grateful!)

I will go one step further than “attributed to” and use the CDWA qualifier of “probably by” in connection with Elijah Galusha for Gordie’s chairs.

I leave you with one more photo of Galusha’s carving skills to use with attributing other possible Galusha furniture.  My point to make is that Galusha was a man of detail and produced crisp and lifelike carvings as did John Henry Belter and J & JW Meeks.   If you see any crudeness in the edges of carvings, or simplicity in incisings on pieces to identify, you are not likely to have a Galusha before you.  That’s my take, anyway.

I also realize that Galusha produced many designs, so one cannot discard different designs from the above reference chair as not being Galusha.  However, one can compare his roses, daisies, acorns, acanthus, volutes, etc., from reference chairs to start towards an attribution.  You can even go one step further.  If the petals compare favorably, what about the center of the daisy (the stigma?)?  His are either spherical, or dimpled.  His leaf veins are done in a certain way.  You can go on and on…

Congrats, Gordie.  My opinion is that you have the real deal.

Galusha carvings A Real Galusha In Our Midst

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sonya Pancucci August 25, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Hello Everyone,

I have enjoyed the lively discussions around Galusha’s furniture and about a week ago I contacted the Rensselaer County Historical Society by e-mail for photos, but I have not heard back from them yet. If anyone else is interested, they have a $25 fee for requests (Please see below):

“The RCHS library and archives serve researchers through visits to its reading room, and by mail, e-mail and telephone. For researchers requesting information by mail and telephone, there is a fee of $25 per request. Please include your full postal address when inquiring by e-mail (research@rchsonline.org) so that we can send you the appropriate forms. Photocopying and copystand work is also available for a fee.” (Taken from the RCHS website: http://www.rchsonline.org/library.htm)

Regards,
Sunnyp7

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1881victorian August 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

It stands to reason that not every piece of furniture to come out of Galusha’s shop was the work of Mr. Elijah Galusha, but rather would have been the work of apprentices and other master craftsmen. One source says “He [Galusha] had eight workers by 1840 and 15 by 1846″ (http://www.flomatonantiqueauction.com/galusha.htm)

This leads me to the supposition that similar elements on less-detailed pieces may well be less expensive “copies” (or approximations) of Galusha’s talent made by people working at his shop…or, more simply, the product of Galusha’s “shop” if not Galusha, “the man”.

This would be in line with the assertion that “[Galusha’s] surviving works, for example, were produced for a wealthy clientele, yet to sustain a lucrative operation Galusha retailed affordable items for the middle class.” (ibid) From this line of thought, Galusha, the man, would make the expensive–and, by extension, “documented”–items, while Galusha, the shop, would make the middle class items.

I am convinced that Gordie’s chairs are the real deal and probably the work of Mr. Galusha himself; however, I am still laying odds that the lesser pieces discussed are the middle-class products of Galusha’s shop.

– Jason

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Gordie August 26, 2009 at 12:20 am

Hey…I just “tuned in” to the discussion on my chairs…cool. Sorry I’ve been away from the site for a few months and haven’t kept up. I do have some neat correspondence from the Dubrows to share when I get a chance to scan some stuff. Mostly on their phenomenal Belter sofa, but it does mention my chairs and their “hunch” that they are of the “hand” of Galusha. Thanks for the affirmation. Some day, a trip to Troy, New York is destined to happen.

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monkecmonkedo August 29, 2009 at 8:36 pm

My wife and I live near Albany and will plan a visit to the RCHS for Labor Day week sometime. Also, I believe a coworker’s wife may work at RCHS. If so, it may be easier for me to get detailed photos. I’d also like to visit the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art. I believe they have a Galusha collection in addition to Meeks, Belter, and many other famous makers.

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Sunnyp7 August 29, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Hello Monkecmonkedo:

I contacted the MWPAI about their Galusha collection and you may want to save a trip there for later as the collection is currently not on display. It would be great to see photos from the RCHS Collection. I may receive some photos in a few weeks or so, which I will add to the message board at that time.

Cheers,
Sonya

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