Victorian Furniture Makers’ Careers Span Periods
Many Victorian furniture cabinetmakers’ careers crossed wide swaths of the Victorian period and thus, adapted to the changes in tastes across those careers.
When we think of John Jellif, we think of the Renaissance Revival furniture even though he retired in 1860 and probably wasn’t there while the majority of that furniture that we’re familiar with was made (Henry Miller ran it from 1860-1890). We less often think of his Gothic Revival and Rococo Revival furniture. His career began in the 1830s so he probably made Late Classical furniture as well.
When we think of John Henry Belter, we think of Rococo Revival, but we forget that he was probably doing work in the 1820s in Germany and 1830s in New York. Rococo Revival was only heating up in America circa 1840.
The image of the sofa table above (courtesy of Carswell Rush Berlin) is a reminder that Alexander Roux, who we know for his Rococo Revival furniture, also made furniture in other styles. The table was made between 1838 and 1848 (probably closer to the former than the latter) based on the 478 Broadway location in the ink stencil:
Another example of this diversity in cabinetmakers’ repertoires is this new addition to Southampton Antiques’ inventory, an 1870s faux bamboo dresser made by Pottier & Stymus. It bears the rare stencil confirming it’s manufacturer. This style of furniture got hot after the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and it appears that P&S jumped on the bandwagon right away, while R.J. Horner, who is well-known for faux bamboo furniture and who only began working as “R.J. Horner & Co.” in 1886, advertised his bamboo furniture in the 1890s.
Ironically, the furniture produced early-on in cabinetmakers’ careers is often not the “signature” style we know them all for, but at the same time is the most likely to have been actually produced by their own hands.