Rare Victorian - Thomas Brooks Dresser With Putto
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Thomas Brooks Dresser With Putto

Thomas Brooks Crest Thomas Brooks Dresser With Putto

Thomas Brooks Dresser Thomas Brooks Dresser With Putto

I almost incorrectly used the term “cherub” to describe this winged male child that is represented in the crest of this dresser, but I remembered that I had wanted to do a little digging on the difference between the word cherub and another term that is sometimes used, putto.  After a quick look, I learned that modern English language has blurred the lines between these two terms and apparently, incorrectly so.

The depiction of winged children in art is strictly putto (plural form – putti), while a cherub is a winged being mentioned several times in the bible and whose only similarity to putti is the presence of wings.  According to Wikipedia, the cherubim (can be used instead of “cherubs” as it’s plural form) are:

a tetrad of living creatures, each having four faces: of a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a man. They are said to have the stature and hands of a man, the feet of a calf, and four wings. Two of the wings extended upward, meeting above and sustaining the throne of God; while the other two stretched downward and covered the creatures themselves

Read more on the cherub and putto for details on the distinctions.

This 8 1/2 foot tall dresser attributed to Thomas Brooks has a very curious marking under the marble – “A. Roux”, as in Alexander Roux.  The seller supposes that there may have been a collaboration between the two on this particular piece.  I’m not sure what to think.  Roux worked until 1881, so he certainly was around in the Renaissance Revival era to be working on this style of furniture.  What are your thoughts on this curious marking?  More details at the sale listing.

Thomas Brooks Crest Thomas Brooks Dresser With PuttoThomas-Brooks-Dresser-2

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18 Comments
  • Mario - September 7, 2009

    I assume this piece is attributed to Thomas Brooks, not by brand or signature, but rather a closely related dresser shown in “American Furniture of the 19th Century 1840-1880” page 204, Richard and Eileen Dubrow which is taken from Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc Victorian International Sale 4526Y lot 654. The dresser (part of a three-piece suite) which sold at Sotheby’s was branded Thomas Brooks.

    It is not unusual to find “A. Roux” in penciled script on branded and signed Roux pieces. I don’t know if the marble is original to this piece or is a replacement.

    One could propose a number of scenarios for the script and the attribution, but at this point, all would be speculation.

    1) The dresser could have been manufactured by Brooks, Roux or another manufacturer and retailed by several shops-eg Brooks, Roux or others.
    (It is know that Tiffany retailed some of Belter’s work as well as cabinetmakers. I suspect this practice was not uncommon among retailers).

    2) The marble could be a replacement and added to the piece at a later date.

    3) The marble cutter could have originally slated this top for the Roux company, but then re-cut or re-used it on this piece.

    Until more information regarding the inner workings of different cabinetmaking shops is known, these questions will not be settled.

    As a final note, one should recall that many cabinetmakers and shop owners worked for others in the trade at different times, and that similarities in design and construction would follow (eg Herter designing pieces for both Brooks and Bulkley for the 1853 Crystal Palace Exhibition; Herter, Pottier, Cabus and others worked for Hutchings, Rochefort & Skarren and Roux.

  • zeke - September 8, 2009

    Great post Mario.

    I was thinking along the same lines as what you wrote.

    I’m curious about the detail right above the candle shelves. It’s circular with 3 wooden balls on it. Was this a characteristic of Brooks furniture? It seems to be the same as I have on a walnut Lockside chest.

    http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j285/zekenstein/IMG_2337.jpg

  • mario - September 8, 2009

    Documented Brooks furniture pretty much runs the gamut from Rococo Revival unlaminted rosewood furniture (Jenny Lind cabinet at Museum of the City of New York), laminated rosewood furniture (see my posting under Kirkwood Auction),
    to walnut Renaissance Revival furniture (Judge Nathaniel Holmes Clement suite at the Brooklyn Museum) and the burl walnut branded suite sold at Sotheby Parke Bernet, referenced in the prior posting.
    At one point, one of the interns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was soliciting information and documented Thomas Brooks pieces as part of a thesis. Her inquiry appears in “The Magazine Antiques” although I can’t remember the issue (about eight to ten-years ago). This publication would have been of great assistance in answering your query.

  • John Hutchinson - September 8, 2009

    I have to weigh in on this, not because I know this form of furniture very well, but because I have seen the ‘bait and switch’ often. Mario, is correct, in my opinion. I pick door # 2, the marble is from another piece; if indeed your first attribution of ‘Brooks,’ is correct.
    John, RVR

  • English Classics - September 10, 2009

    Your distinction between cherubs and putto peaked my interest, so I consulted the OED.

    Cherubs:

    The history of the sense, or notion attached to the word, lies outside English, though English use reflects all its varieties. In the OTest. the cherubim are ‘living creatures’ with two or four wings, but the accounts of their form are not consistent: cf. the earlier notices with those of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. i, x). They first appear in Genesis iii. 24, as guardians of the tree of life. This name was also given to the two images overlaid with gold placed with wings expanded over the mercy-seat in the Jewish tabernacle and temple, over which the shekinah or symbol of the divine presence was manifested. A frequent expression for the Divine Being was ‘he that dwelleth (or sitteth) between (or on) the cherubim’. Psalm xviii. 10 (also contained in 2 Sam. xxii. 11) says of Jehovah ‘He rode upon a cherub (LXX. cherubim), and did fly’. It is in connexion with this class of passages that the word first appears in English, and it is difficult to know exactly how the word was construed or used. The inclusion of the cherubim among angels appears to belong to Christian Mysticism. According to the 4th c. work attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, the heavenly beings are divided into three hierarchies, each containing three orders or choirs, viz. (according to the received order) seraphim, cherubim, thrones; dominions, virtues ({delta}{upsilon}{nu}{gaacu}{mu}{epsilon}{iota}{fsigma}), powers; principalities, archangels, angels. Cherubim were thus made the second of the nine orders, having the special attribute of knowledge and contemplation of divine things. Their angelic character is that which chiefly prevails in later notions and in Christian art.

    2.b gives this:

    One of the second order of angels of the Dionysian hierarchy, reputed to excel specially in knowledge (as the seraphim in love); a conventional representation of such an angelic being in painting or sculpture.
    As the Christian notion was simply super-imposed as a kind of gloss upon the Hebrew, the two are not usually separable in med.L. or Eng. Milton completely blends them, as did e.g. Durandus in his Rationale Divinorum Officiorum (1286). In early Christian art, cherubim were app. coloured red, but according to some, blue, the seraphim being red. In modern art, a cherub is usually represented as a beautiful winged child, or as consisting of a child’s head with wings but no body.

    Putto: Esp. in Renaissance or Baroque art: a representation of a child, usually a boy, naked or in swaddling clothes; a cherub, a cupid. (First use c1660.)

    Since “putto” apparently appears much later than either the word cherub or the use of cherubs in art, and can apparently refer to either representations of Cupid or of the Cherubim, I would counter that art is not its exclusive domain and that you could use “cherub” to describe the figure on the above piece.

    The source that Wikipedia quotes does not appear peer-reviewed or academic so I question Martinez’ credentials–and I would usually put more stock in whatever the OED has to say than any individual. Wiki’s source is a forum thread shown at artrenewal.org.

  • John Werry - September 10, 2009

    Mario, any chance you could figure out which issue of Magazine Antiques had the Brooks items? I tried Googling for 1/2 an hour and can’t identify when it was published.

  • mario - September 11, 2009

    The query was likely in 1996 or early 1997 by Amy Coes. Here is information on her masters thesis:

    Bard Graduate Center
    Author Coes, Amy M.
    Title Thomas Brooks : cabinetmaker and interior decorator / Amy M. Coes.
    Pub Info 1999.

    Descript xii, 137 leaves, [99] leaves of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
    Note Thesis (M.A.)–Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts
    Includes bibliographical references (leaves [130]-137).

  • English Classics - September 12, 2009

    Well I had this great quotation from the OED concerning the entries for “putto” and “cherub” but my comment wasn’t showing. So, long store short, they are synonymous–and I checked on Wiki’s source, which does not appear to be academic or peer-reviewed, and I’ll trust the OED over any un-checked forum post (or Wiki) any day.

  • English Classics - September 12, 2009

    Well now that I know I haven’t been somehow axed by John’s cyberspatial guardians, I wrote a blog post that I think settles the debate between “cherub” and “putto”:

    http://www.english-classics.net/blog/furniture-commentary/putto-or-cherub

    John, feel free to delete my above post.

  • cc - September 15, 2009

    This wonderfull chest originally came from the Newport RI mansion known as Seaweed were it sat in the third floor bedroom.
    The mansion has a great history and was sold last year by Sothebys realty for 8.5 million dollars.

  • Mario - September 16, 2009

    Seaweed was built in 1905, so the home post-dates the furniture by about forty-years.

  • John Werry - September 18, 2009

    The dresser didn’t start it’s life there, but could have ended up at Seaweed later on – obviously post-1905.

  • misslilybart - September 18, 2009

    The query re Thos. Brooks appeared in the August 1998 issue of The Magazine Antiques, and read thusly:

    “THE CABINETMAKER Thomas Brooks (1811-1887), who worked in Brooklyn, New York, from 1841 to 1885, is the subject of a master’s thesis for the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the History of the Decorative Arts in New York City. Of particular interest are information on labeled or documented pieces by Thomas Brooks and Company and related archival material. Any biographical information would also be greatly appreciated “

  • John Werry - September 18, 2009

    I asked the Bard Graduate Center if I could get a repro of the thesis but I only got crickets….

    thanks MLB and thanks Mario for digging those up.

  • misslilybart - September 18, 2009

    John, IIRC, when we needed a thesis from the Bard program for our research, they were not especially helpful. According to the WorldCat database, there is also a copy of the Brooks thesis in the library of the American Wing @ Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    http://libmma.org/portal/

    Search on “thomas brooks” (no quotes) to access the catalog info.

  • cc - September 18, 2009

    John: you are correct, I know for a fact that this chest was removed from the Seaweed mansion in the summer of 2007 wer
    It was sold by a Bristol RI auction house, it was not pictured or advertised at the sale.

  • cc - September 19, 2009

    I recently found this article listed by Linda Delman Realty…
    The Seaweed mansion was originally buit in 1860-1861 and owned by Mr Henry Howard, it was altered in 1867 by renowned architect George Champlin Moor, in 1904 it was purchased by the Thomas Dolan family of Philadelphia, they hired architect Horance Trumbauer to bring it to it’s present colonial revival style !
    This article on the history of this historic Newport Ri mansion shows that this Thomas Brooks chest very well could have been purchased directly from Brooks for this home !
    My feeling is when the the house was altered (remodeled) in 1867 the chest was purchased, this would be in keeping with the time frame of the 1860’s when the chest was made !
    The Seaweed estate had remaind in the Dolan family until last year when it was sold.

  • Anna Kuhre - January 18, 2010

    Someone gifted me almost an identical bedroom set with an incredible 90″ headboard. It is all rosewood. I am so excited to find out the manufacturers name. Anna

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