Fine Inlaid Renaissance Parlor Suite With Diminutive Archairs

by John Werry on February 20, 2010

IMG 0378 e1266673883337 Fine Inlaid Renaissance Parlor Suite With Diminutive Archairs

Bill M. sent me photos of a five-piece inlaid Renaissance Revival parlor suite with porcelain plaques to get some input on it’s maker.  He had run into this older post I did on the Herter Brothers attributions that come about from the mere presence of decorative inlay and overall high style.  Twenty years ago, Bill’s set was identified to have been made by Herter Brothers by a dealer friend. I’m far from an expert, but I don’t believe that the set was made by the Herters.  Comparing the inlay patterns and lion heads alone against the Appendix images in the Herter book yields no similarities enough to get my blood pumping.

However, there is a possibility that whomever made Bill’s sofa also made the sofa in the earlier post.  Here is a comparison of the lions carved into the arms.  They are not identical, but similar in many ways.

Carved arms Fine Inlaid Renaissance Parlor Suite With Diminutive Archairs

Bill also was curious about the fact that there are a pair of matching armchairs that are smaller in height than the other chairs.  At least one also has the “full treatment” with a porcelain plaque included within the crest.  Bill had this to say about the set:

While I have nothing to substantiate any of my suspicions, I can’t help but wonder if they could have been designed for Charles S. Stratton (Tom Thumb), and his new wife at the time this parlor set would have been crafted. Listed among his wedding gifts at the time was a specially constructed 12” G. Herter rosewood chair with blue fabric from Gustave Herter himself, but no pictures have been found to date of his wedding gifts. I’ve been collecting antiques for forty years, but have yet to run across any chairs of this scale before. Have you seen other sets that would include a pair of matching small chairs?

IMG 0468 Fine Inlaid Renaissance Parlor Suite With Diminutive Archairs

I also wonder whether this set is even New York?  Present on the skirts of this set are Christopher Dresser-esque plant motifs that I usually attribute with Philadelphia:

IMG 0388 Fine Inlaid Renaissance Parlor Suite With Diminutive Archairs

Peruse the photos of Bill’s set below and weigh in with your comments if you have any thoughts.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

R. Joseph Wiessinger February 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

What a stunning suite of furniture. With an historic showcover, this set could be a show stopper. Reminds me a little of the Herter attributed set of furniture now for sale in the Herter secton of Ebay in the Ebay store . I have four chairs identical to the Ebay offererings and they are similar in many ways to the set discussed here. Two of my chairs are arm chairs, one large and one smaller. So, maybe they are gentleman and lady chairs. Also, the stretchers between the legs and the elements hanging down under the arms are very similar to my “Herter” chairs along with very similar wavy ribbon like elements on the crests. I have a pair of Belter Rosalie without grapes arm chairs. One is large and the other a smaller, in proportion shorter arm chair> Gentleman and lady Chairs.?? You tell me.

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woodwright February 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Gorgeous parlor set – very nice details. The right upholstery would definately make a world of difference in it’s appearance. i.e. a damask (especially a silk) – would look great.
When looking at the closeup of the plaque on the crest rail – it looks like its needs to be rotated clockwise so the ground and water are level – right now it looks like everything is running uphill. Not sure about the others – can’t see them well enough to tell. woodwright

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Gordon Newell February 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I have seen several variations of this parlor set. Sometimes they have inlay, sometimes not. Sometimes they have bronze plaques in the crest (I haven’t seen it with porcelain plaques before).

One is at Antiquarian Traders – http://www.antiquariantraders.com/p-709-385942-antique-7-pc-american-renaissance-parlor-set-by-herter-bros.aspx

One set was at Auctions by the Bay in Alameda a few years ago (this one was ebonized, with inlay).

One set was at a house in Virginia City, Nevada.

I previously had two chairs that were from the same maker. The chairs had the same crests as the set shown in this post (but without the porcelain plaques). The back of one of the chairs was exactly the same as the center (sortof oval) portion of the settee in this post. The feet of the two chairs I had were identical to the Antiquarian Traders set (paw feet pointing to the sides instead of to the front). The seat of one of the chairs was much lower than the other, so that seems to be common with this particular style of parlor set.

I have no idea who the maker was, but they were very high quality.

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Funbud February 23, 2010 at 10:30 am

Not sure about the “Tom Thumb” connection. The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut http://www.barnum-museum.org/ has at least one pair of chairs from the Stratton’s home. The are much smaller in scale than these smaller armchairs appear to be. Perhaps the smaller chairs in this set were intended for persons of a smaller stature but not as small as the Strattons were?

The set could be by Herter Brothers. It does look a bit “busy” in comparison to a lot of Herter I’ve seen, but this is a subjective matter. Of course, Herter’s contemporaries copied their work, also. Years back, a dealer friend commented that the porcelain placques on chairs such as these could point toward the NYC firm of Pottier & Stymus, but I don’t recall what her justification was (a documented chair somewhere?)

At any rate, a striking set. Re-upholstery would do wonders for these.

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R. Joseph Wiessinger February 24, 2010 at 1:24 pm

John I am curious about your remark that the plant like motifs on the chairs are Dresser-esque and probably not of New York attribution but rather Philadelphia. I have a pair of Herter chairs that have a similar plant motif but instead of a single blossom they have a stylized Lotus bloom. The design is on the flat part of each leg at the junction of the leg and the cross rail and are incised and gilded. Of special note, two or three experts in the field have said they are Herter and the Metropolitan Museum agrees. So, maybe this design motif is not just attributable to Dresser.

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John Werry February 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Joe, that question is worthy of a post unto itself! Stay tuned. Thanks.

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Ulysses Dietz February 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Just wanted to chip in my two bits–take a very careful look at that upholstery, which is not only very old, but could well be the sort of exotic cut velvet that a firm like Herter would have used on a parlor set of this grandeur. If you compare it with the amazing cut velvet used in the ebony room at the Mark Hopkins House (Detroit Institute of Arts owns the screen from that room retaining the original, unfaded, splendid fabric) you’ll see what I mean. This doesn’t look like the typical “old lady velvet” that got slapped on so much “victorian” (hmmm…I always say 19th century) stuff in the 1920s. But looking at this fabric, even if it’s much later, might suggest what was there originally. Herter was really good at textiles.

Also, the marquetry being different from what’s in the Met’s book isn’t a big thing–none of the marquetry on the Mark Hopkins pieces matched anything in the Herter book either.

And the Dresser-like plant motifs were lifted almost directly from 16th-century Iznik ceramics (which surprised me when I saw it with my own eyes). They show up all over the place in English and American aesthetic-era dec. arts.

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renaissanceman March 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

John – I’m pretty sure the set was made by Pottier & Stymus and not Herter Brothers. I have seen about five of these type of sets with variations in each. The plaque is aesthetic and is very similar to the plaque in a Pottier & Stymus set we own. The plaques are likely French, perhaps Limoge and likely designed by P &S and reproduced in France and shipped to the U.S.. Its a great set. I have alse heard others attribute the set to Alexander Roux, but I doubt he is the maker.

Renaissanceman

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John Werry March 3, 2010 at 8:17 am

“GG” or “66” is on the back of the plaque, if that helps any. I agree, could be P&S.

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renaissanceman March 3, 2010 at 6:30 pm

John – the GG and 66 related to the artist and model number for the plaque again suggesting they were made in France specifically for the furniture set. The articulation of the carved anthropomorphic (characterized) heads is not consistent with Herter carving nor is the specific inlay on the pieces. I have also noticed that P&S tends to mix classical or popular styles of period. This set is clearly Renaissance Revival inspired, yet the plaques are aesthetic with the cranes. Herter’s work was much more consistent, generally using urns , flowers, and other Neo-Classical elements to convey the overall character and design of particular pieces. The exceptions of course are the Anglo-Japanesque pieces the firm produced.

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Ulysses Dietz March 6, 2010 at 9:52 am

Although there were maybe a couple of manufacturers in the US who could have produced porcelain plaques when this set was made, it is unlikely, based on that mark (which is a model number for the blank porcelain thing) that these were made here. However, there were plenty of fine china retailers, particularly in New York City, who could take imported French blanks and decorate them to order. The White House china ordered by Mrs. Franklin Pierce and by Mary Lincoln, for example, was custom painted in New York. I’m sure P&S could have found someone to produce porcelain plaques for furniture with no trouble at all.

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John Werry March 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

There is a good article on P&S furniture in relation to P.E. Guerin hardware in the May 2002 Magazine Antiques. I don’t have it convenient to me to look, but there may be reference in there to particular plaque makers associated with P&S.

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Lester Barnett December 13, 2011 at 5:22 am

How do I upload a photo of my 8-piece set that is very similar to the set being discussed?

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