Tom Thumb Settee/Sofa Lands At Ringling

by John Werry on April 10, 2010

Post image for Tom Thumb Settee/Sofa Lands At Ringling

Tom Thumb and his wife, Lavinia Warren’s personal sofa made by John Henry Belter was mentioned here on Rare Victorian once before.  I think this is the final story on the sofa – it has landed at the Ringling Museum – a gift from Howard Tibbals in October 2009.  I think it is only fitting that it lands and stays there for all posterity.

The article shown above (larger image here) mentions a companion piece “reunited” with the sofa once again.  My question is, how can another piece by an entirely different maker – a buffet, no less (think dining room, not parlor where the sofa would have been) be considered a “companion piece”?

The other maker is another New York cabinetmaker at the time, Alexander Roux.  The couple received gargantuan quantities of gifts at the time of their marriage from famous friends around the world, so I’m not sure two Rococo pieces landing in the same home qualify as companion pieces.  However, I don’t have the full story to know – they very well could have been.

Another question would be, is this a sofa or a settee?  Considering the proportions, it would have been a settee to anyone of average stature, but probably considered a sofa for the famous couple.

Thanks to Joan Bogart for the news and image.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Canadian maple April 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I don’t consider it a sofa or a settee. I would call it a tete-a-tete.

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R. Joseph Wiessinger April 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I believe the French words Tete-a-tete means head to head. In normal furniture usage, a tete-a-tete is an “s” shaped piece of furniture on which two people can sit face to face (head to head) and converse. This is simply a miniature sofa or settee designed for these two small people to be in proportion to their sizes.

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misslilybart April 10, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I think the writer is using the word “companion” loosely, in the sense that the two objects are linked by their history, rather than inferring that they are from a “set” or en suite.

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John Werry April 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

I don’t know, MLB. “The companion piece” is a little stronger to me than the alternative, “a companion piece”, but maybe it was unintentional to word it this way.

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Ben Mijuskovic May 2, 2010 at 11:37 am

Not too long ago, Fontaines auctioned off a strong bedroom suite (attributed to Brooks) and purchased by Southhampton. It was in the “architectural style.” I believe it sold for about $80,ooo. I don’t know if you had any information n the sale. I think Ican get the dat for the auction but I hoped you might have rmembered it. Ben

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