Decorative Arts and Design
Michael Thonet (1796-1871)
Bentwood furniture, perhaps the most ubiquitous type of furniture worldwide, is indebted to the nineteenth-century innovations of Michael Thonet. Although the process—which involves steaming wood and bending it into curved shapes—had been used since ancient times to manufacture not only furniture but also wheels, barrels, and boat hulls, Thonet’s application of it in the 1830s was revolutionary. Thonet was the first designer to fuse the means of production and design to create superior products: his chairs were stronger, lighter, and less expensive than traditionally made ones. He was also a master of marketing, selling his designs through catalogues and an international chain of stores. He offered the same piece of furniture in different colors, and he produced pieces for adults, children, and even dolls (as seen here) to capture as much of the consumer market as possible.
Copper beech, modern caning, metal screws
24 3/4 x 14 x 17 1/4 in. (62.9 x 35.6 x 43.8 cm)
seat height: 12 in. (30.5 cm) (show scale)
Paper label affixed to inside of seat frame; dirty with some fragments missing. Long,oval-shaped design within rectangular label, with elaborate interlaced pattern. The crossed letters "GT" in the center and at each end.
Gift of Dr. Barry R. Harwood
Child's armchair (MODEL NO. 14), central European copper beechwood, composed of five parts: long, horseshoe-shaped piece comprising continuous rear legs, stiles and back; set into back is short horseshoe-shaped splat; two identical L-shaped arms starting at the front of the back, curving down to form arms and front legs; inserted between stiles and front legs is a round, caned seat, made from one continuous member.
CONDITION - Proper right arm slightly loose. Finish was lightened long ago (considerable patina). Several surface cracks to outer edge of splat. Small area of green substance on seat frame and cane at proper right rear. Numerous minor scuffs and scratches to surfaces, some white stains to seat frame and lower legs.
This item is not on view
Gebrüder Thonet. Child's Armchair, ca. 1875. Copper beech, modern caning, metal screws, 24 3/4 x 14 x 17 1/4 in. (62.9 x 35.6 x 43.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. Barry R. Harwood, 83.155. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 83.155_PS6.jpg)
overall, 83.155_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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