[help] Identifying a piece of furniture

calendula_witch’s mother has a china cabinet that has passed down through several generations of the family. The origin of this piece is completely unknown at this point. It is perhaps a century old. We’re hoping that someone among you can help identify the provenance, or give us clues as to what to look for by way of maker’s marks, etc. Given the success of you guys in identifying such things as china patterns and German bridges for me, I’m hoping we can score a hit here, too.

Any thoughts?

China cabinet 1

China Cabinet 2

Photos © 2010 D. Salonen, reproduced with permission.

8 thoughts on “[help] Identifying a piece of furniture

  1. C.C. Finlay says:

    It looks to me like a typical Victorian curio cabinet, made probably c. 1900. In the Midwest (and likely elsewhere in the US, but this part I know from family experience) young women were often taught decorative painting and would add flowers to china cups and pieces of furniture. I can’t see the artwork very well, but perhaps it is original to the manufacturer and perhaps it was added by the first owner.

    You can see an example of a very similar one (without the painted flowers) here: http://www.fast-autos.net/diecast-cars-models/diecast-car-image-large/small-antique-victorian-mahogany-curved-curio-cabinet_130422156310.jpg

  2. C.C. Finlay says:

    Jay: I tried to leave this comment once, but it’s not showing up. This looks like a typical Victorian curio cabinet, c. 1900.

    You can see an example of a similar item (without the painted flowers) here: http://www.fast-autos.net/diecast-cars-models/diecast-car-image-large/small-antique-victorian-mahogany-curved-curio-cabinet_130422156310.jpg

    The decorative flowers may have been painted by the owner, probably a young woman. It was common practice at the time, at least in Ohio.

    1. Jay says:

      Thanks, Charlie. I think my WordPress install thought you were spam due to the URL in the comment… 🙁

  3. C.C. Finlay says:

    No worries, Jay. It’s not the url I would have chosen, but it was the closest example I could find to your cabinet with a quick google search. I saw a lot of those in houses while I was growing up. Does it have a manufacturer’s tag or a craftsman’s signature on either the bottom or back? If you had any kind of name, it would start being easier to track down.

  4. Cora says:

    The shape, particularly the long curved slender legs, reminds me of cabinets from the Biedermeier period (approx. 1820 – 1850). But the ornamentation is too ostentatious for Biedermeier, Biedermeier furniture tended to be simpler. The gilded puttos and ornaments are more typical of the later Victorian period, approx. 1870s-1880s. It might be a transitional Biedermeier/late Victorian piece. Or – since the Victorians were aesthetic magpies, who pilfered styles throughout history – it might date from up to WWI.

    The flowers and decorations are interesting. The musical motives like the lute and what looks like a scroll are typical for the Biedermeier period. However, the decorations are painted and Biedermeier furniture has inlaid decorations. The roses don’t look like Biedermeier either.

    What they most remind me of are the so-called “Bauernmöbel” (farmer’s furniture) from Southern Germany and Austria, which is furniture (often cabinets, but also chairs and tables) with elaborate handpainted decorations. Roses and other flowers are a common motif, as are ribbons, hearts and biblical scenes. You have roses and ribbons here and the painting style is similar. If it is “Bauernmalerei”, an expert can tell the area of origin by the style and motifs used. Here is a page with original Bavarian and Austrian “Bauernmöbeln”. You can see that the painting style is similar, although those cabinets are a lot more elaborate. “Bauernmöbel” usually are sturdier than this cabinet looks though.

    Is it possible that the cabinet or its owners came from Southern Germany or Austria? That would be a definite hint. The two wooden figures on top of the cabinet also look German to me. The bunny looks like Erzgebirge or an Erzgebirge knock-off to me, while the man with the backpack looks like woodcarving work from the Black Forest. I’ve seen very similar pieces in the extended family and also own some myself.

    The china is lovely as well, BTW. I particularly like the two female figurines on the top shelf.

  5. MLR says:

    It looks French or in a French style to me. Somewhat like this one http://tiny.cc/ai8wj

    I looked up “vernis Martin” which is apparently a metallic lacquerware finish, perhaps like is on the decorative bits? (Hard for me to see in the picture.)

    Bear in mind, I know nothing about furniture. The Victorian pieces I googled just looked a bit heavier to me.

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