Sep 26 2008

Horner Or Mitchell Winged Griffin Desk?

Published by at 12:33 pm under Ebay,RJ Horner

This table being sold on September 27th by Fontaine’s is being attributed to R.J. Horner with a selling range of $6,000 to $8,000.  It is Mahogany with 4 winged griffins in the base and is heavily gadrooned.

I would float the theory that this table is not actually Horner and could instead have been made by Robert Mitchell & Co.  If you remember this confirmed Mitchell table from a few posts back, let me show you a griffin from each of these two pieces, compared:

The wings are very different but I suggest that it is merely a design variation. Overall, the rest of the body has similar proportions and carvings.

I know of someone that is trying to publish a book on Robert Mitchell and who has seen hundreds of Mitchell pieces.  I’ll float my theory their way and get the feedback posted here.

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6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Horner Or Mitchell Winged Griffin Desk?”

  1. Ware Petznickon 27 Sep 2008 at 12:09 am

    While Mitchell did produce library tables SIMILAR to this with winged griffins, none that I have inspected are close enough to the table illustrated for me to attribute it to Mitchell. Whether or not this means that it is definitely RJ Horner instead, I could not say with absolute certainty. Mitchell’s griffins are more restrained than the flamboyant ones shown above. If it were Mitchell, I would be surprised.

    Also, I question the terminology to describe this table. I offer that a library table is more appropriate. One library table, even with drawers, has griffins that are crouching slightly and do not have the “stripped egg” but instead have a scroll at the chest. Another library table, without drawers, does have a cabochon-type egg but the wings are slimmer and do not flare out in the same way as the one for sale. Finally, the closest example by Mitchell (bearing his label) has the egg but, once again, has more reserved carving.

    It is worth noting that American manufacturer/retailers of the period 1900-1910, like Mitchell, sold items in their catalogs solely as retailers, and there are several examples where furniture in Mitchell’s catalogs are known to be the product of other designers and makers, usually foreign.

    Also, Mitchell and Horner were not the only makers or retailers of griffin furniture of this type. No doubt S. Karpen of Chicago is well known to this group. I am sure there must be others.

    I hope that you find this opinion useful.

  2. rjhorneron 27 Sep 2008 at 9:57 am

    Laura, did you see the isolated b&w image above of the griffin on the right? That is straight from Mitchells catalog here.

    If the one on the right is guaranteed, out of the Mitchell catalog from 1904 (albeit, as you said, could be simply a retail scenario), then I would not put out the possibility of the one on the left, which is largely the same (carved musculature, tail, joints), especially the heads which to me are identical, as being by Mitchell.

    Although a lot of makers used griffins, it is unlikely that two griffins from separate makers can be the same down to the centimeter, expressing the same muscle ripples, and joints in the same places, of the same sizes. I bet if you measured the two beards, they would be the same length, width, have the same undulations in the same places. If you repeated the same exercise for every attribute of the head, eyes, ears, nose, looking centimeter by centimeter, you would see the same carving (with some minor variation since it is hand-done).

    Skilled carvers across shops, I would argue, would create their own griffin interpretations and would not disassemble the competition’s to match down to the nanometer. They were good enough to not need to. That is why Karpen griffins are different than Oriel, which are different than Horner, which are different from Mitchell’s. -That doesn’t, however, take into consideration the possibility of ornamental wood shops selling piece-part griffins of identical design across furniture manufacturers for inclusion in their designs.

    I’m with you on the “library table” vs. “desk”. I almost changed the seller’s nomenclature when I put this up, but didn’t bother.

    Thanks for your help.

  3. Ware Petznickon 27 Sep 2008 at 11:41 am

    Well, this all gets more interesting. I didn’t realize that the image of the griffin on the right was a Mitchell. Without inspecting the actual table it is difficult. Still, I personally have never seen ones quite so elaborate as the one at Fontaine’s on the left. I grant that the Fontaine’s table and the image on the right from a Mitchell catalog are very close in proportion.

    The particular catalog with which I have the most experience is Cat. 75, which I date to late 1907-early 1908. Their profiles and proportions are more restrained than the Fontaine’s table OR the image from the 1904 Mitchell. CHanges in taste could account for that. Different woodcarvers you mention, but I think that Mitchell’s catalogs are very precise and their customers expected to get what they saw. Every example (200+) of Mitchell furniture I have seen is EXACTLY LIKE the image in the catalog. Very little variation. So, I would not be satisfied to attribute it to Mitchell without inspecting the table or finding the exact catalog image. Too many copy cats out there, and that includes Mitchell copying or just retailing the work of other makers.

    All very interesting. I DO HOPE SOMEONE REALLY GETS TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS. It has been intriguing me for some time.


  4. rjhorneron 28 Sep 2008 at 11:50 am

    Following up on your point about never seeing Mitchell furniture so elaborate, I would add that since you and I only have the 1904 and 1907/08 catalogs collectively and we don’t have have 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, ….. 1903 (if they existed), then there is the chance for more ornate furniture in those other years, especially since design became more conservative at the time of our catalogs for all makers. Prior years, design was amped up and Mitchell is likely to have followed suit. Especially since the company used to be Mitchell & Rammelsberg prior to the name change. We all know what M&R is capable of ….

    I could see this table being made prior to 1904 when the norm was ornateness.

  5. rickon 10 Oct 2008 at 11:21 pm

    If you look at Great American auctions last sale you will see item number 1 which is a fabulous labeled side board by George Flint.It has exactly the same griffins and carvings. I know because I have the entire set Which is in my opinion the best full griffin oak set I have ever seen Thanks Rick

  6. rjhorneron 11 Oct 2008 at 8:00 am

    Rick, thanks for the tip. I can’t find a good image of it to compare, but here’s a link to a small image

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