Jun 29 2010

Another “Horner” Actually Robert Mitchell

Published by at 11:46 am under Uncategorized

Currently on Ebay, this ornately carved parlor suite has been attributed to R.J. Horner, as is commonly done due to the extent of carvings and the “Renaissance Egg” in the crest.  But as you can see from the ca. 1902 Robert Mitchell catalog image below, it was undoubtably made by them.  A comparison of the chairs is also a positive match.

By the way, I now have two complete Robert Mitchell catalogs available for download over at my other blog for you to do your own comparisons with furniture that you run across.





5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Another “Horner” Actually Robert Mitchell”

  1. Monteon 29 Jun 2010 at 1:41 pm

    As you know everyone tries to attribute almost any well carved items especially if it has Griffins on it to RJ Horner. Many makers out there were as good as Horner including, but not limited to Mitchell and Karpen brothers.

  2. John S.on 29 Jun 2010 at 2:02 pm

    By 1902, the Robert Mitchell Company was in decline although still viable. Cincinnati, Ohio had been a regional center of “Art” furniture in the 1880’s but that prominence waned towards the end of the 19th century. A few Cincinnati makers, like Globe-Wernicke, (makers of bookcases and office furniture) remained active into the first decade of the 20th century. The heyday of Robert Mitchell was during his illustrious partnership with Frederick Rammelsburg from 1847 to 1881. Robert Mitchell died in 1899 and the company was being run by his son, Richard, in 1902. I’m surprised to see such an old-fashioned design still being offered in 1902-this may be one of the reasons for the company’s decline. Anything in the Renaissance Revival style(s) post 1890 is seldom seen and most examples pre-date the early 1880’s. Other old-line companies, such as Berkey & Gay in Grand Rapids, MI evolved and changed, frequently coming out with new designs to accomodate changing tastes, and thus staying active well into the 20th century. I’m wondering if the 1902 Mitchell catalog was not one of the last made by this once prominent company?
    This long carry-over of designs does make accurately dating pieces more difficult-I’d never consider this example to be from as late as the early 1900’s-but the proof is right here.

  3. Brad Charleson 29 Jun 2010 at 2:45 pm

    RJ Horner did use eggs alot but most of the time they have ribs running horizontally through them.
    I believe he took this stylistic element from George Flint who he worked with in the later part of the century.(They actually had a shop together).
    I have had many pieces of Signed Flint furniture with the ribbed egg only bigger and more elongated than RJ Horner, unfortunately most of the signed Horner furniture is post 19th century and not there best work.
    The notion that companies stopped making Renaissance Revival furniture post 1900 is really not true. The real production of Renaissance style furniture was just getting cranked up in the late 1890’s and continued well into the first decade of the 20th century.
    I do not make these comments unfounded, I have been restoring
    antiques for over 30 years and even though most are not signed by the maker the back of the mirrors are often dated.
    We will probably never know who made most of the furniture we call Horner or AJ Johnson or Brooks truth be known .
    But the work being done by this website is fantastic and helps
    to illuminate much of the dark past.
    Thanks

  4. John S.on 29 Jun 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Brad,
    I hope we are all friends here united in our interest and appreciation for fine Victorian era furniture and can sometimes have differences of opinion. (see below) Since Geo. Flint’s name was mentioned, I just happen to have a Geo. C. Flint ladies desk C. 1900 with a celluloid label so that takes away the maker’s guesswork. The primary wood on the desk is mahogany with a book-matched four-part figured veneer face on the lid. My spouse loves it and would not let me sell it, ever. As you probably know, R.J. Horner formally merged with Geo. Flint in 1915.
    Now, as for what I consider to be American Renaissance Revival (generically, and it’s sub-styles such as “Neo Grec”) I’ve always thought the style(s) peaked during the 1870’s and waned in the 1880’s mainly because the availability of black walnut, which was the primary wood used for the style, had become severely over-cut and was becoming scarce. This shortage forced American makers to look at alternative woods, primarily Oak. (thus ushering in the “Golden Oak” phase) I have worked on and restored antique pieces for many years as well and have noticed the older pieces tended to be more of solid walnut while later pieces were often veneered and used more secondary woods. Rosewood, as you know, also had a short phase of popularity limited by the availability of that species. Therefore, I always assumed most Renaissance Revival style pieces dated to the 1870’s plus or minus about a decade. (i.e. 1860-1880) I do feel confident saying R.J. Horner’s famous carved Oak pieces primarily date to the 1890’s with declining availability apparent post-1900. (I’ve seen some pretty impressive Mahogany Horner pieces as well) The old 1820’s to 1840’s figured veneered Empire Style had a revival around 1900 but was less ornate and more graceful than the earlier versions. Maybe there was a simultaneous minor revival in the American Renaissance style? Anyhow, your comments as well as the surprise from the 1902 Mitchell catalog tell me I still have a lot to learn about Victorian era furniture. I readily agree that this broad topic will be a fertile area of scholarly study for many years to come with some genuine surprises being discovered along the way. Glad we’ve got this forum to share information and become better informed.

  5. Matt McWhorteron 26 Jul 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Hello. Did A J Johnson ever sign his furniture and if so how? I have an antique drafters table which is quite ornate and mechanical and it is signed on the bottom A J Johnson in some kind of yellow paint. Any information is most appreciated. Thankyou.

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