A mid 19th century Austrian walnut, burr walnut and marquetry  Centre Table
Lot 193
A mid 19th century Austrian walnut, burr walnut and marquetry Centre Table
Sold for £7,200 (US$ 11,947) inc. premium
Lot Details
A mid 19th century Austrian walnut, burr walnut and marquetry Centre Table
attributed to Michael Thonet
the shaped top inlaid with a complex design of interconnecting pentagons and other geometric shapes on an ebonised ground within a parquetry border and crossbanded in burr walnut, on a naturalistically modelled tripartite bentwood base formed of S-scrolls with beaded decoration, on concealed castors,138cm diam, 77cm high.

Footnotes

  • The above lot with its unusual marquetry and parquetry top reflects the elaborate parquet floors that were produced by Michael Thonet for Leistler after his initial success in producing floors for the refurbishment of the Palais Lichtenstein in the 1840s. Before concentrating on his more mass produced bentwood items Thonet did produce some 'curiousities' notably with suite of furnishings shown at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. This table would likely date from the 1851-1854 period when these more luxurious pieces, combining his skillful use of marquetry and his bentwood techniques were still in production.

    Michael Thonet pioneered a technique for bending veneer bundles and then solid wood to make bentwood chairs and other pieces. He was a radical force in the innovation of furniture construction, his widespread success developed as as result of achieving large scale production. Although the technique for bending wood was not new and had been utilised in England in the production of early Windsor chairs, Thonet managed to patent his own process in France, Belgium and England, although not in his native Germany where the authorities did not consider the addition of a metal strip enough for it not qualify as a new invention. Although his first patents were granted around 1840, he was not initially in a financially secure enough position to exploit them. The Thonet family moved to Vienna in 1842 and Thonet and the elder of his sons began working for the Viennese furniture manufacturer Clemens List in Gumpendorf. An introduction to the British avant-garde architect Peter Hubert-Devignes led to Thonet's involvement in the manufacture of the new floors for the Palais Lichtenstein. They also produced some seat furniture for the Palais, which marked a move away from the gilded formality of most court furnishings. The exhibits that Thonet sent to the Great Exhibition in 1851 drew heavily on his parquet designs and earned him a bronze medal. By the time of the 1854 Munich Industrial Exhibition the firm clearly saw their future in more mass produced cheap consumer pieces and by the Paris Exposition Universalle in 1855 they were awarded a silver medal and signed a lucrative contract to supply furnishings to South America. Thonet's export business was to thrive as the furniture could be sent unassembled and was therefore cheap to transport and costs were kept low. The Thonet No 14 Chair went into production in 1859 and was to be produced in huge volume - with fifteen million being manufactured by the end of the century. In 1867 Thonet won the gold medal at the Paris Exposition and although the business continued to thrive after Michael Thonet's death in 1871, the expiry of the patents in 1869 bought increased competition to the market place. After World War I, the firm merged with J&J Kohn and became known as Thonet Brothers. In the 1920s they developed ranges in tubular steel but it is the bentwood pieces that have remained enduringly popular. The firm still produces Bentwood furniture today, including some of Thonet's origninal and most successful designs.
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