Articles At A Glance








Alexander Roux hunt board.


Victorian specimen table.


PHOTO CREDIT: James Julia Maine Auction




News Article

Carving and Names Set Prices for Mid Victorian Furniture

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, July 2009

Hard to believe that before the “less is more” furniture designs of modernism and Arts and Crafts there was the heavily carved mid Victorian furniture. Designers such as Joseph Meeks, Alexander Roux and Charles Boudouine were household names beginning in the 1840s offering elaborately carved furniture. They competed with the laminated and carved rococo revival pieces made by John Henry Belter.

There wasn’t much interest in huge, fussy furniture that didn’t fit into the small condos and ranch style homes built in the 50’s, 60s and early 70s. Who had the room ? Enter the 21st century and “mega mansions”. The huge pieces made a comeback and prices for the finest examples zoomed. At the September 30th James Julia Auction an elaborately carved and labeled Alexander Roux hunt board sold over its $40,000/60,000 estimate for $172,500. A unique, carved, walnut marble top specimen table realized $3,450. Small pieces sold for modest prices in the hundreds.

Many of the early designers came to America from France and their pieces reflected the French taste. Alexander Roux was born in the French Alps. By 1846 he was in New York where he advertised as “an extensive Manufacturer of Cabinet Work of the finer and generally fashionable description.”

In New Orleans the two finest cabinet makers , Francois Seignouret and Prudent Mallard were of French descent.

John Henry Belter had come to New York from Germany in 1844 where he had learned carving and cabinetmaking. Belter’s laminating process relieved the often heavy look of the rococo revival furniture. The ornamental carved work was glue on after the pierced back was made. Never inexpensive, authenticated Belter pieces today cost high thousands when they make a rare auction appearance.

Belter’s pieces were shipped from his New York factory to the wealthy and famous around the country. Mary Todd Lincoln who moved to Chicago, after the President’s assassination (1865) ordered a rosewood parlor suite, with frames made by Belter.

CLUES: Many German immigrant cabinetmakers came to America in the 1840s. Belter had 40 of them working as apprentices. After they had learned their trade they went into business for themselves, creating “Belter-style” laminated furniture. These look-alikes sell for a fraction of the originals. While the labels have often come off of the Belter furniture, authentic pieces had pattern names. Serious collectors can check the list of patterns in a book written by Eileen and Richard Dubrow, Shiffer Publishing, “American Furniture of the 19th century.” If it is out of print it can probably be ordered from the publisher or check Ebay.

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