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Object Timeline

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1969

  • We acquired this object.

2001

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2019

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No. 19 Side Chair, ca. 1860

This is a Side chair. It was manufactured by Gebrüder (Brothers) Thonet. It is dated ca. 1860 and we acquired it in 1969. Its medium is bent wood, caning. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

In 1853, Viennese cabinetmaker Michael Thonet founded Thonet Brothers (named for his five sons), and directed the firm until his death in 1871. In that time, Thonet created some of the most successful chair designs of the last two centuries. As early as the 1830s, he experimented with using heat and steam to bend sheets of laminated wood. Bending solid wood, whose outer fibers stretched and broke, proved more difficult, but he perfected the process by 1859. He clamped sheets of steel to the outside edge of a piece of straight wood, steamed it and bent it, then dried it in a heated room with the metal still attached. The steel created a uniform compression, preventing the fibers from stretching. With additional steps, Thonet could bend the wood in multiple directions, creating a variety of forms. Beechwood, easily accessible and inexpensive, was ideal for its straight fibers and few knots. In each piece, the form itself is the decoration, a quality that later inspired early twentieth-century modernists. The three-part back design of Chair No. 19 is somewhat elaborate, showing Thonet’s design experiments. Chairs like this one were used in many middle class late nineteenth-century homes, and similar forms are still in production today.

It is credited Museum purchase through gift of Erskine Hewitt and various donors.

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  • Museum purchase through gift of George R. Kravis II, Anonymous Donor, and....
  • 2013-17-1

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 85.5 x 43 x 55 cm (33 11/16 x 16 15/16 x 21 5/8 in.)

Cite this object as

No. 19 Side Chair, ca. 1860; Manufactured by Gebrüder (Brothers) Thonet (Austria); Austria; bent wood, caning; H x W x D: 85.5 x 43 x 55 cm (33 11/16 x 16 15/16 x 21 5/8 in.); Museum purchase through gift of Erskine Hewitt and various donors; 1969-133-2

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18468677/ |title=No. 19 Side Chair, ca. 1860 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=19 April 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>