9307 AN EXTREMELY UNUSUAL BONE MODEL POSSIBLY OF THE THONET BOILER Vienna. Circa 1850. Measurements: Height: 19″ (48 cm) Width: 13 1/2″ (34.5 cm) Depth: 15 3/4″ (40 cm)
Of bone. The boiler with finely crafted details of the furnace and intricate steaming mechanism.
The current piece is a model of the boiler developed by the innovative furniture maker Michael Thonet (1796-1871). The boiler was central to Thonet’s development of a process of bending wood which allowed his furniture to be constructed of unbroken curving sections, often in forms of great complexity.
Thonet was born in 1796 at Boppard in Prussia on the banks of the Rhine. In 1819, at the age of 23, he opened his own workshop, initially manufacturing furniture by entirely conventional means. However, through the course of the 1830s Thonet began to develop his process of manufacturing furniture from bent wood.
In 1840 he obtained his first patent for a process of gluing thin veneer strips together to create sections which could then be steamed and bent in wooden moulds, a process which allowed for the standardized production of each section. The success of this technique established Thonet’s reputation, producing designs, known as Boppard furniture, which in their curving sections exhibited an elegance that effortlessly combined form and technique.
In 1842 Thonet moved to Vienna having attracting the attention and patronage of Prince Metternich. The company continued to grow, becoming Gebrüder Thonet in 1853, when Thonet took his five sons into partnership, and, in 1856, establishing a factory at Koritschan in the abundant beech woods of Moravia. Also in that year, after twenty years of experience in bending woods, a third patent was acquired to protect a process of bending solid wood, an effect achieved by securing a metal strip by screw clamps to prevent the wood from splitting.
The firm exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, but it was the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855 that provided the great breakthrough to international markets. By 1871 Gebrüder Thonet had established sale-rooms not only in the various cities of Austria and Germany but also in Brussels, Marseilles, Milan, Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Madrid, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, New York and Chicago.
Alexander von Vegesack, Thonet Classic Furniture in Bent Wood and Tubular Steel, London: Hazar Publishing (1996).
Hugh Honour, Cabinet-Makers and Furniture Designers, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (1969).