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Wednesday, May 31 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Wooden Artifacts) Interpreting Thonet: Treatment of a Gebrüder Thonet Bentwood Rocking Chair

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Gebrüder Thonet was an Austrian based furniture manufacturer established in the 19th century. Often credited with the invention of bentwood furniture, the company in fact developed the first mass manufacturing processes for harnessing the unique tensile properties of wood to efficiently produce affordable bentwood furniture. While many reproducible models were originally manufactured by standard molds, missing elements of bentwood furniture can be a challenge to replicate. This paper will focus on the treatment of a Gebrüder Thonet rocking chair and the process employed to create a reproduction of the rocking chair's missing back splat. Technical challenges faced when creating this back splat included the back splat's compound curvature and the fact that the intact joinery of the crest rail, stiles, and lower rail physically locked out the insertion of an intact replacement piece. Research determined that the chair's original back splat was constructed out of veneered ply, and a custom mold was built to form the reproduction piece out of bendable plywood and and beech veneer. In addition to the missing back splat, which served as a major component of the chair's aesthetic continuity and intended function, substantial areas of the finish were stripped and the surface was sanded, leaving newly exposed bare wood visible on nearly half of the chair. Decisions regarding the overall treatment, which were informed by the existing wear on remaining elements of the chair, will also be discussed. Given the degraded and worn appearance of the remaining finish, as well as the damage incurred through partial stripping, the owner was also interested in learning more about the possibility of the presence of original finish. Little is published on the original finishing techniques employed by the Gebrüder Thonet Company, and it was decided that an investigation of the finish on the rocking chair in comparison to the available literature may shed light on the nature of the finish and its potential originality.

Speaker(s)
avatar for Paige L. Schmidt

Paige L. Schmidt

Assistant Objects Conservator, The Mariners' Museum and Park
Paige is the Assistant Object Conservator at the Mariners' Museum and Park in Newport News, VA. She is the 2018 Program Chair for the Wooden Artifacts Group.

Co-Author(s)
avatar for Jiuan Jiuan Chen-[PA]

Jiuan Jiuan Chen-[PA]

Assistant Professor, Buffalo State Program in Art Conservation
Jiuan Jiuan Chen joined the faculty in the Art Conservation Department at SUNY Buffalo State in the Fall of 2012 as the professor for Conservation Imaging, Technical Examination and Documentation. She is a graduate of Class of 2001 from the same program. She previously interned or... Read More →
avatar for Aaron Shugar

Aaron Shugar

Professor of Conservation Science, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Art Conservation Department at SUNY Buffalo State
Aaron N. Shugar joined the department in January 2006 as our new conservation scientist, focusing on inorganic chemistry. Aaron comes to us from the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, where he was a visiting scientist. He also served as Co-Director of the Archaeometallurgical... Read More →
avatar for Jonathan Thornton-[Fellow]

Jonathan Thornton-[Fellow]

Conservation Professor, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Art Conservation Department State University of New York College at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo State)
Jonathan Thornton has taught objects conservation at the Art Conservation Department since 1980. Following an earlier career as an artist/silversmith, he studied conservation in this department when it was still located in Cooperstown, NY, and received his M. A. and Certificate of... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 9:00am - 9:30am
Acapulco Ballroom Level, West Tower

Attendees (35)