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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

Graduate Fellow, Buffalo State Program in Art Conservation
Paige is currently a third year graduate student in SUNY Buffalo State College’s Art Conservation Masters Program and is majoring in objects conservation. During her time at Buffalo, she has interned at the Landesarchäologie Aussenstelle Speyer in Germany, the Institute for Ae... Read More →

Co-Author(s)
avatar for Jonathan Thornton, [Fellow]

Jonathan Thornton, [Fellow]

Professor, Objects Conservation, Buffalo State Program in Art Conservation
Jonathan Thornton has been the professor of objects conservation at Buffalo State College for over thirty-five years. He designed the BSC curriculum around a thorough understanding of the materials and techniques of artifact production, as well as conservation. He has published o... Read More →
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 o... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Aaron Shugar

Dr. Aaron Shugar

Professor in Conservation Science, focusing on inorganic chemistry, SUNY Buffalo State College, Art Conservation Department
Ph.D., University College London M.S., University of Sheffield B.A., York University | | Aaron N. Shugar joined the Art Conservation Department at SUNY Buffalo State College in January 2006 as a conservation scientist, focusing on inorganic chemistry. Aaron comes to Buffalo State from the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, where he was a visiting scientist. He also served as Co-Director of the Archaeometallurgical Laboratory at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. With a Ph.D. in archaeometallurgy from University College London... Read More →

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

Attendees (35)