Sunday, June 4, 2017

Rarest of the Rare: A Neo Grec Parlor Set

Classic Neo Grec Design
Sometimes you come across stuff that you know is special and sometimes you do not know how special. Such is the case with our most recent acquisition a Neo Grec Parlor Set.

Great bronze mount sets this apart from most Victorian settees
We found this because we search for sale websites by common terms like Victorian Sofa or Vintage Sofa and we found this categorized for sale as a 1900 era item and not the 1860's/early 1870's item it is. Antique hunting TIP: Do not do specialized searches like "Neo Grec Parlor Set" because the average person has no clue what that is. Look for Victorian settee.

The Chair follows the same design
So the obvious question is " Who made it?"  and one might expect to see this for sale with an "Attribution" of Herter Bros or Pottier & Stymus and frankly that was our first guess but our desire to know brought us in a different direction and a Firm with equal quality built more limited production so here we have a Jacob Ziegler & Co Neo Grec Parlor Suite and only the second one I have been able to find. Rarest of the Rare.

Gilding inlay and Ebonizing shows a masterful designer
In our research we find several interesting things about this little known firm. . Ziegler & Co were established in 1849, and remained in business until 1878. The firm offered "a large stock of plain and artistically rich furniture, all of their own manufacture..." and were also decorators. “J. Ziegler & Co./Manufacturers of Furniture and Decoration/ Rich & Plain Furniture/Curtains & Draperies/Hardwood Doors, Trimmings, Mantels,/Pier and Mantle glasses/Cornices, ETC. Warerooms 32 Bleecker Street, East of Broadway, Factory 311 Mott Street.
Ziegler used the same wheel mounts as Herter and Pottier & Stymus
It is notable that from 1865 to 1870, William Baumgarten was employed by Ziegler "(assisting) in making the designs and in the general management of the business." Baumgarten left the J. Ziegler and Co to become Christian Herter's assistant at, and eventually the head of Herter Brothers. This may well explain the similarity to Herter produced furniture. As you may know Herter Brothers has set auction records as far as Victorian Furniture goes.

The scale of this set can really only be appreciated in person
Jacob Zieger  was born March 8, 1825, in Gieslingen, W├╝rttemburg, Germany and died on March 20, 1897 in New York City. He was the brother-in-law of William Steinway. Jacob Ziegler was a successful cabinet maker and suitable match for William's sister Doretta. While active in some Steinway & Sons business dealings at William's request, Jacob Ziegler also continued to run his furniture and interior decorating business and his dealings in real estate.

Steinway and Zieger
He married Doretta Steinway on March 18, 1851, according to a date given in the diary. The marriage produced four children; Anna Louisa, Charles Jacob Theodore, Julia , and Henry Ludwig. Several of the children were involved in the Steinway & Sons business. Charles managed Steinway's business in London until his death in January of 1893. Henry Ludwig, who had begun working in his father's cabinet-making business, caught the attention of Theodore Steinway, who trained him in piano design. Henry became Theodore's successor in the Steinway & Sons piano business, continuing to apply innovations to Steinway instruments until his death in 1930.

The Steinway Mansion: could this piece have been there?
We also know Jacob Ziegler was involved in several projects. In 1862 William Steinway bargained with Ziegler to purchase parlor furniture for William’s new household after his marriage to Regina. (perhaps this set is from that parlor?)  In 1875 Ziegler had an agreement with a New York City developer Van Vankenburgh to build interior woodwork for seven houses “uptown” (near 66th St. and Madison Avenue). Jacob Ziegler maintained his own business, but was also an active participant in some of the Steinway family business affairs.  In 1862, William used Ziegler to help negotiate the purchase of additional property on 14th street, adjoining the property that he had just closed on with a third party.  This would be where Steinway Hall would be built

The only other known sofa. This one is button tufted
So in collector terms we have the rarest of the rare with only one other settee ever surfacing back in 2009 (above). Will more be found? Perhaps, but given the limited production of this company its doubtful many were built and in terms of true rarity this is far rarer than most Herter or Pottier pieces

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