Monday, August 28, 2017

Gothic Revival Monkeys and Dragons

Example of Asian Carved Chair, 1880-1915.

When I was a child we had these exotic pieces of furniture in our house. There was a table and two chairs. One chair was heavily carved and the other chair was only slightly carved. All were pitch black in color. There were dragons, monkeys, trees with leaves and grapes, all quite enchanting for a child to see and touch. We called this The Chinese Furniture.
Example of Japanese Carved Table

All of these pieces had come from Dora and Bernard Pellicoff's (my maternal great grandparents) hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Majestic Hotel was a Kosher hotel near the Boardwalk. 
Majestic Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey

My Grandmother, Dad and Uncles spent most of their summers there. Dad told us lots of stories about Atlantic City.
Hi, George and Mort Bloom at The Majestic Hotel, Atlantic City, 1936

Grandpa Lawrence would stay in Los Angeles and work, maybe visiting Atlantic City for a week or two toward the end of the summer, while Grandma Ethel and her three sons, Mort, George and Hi took the train across the country. They would stop in Chicago and visit the Bloom relatives for a bit and then continue to New Jersey to stay with the Pellicoffs. My Dad told us that he and his brothers had jobs at the hotel, but would spend all of their free time on the beach. Dad always worked in the hotel bakery. The bakery was busy in the very early morning, then Dad could spend the rest of the day at the beach.
Ethel, George, Dora, Lawrence, Bernard and Mort. 1920, Atlantic City

These pieces of furniture were in our garage for a long time. Eventually, Pop took them out and evaluated them. He was an excellent woodworker and carpenter and often built furniture from scratch. Mom and Dad decided to re-configure a few of these pieces, after all, they were CONVERSATION pieces! Dad cut down the square table and made a Parson's table, much narrower, to be used as a sideboard in our dining room. He took the legs from the back of this table and the legs from the less ornate chair and made a bench for the living room. The intricately carved monkey-dragon chair remained intact. It was a showpiece!  Of course, Mom didn't want all that heavy black furniture in our mid-century home, so Dad painted all of the pieces Antique White! They looked great with our sky-blue interiors, but probably lessened the value of the pieces considerably. Yes, I watch the "Antiques Road Show" too.
Our Asian Carved Chair. Photos by Ken Bloom
A conversation piece only. This chair is REALLY uncomfortable!

I have the bench, my brother has the showpiece chair and my Mom still has the sideboard. As I was researching this furniture, I could only find a few facts about it. This type of furniture isn't Chinese at all! It's Japanese, probably from the late Meiji Period, 1880-1915. It is in the Japanese Art Nouveau style, made for the export market.
Gothic Revival style was very popular in the U.S. during the turn of the last century. Most of this furniture was over-sized and made of mahogany. I can just picture these pieces in the lobby of a grand hotel during the 1920's. Very impressive. By the late 1920s, art deco was the fashionable style. People wanted simplicity and straight lines, not fancy carvings and dark wood. Also, who would want to DUST this type of furniture? Oy!
I do remember the less ornate chair back hanging in our garage for decades. I wonder if Larry has it in our garage? Hey Larry! Look for it! It's black, only slightly carved, in fact, it looks like the BACK of the monkey chair...kinda' like this:
Maybe YOU could create a conversation piece for our house out of the lost chair back!?!

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At 5:18 AM PDT, Blogger ken bloom said...

The chair is not the most comfortable to sit in but perfect for a really distinct accent in a room. The white actually makes it easier to see the intricacies of the carving. I also have a couple of other carved bits from the set that were left over when Dad cut down the table. I believe the whole set was a wedding present to Mom and Dad.


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