Kimbel & Cabus

A Victorian Kimbel & Cabus Aesthetic Movement ebonized cabinet with tiles by Simpson & Sons, 1870s, New York

p4A ItemID E8968124
A Victorian Kimbel & Cabus Aesthetic Movement ebonized cabinet with tiles by Simpson & Sons, 1870s, New York

p4A ItemID E8968123
An American (New York), circa 1870s ebonized Victorian Aesthetic Movement library table

p4A ItemID E8930757
An unmarked Victorian Modern Gothic slant-lid desk by Kimbel & Cabus, New York, 1870s

p4A ItemID E8927607

Kimbel & Cabus, Victorian Cabinetmakers

When Anthony Kimbel and Joseph Cabus formed their partnership in 1863, they were both experienced veterans of the highly competitive furniture manufacturing business in New York, which included Herter Brothers, Alexander Roux and Pottier & Stymus.

Kimbel had been a designer in partnership with Anthony Bembe in the 1850′s when the company made the furniture for the United States House of Representatives (see examples in the p4A reference database). Later, he became a principal designer for Charles Baudouine. Cabus may have been a partner with the noted cabinetmaker, Alexander Roux. The two continued their successful business relationship until 1882, when each went their separate ways. Fortunately the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York possesses a collection of photographs of Kimbel & Cabus furniture, providing documented views of the firm’s pieces and designs. They produced “ordinary” household furniture as well as more artistic examples in the Renaissance Revival and “cutting edge” modern Gothic styles in the 1870′s.

The taste for modern Gothic design grew out of the English reform movement led by Charles Locke Eastlake. His book, Hints on Household Taste, became very popular in the United States and influenced the decorative arts and the public’s taste. Another reform minded writer, Bruce J. Talbert, in his 1867 Gothic Forms Applied to Metalwork, Furniture and Decoration for Domestic Purposes urged a return to the medieval craft traditions of the Middle Ages. Talbert’s book provided detailed patterns that the contemporary cabinetmakers could adapt.

The Kimbel & Cabus display at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, illustrated in Harper’s Weekly, documented a booth filled with sumptuous furnishings featuring the modern Gothic mode. Contemporary commentators praised the carved and ebonized cherry pieces, with their gilding, floral painted panels and rich upholstery.

Kimbel & Cabus modern Gothic furniture is architectural in form, employing gables, turned columns, flying buttresses, painted and inlaid panels, in addition to painted tiles, often imported from the English Minton pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. Pierced brass strapwork ornamentation and hinges were another “medieval” element used to highlight their Gothic antecedents. Items D9661718, a display cabinet, and D9661579, a drop-front desk, in the p4A reference database illustrate these elements and can be useful in attempting to identify Kimbel & Cabus unlabeled furniture. Documented examples bearing the fragile paper labels are rare. But as David Hanks points out in his chapter in Nineteenth Century Furniture: Innovation Revival and Reform (Art & Antiques, 1982), “Pirating of successful designs was a common practice among American manufacturers”.

Reference note by p4A editorial staff; 2012.


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