Thonet History


Yes, I am fascinated by the Thonet History!

I copied this short history time line from the German Thonet Factory‘s site:

  • 1796 Company founder Michael Thonet was born in Boppard am Rhein, Germany.
  • 1819 The Thonet firm was founded in Boppard am Rhein.
  • 1842 Prince Metternich called Michael Thonet to Vienna where Thonet played a leading role in the fitting out of Palais Lichtenstein and Palais Schwarzenberg.
  • 1853 Michael Thonet handed over the business to his five sons: the company Gebrueder Thonet was registered.
  • 1856 The first furniture factory was founded in Korycany (Moravia); five further production plants in Eastern Europe were opened in the years that followed.
  • 1859 The consumer chair Thonet No. 14 (today: No. 214…in Germany) reached the production stage.
  • 1889 Founding of the factory in Frankenberg/Eder as the first production plant in Germany.
  • 1912 Highest production level of 2 million articles per year.
  • 1923 Merger to become Thonet Mundus.
  • 1929 Takeover of Standard Möbel Furniture Company of Marcel Breuer and  purchase of the rights to designs by Marcel Breuer.
  • 1931 Production start for the first cantilevered chair S 43  by Mart Stam.
  • 1938 Thonet Mundus shares bought back by the Thonet family.
  • 1945 Dispossession from the facilities in Eastern Europe and destruction of the Thonet building in Vienna; bomb attack on the facility in Frankenberg.
  • 1945-1953 Factory in Frankenberg rebuilt by Georg Thonet.
  • 1953 Thonet exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
  • 1961 The Federal Court of Justice confirms Mart Stam’s artistic copyright of the cantilever chair
  • 1989 Opening of the Thonet Museum in its current form.

I have followed the development of the website over quite some years now, but finally it is getting better and better only recently.

In addition it is interesting to know that the Austrian Firm has been acquired by Poltrona Frau, the Italian chair manufacturer, who do less and less with their web presence.

Philippe Starck: Toy Chair (1999)

The 1999 Philippe Starck stackable Toy Chair, designed for Driade has many faces as this photo shows already.

Rietveld’s Steltman Chair

Rietveld’s Steltman Chair

the chair he designed for the Steltman Jewelry Store

Photo thanks to Rietveld by Rietveld.

To conclude this short series on Rietveld chairs this extra ordinary design made for Steltman Jewelers established in The Hague since 1917.

Contemporary Rietveld Utrecht Chair at Christie’s

Rietveld Utrecht Chair

Photo thanks to Christie’s
Italian manufacurer Cassina claims:

Advertising announcement appeared in the “Corriere della Sera” published on 16th March 1972: The text quotes:

“Cassina S.p.A. announces that it has purchased the exclusive reproduction rights for all furniture and objects by Rietveld and by his heirs, resident in Amsterdam. Gerrit T. Rietveld is one of the most significant members of the ”DE STIJL”, the artistic movement born in Holland around 1920 which has given this century ‘s greatest Dutch contribution to figurative art, architecture and design. His work has deeply influenced the european artistic language by setting an original syntax of forms, materials and space”.

This advertising announcement was the crowning point of the complex but pleasant negotiations between Cassina – or more precisely, the Cassina family – and the Rietveld family who were represented at the time by the oldest daughter, Elisabeth, who was assisted by her husband, Dr. Eskes.

The agreement for the purchase of the reproduction rights was consequently signed by the two parties at the Eskes-Rietveld home in Amsterdam, in September 1971, and it is still in force. The necessary consultancy for the initial reconstruction work of the two pieces of furniture under production, the Zig-Zag chair and Red and Blue armchair, in addition to the graphic design of communication instruments, was supplied by Daniele Baroni. The first prototypes were realized at Cassina’s Centro Ricerche e Sviluppo together with G.A. van de Groenekan, Rietveld’s close collaborator. This permitted an interesting comparison between the original construction techniques and the technological know-how of Cassina’s wood craftsmen.

The construction method was later enriched, with Filippo Alison’s help, from the comparison between two different cultures, both of which are involved in the realization of the same objective: the realization, using present day materials and technologies, of design ideas dating back to 1927 through 1935.

The production of the Utrecht model, armchair and sofa designed in 1935, has been started in 1988, to celebrate the centenary of Rietveld’s birth.

Two of these chairs were in auction at Christie’s Amsterdam today.

I am a bit confused as these chair seems very much the same design as th Metz & Co desing of my prior post.

Luckily the firm Design Matcher which has its seat in The Hague (where I live) sheds some light here:

The Utrecht chair was Rietveld’s first upholstered furniture design. Probably he made the chair because the customers of Metz & Co and his own private principals had a need for easy chairs.
The chair was presented by Metz & Co for the first time in the flyer of 1937 with the number R.31 and was lined up in the show house ‘the new home’ in 1937 in The Hague (nr. 267). A 3-seater could be supplied based on this model. After the war the chair was again taken in production by Metz. In a flyer of Metz from 1963 an arm chair, 2-seater and a 3-seater are offered with woolen upholster. The round version, which now is made by Cassina has never been produced by Metz (design date 1936, produced from 1986).

They also point out Rietveld’s clever design idea of the 90 degree angle between the seat and the back and the 90 degree angle between the arm rests and the front legs.

Last edited by gje on October 17, 2010 at 12:18 AM

Rietveld Easy Chairs for Metz & Co

Rietveld Easy Chairs for Metz & Co

Photo thanks to Christie’s

Metz & Co is a still existing luxury shop in Amsterdam. They do mainly fashion, but apparently they also sell Cassina and Knoll furniture. Proudly they mention in their history (abbreviated):

  • 1740 Founding of Metz & Co by Mozes Samuels.
  • 1815 The designation ‘Purveyor to the Royal Household’ was instituted in 1815 by King William I. The Queen may grant businesses the right to display the royal coat of arms with the legend By Royal Warrant Purveyor to the Royal Household’.
  • 1890 The 150th birthday celebration in a complete new building the former head office of the New York Life Insurance Company in the Leidsestraat where the company is still located.
  • 1930 Gerrit T. Rietveld created his famous cupola on the roof of the Metz-building and created a furniture collections still to be found in museums over the world and in the present collection of the company.
    In that period Metz became famous for its designs by Gerrit Rietveld, Bart van der Leck, Sonia Delauny and Alvar Aalto.

Christie’s: In 1972 Rietveld designed these Easy Chairs for Metz & Co. However other sources claim the design being from 1936, so there seems a slight error here.

Today they were auctioned at Christie’s in Amsterdam.

I find this a stunning design which so to see also offers some comfort.

Update. Another name for the chair is Utrecht Chair.