When I first spotted the word settle – in a lot description for a hall bench sold at Ahlers & Ogletree’s winter auction held January 14-16 in Atlanta, Georgia – I thought it was a misprint and the cataloguer had meant so say settee. Wrong! A settle is a long timber seat with side pieces or arms to each end. It may be raised on legs or have a box seat. A settee is a long, square-ended seat having upholstered sides and back. The settle shown here – the one in the Ahlers & Ogletree auction – was the runner-up top lot of the sale, changing hands for $28,320.
The piece was attributed to the renowned 19th century New York cabinetmaker R. J. Horner (1853-1922) and was accurately described in the lot description as a “massive, highly detailed figural hall bench or settle having a pierced carved crest centered with cartouche and cabochon, surmounted with leafy mask and flanked by winged mermen and elaborately scrolling flower and foliage emanating from the griffin’s mouth above a projecting cornice.” That’s a mouthful, but it also explains why the 105-inch-tall piece was able to command such a nice price.