THE HENSHAW PARLOR

In 1927, Brooklyn Life magazine carried a photograph of a painting by Stanislav Rembski portraying the interior of a fashionable Brooklyn Heights home. Research at the Museum of Brooklyn Art and Culture centered on the possibility that the interior pictured was that of the parlor of the home of the Henshaw family on State Street in Brooklyn Heights. Further investigation affirmed this conjecture. One of the paintings shown on the wall of the parlor bears a striking resemblance to a portrait by Rembski of Nancy Middlebrook (Glackens), who was a resident of the Henshaw home. Current owners of the  home confirmed that the interior of their livingroom corresponded with the structural details of the one pictured.

Rembski spent a great deal of time with the Henshaws during a four-year period from 1924 until his marriage in 1927. Besides the portrait of Nancy, Rembski painted portraits of G. Herbert Henshaw, editor of Brooklyn Life; Cornelia Gracie Henshaw, Herbert's sister and a writer for the magazine; Esther Henshaw Middlebrook, Nancy Middlebrook's mother and sister of Herbert Henshaw who wrote occasional theater reviews; and George Henshaw Childs, Herbert's nephew and a scientist with the American Museum of Natural History, all of whom lived in the State Street house.

After a six-year hunt, MOBAAC located and acquired one piece of furniture that is pictured in the Henshaw parlor, the site of many social gatherings.

Family tradition as conveyed by an heir has it that the Henshaws and the Gracies of Gracie Mansion were related, and that this chair was part of the furnishings of Gracie Mansion. However, a genealogical study indicates that the Henshaws were related by marriage and adoption to a different branch of the Gracie family. The Archibald Gracie associated with this branch died before 1817, while the man of the same name who built Gracie Mansion died in 1829. Both were wealthy merchants who lived in close proximity during at least some part of their lives.

The chair is said to have been fashioned by machine after the Civil War, but whatever its value as an antique, it certainly is an authentic article that was part of a nostalgic and bygone era during which the Henshaws lived and flourished.
 

Henshaw parlor, State Street, Brooklyn Heights, by Stanislav Rembski

The Henshaw parlor, above.

Henshaw chair closeup

Detail of Rembski painting, showing chair.

henshaw chair
       The Henshaw chair as it appears today.


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