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Antique Collectors' Dictionary (A)

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Abbey, Richard: Liverpool potter, apprenticed to Sadler & Green; founded the Herculaneum (q.v.) factory c. 1793.

Abbotsford Furniture: Victorian Gothick, from 1830's, dark oak usually, or walnut; the chair, heavily carved, upholstered in velvet or tapestry, like a Jacobean throne. Vogue attributed to Scott's novels.(Sometimes called 'Baronial'.)

Acacia: A decorative wood that shows a contrast between the pale yellow sapwood and the dark heartwood. The false-acacia or locust-tree (Robinia pseudo-acacia) was introduced into England during the seventeenth century.

Acanthus: Ornament derived from the stylized foliage of the acanthus on Greek and Roman decoration, as dandelion leaf; much favoured by the Chippendale school.

Aeier, Michael-Victor: Porcelain modeller (a Frenchman) who was installed in 1764 as chief modeller at Meissen, jointly with Kandler, a post he held until 1779.

Adam, Robert (1728-92): Distinguished architect and designer who was responsible, more than any other one person, for the introduction of a classical revival in England. In their Works in Architecture, by Robert and his brother James Adam, which began to come out in 1773, they claimed to have brought about 'a kind of Revolution in the whole System' of architecture. The Adam style in furniture, and ceramics, is characterized by severe classical motifs. The Adams made no furniture themselves.

Adams: A famous and recurring name in Staffordshire. The most important are three William Adams. The first (1746-1805) made at Burslem from about 1770 and at Tunstall from about 1780 cream-coloured earthenware, blue-printed earthenware and, most notably, jasper ware that rivalled that of Wedgwood. The second (1748-1831) made at Cobridge and at Burslem from about 1770 various kinds of earthenware and, in the early nineteenth century, some china. The third (1772-1829) was in partnership with his father-in-law at Burslem for a time, but from 1804 was in business on his own at Stoke-on-Trent, making useful earthenware and stoneware, bone china (from c. 1810) and Parian statuary. The business was carried on by his several sons until 1864.

Adams and Adams-Deane Revolver: Patented by Webley and Robert Adams in 1851, this was England's answer to the Colt (q.v.) from which it differed by being a double-action piece and by being stronger and faster, but less accurate at long range and the parts were not interchangeable.

Agate Ware: Pottery in which clays of different colours are kneaded together in imitation of veined agate.

Air-twist Glass Stems: An English glass-making development that dates from about 1735. Air bubbles were let into the thick base of the bowl and the base was drawn down and twisted into a stem, the elongated bubbles thus forming corkscrew air lines inside the stem. In later examples the stem was made separately, still on the principle of the extended air bubble, being cut from long lengths; later again, from about 1750, a moulded process brought with it much greater uniformity in the spiral and allowed for compound twists of considerable variety.

Albarello: Waisted, cylindrical drug jar.

Alcora: A faience factory founded in this Spanish town in the Province of Valencia about 1727, the wares produced being in the style of Moustiers (q.v.) until the 1780's, when the factory turned to the manufacture of creamwares in the English manner.

Alder: Wood used in the eighteenth century for country furniture; white with pinkish tinge, usually marked with knots and curls.

Alloy: Combination of metals fused together; a base metal mixed with a precious one to make it workable, to harden it, to change its colour.

Aimery: A cupboard in a wall or piece of furniture; a safe for food; a press for clothing and other objects; a doored recess in a church for the storing of sacred utensils. (Also called ambry, aumbry.)

Amberina: Translucent flint glass, often with air bubbles, shading red to amber.

Amboyna: Name given to certain burr woods imported from the Moluccas and Borneo; brown with yellow tinge and marked with small knots and curls. Also a West Indian wood similarly marked. Used as a veneer and for inlays and banding.

Amphora: Two-handled vessel used by the Greeks and Romans; tall, slender, narrow-necked.

Anatolian Rugs: Bright-coloured, often of silk, from Anatolian plateau; woollen warp with two to four coloured wool weft threads between knots; border of one to three stripes; coarse weave owing to fifty to seventy Ghiordiz knots to the square inch.

Andirons: Articles of chimney furniture comprising an *upright standard on a base or short spread feet, and a horizontal bar, one end of which is affixed to the standard (low down), the other end turning down to form a foot. Andirons (or fire-dogs) belong in a fireplace for which the fuel was wood. Examples survive from the fifteenth century. Most andirons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were of cast iron, but wrought iron specimens are to be met with, while brass, latten and even silver were used from the mid-seventeenth century. With the general use of coal and the grate in the eighteenth century, the andiron went out of use.

An Hua (Chinese): The so-called 'secret' decoration on Chinese porcelain; first used early in the Ming period, perhaps as early as n.D. 1400. This decoration can only be seen when the piece is held up to a light. In some cases the design was engraved on the body with a needle before glazing; in other cases the design was painted in white slip on a Vvhite body before glazing.

Anthemium: Honeysuckle ornament of classical origin which, understandably, found favour with those who brought about the classical revival in Europe. Its popularity in England lasted well into the Regency period.

Antique: A man-made object which should be of manageable proportions, have decorative properties, be more than 100 years old, and which, by reason of its quality, beauty, rarity, antiquity, curiosity, or vogue, is sufficiently esteemed and/or coveted as to have value.

Apostle Spoons: Early spoons made in sets of 12, each one surmounted by a different apostle as a knop. Some sets of 13 were made to include the figure of the 'Master' (Christ). 1478 is the earliest hall-mark recorded.

Applewood: Hard, fine-grained wood used for country furniture in the eighteenth century; it was also employed for inlay and veneer.

Apron: Masking piece under the front edge of a table or seat.

Arabesque: Ornament of capricious character: fanciful figures, monsters, fruit and flowers grouped or combined. Used in inlay and marquetry and sometimes in painted Georgian furniture.

Arbor: Horological term for the shafts, axles or spindles of a clock.

Arcanist: Person knowing or claiming to know a secret, especially the secret of porcelain-making.

Argil: Clay, especially potter's clay.

Argyle: A vessel, often of silver, for keeping gravy warm, the actual pot fitting inside an outer container which held hot water. Late Georgian.

Arita: Japanese porcelain made at Arita in the province of Hizen where porcelain has been manufactured since the first half of the sixteenth century. There are two well-known types of decoration, Imari (q.v.) and Kakiemon (q.v.); and as regards shapes, typical are the square, octagonal and hexagonal section vases, which were to be copied by European factories. Arita porcelains began to reach Europe in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Ark: Medieval term for a chest with gabled or canted lid.

Armada Chest: Heavy iron coffer imported from Germany in the late seventeenth and throughout the eighteenth century. The Spanish Armada has nothing to do with this chest, which was the forerunner of the safe.

Armoire: A large cupboard usually enclosed by doors from top to base; parent of the wardrobe.

Armorial China: Chinese porcelain, usually services, painted with coats-of-arms, crests, or initials, made to order for the European market. An increasing amount of such wares were imported into England in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some English factories, notably Worcester, made armorial china in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Armour: Protective clothing intended to be worn in battle. Mail (small, linked metal rings) was favoured until the early fifteenth century, when the full suit of plate armour came in; this heavy suit began to grow lighter and lighter during the sixteenth century, and though the helmet and the breast plate were considered useful even until the early eighteenth century, most armour from the late sixteenth century onwards was made for ceremonial purposes. (The helmet, of course, is still in use.)

The parts of a full suit of plate armour are as follows. Helm or Helmet comprising the skull (top and back), the visor (hinged, to protect eyes and upper face), the beaver (often hinged, to protect mouth and lower face). Gorget protects the neck and is often articulated. Pauldron covers the shoulder joint where body and arm-piece meet (also called Epauliere, whence epaulette derives). The upper arm is covered by the Rerebrace, the elbow by the Coudiere, the forearm by the Vambrace and the hand by the Gauntlet. The function of Breastplate and Backplate are obvious. Taces or Tassets are the metal strips that make a short skirt to protect the belly. The Guisse covers the thigh, the Genouillere covers the knee-cap, the Jamb covers the lower leg, and the flexible, long-toed shoe is a Solleret.

Arquebus: The term is loosely used but should be confined to the earliest (fifteenth and sixteenth century) long-arm gun fitted with matchlock and shoulder-butt; of German origin.

Arras: From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century Arras, in the Pas de Calais, France, was so famous for its tapestries that the name of the town was applied to a piece of tapestry regardless of where it was made.

Ash: A tough, elastic wood, white in colour, veined with streaks in the direction of its growth; used chiefly for seat furniture.

Aspergillum: Brush or rod for sprinkling holy water.

Astbury, John and Thomas: John Astbury (died 1743), Staffordshire potter whose name is associated with a red earthenware with relief decoration in white clay, also with an improved white ware containing flint in its body. But this improvement is also attributed to John's son, Thomas, who in 1725 set up a factory at Fenton.

Astragal: (1) A small convex moulding used between the capital and shaft of the classic order (with the exception of the Greek Doric), and in various positions in later architecture. (2) A bar containing the panes of glass of a window or of a glazed cupboard or bookcase.

Astrolabe: Early instrument for taking altitudes and for making astronomical measurements.

Aubusson: Famous French centre for carpets and tapestries from the seventeenth century. The tapestries woven here were technically inferior to those of Beauvais and Gobelins; pastoral designs are notable, as are hunting scenes, religious subjects. Most of the Aubusson carpets one sees today are woven wool and without pile and are nineteenth-century products.

Automatic Weapons: Date from the 1880's: the Spanish Orbea revolver of 1883, the Maxim machine-gun of 1884, the British Paulson revolver of 1886.

Aventurine: Opaque brown Venetian glass, its surface spangled with small pieces of metal. Also: a term applied to small fragments of gold wire sprinkled over the surface of lacquer.

Axminster Carpets: Carpet weaving begun at Axminster by Thomas Whitley, a cloth weaver, in 1755. He made carpets knotted in the Turkish manner. In 1779 there was 'a considerable manufacture' at Axminster. The factory closed in 1835, the looms being taken to Wilton.