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Antique Collectors' Dictionary (M)

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Mahogany: Three varieties of mahogany were used in the eighteenth century. 'Spanish' (or 'St Domingo') was used from about 1725 to about 1750, when the 'Cuban' and then the 'Honduras' varieties came into use. Some of the Cuban timber is finely figured and marked with a curly or wavy grain. The Honduras timber is generally inferior in colour and figure to the other two, but it is lighter in weight and softer in texture. From the point of view of design, mahogany was responsible for two main innovations. One was that the great width of the boards enabled table tops, for instance, to be made in one or two sections instead of several (as was necessary with walnut); the other was that the great strength of mahogany permitted slender and delicate work (fretwork, splatwork, etc.). Mahogany remained in popular use well into the nineteenth century. The 'age of mahogany' 1720-70.

Maigelein: Early German drinking glass in the form of a low palm cup (without handles) and with a 'kick' (a cone of glass drawn up inside-as with many modern wine bottles).

Maiolica: Earthenware with a tin-enamel glaze as made in Italy in the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The sixteenth century was the great age of maiolica. The name is said to derive from the island of Majorca, whence Spanish lustre-ware was exported to Italy. Painted decoration consisted mainly of cobalt blue, yellow, purple, green and iron red, together with combinations of these. The use of lustre was an important development, as was the istoriato (q.v.) style of painting. Of the many Italian maiolica centres Faenza (see Faience) was one of the earliest and most important; others were Forli, Siena, Orvieto, Florence, Ravenna, Deruta, Urbino, Castel Durante.

Majolica: This term so spelt was given to pottery decorated in relief beneath a coloured glaze and manufactured at various English factories in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Makri Rugs: Made in coastal districts across from the Island of Rhodes, and exceedingly rare, with their end arches and fields divided into coloured panels, and their bright eightpointed stars, leaves, latch-hooks. Red, blue, yellow, green and white. Coarsely woven with forty-five to sixty-five knots to the square inch.

Malling Jugs: Tin-enamelled pottery jugs, globular in shape, as made, probably in London, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; these jugs, with their splashed or mottled glaze, are the earliest known examples of delftware (q.v.) in England. The name derives from West Malling, Kent, where one of the first specimens was found.

Manheim Gold: Alloy of copper, zinc and tin.

Manton, Joseph: Late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century British gunsmith deemed one of the greatest gun-makers of all time. His improvements to the flintlock included the elevated rib above the barrel, the gravitating stop, and the recessed double breech. Many features of the double-barrelled shotgun have not changed since Manton's time. His brother, John, was also a great gunsmith.

Manwaring, Robert: Chair-maker and author of The Cabinet and Chair Maker's Real Friend and Companion (1765).

Maple: This indigenous tree is often called sycamore in England and plane tree in Scotland. The white wood takes a good polish. It was used in marquetry and as veneer in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The 'bird's eye' maple is an American wood (the sugar maple), and much superior with its fine grain and texture and figuring.

Marble Tops: Marble slabs for table tops were in use in the sixteenth century but it was not till the early years of the eighteenth century that they became at all common in England. Though marble was quarried in England most slabs for use with furniture were imported from Italy and the Englishman of the eighteenth century making the Grand Tour would look for a choice slab as he would for choice pictures. See Scagliola.

Marbling: (1) Wood treated to look like marble had a vogue at the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth. For veneer, holly burrs cut from the trunks of old trees and then stained were used with other coloured woods, more straight-forward was the 'marbling' of panelling and fireplace surrounds by painting the wood. (2) Marbled slipware decoration on English pottery was popular in the eighteenth century (Chinese potters practised it during the T'ang and Sung dynasties) and consists of combing 'slips' of contrasting colours to produce the appearance of natural marble.

Marieberg: Swedish (Stockholm) ceramics factory which produced faience from about 1760, soft-paste porcelain from about 1766 (when Pierre Berthevin from Mennecy (q.v.) became manager), and some hard-paste porcelain from about 1777. The factory closed in 1788. Particularly admired are the small well-modelled creampots with covers, fluted spirals and delicately painted bouquets of flowers; also the statuettes and the rococo candelabra. The most common mark is 'mB'.

Marot, Daniel (?1660-1720?): French architect and furnituredesigner who entered the service of William, Prince of Orange, and later accompanied him to England, where he worked for a few years in the 1690's. His designs for furniture and complete interiors in the Louis XIV style had a considerable influence on his contemporaries.

Marquetry: The process of cutting, fitting and inlaying veneers of various light-coloured woods in a darker veneer ground for application to the carcase of a piece of furniture. This form of furniture decoration was first used in England in the 1670's. Floral marquetry was in vogue at first but towards the end of the seventeenth century and in the early years of the eighteenth century a type of veneer in which two contrasting woods only were used, called arabesque or seaweed marquetry, came into fashion. A revival of marquetry took place in the second half of the eighteenth century. See Inlay.

Marquise (French): A small sofa; a love-seat.

Marsh, William: Cabinet-maker and upholsterer to the Prince of Wales (later George IV); Marsh and his partners supplied furniture for Carlton House and the Brighton Pavilion.

Mary Gregory Glass: Coloured (dark blue, ruby, amber, green) ware, usually with white enamelled brush-work figures of children at play or flower paintings. Of Bohemian origin but now bears name of American artist famous, in the nineteenth century, for portraits of children on glass.

Mason: Family of potters active during the first half of the nineteenth century. The father, Miles Mason, probably worked at Liverpool before setting up a porcelain factory at Fenton in about 1800; William, Charles and George are the other members of the family which made an extremely hard porcelain, 'ironstone china', bone-china and earthenware. The Chinese manner of decoration was much favoured. Enormous vases are typical. Apart from the names 'Mason' and 'Fenton', the usual mark is a crown.

Matchlock: The earliest form of gun ignition, probably invented during the second quarter of the fifteenth century, perhaps at Nuremberg, it consisted of an S-shaped piece of iron pivoting on its side which when swivelled inserted a glowing fuse into a powder-filled touch-hole.

Matt: A rough surface. The term is sometimes applied to an unpolished or unfinished area of a metal object, but as regards silver, much seventeenth-century silverware was decorated by burring with a metal punch to produce a matt surface.

Mayhew, Thomas: See Ince and Mayhew.

Mazarine: Originally a bowl or cup, but now a pierced silver dish used as a strainer for fish dishes.

Mazer: Broad bowl of maple wood sometimes mounted on and/or with silver or pewter. Last made in the sixteenth century.

Medallion: A circular or oval disc decorated with objects in relief; also a portion of a decorative design (as in carpets) which is specially treated.

Meigh: Family of potters active at Hanley from the late eighteenth century; best known are the jugs they made under the influence of the Gothic revival in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Mei Ping (Chinese): A form of Chinese porcelain vase with squat body; small neck and mouth, supposedly intended to hold a single spray of the prunus blossom and for this reason sometimes called 'prunus vase'.