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Antique Collectors' Dictionary (V)

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Varnish: Resinous solution applied to wood to give a hard, shiny, transparent coat. Oil varnish was used in England until the introduction of spirit varnish towards the end of the seventeenth century. `French polish' came to England from France in the 1820's. See Japanning, Lacquer, Polish.

Veneer: The gluing down of thin sheets of wood on to a carcase. The process dates from the second half of the seventeenth century. As the veneers had to be cut by a hand-saw the sheets were seldom less than one-eighth of an inch thick. The best veneers were costly; to achieve rich effects timber was cut at wasteful angles, while the matching of designs on the finished work also led to much waste.

Venice Porcelain: A hard-paste porcelain factory was founded c. 1720 in Venice by Francesco Vezzi with the aid of a workman who had been at Meissen and Vienna, and the influence of these two factories is to be discerned in the wares produced. This factory probably closed in 1728. The word `Venezia' or an abbreviation of it is the mark. Another, shorter-lived Venetian factory was that founded c. 1758 by N. F. Hewelcke of Dresden; it closed in 1763; the mark is the letter v. In 1764 a third factory was established by Geminiano Cozzi and seems to have been more successful. At any rate it survived until 1812. The mark is an anchor.

Vermeil (French): Silver-gilt.

Vernis Martin: A term embracing most varnishes and lacquers used in the decoration of fans, small boxes, furniture, even carriages. In the mid-eighteenth century the brothers Martin obtained a monopoly to make lacquer in relief in the Chinese and Japanese style. The brothers, Simon-Etienne, Julien and Robert, did not invent a lacquer, but they developed and, improved various coloured and translucent varnishes. There were three factories in Paris directed by them.

Verre Eglomise (French): Glass decorated on the reverse side and backed with metal foil. The process is very old, much, much older than the Frenchman Glomy (died 1786) whose name it bears. The glass borders of mirrors were decorated by this process at the end of the seventeenth century and later.

Verroterie Cloisonne: See Cell-glazing.

Verzelini, Giacomo (1522-1606): Venetian who taught the English how to make fine table glass, thus breaking the Venetian monopoly; working, London, from early 1570's to 1592; glass-maker to Queen Elizabeth I.

Vetro di Trina: Italian, lace-like glass, the finest work in the latticino (q.v.) technique.

Vienna porcelain: The factory founded in 1719. For a few years before this a Viennese court official, Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier, had attempted to make porcelain but it was not until he obtained the help of two workmen from Meissen that he succeeded. These workmen soon left him but Du Paquier went on making excellent porcelain until he was forced to sell the factory to the State in 1744. In this first period the early wares are often in the Chinese manner, but later European subjects come into favour and some very beautiful Baroque porcelain was made. During the second period, 1744-84, under various directors appointed by the State, figures and groups are notable and wares were made in imitation of Sevres. The normal Vienna mark, an incised shield, was introduced in 1744. Financial difficulties caused the factory to be offered for sale again, but no buyer could be found. Then Konrad von Sorgenthal took over as director in 1784 and brought the concern back to prosperity, thanks mainly to his famous table-wares with neo-classical decoration of great beauty and refinement. On Sorgenthal's death in 1805 a decline set in, although the factory did not close till 1864.

Vile, William (?-1767): Cabinet-maker who, in the 1750's and 60's, was perhaps the finest craftsman of his day. As he was in partnership with John Cobb (q.v.) it is difficult to ascribe individual pieces to Vile with certainty; but most experts agree that Vile was not only the senior partner but also by far the superior craftsman.

Vinaigrette (from French vinaigre, vinegar): Small gold or silver box, with hinged lid, containing aromatic sponge. Dates from eighteenth century; grew larger and more ornate in Victorian times; ousted by smelling salts at end of nineteenth century.

Vincennes: This soft-paste porcelain factory founded in 1738 and transferred to Sevres in 1756. See Sevres.

Vinovo: Porcelain factory situated near Turin, founded in 1776 and though it did not finally close till about 1820 there were lengthy closures between those dates. The French style predominated. The mark is usually a cross surmounting the letter `v'.

Virginal: Small musical instrument, rectangular in shape, which has the same basic mechanism as the spinet (q.v.). Examples are rare. The name is said to derive from the fact that the instrument was extremely popular with ladies (and in convents), and because of this it was called a `clavicordium virginale'. The harpsichord (q.v.) seems to have evolved out of the virginal in the fifteenth century.

Vitrine (French): A display cabinet with glass door and sides.

Vitruvian Scroll: Ornament consisting of a series of repeating wave-like scrolls; architectural, but used on furniture, especially during the classical revival at the end of the eighteenth century.

Volkstedt: A porcelain factory founded at Volkstedt, Thuringia, c. 1760; both soft- and hard-paste porcelain was made, but like most of the Thuringian factories the wares produced here were greyish and coarse.

Volute: A spiral scroll found particularly on an Ionic capital.

Voyder: A large dish or tray (medieval).

Voyez, John: Ceramics modeller of distinction who worked for Wedgwood, Humphrey Palmer, Ralph Wood and on his own account; active 1767-90. `Fair Hebe' jugs are associated with this maker.

Vulliamy: Family of London clock-makers of renown who practised their craft in London from c. 1740-1850.