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Furniture (A) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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ACACIA: A wood of dull yellow color with brown veins used in 18th-century English country furniture for inlay and banding as a substitute for tulipwood. It is stronger, harder and more elastic than oak and it ranks next to ash and oak for durability. It is the locust wood of America.

ACANTHUS: A Greek conventionalized leaf used in carving. It is to be found on English furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries and is also notable on the knees of the Philadelphia Chippendale chairs.

ACORN TURNING: A term applied to turned ornaments resembling the acorn and used chiefly on the backs of Jacobean chairs.

ADAM STYLE: Takes its name from the four Adam brothers of whom Robert Adam was the leading spirit, the "Adelphi" of London, architects and designers of furniture during the last half of the 18th century. The style is distinguished by its rich and delicate ornamentation in classical form, slender straight lines, small tapering legs, small and narrow moldings. Under-bracing was used occasionally and delicate carving, sparingly. The wide, flat urn and vase were favored embellishments, and plaques of Wedgwood ware were used as inserts. Inlay, painting and gilding were the popular decorations, and French brocades were used for upholstering. Mahogany was the principal wood used and the designs were executed by Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton and other cabinet-makers of the Period.

ADELPHI: Greek word meaning brothers. Adopted by the Brothers Adam as a trade mark.

ALMERY: The name long used in medieval times for an inclosed niche or cupboard near the altar of churches, built to contain the requisites for conducting worship. Also a receptacle for that portion of provisions reserved for alms. Known also as aumbry. The name is also applied to the dole cupboard (q.v.).

AMBOYNA: A wood obtained in the Spice Islands, East Indies, and much used in the 18th century for inlaying, veneering, and fine panel work. It is very hard and durable, not unlike bird's-eye maple, but it is of a somewhat browner color.

AMERICAN FURNITURE: The furniture of the 17th century was of the plainest character, rugged and home-made. The design followed the Elizabethan and Jacobean styles of the English furniture with which the Colonists were familiar before coming to this country, yet it has a distinctive character of its own. Certain furniture forms which fitted closely the needs of the Colonists became particularly popular and were frequently reproduced. In New York the Dutch influence was felt also. Oak, pine, maple, cherry, and other local woods were used. Joints were fitted with mortise and tenon or dovetailed into each other, and wooden pins, usually square in form, fastened pieces together. There were no screws for use in those days, and glue was seldom used. The methods of decoration included chamfering, molding and turn ing, and carving of a simple type. The furniture included chests, chairs, cupboards, forms (benches), stools, settles and tables. Some of this furniture was stained or painted black or a bright red. In the 18th century, foreign models were followed but the construction is plainer and more sturdy during the first half of the century. By the middle of the century, the work of some of the American cabinet-makers rivaled that of the English. The block-front pieces of John Goddard of Newport and of Aaron Chapin of Hartford and the productions of William Savery, and other cabinet-makers, notably in the Chippendale style, have never been excelled by the cabinet-makers here or abroad. The work of these craftsmen, together with that of several others prominent in the various parts of the country, concluding with Duncan Fhyfe in New York, kept the standard of American furniture very high to the end of the century. The American Eagle inlaid on various kinds of furniture was an important feature in decoration at this period.

AMORINI: The Italian name for the cupids or cherubs seen upon furniture painted or carved. This motif figured prominently in Renaissance decoration and was used in England following the Restoration.

ANTHEMION: The Greek honeysuckle, conventionalized.

APPLE WOOD: A fruit wood used for country furni' ture in England in the 17th and 18th centuries and in this country to somextent.

APPLIED ORNAMENT: One which is carved or sawed separately and fastened upon the surface. Applied moldings originated in Spain in the 16th century. They came thence to the Netherlands and later to England.

APRON: The strip of wood beneath the table top or chair seat extending between the legs. The lower edge may be straight or shaped.

ARABESQUE: A species of ornament used on English furniture in Tudor days for enriching flat surfaces.It was either painted, inlaid or carved in low relief. It was derived from the Moors in Spain who made much use of it.

ARCADING: A form of ornament which reproduced in flat relief, arches, singly or in series, on panels and friezes. In use in the 16th and 17th centuries in England and on the Continent of Europe.

ARCHITECTS' FURNITURE: A name given to some of the furniture of the early Georgian period, designed by William Kent and some other of the cabinet-makers of that time. It was in favor between 1714 and 1730 in houses which were entirely planned, including furnishings, by architects. Later in the century the Adam brothers became famous for work of the same character but the furniture designed was much lighter in type and of classical form. Examples of architects' furniture are among the products of the American craftsman also.

ARK WRIGHT: See JOINER.

ARM-CHAIR: (French, Fauteuil) See CHAIRS, Arm'.

ARM SUPPORT: Either an extension of the front leg of a chair or sofa, or a separate piece rising from the seat rail supporting the front end of the arm.

ARMOIRE: Indicative of a cupboard in which armor was formerly stored. When armor was discarded it then became a wardrobe or cupboard for apparel. Armoire is the French name for cupboard.

ASH: This wood is white, tough and hard and ranks next in value to oak for strength and durability. It was much used by early craftsmen in this country especially for Windsor chairs. Ash has a long fibrous grain and will not turn without splitting.

ASTRAGAL: A small convex, beaded molding, usually placed at the junction of a pair of doors on cabinets and book-cases to exclude the dust.

AUMBRY: See ALMERY.

AVENTURINE: A term applied to the minute clippings of gold wire sometimes sprinkled over the surface during the lacquering of furniture.