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LACQUER: This is a varnish-like covering for furniture and ornamental woodwork, which in the process of drying and hardening is peculiarly suited to the application of other decorative ornament. It is treated as a solid body, built up stage by stage and polished, not varnished, at every stage. It is a natural gum'lac of the Rhus vernici f era, a variety of the sumac, a tree growing in Central and Southern China and cultivated for its valuable sap, and the lac is virtually ready made when extracted. Modern scientists have not yet been able, but are trying, to rival the Chinese product. In the production of the Oriental lacquers some twenty colorings were employed, but the remarkable white lacquer of the 15th century became a lost art. Although the invention of lacquer is credited to China, Japan has more highly perfected the art. Today, recent scientific attention to lacquer holds much promise. There are four important types of decorated lacquer work: painted, carved, encrusted and incised. The commoner form of ornament was the ordinary black lacquer combined with gold and a brilliant vermilion red, finely penciled with gold. Mother of pearl, ivory, lapis lazuli anc[ jade were also used for decorative effect, upon lacquered work. The time required to finish a lacquered surface by the Oriental method insured its durability. Never less than three and sometimes as many as eighteen thin layers were applied to the surface of the wood before the actual decoration by the artist commenced. English lacquer work of the 18th century, called japanning, never approached either the Chinese or Japanese work, decoratively or technically, even at its best. SEE JAPANNING.
LACQUERED FURNITURE: This furniture came into use in England last half of 17th century through importations from the Orient. Most of it came through Holland. All of the furniture forms of the William and Mary and Queen Anne periods, made of walnut, are also found in lacquered work. The degree of rarity on the basis of color is as follows: black, comparatively common; less common in the order given are red, yellow, buff, green and blue. The last named color is rarely seen. The interior of a lacquered cabinet should be of the same color as the exterior.
LADDER-BACK: A back of chairs, in which horizontal cross rails are used instead of a vertical splat. It was a favorite design of Chippendale.
LANCASHIRE CHAIRS: See CHAIRS, Lancashire.
LANTERN CLOCKS: See CLOCKS, Bird-Cage.
LATTICE-WORK: See FRET-WORK.
LAURELING: Derived from the laurel leaf, it was a common motif for carving on rails, friezes and posts in cabinet work, in the 17th century.
LEATHER: Leather for chair backs was introduced into England about 1645. It had been much used in Spain and other parts of Europe before that time for wall covering as well as for furniture. Spanish leather was embossed and polychromed by an art brought into Spain by the Moors. Cordovan leather, famous in all parts of Europe, was a flourishing industry in Spain during the 17th century.
LETTER RACKS: See RACKS, Letter.
LIGHT FIXTURES: See PART 5.
LIGHTHOUSE CLOCKS: See CLOCKS, Lighthouse.
LIGHTS: See CANDLES and RUSH LIGHTS. Also LIGHTS, PART 5.
LIGNUM VITAE: A hard, greenish brown wood, from the West Indies, used to some extent in England in the 17th century for cabinet work.
LIME A wood used in England in Tudor days for carved work. It is white and soft, without cross grain, and it is free from knots. In this country it is known as white wood or bass wood.
LINEN-FOLD: The linen-fold or linen scroll is of Gothic origin and is thought to have been introduced into England from Flanders about 1470 and its use continued there for about one hundred years. It is a form of carving used on the fronts of chests and cupboards, the backs of chairs, and on wall panels of rooms. It is said to be a semblance of the veil covering the chalice at the consecration of the Host in the Catholic Mass. Of the same period is the socalled curved rib or vine panel and the parchemin fold.
LION'S-HEAD MASK: Used on the knee of the cabriole leg of tables and chairs in England from 1720 to 1735. There is nothing quite like it in furniture elsewhere. It was followed by the satyr-mask (q.v.). The lion's-paw foot is contemporary with this feature.
LIVERY CUPBOARDS: See CUPBOARDS, Livery.
LOCUST WOOD: See ACACIA
LONG-CASE CLOCKS: See CLOCKS, Grandfather's.
LOOKING-GLASSES: See MIRRORS.
LOOMS: The loom on which the flax and wool of Colonial times was woven was the same in principle as that used by the nations of antiquity, and the process of weaving was the same also. In the early days of this country, the loom far home weaving was quite as familiar an object as the spinning wheel. It consisted, usually, of four posts joined together by side and cross pieces, and between the upright posts were two wooden rollers, one at the back and one at the front. Between these was stretched the warp threads. The woof threads were "shuttled" through these from the side. This form of loom was known as the "low warp" (horizontal) loom. The upright form where the warp threads are perpendicular is known as the "high-warp" loom. This form of the loom was that used in weaving the magnificent tapestries of the Middle Ages. Modern looms are, of course, power looms.
LOPERS: The sliders supporting the fall front of a desk or bureau.
Louis XIV (Quatorze) PERIOD (1643-1715): Charles Le Brun, the great master of decorative art, gave to France not only the style of Louis XIV but all the essential elements of the styles to come under the succeeding periods. Boulle was made "ebeniste" and devoted himself to designing furniture for the king and his courtiers. The greatest artists and craftsmen were employed, quartered in the Louvre, and the furniture they made was sumptuous in the extreme. All of the chairs of this period were instinct with dignity. The same may be said of the canapes or sofas. Legs of tables were straight and tapering or with cabriole curve and they were connected with saltire stretchers. Bedsteads were imposing pieces of furniture, with highly ornate posts, testers and curtains. The structural lines of consoles, cabinets, bureaus and other furniture were almost invariably rectilinear. Much carving and gilding was in vogue, and tortoiseshell veneer with metal inlay (said to have been an invention of Boulle) added to the enrichment. Lacquering was extensively practised, also painting, inlaying and marquetry were favorite forms of decoration. Lyons velvets, brocades and tapestry were used for upholstery. The shell motif is found everywhere on the furniture of this period. Oak, walnut and mahogany, also some ebony, were the woods used.
Louis XV (Quinze) PERIOD (1715-1774): During this period the cabinet-makers use the curved line more freely, the Rococo influence increases, no classic motifs are found. Cabriole legs assume stronger curves, the arms, seat rails and framing of the backs of chairs are curved and elaborately carved. Tables are fancifully shaped and the legs, like the chair legs, exhibit more pronounced curves. Under-bracing disappeared. Bedsteads were less ponderous, with draped and towering canopies over the head. It was almost impossible to find straight lines in the form of consoles, cabinets and cupboards, as well as in bureaus. The richest materials were used for upholstering. Mahogany was used more than heretofore. Gilding, painting, lacquer (Vernis-Martin, q.v.), Boulle inlay and marquetry continued favorite forms of decoration. Further, ormolu and other metal mounts were employed extensively for purely decorative purposes. It has been said that the period of Louis XV was the most gorgeous of the world in its rich and luxurious creations of decorative furniture, a style which belongs exclusively to France, and to her artists the honor.
Louis XVI (Seize) PERIOD (1774-1793): During the twenty years previous to the Revolution the style of French furniture reached a high standard of artistic excellence, both in design and execution, although it is a direct reaction from the Rococo ornamentation and the excessive curves of the previous reign. One of the results was the influence it exerted upon Thomas Sheraton in producing one of the most graceful and beautiful phases of furniture development in England and, through Duncan Phyfe, the "American Sheraton," in America. In the Louis Seize period vertical and horizontal lines were emphasized. Legs of tables and of chairs were straight and tapered, generally fluted. Rectangular tables occur more frequently than round or oval forms. The woods consisted of mahogany, satinwood and other ornamental kinds. Brocades and exquisite tapestries, damask and velvet, were used in upholstery. Carving, painting, lacquer, marquetry, ormolu, fluting, reeding and beading were some of the many types of decoration used. Revival of classical taste marks the period.
LOUNGE: See COUCHES.
LOVE SEAT: A chair with a double back and with two arms was so-called. The seat was just wide enough for two. See SETTEE.
LOWBOY: The lowboy (a modern term), as a distinct piece of furniture, followed the introduction of the highboy and was frequently made as a companion piece to the highboy. It was used as a dressing or toilet table. It was seldom seen in England.
LOZENGE: A diamond-shaped decorative motif, introduced about 1600, and continuing in favor throughout the 17th century.
LUNETTE A half-round- or half-moon-shaped motif, often repeated in a long line, and more or less elaborated.
LYRE-BACK: The lyre was used in the design of chair backs, notably by Duncan Phyfe and to some extent by Adam and Sheraton. It is also to be found in the pedestals for tables. It resembles the musical instrument of same name.