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Furniture (P) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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PAD FOOT: A club foot on a disc or pad.

PAGODA TOP: A type of ornament used in the Chinese Chippendale style.

PAINTED FURNITURE: This form of decoration was in use in England and on the Continent even in medieval times, and through all of the periods since, it has been employed to some extent for decorative purposes. It was customary in Colonial times in this country to paint chairs and tables in black, dull red or dark green, and in New England chests and cupboards were both painted and carved. In Pennsylvania the German settlers painted the chest particularly, quite lavishly. The Windsor chair and the gate-legged table were usually painted. Late in the 18th centuvy, Sheraton and Adam made painted furniture popular, employing celebrated artists for the purpose, and the fashion was adopted in this country early in the 19th century. About 1820, stenciling began to be used in connection with painting, and chairs, tables, clocks, trays and other furniture were decorated in this manner. Gold leaf was used with the various colors of the design and this furniture became very popular. See STENCILED FURNITURE.

PANEL: A surface set above or below the general surface of a wall or of a piece of furniture, or effected by means of applied moldings, grooved to receive it. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was customary to carve the surface of the panel.

PANELING: In the medieval house, the private apartments had either bare stone or plastered walls, or these were hung with arras (tapestry). Wainscot or wall paneling appears only at the close of the 15th century. Oak was the timber generally used up to the end of the 17th century, and the panels were small. Dutch and Flemish cabinet-makers made frequent use of paneling on furniture and such work became popular in England in the early 17th century.

PAPIER MACHE: A revival of an art long practised in Persia came into England from France. It was paper pulp mixed with glue, chalk, and sometimes fine sand. It was then pressed, molded and baked so hard that it could be sawed. It took a high polish readily and was often japanned.

PARCEL GILT: A method of applying decorative de' tail in colors or relief by the use of a varnish that will not take gilding. After the varnish is removed the desired color is added, or it is left plain. In effect it is similar to the "resist" work on pottery.

PARCHEMIN: An old form of wainscot carving, made in imitation of rows of parchment upon rods.

PARQUETRY: Wood mosaic used for floors, generally in different colors and in geometric designs.

PARTRIDGE WOOD: A close, straight-grained wood of a reddish-brown color, imported from Brazil and used in England for inlay and veneering in the 17th and 18th centuries.

PATERA: A small disk, oval, round or square, as a base for ornamental detail, in decorating furniture.

PATINA: The surface or finish resulting on wood or metal from wear, polishing, or oxidation, with age.

PEAR WOOD: The finest-grained of all of our native fruit woods, tinged with red, used here to some extent in Colonial times, and in England for inlay, and from a very early period for the construction of simple, provincial furniture.

PEDESTAL: The support to the column of a tripod table or stand.

PEDIMENT: An architectural term applied to furniture, indicating an ornament surmounting the piece, usually low at the sides and higher in the middle. It was used in unbroken form from 1675 to 1760 and the broken arch (q.v.) form from 1715 to 1800.


PENDANTS: A hanging form of ornament, generally used in the Jacobean period to embellish posts or stiles. It was derived from the Moors in Spain. In this country, the split baluster with the larger pearshaped part at the bottom was much in use in the 17th century for decorating chests and cupboards.

PHYFE, DUNCAN, STYLE: The distinguishing characteristics of Duncan Phyfe's furniture resulted from his ability to combine the best elements of the Georgian designers with the simplicity of those of France without sacrificing one to the other. It was excellent in proportion and classic in outline. It is essentially domestic, strongly constructed and well finished, and the best of his work equals anything produced by Sheraton or Hepplewhite. His adaptation of French models contributed the best and truest element in the work of the American Empire period. He was master of the curve. His pedestal tables with the lyre and curule-shaped legs, terminating in brass paw casters, represent a distinct type of design, and in quality of workmanship have never been excelled. Chairs, sofas and other pieces show similar characteristics of good design and good workmanship. Nearly all of his work was done in mahogany of the best quality. In his later years Phyfe's work deteriorated. See PART 6.

PIANO: The piano, an improvement over the harpsichord, is largely due to the work of an Italian, Cristofori, early in the 18th century. His first instrument is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Up to 1760, at which time the square piano was first made, pianos were made in the wing shape. The compass of the early piano, like that of the harpsichord, was only four, or at most five, octaves, but it has gradually increased to seven octaves or more. Its great diFference from the harpsichord is a mechanism that enables the player to modify, at will, the intensity of the sounds.


PIER GLASS: A large looking-glass. See MIRRORS, Pier.


PILASTER: A portion of a rectangular pillar set flush against its background, slightly projecting from the surfaces. Uusally carved. Mainly used as a support for an arch, cornice or other superstructure.

PINE: A soft wood used freely for all kinds of furniture during the Colonial period. It is straight in grain, quite free from knots, and it is easy to work. In England, little appears to have been used prior to the Restoration, oak having been the staple and cheaper material.

PINEAPPLE: A pattern in carving much used in the Empire period, chiefly as a finial.


PLANE WOOD: A very white wood, close in grain and tough, used in the 18th century in England for painted chairs, instead of beech.

PLATEAU: An ornamental stand used in England on a low plinth, or on feet, for the center of a dining table, constructed usually in parts so that it could be lengthened.

PLINTH: The projecting base of a pillar. In furniture the term is applied to low stands for figures, or escutcheons on pediments.

PLUM WOOD: A yellowish wood with a heart of deep brownish-red very like West Indian mahogany, hard and heavy and used in England in the 16th and 17th centuries by country joiners.

PLUMES: An English design of feathers, usually three or five, used principally on chair backs. See PRINCE OF WALES FEATHERS.

POLYCHROME: A form of painted decoration of furniture much used by Italy in the 16th century.

POPLAR: A wood, yellow to gray in color, with fine grain used in England in the 18th century for inlay and for marquetry.

POSTS: The upright corner pieces of any article of furniture.



PRINCE OF WALES FEATHERS: A decorative design used by Hepplewhite in chair backs.