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The credenza shows its beauty to greatest advantage in a rather large room. Placed against one wall of the living room, with perhaps a Spanish chair in brilliant leather near it and an old portrait in one of those wonderful carved wood Italian frames above it, it will recall the pageantry and beauty of the Renaissance during which as a piece of decorative furniture it had its greatest vogue in Italy.
In those times a credenza, its front elaborately carved, might have served as a background for the bright silks, satins and laces which costumed both men and women of the period. It was an age when rooms were required to be a setting. Perhaps some of the credenzas that now lend charm to twentieth century New World interiors came from rooms floored with colored marble or mosaics, where walls were hung with damasks or tapestries or the tooled leather of Cordova, where painted ceiling beams and panels were set off by gilded cornices. Inlay or intarsia was a form of decoration for credenzas of that period.
For a modern interior of great elegance the highly carved credenzas are especially fitting. For simpler types of rooms the less elaborately decorated pieces are more satisfactory. These have plainly paneled or simply carved cupboard doors and drawer fronts, with pilasters or simple carving between the doors. Sometimes a credenza has additional drawers and narrow shelves placed on its top suggesting a Colonial dresser arrangement. Such examples of the Italian sideboard ally themselves either with the Spanish furnishings which are now so much the fashion, or with early English types of furniture.
These sideboards, as William M. Odom in his book, "Italian Furniture," points out, were the larder not only of the palace but also of the more modest home of the well-to-do merchant or land-owner. They fit into even cosmopolitan interiors. A refectory table of oak or walnut with perhaps some of the smaller pieces of Jacobean furniture such as a tavern table with splay legs or a Normandy chest of black oak make a harmonious ensemble, since they are more or less related, design in the Middle Ages having had a migratory habit.
The wood of these Italian pieces-old walnut-has a pleasant golden tone-quite different from the black walnut used in nineteenth century America. To some of the old pieces age has given an almost silken texture in varying hues ranging from a deep brown that is almost black to a light tone that is reminiscent of a piece of mellowed pine.
In buying an old credenza one may sometimes have the choice of several types of brass knobs and handles. The original handles, from the bufEetings of time, may have been lost, and those put on to replace them at some later period may not be the most appropriate. Extra brasses sometimes are obtainable, and the correct type of hardware as well as a personal choice may thus enhance the attractiveness of one of these old Italian pieces of the cabinetmaker's art.