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Spanish Tables

THERE is always a picturesque quality about a Spanish table, whether it is a big walnut piece with two carved pedestals, a lighter type with supports cut in fantastic silhouettes suggesting a lyre, a Spanish version of the gateleg and butterfly tables, or one of many styles with slender legs of many ornamental turnings and graceful iron stretchers of Mudejar art. Spanish tables harmonize with furnishings of Italian descent, while less ornate types may even have a decorative kinship with early American or French provincial pieces. Tables from Spain may be successfully used in almost any interior where a gay or picturesque touch is needed.

It is this wealth of forms and sizes of Spanish tables that aids in fitting them, in either original pieces or reproductions, for many uses in the modern American homes. For the dining room there are long tables with heavy, round, turned legs connected with a central stretcher. These tables often have drawers on the sides, decorated with designs in the simple carving characteristic of Spanish furniture of the sixteenth century. The tops are of thick wood and in some cases the single planks making up the top are remarkably wide. A notable point in the design of these tables is the long overhang of the top at either end.

A more ornate type of Spanish table is one with pedestal ends and a heavy central stretcher upholding three or four additional supports of turned wood. These tables of the seventeenth century have their elaborately carved end pedestals made up of a central support of a turned and carved post, with heavy scroll-shaped pieces flanking it on either side. Many of the tables have extension leaves which, when not in use, fit in below the table top, as in English types of the Jacobean period.

In the pedestal type of table there are also varieties in which the end pieces are cut out of a single heavy plank, making a pedestal with an outline of curves and indenta tions of fantastic form. These are early tables and were used in the times when benches along each side were employed instead of chairs. The most primitive type, which persisted in the country farmhouses long after the adoption of other styles in the cities, is a simple trestle table, braced with one centre and two diagonal stretches of wood.

One of the most interesting of the many types of Spanish tables, and popular in reproductions today, is the table with the end supports that in shape roughly suggest a lyre. These supports are splayed or spread outward as in many early varieties and are also inclined outward from the ends, thus making a table difficult to upset in spite of its comparative narrowness.

In the original pieces the forms of these end supports take on a strange perversity of curves, sometimes pierced with narrow openings suggestive of Chippendale's fret work. Stretchers of iron are always found on this type of table. Color and touches of carving further suggest their Moorish origin.

Tables with slender legs, straight or splayed, and either carved in the form of a twisted spiral or turned in a succession of deeply cut spool-like forms, are another charac teristically Spanish type being reproduced today in adapted form. Legs of these types are often found on small tables and on stands employed to hold the vargueno or Spanish desk. They always have the stretchers of slender iron rods, which on originals display an endless variety of graceful and interesting forms.

Although Spanish homes of an earlier day were not noted for their comfort, they had small tables which, lower in height than the others, become today in antiques or in modern reproductions most serviceable coffee tables. These are found in many styles and are beautiful bits of household furnishings, with their slender legs and curving iron stretchers.

The gateleg table, familiar to us in English or American forms, is also found in Spain in heavier styles. What connection there is between these two seventeenth century forms of the two countries would be a nice bit of research for an inquiring antiquarian. There is also a variety of butterfly table, with pedestal ends in vase-like silhouette, which may be obtained in reproductions that are delightfully "early" in appearance.

Important in the design of many Spanish tables are the iron stretchers, which are a distinctly Iberian contribution to table construction. In old examples these iron bars un hook, permitting the legs to be taken off for transportation. This early furniture in Spain, like that of other countries in the Middle Ages, was part of the personal household equipment that a Spanish grandee took with him whenever he moved from one stronghold to another under the exigencies of a warlike and unsettled age.

In some of the tables being reproduced by makers of fine furniture the more picturesque Spanish types seem to be selected. These are almost all directly traceable to the Moorish influence in Spanish furniture, which, up to the seventeenth century and even later, gave that air to Spanish art that we today find so exotic. The fantasies of form and color characteristic of these Mudejar products make them especially interesting additions to the brightly hued interiors of twentieth century America.

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