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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Bell Pulls

THE old-fashioned bell pull in times past used to summon a servant from "below stairs" has been revived as a useful adjunct to certain period rooms. With an electric button concealed in its tassel or handle it may call the maid or butler as in the old days, and in addition it forms a reminiscent bit of room decoration.

The esthetic uses of the bell pull are many. A pair hung on either side of a fireplace is alleged to add greater dignity to that focal point, and through the effect of their long, straight lines help to make the walls appear higher than they are. Sometimes such an accentuation is needed near an entrance, and then one of the broad, rich-looking bell pulls will, by its vertical lines, strengthen the line of the door. Often a bell pull is considered just the thing to fill a vacant spot on the wall and provide variety. Bell pulls in the form of broad bands are used to conceal tlie necessary modern button for a bell or the switch for control of the electric lights.

Bell pulls are made of many kinds of fabric, ranging from coarse canvas to velvets and damasks. The lighter materials are backed with leather. While many of the old bell pulls are still obtainable, one may have a bell pull made up of antique materials which will be an exact reproduction of an eighteenth century example.

In embellishing bell pulls, embroidery, cross-stitch, petit point and beaded work were extensively used. During the period that the bell pull gave service-from before the six teenth century to the early part of the nineteenth-there were many style changes. Broad bands of tapestry recall the days when this fabric on chairs and sofas matched the bell pulls. On others one finds the impress of the patterns of the Italian Renaissance, or reflection in a small compass of the decorative motifs used in France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The bell pull's handles or tassels were of various sorts. Beautifully carved handles of bone or ivory that once were used no doubt by ladies of Queen Anne's time, or perhaps a hundred years later by a hostess in hoopskirts who rose from a chair that Chippendale himself had made, to ring for tea, are still to be had. More rare are handles in red or turquoise blue Bohemian glass, or a Dutch type of pressed glass, perhaps in the form of a bunch of grapes. Rings of bronze and of hand-wrought iron, gilded and lacquered; tiny jewel-like handles of cut glass; tassels of red or green or blue; sumptuous ones of gold or silver thread-such handles, in another age, were generally made to order, to harmonize with the rest of the furnishings, or they were fashioned by the housewife in her leisure moments.

A characteristic ornamentation on the band or cord consisted of small white glass beads. In many patterns these are combined with petit or gros point to form a floral design that meanders along the broad band of the bell pull. Generally the flower part of the pattern is made of beads, while the dark stems and the green leaves are formed by the needlework.

Large cords heavily covered with beads form another variety of bell pull. Sometimes instead of a single cord two lighter ones are employed, twisted together. Bell pulls of small links of cord are also found, although these have not the beauty of the simple straight hanging cord.

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