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The Cabochon And Leaf Period

Following the lion and satyr mask period came the cabochon-and-leaf period, which was, of course, a French ornament. This very characteristic design is recognised immediately by the connoisseur, enabling him to locate chairs made during that period, which extended from 1735-1750. The cabochon, often set in a frame accompanied by leaf ornament, is usually seen on the knees of chairs and legs of tables. This novel and interesting representation of a polished jewel (see Glossary) is recognised at once, constituting a distinct feature, although often used in conjunction with lions' feet and the clawand-ball and other styles made in conjunction with it.

It is said that Chippendale was a great copyist of earlier models, and that he favoured much the cabochonand-leaf ornament, his earlier designs at any rate showing no trace of any attachment to the lion and satyr mask ornaments. Some of Chippendale's early designs show the leaf of large size enclosing a beautifully modelled cabochon, which, when polished by long years of frequent rubbing, closely resembles a jewel.


To sum up the furniture of the period under review it may be pointed out that the different styles of ornament which had been introduced during the Queen Anne and early Georgian days formed the groundwork on which the cabinet - makers, freed from royal patronage and the governing influence of any foreign country, based their own English ideas, which gave to the furniture world characteristic styles expressing the individuality of the designer and master cabinet-maker. Mahogany was in the ascendency, and was used freely by architects. There were many remarkable doors and over-doors of the beautifully figured wood, fine wardrobe fronts, and chests of drawers with figured panels.. There were mahogany side-tables and, later, sideboards, Card-tables were made in great numbers, especially those with lion decoration, produced in mahogany and walnut between the years 1720-1730. Bedsteads, which had hitherto been of plain designs, were carved and turned from solid mahogany. Side by side with the flat-fronted chests, serpentine and bow-fronted chests were made. So-called clothes' cup-boards took the place of oak wardrobes, and gradually superseded the " commode cloth presses " of the days of Queen Anne and George I. Many people were employing local cabinet-makers to produce desks and writing-tables, and among some of the historic pieces now carefully pre-served are quaint old tables and desks made in the early days of the eighteenth century. In the Victoria and Albert Museum, among recent acquisitions, is a writing cabinet of solid walnut wood, said to have belonged to Dean Swift. It has a fall-front and beautifully inlaid small drawers and compartments. The break-front desk is surmounted by a cupboard which has glass doors, such desks with bookcases over them becoming popular. From 1720-1735 mahogany cabinets or curiosity cupboards were made, but they were mostly used for china.. A little later many of these cupboards were supplied to those who were already securing beautiful tea-sets and oriental porcelain.

A distinct advance was made about 1740, greater harmony in style being seen in the treatment of the design. Legs of chairs corresponded with the design of the chair-backs, and ornamental splats were in keeping with other ornament.

At that time scagliola tables superseded marble, the material being an excellent imitation and much cheaper. Slabs of this new material, which was composed of calcined gypsum, isinglass, and Flanders glue, coloured to imitate marbles, were shipped from Italy about 1735. This imitation gave an impetus to the manufacture of tables, for it was less expensive than marble, and very effective, being used on carved mahogany frames which were sometimes parcel-gilt.

The day had dawned for the personality of makers to show itself, and in the following chapters such men as the Brothers Adam, Thomas Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton are shown to be prominent factors in the styles of English furniture therein illustrated and reviewed.

As illustrative of the Georgian period the accompanying reproductions of photographs are helpful to the home connoisseur. They represent the different kinds of ornament used on the console tables then in use. Fig. 46 is a very beautiful console table with marble top ; the mask in the centre is finely cut and supported with appropriate scroll work. The cabochon-and-leaf ornament of the legs is rather unusual and especially effective, the legs terminating with hoof feet. In the centre rail is seen the typical shell.

Fig. 47 represents a handsome walnut table with claw-and-ball feet, and shell ornament in the centre ; the feet are exceptionally good. This beautiful piece, with marble top, is of the period 1715-1720. Fig. 48 is another handsome table with drawer, with fine handles and large escutcheon. There is a beautiful shell in the centre, and the legs show an unusually bold display of satyr masks and carved claw feet. It is of the period 1720-1740. The Georgian mahogany book-case (shown full of beautiful old china), illustrated in Fig. 49, has a pleasing carved cornice, and is of a much later period than that referred to in this chapter, probably about 1790. The bracket foot and central double bracket support are well represented. It is an excellent example of the serviceable furniture made during the closing years of the eighteenth century, and also during the years in the nineteenth century preceding the Victorian era.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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