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OAK

FURNITURE The British Tradition Victor Chinnery

Revised Edition


Chapter One: Time and Place – The Historical Context

FIGURE 1:1. Central hearth with reredos (reconstruction) at Hendre'rywydd Uchaf Farm, Llangynhafal, Denbigh-shire. This open hearth is built on the site of the original hearth in this late fifteenth century timberframed farm-house. The iron trammel hangs from a roof beam to support the bronze cauldron over a peat fire. The floor of beaten earth would still be found in many poor rural homes in the seventeenth century.

winter the family would sit and talk or work around this little life-giving arena. Their backs would freeze while their fronts roasted, and the smoke from the peat or log fire would find its way out as best it could through windows or roof vents. The discomforts of a smoky atmosphere and a sooty roof can well be imagined, and it seems that the provision of a canopy over important persons (and sometimes over the whole dais) had a very practical purpose in halls with an open hearth. Accumulations of soot must occasionally have worked loose, with disconcerting effect on those below. The development of stone or brick wall-chimneys and timber-framed hood chimneys (see Figure 3:5) proceeded throughout the Middle Ages, but by 1500 they were still to be found only in rich houses and monasteries. In the sixteenth century, and especially in the great surge of vernacular building which marked the reign of Elizabeth I, chimneys became the rule rather than the exception. This followed closely on the wider adoption of coal for domestic fires, with its acrid smoke and tarry deposits. Many inventories record the use of iron 20

grates or furnaces in which to burn the ‘sea-cole’ in conjunction with a chimney, and there is some evidence that portable charcoal grates were used indoors. 1540…a court chimney made gratewise upon wheels… 1558…cole baskettes, for seacole… 1590…In my owne chamber…one iron chimney… In the lowe hall…one iron chimney… 1603…a cradell of iron to burn sea-cole… 1680…one small furnace with ye irons… The space around the hearth was preserved in traditional homes by reserving a wide chimney opening, supported by a huge fire-beam or ‘bressumer’ (Figure 1:2). This open hearth or ‘inglenook’ became the focus of household life in the same way as the old central hearth had been, and many were ample enough to accommodate the seated family with all their iron and brass pots, pans, trivets, spits and all the other paraphernalia of down-hearth cookery.


Chapter One: Time and Place – The Historical Context

Interior Decoration As if to signal its importance in the life of the home, the fireplace was enriched to serve as the decorative focus of the room; and the hall fireplace was usually the most elaborate of all (Figure 1:3). In well-to-do homes, the chimney opening was provided with a carved fire surround, and surmounted with a stone, plaster or wooden overmantel, often charged with the arms of the family and its associates. Elaborate wooden over mantels were made and carved by the joiner to match the scheme of wall-panelling and doorcases which completed the room. In a house of quality, all the architectural woodwork of the house was similarly decorated in a style which embraced staircases, room panelling and the movable furniture (Figure 1.4). It is important to remember that newly finished oak furniture and woodwork is a pale biscuit colour, and not the richly patinated warm black-reds which we see today; and so a visit to a room such as this does not give a true impression of its appearance in the seventeenth century. It is these twin qualities of colour and freshness which are unavoidably missing from any modern reconstruction of a period interior. Whilst we tend to admire the softening and

darkening effect of age, we should try to bear in mind the appearance of fabrics, paints and polished wood when they are new, and when they formed the all-important physical background to movable furnishings. Fabrics of all sorts were an important ingredient in middle and upper class houses of the seventeenth century. Needlework was one of the chief accomplishments of the respectable housewife, and the house was adorned with her handiwork and that of her daughters. Decorative fabrics from the professional hand were also much in demand, and inventories are full of references to hangings, cushions, table carpets, foot carpets, screens, and upholstery materials. Side tables and court cupboards were usually covered with a cloth or ‘carpet’, but even the latter might be of quite thin material, though turkeywork was very popular too. 1588…a livery cubbord with a carpett of Turkey worke.Vs. 1594…My greatest Turkey carpet lying on the table in the hall… 1595…One cubborde and a cubborde clothe of Turkie worke…

FIGURE 1:2. Down-hearth fireplace, with oak bressumer. Cilewent Farm, Dyffryn Claerwen, Radnorshire.The house was in existence in 1579, but this fireplace probably dates from the alterations of 1734.

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Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

FIGURE 2:60. Turned rushlight holders. English. All fruitwood, early eighteenth century. The wrought iron stems are found in a wide variety of shapes and adaptations.

FIGURE 2:62. The possetservice dismantled and laid out for use.

FIGURE 2:61. Turned posset-service. English. Sycamore, 1580-1620. This great standing cup is, in reality, a complete treen service of interlocking parts, consisting of a goblet, various boxes for spices and lemons, and a box of ten trenchers. The whole set is finely and delicately turned, with a simple scratched decoration.

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Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

represents the earliest form of shaping machinery employed by man. Indeed, the two crafts share many common principles and many words in their descriptive language. The very terms ‘turner’ and ‘thrower’ mean precisely the same thing.The turner (Lat. tornare, OE. tyrnan) is classical and southern; the thrower (O.Ger. drahan, OE. thrawan) is Teutonic and northern. When we talk of ‘throwing a pot’, this has nothing to do with the potter’s action of forcibly dropping the clay lump on to the wheelhead. It refers to the spin of the wheel (as with the spin of the lathe), and to the manner in which the thrower forms the pot, exerting a pressure in opposition to that exerted by the inertia of the spinning clay. Thus, the classic turned chairs are described in English inventories as both ‘turneyed’ and ‘throwen’. Experiments were made at various times with sources of mechanical power to drive turners’ lathes, but even into the present century the most common source of motive power for country turners was provided by the turner’s own foot operating the treadle of the simple pole-lathe, or the energy of an enthusiastic apprentice turning a geared fly-wheel by hand. With the pole-lathe, the work was spun first one way by the downward kick of the operator, then it spun back under the

FIGURE 2:63. Turned standing cup. English. Sycamore, dated 1611. One of a series of extremely fine standing cups, mostly having steeple covers, and decorated with a very accomplished series of armorials and inscriptions. See Edward Pinto, ‘Treen, and other wooden bygones’, pp.34-37.

were sometimes served by a concentration of tradesmen, such as those based in Wymondham, who produced spindles for the nearby textile trade of Norwich, as well as supplying the domestic needs of the region: “Wyndham was once celebrated for the manufacture of wooden spindles, spoons and other turnery ware…” 17 The principle of turnery, which consists essentially of shaping a piece of wood with chisels whilst it revolves around an axis between the jaws of a lathe, was laboriously but precisely defined in the seventeenth century: “…Any Substance, be it Wood, Ivory, Brass, etc., pitcht steddy upon two points (as on an Axis), and moved about on that Axis, also describes a Circle concentric to the Axis; And an Edge-Tool set steddy to that part of the Aforesaid Substance that is nearest the Axis, will in a Circumvolution of that Substance, cut off all the parts of Substance that lies further off the Axis and make the outside of that Substance also Concentrick to the Axis… This is a brief Collection, and indeed the whole Summ of Turning…” 18 The use of the turner’s lathe, as with the potter’s wheel,

FIGURE 2:64. Turned money box. English. Ash, bound with iron, painted red, mid-seventeenth century.

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Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

FIGURE 2:86. Turned armchair. English; Cumberland. Ash, late seventeenth century.

FIGURE 2:87. Turned armchair. English; London. Ash, late seventeenth century. Until 1902, this chair served the President of the Placemen at the London City Cornmeter’s Office.This might be thought an archaic form for a London origin at such a date, and may have been brought from outside.

Such a confusion of imprecise and conflicting evidences makes an accurate dating impossible. Whereas a date c.1300 seems possible, it cannot be discounted that the chair may be an archaic product of the sixteenth century. At the very least it represents a type which was current throughout the Middle Ages, but which are now extremely rare. Another famous example is the Erasmus Chair at Queen’s College, Cambridge, which (if the attribution is correct) must date from shortly before 1500. Whatever the early history of four-post turned chairs, a consistent form had developed by c.1600. The elaborate chairs of the seventeenth century are represented here by Figures 2:84-87. They are directly in the tradition of the earlier chairs, with an abundance of rings, reels and balusters. Three have seats of turned spindles (Type iii), and wing-pieces which project out from each rear upright, in similar manner to the upholstered easy chair. By the end of the seventeenth century, popular styles are reflected in chairs of progressively simpler design. This is not to suggest that simpler chairs are necessarily of later date, since a cheap form of turned and rush-seated chair had been in common production ever since the Middle Ages; but it is true to say that by 1720 the demand for elaborate versions was in

decline, and the simpler versions remained as the standard chair in poorer homes. These were of two basic types: the spindleback, which featured a series of turned spindles in different combinations; and the ladder-back, which consisted of a row of horizontal slats of various profiles. The latter appear to have been termed ‘slatted chairs’ in the eighteenth century and perhaps earlier. Examples are given here of each type, from both the British Isles and America. The earlier models are distinguished by elaborate finials to the rear posts, but during the eighteenth century the importance and prominence of the finials declined. Also, the earlier chairs are often more heavily built, but it would be wrong to adopt the rule-of-thumb (as Wallace Nutting did) that “heavier means earlier.” In America, popular mythology classified turned chairs as ‘Brewster’ or ‘Carver’ types, according to whether or not they are fitted with rows of spindles beneath the seat and arms. This is by way of association with two of the Pilgrim Fathers who are supposed to have owned such chairs: William Brewster (Ruling Elder, d.1644); and John Carver (first Governor of the Plimoth Colony, d.1621).This distinction is in fact meaningless, since it has no significance with regard to the constructional form, date, or regional origins; and the same makers made both

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Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

FIGURE 2:88. Turned armchair. English. Ash, painted red, late seventeenth century.

FIGURE 2:89. Turned armchair. English. Ash and fruitwood, with later wicker seat, c.1700.

FIGURE 2:90. Turned armchair. American; New England. Hickory and ash, 1660-1700.

FIGURE 2:91. Turned armchair. American; New England. Ash and maple, with rush seat, 1660-1700.

FIGURE 2:92. Turned armchair. American; New England. Maple, with rush seat, 1660-1700.

FIGURE 2:93. Turned child’s high chair. American; New England. Ash, with rush seat, 1660-1700.

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Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

FIGURE 2:130. Coffermakers’ armchair. English, made for Hampton Court. Joined beech frame, with velvet cover, early seventeenth century. This is the late form of X-chair, which is no longer made to fold. Branded ‘HC 1661’.

morticed between front and back. With this construction, these particular chairs retain the original function of the X-chair as a folding chair. But by 1600 this function is forgotten, and most later X-form armchairs are of fixed construction. These later coffermaker’s chairs have arms which conform more closely to the scrolled form of joined chairs, and indeed the generally improved frames suggest that these were supplied by joiners. The most important collection of early upholstered furniture is the remarkable group now at Knole, and two of the present examples are drawn from here (Figures 2:130 and 134). The first appearance of upholder's chairs, i.e. using frames quite obviously supplied by the joiner, coincides with the general adoption of turned decoration to open-frame chairs, and the earliest survivals date from the very end of the sixteenth century (Figure 2:132). The turned legs and the general form of such chairs conform exactly to those of the panel-back and wooden seated varieties.The demarcated functions of the joiners and upholders are demonstrated not only by the obvious processes involved, but on the evidence of documentary sources; e.g. Nicholas Reade, Court Joiner to James I, was frequently paid 98

FIGURE 2:131. Upholders’ armchair. English. Walnut, with pine frame to the back, c.1685. There was a revived and nostalgic fashion for X-chairs after 1660, but survivals are rare owing to a basic weakness of the design as expressed here, and the usual materials (walnut, beech).

FIGURE 2:131b. Charles V of France, seated on a low-backed X-frame armchair. The slung leather seat has a fringed cushion, and the back-rest is formed by a slung strap with a similar fringe. Note the foot cushion.The frame of the armchair is left uncovered.


Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

FIGURE 2:132. Upholders’ armchair. English. Joined oak frame, 1580-1630, with later cover.

FIGURE 2:133. Upholders’ armchair. English. Joined oak frame, mid-seventeenth century, with later cover.

for making and repairing the timber structure of various types of chairs, including X-chairs and chairs of estate. These must have been upholstered, yet nowhere is he credited with attending to upholstery work. On the other hand, his contemporary Ralph Grinder, the Court Upholster, was paid for work on various chairs, for example in 1623 for “…covering two chaires of state of crimson gould tissue, and for fustian, downe, girthwebbe and buckram, guilt nailes and bullion nailes…”,36 and for tasselled cushions and baize cases for the same. In turn, his bills do not specify work on the frames. Apart from turnings, joined frames also allow other scope for decoration to the woodwork (such as carving, painting and gilding), as well as wider scope with the size and form of the piece. Following this flexibility, although chairs and stools were always the more common varieties, larger pieces were developed.Various terms were used for these, such as ‘couch’ or ‘day-bed’ (later ‘settee’ and ‘sopha’), but most of them were essentially upholstered settles. Several early seventeenth century examples survive at Knole (Figure 2:134), but they did not become common until after 1660.

Before 1600 there was a fashion in France which followed the Moorish custom of sitting on large cushions, instead of chairs. These might have leather bottoms, or they could be placed on low stools provided for the purpose. There is some evidence that this fashion was occasionally followed in England, e.g. at Knole c.1620, and at Ham House c.1670. At both houses there exist low stools which are usually thought to be footstools, but they may in fact be cushion stands which substitute for chairs (see Chapter Three - squab stools, cushion stools). A variety of materials was used for the padding of stuffed upholstery (often referred to in early inventories as ‘quilted’ work). The best quality normally used feathers, down, sheep’s wool or curled horsehair; but simple work was often stuffed with grass, chaff, leaves, straw or rushes. The by-laws of the Upholsters’ Guild, in particular with regard to bedding, forbade the use of “…deers hair, goats hair, etc. which is wrought in grease and if foul give out, by the heat of a man’s body, a savour so abominable and contagious that many are destroyed thereby…)37 99


Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

FIGURES 2:235a and 2:235b Details of Figure 2:235. The texture and condition of the paintwork is very clear in this detailed view, and note should be made of the typical manner in which the paint has flaked at various points, particularly on those edges exposed to wear. The palette of colours is varied but harmonious, and the surface condition remarkably clean.

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Chapter Two: Makers and Methods – The Practical Context

FIGURE 2:236. Joined chest of drawers. American; Ipswich, Massachusetts. Red oak, painted black, white and red, dated 1678. Inscribed ‘ISM’ for John and Margaret Staniford, of Ipswich.

heirloom of the Staniford-Heard families until 1930, and was originally purchased as the marriage chest of John and Margaret Staniford of Ipswich, Essex County, who married in 1678. The Stanifords were friends and close neighbours of the Ipswich joiner Thomas Dennis (q.v.) , and this fact has led to the rather hasty conclusion that he must have been the maker of this chest and a whole related group.79 Stylistically, the Staniford chest is part of a regional group based in Essex County, but it has the best preserved and most varied scheme of paint in the whole group (see pp.460-463). The character of this chest is, in detail and conception, quite different from its English cousin described above. The range of colours is limited to black, white and red; the independent painted motifs are restricted to simple plant-like linear scrolls and dots; and the colour decoration is altogether more closely related to the underlying form of the carved, moulded and turned fabric beneath. The disposition of the drawers has been in dispute for many years, but the present layout would seem to be correct, since the Winterthur Museum has found that they fit better this way. Painted and stained decoration is seen to have been a very popular feature in American furniture of all periods, though a great many early pieces lost their original paintwork during the irrational craze for ‘Golden Oak’ in the early days of American collecting after the Centennial of 1876.Whether or not painted

Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, Gift of Henry Francis du Pont, 1957.541

mixture of woods (including oak, walnut, elm and pine), which lends credence to the assumption that it was intended from the outset to be finished with paint (Figures 2:235, 2:235a and 2:235b). The great attraction and importance of this piece lies in the unusually complete and unrestored state of its painted finish. Of course, the surface has suffered a little from the effects of worm and abrasions, but there can be very few comparable items in existence. The scheme of the painting is largely independent of the underlying form, except where the mouldings and split turnings are picked out in colour. There is an undercoat of pale grey which is revealed in worn patches; and the top coat consists of a freely handled medley of dark and light grey-blues, dark green, scarlet, yellow ochre, black and white. The rosy cheeked atlantes enjoy a very realistic flesh tint, and further motifs include a virile mixture of dragons, baskets of flowers, and floral arches. Unfortunately, nothing is known of the origins of this chest until its appearance at Burderop Park, Wiltshire, early in this century. At the sale of the contents in 1974, there was a painted tester bed in a somewhat similar palette of colours, but the two were not stylistically related. An American chest of drawers is shown in Figure 2:236, which is superficially comparable to the Burderop chest, but conversely this Massachusetts piece carries a very full provenance. Two of the drawers are inscribed respectively with the date and initials ‘ISM’ and ‘1678’ (which makes it the earliest dated American chest of drawers). The chest was an

FIGURE 2:237. Joined press cupboard. American; Connecticut Valley, possibly Wethersfield. Oak and pine, black painted details, late seventeenth century. The raw appearance of this piece is due to a complete refinishing carried out early in the present century, leaving an over-all impression of newness (cf. Figure 4:213).

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Chapter Three: Form and Language – The Functional Types and Nomenclature

FIGURE 3:52. Joined armchair. Welsh. Oak, mid-seventeenth century. The rich turned and carved decoration of this chair is typical of a small group of similar examples which deserve further investigation (see Figure 3:53). “One of a group from the Wesh Marches area. The chief decorative feature is a series of turned spindles, rarely found on chairs.” (Extract from The Forms of Turning in Early Oak Furniture by Victor Chinnery, Antique Collecting article 1976.)

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Chapter Three: Form and Language – The Functional Types and Nomenclature

FIGURE 3:53. Joined armchair. Welsh Borders. Oak, mid-seventeenth century. Compare the details of construction and turnings with those on the previous example.

FIGURE 3:54. Joined armchair. Side view of Figure 3:55, demonstrating the joint between arm and the arm support, in which the latter ends with a turned finial.

FIGURE 3:55. Joined armchair. English. Oak, c.1600.

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Chapter Three: Form and Language – The Functional Types and Nomenclature

FIGURE 3:86. Joined stool. English. Oak, early seventeenth century.

FIGURE 3:87. Joined stool. English. Yewtree, c.1640.

FIGURE 3:88. Joined stool. English. Oak, c.1640.

FIGURE 3:89. Joined bench. English. Oak, c.1640.

FIGURE 3:90. Joined bench. English. Oak, mid-seventeenth century.

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Chapter Three: Form and Language – The Functional Types and Nomenclature a

b

c

DIAGRAM 3:1. Methods of pegging the top of a joined stool. These are the three patterns in which tops may be found. a). is the most satisfactory, and c). is the least. Boarded stools often have pegged tops, but sometimes the uprights are tenoned through the tops and cut off flush with the seat.

FIGURE 3:91. Joined stool. English. Oak, midseventeenth century.

FIGURE 3:92. Joined stool. English. Oak, c.1680.

FIGURE 3:93. Joined stool. English. Oak, c.1680.

FIGURE 3:94. Joined stool. English. Oak, c.1680 (the feet replaced).

FIGURE 3:95. Joined stool. English. Oak, dated 1681.

FIGURE 3:96. Joined stool. American; New England. White oak, c.1680.

FIGURE 3:97. Joined stool. English. Oak, c.1680.

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Chapter Three: Form and Language – The Functional Types and Nomenclature

FIGURE 3:451a. Joined polychrome tester bed. English. Oak from Burderop Park, Wiltshire 1580-1630.55

FIGURE 3:451b. Detail of the bed in Figure 3:451a.

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Chapter Three: Form and Language – The Functional Types and Nomenclature

FIGURE 3:452. Joined tester bedstead. Welsh. Oak, c.1505. This is the great bed of Sir Rhys ap Thomas of Dynefwr, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire (d.1527). Only the centre portions of the four posts and the three tester valances are original in this rearrangement. The valances are shown in detail in Figures 3:453a, b and c.

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Chapter Four: The Stylistic Themes – A Decorative and Regional Chronology

FIGURE 4:60. Joined armchair. English; Salisbury. Walnut, dated 1585. This and the following chair are now housed in Salisbury Museum, The King’s House.

FIGURE 4:61. Joined armchair. English; Salisbury. Walnut, dated 1622. Probably made by Humphrey Beckham, a joiner and carver (1588-1671).

FIGURE 4:58. Detail of armchair in Figure 4:60. The initials on the cresting-rail are for Robert Bower, Mayor, who presented the chair to the Corporation of New Sarum in 1585, for use in the new Council House.The coat of arms is that of the city (Salisbury), and was newly-granted in that year.

FIGURE 4:59. Detail of armchair in 4:61.The initials on the cresting-rail are for Maurice Greene, Mayor, who presented the chair to the Corporation of New Sarum in 1622, to match the existing chair of 1585 in the Council House. The design and execution of the panel and crest of this later chair are far better than the earlier one.

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Chapter Four: The Stylistic Themes – A Decorative and Regional Chronology

FIGURE 4:61a. Oak armchair, Salisbury, early seventeenth century. Probably made in the Beckham workshop in Salisbury. Despite losses to the lower extremities, the upper parts of the chair are in good condtion. (See A Salisbury Armchair Lost and Found by Victor Chinnery, Furniture History Society Vol. XXXIII 1997.)

Figure 4:61c. Similar to fig 4:61a but the curved profile of the seat and arms are unusual in this group of chairs (Most are angled or canted). Compare the scrolled band carving of the back framing with the supporting columns to the arches of the pulpit of Durrington Church (a few miles north east of Salisbury).

FIGURE 4:61b. Detail of armchair in fig. 4:61a; the ‘Romayne’ head is a remarkably late expression of the fashion introduced into England a century previously.

1). Salisbury and District, 1580-1650 (Figures 4:58-4:78) Perhaps the earliest reference to locally-made furniture in Salisbury was the ‘chair of Sarum make’ noted in the Principal Chamber, in the 1440 inventory of the Old Deanery,12 in the same year as the Carpenters’ Guild was first mentioned in the Corporation Ledger. But the earliest datable piece with an undoubted Salisbury provenance is the Council House chair of 1585 (Figures 4:58 and 4:60), which was donated for use in the new Council House of that year by the incumbent Mayor, Robert Bower. His initials are on the cresting-rail of the chair (Robert Bower, Mayor); and the back panel bears the arms of the Corporation of New Sarum. The other initials are those of other city officials. The fact that the chair is made of walnut suggests a special commission, and the carving is highly competent, but unremarkable. A few years later, in 1622, a companion was made for this chair to the same design; but the second chair is the work of a rather more gifted carver (Figures 4:59 and 4:61 and frontispiece).This is also made of walnut, and was the gift of Maurice Green, Mayor.13 The finest features of the chairs are their sculptural crests, with rather plump décolletée ladies supporting date-tablets between them. The back panel of the 1622 chair is exceptionally wellconceived and executed: the design fills the space extremely well, and the carving is crisp and balanced. The relationship between these two chairs is extremely interesting, for although they are separated by a space of thirty-seven years, the later chair 405


Chapter Four: The Stylistic Themes – A Decorative and Regional Chronology

FIGURE 4:225a. Joined chest with drawer. American; Essex County, Massachusetts. Oak and pine, painted black and red, 1690-1705.A small group of chests with identical details are dated between 1693 and 1701 (cf. Figures 4:221 and 4:222). In the present example, the panels are painted with an unusual combination of vertical and horizontal stripes to produce a tartan-like effect.

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Chapter Four: The Stylistic Themes – A Decorative and Regional Chronology

FIGURE 4:226. Boarded chest with drawer. American; Milford, New Haven, Connecticut. Tulip and oak, painted red and black, 1680-1720.

FIGURE 4:228. Boarded press cupboard. American; Hampton, New Hampshire. Tiger maple and pine, c.1720. Possibly made as a dower chest for Sarah Rowell of Hampton Falls, whose initials are on the lower front apron. The painted decoration is in black.

FIGURE 4:227. Boarded chest with drawer. American; Milford, New Haven, Connecticut. Tulipwood, painted red and black, 1680-1720.

In this survey we have looked at the more sophisticated regional aspects of joiners’ work in New England, but it would be wrong not to hint at the rich legacy of vigorous painted furniture made by country carpenters.Very little of this cheaper work survives from before 1700, but the rural artisans were hardly touched by the new fashions of the eighteenth century. They continued to make the traditional forms, though there is some evidence that the black japanned chinoiserie furniture made in Boston did have some influence on the palette of colours used by men such as Robert Crosman of Taunton, Massachusetts (Figure 4:230). Similar groups of sprightly painted chests are known from other areas, including Hadley (Massachusetts), Hampton (New Hampshire), and the Guilford-Saybrook region of the Connecticut Shore.43 Most of these use a rather bland timber in their construction, such as pine or tulipwood (also known as whitewood), but the delightful press cupboard in Figure 4:228 is fronted with boards of curly-grained tiger maple which shines out from the

FIGURE 4:229. Boarded chest with drawer. American; South Massachusetts. Pine and maple, painted white and yellow on a black ground, c.1720. Only the bottom drawer is real, the other three being simulated. The rear feet are cut from natural branches.

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Chapter Four: The Stylistic Themes – A Decorative and Regional Chronology

FIGURE 4:271. Joined cabinet on stand. English. Oak, late seventeenth century. A provincial piece, copying more fashionable models. Note that the rear legs are not spiral-turned, yet follow the general form of the front legs.

eighteenth century oak and fruitwood furniture, particularly from North Wales.The press cupboard of 1722 is a fine example of these panels in use, and even includes some very large versions on the main doors. This late type of fielded panel is usually considered as sufficient decoration on its own, supplemented with the usual simple edge moulding and a heavy cornice; but occasionally they are seen in concert with traditional carving and/or inlay, as in the North Lancashire press cupboard of 1705 (Figure 4:168). The introduction of the cabriole leg in around 1700 opened up new possibilities for the rural joiners, though the absence of stretchers was an alien idea to them. Chairs still demanded the strength and stability which were provided by stretchers, but oak dressers, chests, tables and desks all appeared with clean free-standing cabriole legs by c.1720. Some of these may be accounted a little rustic and clumsy, but many of them matched the elegance of walnut versions (Figures 4:277-4:284), though oak never had the strength to match some of the fine engineering which could be achieved with mahogany. Wales and the North Country played a prominent role in providing the more personable and well-made examples of late joined oak furniture (1680-1800), though there is a real problem in trying to pin down regional variations in the decorative styles of eighteenth century country furniture. Most areas of the British Isles produced items with standardised 476

FIGURE 4:272. Joined press cupboard. Welsh; Denbighshire. Oak, dated 1722.

FIGURE 4:273. Joined hall cupboard. English or Welsh. Oak, mid-eighteenth century. This useful cupboard offers a variety of storage, including six drawers.


Chapter Four: The Stylistic Themes – A Decorative and Regional Chronology

FIGURE 4:273a. Small bureau or standing desk with drawers. English. Ash, with yew tree interior, mid-eighteenth century. A good, small desk of standard type, showing the finely-marked grain of English field-grown ash.

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