Chairs And Sofas Part 7

The pieces shown in Figures 100 and 101 are partly veneered, and both have carving. The two others, in Figures 102 and 103, are solid, also with rich carving. The round cushions which often accompany these sofas are called " squabs," and in two of the sofas you may see that they are stationary; while in Figure 101 the places are left for them, but they are wanting. Ma hogany was originally brought from Jamaica, and though first known in 1595, its use was so slow and gradual that not till 1700 was it used with even the least degree of freedom. By the middle of the cen tury it was very popular, and in the hands of Chip pendale acquired an immense vogue. In 1753 more than five hundred thousand feet were sent to London from that island, according to Mr. Frederick Robinson, in his book on " English Furniture," and we know that it was on sale here in the form of planks and logs. This wood is divided in the trade into Spanish mahogany and Honduras mahogany, or baywood. It is the Spanish wood which is the solid, heaAw, and splendidly coloured kind which we all so ardently admire, susceptible of a high polish, and often showing a beautiful waving curl in the grain, which enhances the value of the wood to such an extent that it is used only in the form of veneers.

 Fig. 102 Carved Entire Sofa. Fig. 103 Carved Sofa with Squabs.

According to Mr. Robinson: "The finest curl and figuring of the grain of woods is found in nearly all cases at that part of the tree where the division of the branches from the trunk commences. The best curl is found at the branching of two arms only, away from the trunk, this being less confused than that caused by the diver gence of several arms. A saw-cut made vertically across the tops of the two branching limbs down into the main trunk would exhibit that parting of the ways of the grain which is so valuable for the making of veneers."

The difference of weight between the finest Spanish mahogany and the inferior kinds is very great, a Chippendale-pattern chair in the fine wood being all a woman will care to lift. Tulip and satinwoods were the favourites for the old cabinet-makers to employ in inlaying, and the latter wood comes from a tree which may be found in India, Ceylon, and the West Indies. Tulipwood has the disadvantage of coming only in small pieces, and, besides, is often of such a reddish tone that it has not sufficient contrast to make it shoAAy enough for veneer on mahogany. Lancewood is a modern substitute for satimvood, and the shafts of old vehicles, like the " One Hoss Shay," are eagerly sought for cutting into strips.

With satin, tulip, lance, and " harewood," which is sycamore stained, ebony was in great demand. The strips of this latter wood are often only one thirty-second of an inch in thickness, and serve to mark the strip of light wood with better effect than if omitted.

Besides being used as an inlay, whole articles of ebony were very much in demand, and were often splendidly carved. The Dutch excelled in the use of this wood, and ebony boxes and cabinets were not un common, though quite costly. Horace Walpole, a collector of rare and valuable objects of whatever na ture, seems to have had a fancy for this rare wood. In his letters is the following paragraph, dated May 30, 1763.

"I believe I am the first man that ever went sixty miles to an auction. As I came for ebony, I have been up to my chin in ebony; there is literally nothing in the house but ebony; all the other goods (if there were any, and I trust my Lady Conyers did not sleep upon ebony matrasses) are taken away. There are two tables and eighteen chairs, all made by the Hallet of two hundred years ago. These I intend to have. There are more plebian chairs of the same materials, but I have left commission for only this true black blood."

He speaks with the ring of the true enthusiast, and though he may have been the first man to travel sixty miles to an auction, he is not the last, for men, and women too, cross an ocean uoav to get a rare and desired bargain.

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Source

The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

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