In Which a Christmas Pudding is Devoured

George_Woodward__Christmas_Pudding_c1796_01b_LWLGeorge Woodward, The Christmas Pudding, circa 1796. (Lewis Walpole Library)

The young lad, scoffing his Christmas pudding at a tripod table, is sitting on a chair with a rather splendid (and festive looking) case.

Below is a copy of The Christmas Pudding by Charles Williams, made some ten years after Woodward’s print.

Charles_Williams__Christmas_Pudding_c1806_01a_LWLCharles Williams, The Christmas Pudding, circa 1806. (Lewis Walpole Library)

Season’s greetings to one and all!

Jack Plane

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Of Superlative Mahogany Furniture and Oiled, Ripped Bodies

In the introductory paragraph of his description of a Chippendale period gentleman’s press, Oxfordshire dealer, David Harvey began:

I suppose the name Chippendale is to many synonymous with male strip tease shows […]

Jack Plane

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Of Grain Direction and Tea

Seemingly it wasn’t only mouldings that were cross-grained in the late seventeenth-century:

I have been troubled this day about a difference between my wife and her maid Nell, who is a simple slut, and I am afeard we shall find her a cross-grained wench.[1]

Historically, this is a good day for a nice cup of tea, but as the needle is presently sitting on 32°C, I’m having mine in a long glass with ice and a slice of lemon.

Jack Plane

[1] Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for the 15th of December, 1661.

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Ives, Diall’s & Co. Oil and Spirit Varnish Manufactory

Before the process of ‘French polishing’ was broadly adopted for finishing woodwork, a great deal of eighteenth-century furniture was simply, but skilfully polished with spirit varnish, laid on with a brush and then flattened. Colophony, copal, mastic, sandarac and shellac were the most common resins employed in the manufacture of spirit varnishes.

The early nineteenth-century Ives, Diall’s & Co. flyer below lists “Fine pale Copal Varnish for Painting or Cabinet Work”.

Ives_Diall’s_&_Co_manufactory_of_oil_and_spirit_varnish_c1801-15_01aIves, Diall’s & Co. Manufactory of Oil & Spirit Varnish, circa 1801-15. (Lewis Walpole Library)

The inclusion, in the list, of “Fine finishing Japan Lacker” and “Fine polishing Japan Lacker” coincides with one of the many revivals in chinoiserie and japanning.

It is also interesting to see mention of “Fine Gold Lacker” which was used as a substitute for fire-gilding on furniture brasses and other brassware.

Jack Plane

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A Carve-Up at Bonhams

Following on from some of the horrendous carve-ups in Picture This XXXIX, Bonhams are auctioning an early George III mahogany (and later-carved) bird-cage action supper table (lot 226) at their Knightsbridge rooms on the 16th of December 2014.

Geo_III_later-carved_supper_table_01aEarly George III mahogany supper table with later carving to the top and base. (Bonhams)

Jack Plane

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Picture This XXXIX

Q. How does ‘Vicobethan’ and ‘Vicobean’ furniture (tasteless, disproportionate, black-varnished factory-made Victorian tat produced in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Elizabethan and Jacobean styles) make an appearance on this blog?

A. When perfectly good Carolean, Queen Anne and Georgian furniture has been defaced by Victorian wastrels to keep abreast of trends.

In the Victorian era, middle- and upper classes prospered and many wealthy profligate gentlemen who, with nothing better to occupy their time, thought it amusing to roll up their starched white shirt sleeves, in imitation of the working class, and recklessly carve anything and everything around the home in the then fashionable Elizabethan and Jacobean revival taste.

Chas_II_oak_gateleg_table_c1680_01aFig. 1. A perfectly lovely little Charles II oak gateleg table, circa 1680.

Chas_II_later-carved_gateleg_table_c1660_01dFig. 2. A very similar, but Vicobethan-ised seventeenth-century oak gateleg table. (Black Sheep Antiques)

Chas_II_later-carved_gateleg_table_c1660_01eFig. 3. They missed the insides of the rails. (Black Sheep Antiques)

Looking like some of the finest modern chainsaw carving, later-carved antique furniture often includes spurious Elizabethan or Jacobean dates (fig. 4).

Chas_II_later-carved_oak_chest_c1660_01aFig. 4. ‘Enhanced’ circa 1660 oak chest with wishful Jacobean date.

Geo_I_later-carved_walnut_bureau_c1720_01aFig. 5. Vicobean embellishment of a circa 1720 walnut bureau. (Epoca)

Geo_I_later-carved_walnut_bureau_c1720_01cFig. 6. I’m searching for an antonym for admiration… Words fail me. (Epoca)

Geo_III_later-carved_oak_chest_c1760_01aFig. 7. ‘Improved’ circa 1760 oak chest.

Geo_III_mahogany_supper_table_c1760_03bFig. 8. A good George III mahogany tilt top supper table, circa 1760…

Geo_III_later_carved_supper_table_01bFig. 9. … and a Vicobean-ised example.

Geo_III_mahogany_bureau_carve-up_01aFig. 10. Once a splendid circa 1790 mahogany bureau bookcase, carved and dark-stained in the nineteenth-century to resemble Jacobean oak.

Talk about carving up the inheritance!

Little of this vandalised furniture now remains in Britain, the vast majority having found its way to more appreciative collectors in the former colonies.

Jack Plane

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Picture This XXXVIII

In A Double Bow Windsor Chair – Part Eight, I mentioned some of the shades and hues of green that were used to paint Windsor chairs. When restoring old Windsors, it’s apparent that some paints were better formulated than others – perhaps due to the inclusion of stable pigments, though more likely through the use of superior oils and resins.

The flyer below advertises several qualities of cheap green paint for outdoor use, of which, the names of some strike a cord.

James_Crease_and_Son_Cheap_Paints_c1815_01aFlyer for colourmen James Crease and Son, circa 1815. (Lewis Walpole Library)

I wonder how many chairs were lost – or broken noses were incurred – through the use of invisible green paint.

Jack Plane

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North America – All Shook Up

North American readers may be interested in a current exhibition at New York State Museum showing the Shakers enormous influence on North American culture.

ethnicityThe Shakers were radical in their attitudes toward equality. (Shaker Heritage Society)

In the 1770s, the Shakers launched a revolution parallel to that of the North American colonists against British rule. As they sought religious freedom, Shakers’ spiritual beliefs and communal lifestyle set them in opposition to society. Later their product innovations and marketing skill seemed ‘revolutionary’ to the outside world.

shaker_meeting_house_interior_01aShaker Meeting House, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA.

The Shakers, America’s Quiet Revolutionaries runs until the 6th of March, 2016.

Jack Plane

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Picture This XXXVII

Merlin's_mechanical_chair_c1811_01aFig. 1. Merlin’s Mechanical Chair, circa 1811.


   This curious machine, of which a correct perspective view is given in the annexed engraving, is the contrivance of the late ingenious and well-known Merlin. It is expressly calculated for the accommodation of invalids who, from age or infirmity, are unable to walk about, or of persons, under the temporary inconvenience of gout or lameness.

   In the library, or on the lawn, or gravel-walk or the pleasure-ground, chairs of this kind are peculiarly useful and pleasant. They are in construction an easy reclining or arm-chair, with a foot-board, and, at the extremity of each arm, a small winch handle, easily turned by the hands of the person seated, and which, by their connection with an arrangement of wheels below, propel the chair in any required direction, or with any required velocity, at the pleasure of the operator. These operating handles are seen in the drawing at A and B.

   C C are two wheels on which the chair runs, having each on its flat and outer surface a brass face wheel, worked by a smaller one (marked D) fitted on the long axis of the winch handle.

   E is a third wheel or castor, fitted to the back rail of the chair, and which forms a third point of support, and obeys the direction taken by the wheels C C.

   The mode of operation is this:
The party being seated, the small brass rod seen in the drawing, passing through the right hand arm of the chair, is pulled upwards a little way to disengage the wheels, and the winch handle set to point forward as in the position represented in the drawing.

   Now, if the two handles be both turned outwards the chair moves directly forward. If turned inwards it moves directly backwards. If the right-hand winch be turned outwards, the left remaining at rest, the chair turns sharply to the left, moving on its left wheel as a center; and vice versa of the left-hand winch if turned the same way, or of the right-hand one if turned inwards or the contrary way. If the two handles be turned the same way, i. e. both to the right-hand, or both to the left, at the same time, the chair will move sharply round to the right or left, having its center, or the operator himself, as its center.

   The curious evolutions which may thus easily be performed in this chair render it the means of very considerable amusement, as well as of important use, to those who require its agency; but to the mechanical observer it possesses a new interest. It would not be difficult to contrive an arrangement for moving these wheels, or winch handles, by the action of a very small and portable steam-engine, and increasing the dimensions of the whole machine, and adapting to it a suitable upper structure, to render it a most curious mode of quick conveyance, without the agency of animal labour: indeed, it seems to require no great stretch of the imagination to form of the contrivance many other highly interesting machines.

   A suitable construction might be hit upon to enable it to carry a small cannon, which should be, both for itself and its operators, completely unassailable by the enemy, as well as, by the singular rapidity of its evolutions, terribly and unusually destructive.

   In judicious hands, the principle of the machine might possibly be advantageously used in the construction of a self-moving engine for the public conveyance of dispatches, which would have for its leading peculiarities, a rapid and certain rate of travelling, and complete inviolability as to the matters entrusted to its charge.

   Of the interest and value of the contrivance in its present shape, those only can judge correctly who have experienced its singular advantages.

   This drawing is furnished us by Messrs. Morgan and Sanders, of Catherine-street, Strand, whose warehouses are the grand emporium for furniture combining all the essentials of elegance and comfort. [1]

The partnership of Thomas Morgan and Joseph Sanders flourished between 1801 and 1820, supplying metamorphic and campaign furniture to travellers and Army and Navy personnel (including Vice Admiral Nelson).

An 1804 Morgan and Sanders advertisement promotes their range of Portable Chairs, Patent Camp Beds, and Army and Navy Equipage (fig. 2).

Morgan_&_Sanders_trade_card_c1804_01aFig. 2. Morgan and Sanders advertisement, circa 1804. (British Museum)

Right, I need to locate a small portable steam engine and a small cannon for my next project.

Jack Plane

[1] No. 34 of The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, R. Ackermann, 101 Strand, London, 1811, VOL. VI, p. 225.

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George II Walnut Ladderback Chair – Part Five

Having read the last post in this series, a reader kindly emailed me this image of a pair of Grendey chairs with (presumably, later) stuff over seats.

Geo_II_mahogany_ladderback_chairs_c1745_01dFig. 1. Pair of Grendey ladderbacks. (Nick Brock Antiques)

When freshly rushed, the squab was of a variegated – though not unpleasant – green colour (fig. 2).

giiwglc_300814_01aFig. 2. The newly woven seat.

With a combination of natural and artificial colouring, the seat has adopted an older, mellower look (fig. 3).

giiwglc_300814_02aFig. 3. The completed ladderback chair.

As the chair sees regular use, the thick rush fibres will compress and the squab will settle further into the seat rails.

Jack Plane

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