Picture This LXXII

Following on from Picture This LXXI last month, another brace of low-back Windsors has cropped up; however this pair bears no traces of paint.

Geo_III_elm_&_yew_lowback_chairs_c1780_01aGeorge III yew and elm low-back Windsor chairs, circa 1780. (Robert Bradley)

Made of yew, with elm seats, this pair of chairs share many elements with the previous chairs, though rather than being turned, the arm posts are bent.

Jack Plane

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A Wake

It’s time. I lost Virginia on the 29th of December 2014. I seek neither condolences nor sympathy. I have largely succeeded in keeping my personal life from scrutiny (with the exception of a few furniture/celebration-related occurrences), but today’s post, though keenly personal on one level, involves a venerated and significant variety of Irish table.

In many Western cultures, death is semi-taboo: Broaching a recent ‘passing’ (‘death’ is avoided) can be awkward or uncomfortable and is often accompanied by seemingly endless tears. At an English funeral, offering condolences to a widow or widower is usually achieved by muttering some brief, incoherent eulogy while grinding an imaginary cigarette butt into the ground with the toe of a polished-for-the-occasion black shoe.

In (predominantly Catholic) Ireland, by contrast, the death of a loved one is marked with a celebration of their life. Respectful laughter proliferates at wakes as embellished stories involving the deceased are recalled or swapped between attendees who come from every art and part. There is little or no morosity – not even amongst the woman folk who throng the kitchen, preparing sandwiches and other comestibles.

The centre of the ‘good room’ is cleared and The Table (fig. 1) is sent for, upon which the body is laid out for mourners to approach and bid their farewells.

Geo_III_Irish_oak_wake_table_c1800_02aFig. 1. George III oak wake table, circa 1800. (James Graham-Stewart)

The wake table’s leaves are raised on either side of the corpse and arrayed with sandwiches, gifts of whiskey or poteen and bowls of cigarettes and tobacco. The deceased remains atop the table where they are watched over, day and night, until distant friends and relatives have had the opportunity to pay their respects before the corpse is interred.

Poorer parishes’ wake tables, often the property of the church, were normally made of alder, elm or oak (I’ve also seen one made of rowan), while mahogany tables – or at least mahogany topped, oak-framed tables – were curated or owned by local dignities.

Solid mahogany wake tables (fig. 2) are popular amongst the English who call them ‘hunt tables’ (any association with death would be altogether too icky).

Geo_III_Irish_mahogany_wake_table_c1760_01a_Thomas_CoulbornFig. 2. George III mahogany wake table, circa 1760. (Thomas Coulborn)

The wake table’s portative nature lent it to being moved to the front of the local landowner’s pile come the annual fox-hunt where, with just one leaf raised, a lackey would stand behind it dispensing drinks to the un-mounted while those on horseback partook of the stirrup cup (fig. 3).

John_Nott_Sartorius_1755-1828_The_Stirrup_Cup_c1784_01aFig.3. John Nott Sartorius, The Stirrup Cup, circa 1784.

True hunt tables are horseshoe-shaped and infinitely more practical for their purpose (fig. 4).

Gillows_mahogany_hunt_table_c1810_01aFig. 4. George III mahogany hunt table by Gillows, circa 1810. (Baggott Church Street Ltd.)

Many large Irish houses remain the repositories of their district’s wake table: Coolcor House, Co. Kildare; Leixlip Castle, Co. Kildare; Bellamont Forest, Co. Cavan; Mount Stewart, Co. Down and Mountainstown House, Co. Meath (fig. 5), amongst others, all retain their wake tables.

wake_table_Mountainstown_Co_Meath_01aFig. 5. The dining room, Mountainstown House, Co. Meath. (The Irish Aesthete)

I recall many a sumptuous luncheon and dinner, seated at my parents’ wake table which took pride of place in their dining room.

Wake tables equally lend themselves to the more confined dwellings we inhabit these days. Being, on average, only 16″ to 20″ deep, a wake table will stand unobtrusively against a wall like a console table, yet when required to, can seat between eight and sixteen diners when fully open.

Whether of lowly elm or rich mahogany, wake tables follow a standard form, having a narrow fixed top and shallow, elliptical hinged leaves, standing, normally, on a plain four-legged frame with two or four gate legs. In keeping with other square Georgian table- and chair legs, the inner corners of wake table legs are normally stop-chamfered to give a lighter, more airy appearance without any loss of strength.

The frameless gates of other drop-leaf tables of the latter half of the eighteenth-century incorporate properly constructed knuckle joints (fig. 6), though, presumably for economy, the frameless gates of wake tables often have crude finger joints that are an extension of the frame’s central brace (fig. 7).

Geo_II_Irish_mahogany_gateleg_table_underside_c1740_01aFig. 6. Circa 1740 circular drop leaf table gate with nicely made knuckle joint.

gate_hinge_01aFig. 7. Wake table’s frame brace’s through-fingers form inner part of hinge joint.

Probably the most commonly encountered gate hinge arrangement on wake tables – whether elm or mahogany – is a design peculiar to the wake table. The inner end of the gate is tenoned  into a vertical member that has a spigot, top and bottom. The upper spigot engages a shallow hole in the underside of the table’s top and the lower spigot protrudes through a hole in a simple frame brace which is merely screwed onto the underside of the frame (figs. 8 & 9). The arris of the spigotted member adjacent to the frame rail is radiused to coincide with that of the spigots’, while the arris adjacent to the drop leaf remains square thereby acting as a stop, preventing the gate from opening too far. An additional benefit of this type of frame brace is that it prevents the leaves from converging without applying pressure to the gate legs.

Geo_III_Irish_mahogany_wake_table_c1800_05aFig. 8. Common means of wake table gate attachment.

Geo_III_Irish_mahogany_wake_table_c1780_01aFig. 9. Brace screwed to underside of table frame.

I kept vigil over Virginia, laid out on the elm and oak wake table, until the New Year… for no reason other than I wanted to be certain she had actually gone and hadn’t pulled some elaborate stunt to purloin all the bottles of gin that surrounded her.

Jack Plane

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Gillows Collection in Jeopardy

A reader spammed my last post with a link to the Save the Judges’ Lodgings Museum in Lancaster, but before deleting it, I followed the link and discovered that it’s not just the future of the museum that’s in jeopardy, but also the largest collection of Gillows furniture on permanent display.

I would urge everyone to at least take the time to read about the museum’s plight.

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXXI

I recently came across this rare and handsome brace of painted Windsors or forest chairs.

18C_green_windsor_chairs_01aMid-eighteenth-century low-back forest chairs.

These low-back chairs are very similar in many respects to the comb-back Windsor and double bow Windsor chair I made some years ago.

Jack Plane

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Vale Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman, 1946-2016.

Alan Rickman sadly succumbed to cancer on Thursday morning, aged 69. A prolific and accomplished actor, his career of stage and film spanned thirty years.

Rickman was outstanding as the maniacal Sheriff of Nottingham in the hilarious 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

His appearance as Alexander Dane in the 1999 sci-fi comedy, Galaxy Quest, made watching a sci-fi movie – formerly an untenable notion for me – an absolute treat.

However, it was Rickman’s sensitive and captivating role as Colonel Brandon in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility that cemented him in my memory.

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXX

Geo_I_walnut_batchelors_COD_c1720_02gA George I walnut bachelor’s chest with curious cushion arrangement incorporating a central loper and a drawer to either side, circa 1720. (Millington Adams)

The chest was offered by Cheshire dealers,  Millington Adams and described thusly:

A fine and very rare George I walnut and feather banded bachelor chest with an unusual cushion waist. The top with a cross and feather banded top laid with veneers in a double book matched fashion. Opening the top reveals a very similar layout of cross and feather banded book matched veneers. Below a very unusual cushion section with central retractable support for the top and to each side a lockable cushion drawer. Below a pair of short, feather banded, oak lined drawers over two long graduated drawers fitted with brass plate handles and iron locks. The chest is supported on shaped walnut bracket feet.

This bachelor chest is of unusual form, with a cushion moulding underneath the top incorporating a pair of side drawers and a central support loper for the top. With this extra section, it still conforms in size to the classic proportions of bachelor chests from this period. Our thoughts are that this piece is made in the country or by a local cabinet maker to the specific instructions of his client, it is of wonderful quality and colour, utilising fine veneers throughout.

Provenance: Private collection UK.

Condition: Excellent. Minor restorations, waxing. Handles are later replacements. Feet and front drawer locks apparently original, the cushion drawer locks possibly replacements.

The chest sold last year for £29,900 ($62,526).

Actually, Millington Adams bought the chest in December 2014 from Dreweatts for £3000 ($6240) who described it thusly:

A George I walnut batchelors chest circa 1720 the feather and crossbanded folding top supported by a central loper with two small side drawers and two short and two long drawers on bracket feet 76cm high, 75cm wide, 31cm deep

Marks, scratches and abrasions consistent with age and use
Old chips and splits
Handles replaced, probably in 18th century
Evidence of worm to left side – refilled and repolished
Cracks to veneer to top and interior writing surface, signs of being relaid and repolished

Why did the rest of the trade put this ugly duckling in the too hard basket? I would have bid more than £3000 for the little gem.

Many will consider the final price unconscionable (I believe the chest attained its true value), but an antiques dealer’s life isn’t all beer and skittles.

Jack Plane

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The Dawning of a New Year

dawn_over_Great_Dividing_Range_01aDay dawns over the Great Dividing Range, Victoria.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read my posts over the past year, and a special thanks to those who commented on them.

Wishing all my readers a happy and prosperous New Year.

Jack Plane

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A William III Ash Chest-on-Stand – Part Six

The joinery for these flat, shaped stretchers commonly comprises simple lap, or halved joints, however, one also encounters bridle joints (fig. 1).

wiiiacos_221215_01aFig. 1. The pine stretcher components.

After putting the stretcher together, it was veneered on top, inside and out; on all four sides with the exception of the outside back edge (fig. 2).

wiiiacos_241215_01aFig. 2. The stretcher assembled and crossbanded.

With holes bored through the stretcher and also into the underside of the stand’s carcase, the legs, stretcher, feet, abaci and carcase were glued and assembled (fig. 3).

wiiiacos_251215_01aFig.3.  The completed stand.

wiiiacos_251215_02aFig. 4. The bare chest-on-stand.

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXIX

I mentioned Irish turf buckets in Buckets begorrah! and how genuine examples regularly attain astronomical prices. It seems those with less than hermetic provenance can have colossal asking prices too.

peat_bucket_01a_SainsburyReproduction turf buckets. (Jonathan Sainsbury)

Jonathan Sainsbury advertised a pair of reproduction wrythen mahogany turf buckets on a well known antiques web site recently which caused the raising an eyebrow:

A unique pair of monumental brass bound mahogany Irish Georgian style turf or peat buckets with shell motifs. The fitted brass liners makes them especially suitable for logs or indoor palm tree use. Note a standard size peat bucket shown to the right of the monumental is shown to illustrate the scale of the monumental. These buckets are of exceptional scale and form.

Price: $17,557.83
Creator: John and Francis Booker (Cabinetmaker)
In the style of: Georgian
Place of origin: Ireland, Republic of
Date of manufacture: 2015
Period: 1760-1769
Materials and techniques: Carved Brass, Turned Wood, Polished
Condition: Excellent
Height: 35.83 in. (91 cm)
Diameter: 31.89 in. (81 cm)


Brothers, Francis and John Booker are recorded as ‘Looking Glass merchants’ at 6 Essex Bridge in Dublin. They were active during the third quarter of the eighteenth-century and so are unlikely to have made any turf buckets as recently as 2015.

In all likelihood, these recently manufactured buckets (like so many others) originate from Indonesia and being mass-produced, they could hardly be considered “unique”.

Jack Plane

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Berry Christmas

… we still dreſs up both our churches and houses, on Christmas and other festival days, with this cheerful green, and its rutilant berries. [i]

Ilex_aquifolium_01aCommon Holly (Ilex aquifolium).

Season’s greetings to one and all!

Jack Plane

[i] John Evelyn, Silva: or, A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesty’s dominions, as it was delivered in The Royal society, on the 15th of October 1662, third edition, volume 1, York, 1801, p. 272.

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