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

The cabinetmaker’s insertion of the featherbanding in this chest would be considered – even by most of his contemporaries – as ‘wrong’. One can’t deny the proficiency of the man as a cabinetmaker constructing a basic chest, but it can’t be claimed he was conversant in the latest cabinet fashions. He probably exceeded his repertoire in making and inserting the featherbanding and was likely ignorant of the banding being uncommonly wide and laid in an erratic fashion (fig. 1).

William_III_ash_COS_c1700_banding_01aFig. 1. Loose or careless composition?

Featherbanding usually flows clockwise (or at least all in the same direction); therefore some may consider my mimicking the somewhat randomly laid featherbanding rebarbative. However, it’s all par for the course as far as I’m concerned (figs. 2 & 3)!

wiiiacos_191115_01aFig. 2. He did it first!

wiiiacos_261115_01aFig. 3. It’s not quite as obvious in the grand scheme of things.

wiiiacos_261115_02aFig. 4. Yesterday’s weather – 33°C (91.4°F) and 9% relative humidity – has assisted greatly with the overall loose look.

Jack Plane

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Samuel Pepys Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum

As a reliable and valuable late seventeenth-century resource, I have quoted or cited Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) many times on this blog. The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is currently running an exhibition, Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution from the 20th of November 2015 until the 28th of March 2016.

Pepys, one of the most colourful and appealing characters of the 17th century, witnessed many of the great events that shaped Stuart Britain, bringing them brilliantly to life in his famous and candid diary. He lived through a time of turmoil which saw kings fighting for their crowns, and medieval London transformed into a world city following the devastation of the plague and the destruction of the Great Fire. He was a naval mastermind, a gossip and socialite, a lover of music, theatre, fine living and women. He fought for survival on the operating table and in the cut-throat world of public life and politics, successfully navigating his way to wealth and status until his luck, intimately entwined with the King’s fortunes, finally ran out.

Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution places this fascinating and multifaceted figure within a broader historical context, beginning at the moment a schoolboy Pepys played truant to witness the execution of King Charles I in 1649. It explores the turbulent times which followed, including the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 in a year of personal crisis for Pepys as he underwent a life-threatening operation to remove a bladder stone the size of a snooker ball without anaesthetic or antiseptic. He was fortunate to survive the ordeal; his recovery perhaps, in part, due to being the first on the operating table that day, reducing the risk of infection. The grisly and extremely painful procedure is graphically brought to life by 17th-century medical instruments (Royal College of Physicians).

Pepys began his now-famous diary on 1 January 1660 and was on board the ship that carried Charles II out of exile at the restoration of the monarchy later that year. He met and conversed with the King and his brother, James, Duke of York (later James II), who promised Pepys ‘his future favour’. In the diary he records his disapproval of the debauchery at court during Charles II’s reign, including the King’s many mistresses. But Pepys himself was frequently unfaithful to his wife. The exhibition will display the famous Portrait of Charles II in Coronation Robes (Royal Collection), as well as objects connected to his mistresses including one of his love letters to Louise de Kéroualle which uses her nickname ‘Fubbs’, meaning chubby (Goodwood Collection).

During his lifetime Pepys was best known for his important work in running the naval affairs of England, a career that propelled him towards wealth and power and the creation of a truly ‘professional’ navy. His work also took him to the English colony of Tangier, a place notorious for drunkenness and immorality, all of which he observed and noted in his writings.

The penultimate section of Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution looks at the dawn of the scientific revolution. Pepys was president of the Royal Society when Newton’s Principia Mathematica (Royal Society) was published, placing him at the centre of scientific debate. Publications like Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (British Library), which Pepys thought ‘the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life’, made unseen worlds of lice and fleas visible. While the matters discussed at the Society interested him, he confessed not always to understand what he heard.

The exhibition ends with extraordinary events of the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of Pepys’s great patron, James II. It shows how intimately Pepys’s own career was intertwined with larger national events outside his control. With the accession of William and Mary in 1689, Pepys stepped down from office and began an active retirement, indulging his many passions.

Using the voice and personality of the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution explores and interprets a remarkable time of great accomplishment, upheavals and excess. It was a formative era in British history that saw the repositioning of the monarchy and the development of Britain’s place as a maritime, economic and political force on the world stage.

Source: Art Daily

Jack Plane

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

I am never without something to occupy myself, but spring is a particularly active time of the year: Horses, foals (currently five, with another three due imminently), tree planting, tree watering, keeping the greens in order and a myriad of other little jobs about the place keep this old Plane busy. Natheless, I have found time periodically to work some ash – though with a slightly different approach to my normal methodology.

Several pieces of town furniture I have copied from the second half of the eighteenth-century have been made with nicely fitting, smooth-running drawers. However, this chest-on-stand hails from a much earlier period and with a more provincial pedigree.

The overall proportions of the chest-on-stand are delightful, but like other commodities of the period, they were often naively or loosely executed (fig.1). That’s not to say they were poorly made (by the standards of the day); they were fashionably made by accomplished craftsmen, though inaccuracies and imperfections abound.

William_&_Mary_charger_c1690_01aFig. 1. Naively painted (but utterly charming) blue-dash charger depicting William and Mary, circa 1690.

Constructing an ash chest-on-stand loosely without it looking like a novice’s first attempt presents its own challenges – not the least of which is using properly well seasoned wood in place of the original’s (partially?) air-dried wood (all will be revealed in the book).

I made the period-correct carcase from pine and cut a few 10″ wide leaves of ash veneer on the bandsaw (fig. 2).

ash_veneer_01aFig. 2. Leaves of 3/32″ (2.4mm) thick bandsawn ash veneer.

Every panel of this article is bounded with cross- and featherbanding, which amounts to a considerable yardage of feathers (figs. 3 & 4).

151102_feather_banding_01aFig. 3. Some of the 8-1/2″ (216mm) long, 17/32″ (13.5mm) thick diagonally-sawn ash blocks.

151102_feather_banding_02aFig. 4. Glued and cramped feather stock.

The 40″ long, 1″ wide feather stock was bandsawn into 3/32″ (2.4mm) thick banding (fig. 5).

wiiiacos_181115_01aFig. 5. Loosely veneered, feather- and crossbanded carcase side.

Jack Plane

Posted in Case Furniture, Furniture Making, Furniture Timbers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Picture This LXVI

Since Picture This LXV was so well received, here’s another item of early English furniture for the sleuths to elucidate.

oak_desk_01aFig. 1. Oak desk on cabriole legs. (Bonham’s)

It’s no good saying “… it’s George IV”; I want hard dates and I need to know all the hows, whats, whens and why-fors (there is plenty of relevant information in earlier posts on this blog alone).

The readers who are in the antiques trade will decipher this one instantly, so their replies – should they join in – won’t be posted until others have had a stab at it.

Over to you.

Update, November 14th.

The seventeenth-century table-top desk is intrinsically correct, albeit with a few modifications to the locking mechanism over the years. The desk would have originally had a hasp (attached to the underside of the slope with nails) whose staple would have engaged the slot in the lock plate and been retained by the lock’s bolt (figs. 2 & 3).

oak_table_desk_c1709_01a_BonhamsFig. 2. Oak table desk showing original hasp and attachment nails in slope, circa 1709. (Bonham’s)

mid-17C_oak_table_desk_01a_BonhamsFig. 3. Mid-seventeenth-century oak table desk, minus hasp, but showing lock bolt through staple slot in lock plate. (Bonham’s)

It was common practice to nail the lock plate directly over the carved decoration (fig. 4).

oak_table_desk_c1670_01a_BonhamsFig. 4. Oak table desk, circa 1670. (Bonham’s)

At some date a till lock was fitted to the interior of the desk front and the staple slot was filed to create a keyhole. Another lock appears to have been attached to the slope which presumably engages the front of the desk.

The cabriole legs are from a circa 1715-25 lowboy or dressing table. As has already been commented on, the legs are pre-mortise and tenon: The carcase would have been nailed/dovetailed together first, with the legs being subsequently nailed into the corners of the carcase.

The ribbed angle brackets – of a type still available today (fig. 5) – are attached with slotted screws (fig. 6), so I suppose the legs were attached to the desk either prior to the inception of Phillips screws in the 1920s, or later, by someone with at least some conscience.

steel_angle_bracket_01aFig. 5. Ribbed steel angle bracket.

oak_desk_01cFig. 6. Steel brackets and slotted screws used to attach cabriole legs to desk. Note nail holes in legs. (Bonham’s)

Jack Plane

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UK’s Oldest Tree Undergoing Sex Change

I previously mentioned Scotland’s Fortingall Yew here. Well apparently there’s something queer going on with it:

The UK’s oldest tree, thought to be up to 5,000 years old, is undergoing a “sex change”.

Records have always noted the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire as a male tree but it has recently started sprouting berries – something only female yew trees do.

Experts at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh spotted three berries on a high branch of the tree, located in the churchyard of the village of Fortingall, Perthshire, and have now taken them for analysis as part of a conservation project.

Dr Max Coleman, of the Royal Botanic Garden, said yew trees have been known to change sex before but discovering the process on “such a special tree is what makes this a special story”.

The Fortingall Yew is believed to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years old, and is one of the oldest living organisms in Europe.

It has survived the ravages of time and the attention of eager tourists, who in previous centuries took clippings from it as souvenirs.

The trunk changed shape many years ago and has lost its centre and one side, and the tree is now protected by a small wall.

Coleman said: “Yew trees are male or female usually and it is pretty easy to spot which is which in autumn – males have tiny things that produce pollen and females have bright red berries from autumn into winter.

This process may have happened before but we know the Fortingall Yew has been classed as male for hundreds of years through records.

The sex change isn’t the amazing bit in this case, it’s the fact it’s this particular tree.”

Source: The Guardian

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXV

Just for a bit of fun this time; before I offer my assessment of this oak and yew chest-on-stand, would anyone else care to interpret the images and propose a date?

oak_&_yew_COS_01aFig. 1. Oak and yew chest-on-stand. (Tooveys)

oak_&_yew_COS_01bFig. 2. (Tooveys)

oak_&_yew_COS_01cFig. 2. (Tooveys)

oak_&_yew_COS_01dFig. 3. (Tooveys)

oak_&_yew_COS_01eFig. 4. (Tooveys)

oak_&_yew_COS_01fFig. 5. (Tooveys)

Update, November 5th.

The tell tale damage on the back right stile and bottom rail (fig. 5) was caused by rats sharpening their teeth on the hard oak arrises. This could only have occurred with said components close to the floor where rats habitually run along the perimeters of walls. This chest did not originate on a stand. I believe the chest began life circa 1670-80 as a fairly standard joined, four-drawer oak chest (fig. 6).

Chas_II_oak_COD_c1670_01aFig.6. Charles II oak chest, circa 1670. (Bonham’s)

Traditionally, valuable cutlery and silver flatware was kept either in decorative boxes on the sideboard, in the dining room, or in the butler’s pantry, under lock and key. However, during the first half of the twentieth-century, canteens in the guise of antique furniture were all the rage, especially when they matched the contemporary Chuckabethan revival furniture (fig. 7).

Mappin_&_Webb_oak_canteen_c1920_01aFig. 7. Mappin & Webb oak Chuckabethan canteen, circa 1915-20. (China Rose Antiques)

The dealer or restorer who perpetrated this abomination utilised a (likely poor and decrepit) Charles II oak four-drawer chest. I imagine the mouldings were popped off and the pegs (the sole means of joining the carcase together) were either drifted or drilled out, reducing the carcase to a pile of parts. The bottoms of the four stiles were shortened and new mortises chopped out to house the bottom rails, thereby reducing the chest to a three-drawer chest.

The valuable (likely one-piece) wainscot side panels would have been saved for a future project and were replaced with a number of narrow second-hand quartersawn oak boards (note the black stains from contact with iron nails or hooks etc.).

The plain boarded top would have been planed flat and then veneered with yew. The carcase would then have been reassembled with new pegs and the top and bottom mouldings nailed back on.

The applied mouldings (or what remained of them) on the drawer fronts would have been cleared off and the drawer fronts veneered in yew and then crossbanded.

On the rare occasions one comes across a Charles II chest with integral stand, the chest’s stiles also form the legs of the stand (fig 8).

Chas_II_oak_COS_c1660_01aFig. 8. Charles II oak chest with integral stand, circa 1660 (later handles). (Bonham’s)

The attachment point of our chest to its alien stand can be clearly seen at the bottom of the back left stile, level with the bottom edge of the bottom rail (fig. 5).

Legs and stretchers turned with ball-and-reel, ball-and-ring or egg-and-reel decoration were fashionable on chairs, chests, settees and tables during the late seventeenth-century (fig. 9), but given the dimensions of the chest and the height of the legs, the ball-and-ring-turned stand undoubtedly began life as the undercarriage of a dilapidated late seventeenth-century oak settee.

Chas_II_oak_close_stool _c1680_01aFig. 9. Charles II oak close stool with ball-and-reel stretchers, circa 1680. (Bonham’s)

We know the settee was dilapidated, because it had lost its turned feet as can be witnessed by the wear and wet-mop bleaching to the legs’ square blocks on which they must have stood for some decades (fig. 1). The legs presumably regained their turned feet during the conversion process.

Lastly, one or more drawers were fitted with partitions and lined with baize to accommodate cutlery and flatware.

Thanks to all the sleuths who joined in and offered opinions; it was most enjoyable.

Jack Plane

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Today a Prince (of Orange)

William III, the sovereign Prince of Orange, was born at Binnenhof, The Hague, in the Dutch Republic on the 4th of November 1650. William ruled over England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702 when he was succeeded by his sister-in-law, Anne.

King_William_III_by_Cornelius_Johnson_1655-61_01aWilliam III by Cornelius Johnson, circa 1655-61.

Jack Plane

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Picture This LXIV

In A William and Mary Simulated Tortoiseshell Chest of Drawers, I mentioned how faux tortoiseshell-painted furniture was popular as a background for japanned decoration (either newly-painted or using previously tortoiseshell-painted canvasses).

I recently came across this chest-on-stand which typifies late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century japanning over a naïve tortoiseshell-painted ground.

William_III_chinoiserie_COC_c1700_01aPainted and japanned chest-on-stand, circa 1700. (Decorator Source)

William_III_chinoiserie_COC_c1700_01eDaubed ‘tortoiseshell’ background. (Decorator Source)

Jack Plane

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Vale Maureen O’Hara

Maureen_O'Hara_in_The_Quiet_Man_01aMaureen O’Hara, 1920-2015.

Maureen O’Hara, the flame-haired star of the 1952 film, The Quiet Man (indisputably the best film ever made), died in her sleep on the 24th of October, aged 95.

O’Hara was born in 1920 in Dublin, later becoming an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1940s and 1950s. With her green eyes and red hair, she was known as the ‘Queen of Technicolor’.

O’Hara starred in a number of films playing feisty women opposite John Wayne, including in her favourite film, The Quiet Man. Wayne once commented: “I prefer the company of men, except for Maureen O’Hara. She is a great guy.”

Jack Plane

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White Glove Shots upset Historian

Picture: BBC

Ok, this is getting ridiculous now. Above is a press shot accompanying the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s acquisition of a 1913 Picasso. It’s wrong on so many levels.

So I think that if museum press offices are going to insist on these daft ‘holding’ photos, then it’s time to introduce some rules:

1 – if you must wear gloves, let them be white and cotton. If you’re going to perpetuate the myth that people in museums really wear white gloves, then have actual white gloves to hand. Rubber ones of the type worn by vets at the back end of a cow are Not Good.

2 – if you must pretend to hold the painting, at least try and make it look like you’re really holding it. This means the picture must not be: (a) screwed to the wall with the screw visible; (b) obviously fifteen times heavier than the person holding it with one arm; or (c) hung so high above the ‘holder’ that they cannot reach it.

3 – Or better yet, actually just hold it, maybe with two people, before you actually attach it to the wall.

4 – And maybe, just every now and then, can we let the ‘holder’ be a bloke? Just for a change?

Source: White glove shot (ctd.) – Art History News – by Bendor Grosvenor

Jack Plane

Posted in Distractions | 10 Comments