Following on from Getting a Handle on Proportion, it appears that my dismissal of some of the classic rules of proportion (comment 9) has caused upset amongst the ranks. One reader who emailed me attached two pictures of chests with dimensional overlays, arguing that the golden ratio was applicable in both cases – that it worked to within about an inch. Well, as I said to the author, a formula either works or it doesn’t.
I am sure there are examples of chairs, chests and tables that happen to answer perfectly to either the Fibonacci sequence or golden ratio, but I don’t believe either formula played any part in the average eighteenth-century cabinetmaker’s enlightenment.
The placement of handles on chests-on-chests can make for interesting study: The vertical spacing of the handles – if ‘right’ – are usually only right for the upper chest (as the lower chest is generally wider), though if the overall proportions of the piece are pleasing, then the ‘wrongly’ spaced handles on the lower chest are redressed by the agreeable appearance of the whole (fig. 1).
The less common deviation of the vertical handle lines (at the point where the upper chest meets the lower chest) of the chest-on-chests in figures 2, 3 & 4, in my opinion, displays great genius and restores the balance.
And a few less comely chests just for comparison…