There has, justifiably, been much excitement at Castle Plane this week – I recently came across a superlative item of walnut furniture that has me aroused.
I love nothing more than a continuous and complete chronology. I love it all the more when a discovery crops up to support any postulation in that chronology.
In the chronology of Drawer and Drawer Aperture Decoration, I lamented the absence of irrefutable evidence that drawer periphery cockbeading (fig. 1) was a logical and immediate progression from (long-grain) drawer aperture cockbeading (fig. 2). Unfortunately that will have to wait until another day.
However, in the same post, I also mentioned that ovolo-lipped drawers (fig. 3) enjoyed popularity from about 1730 to 1760 – in a period where drawer periphery cockbeading reigned supreme.
That was quite the departure from the norm – and fashionable tastes. Ovolo-moulded lipping and cockbeading look nothing alike, so how did the style come about?
I have long suspected this and have seen, what I believe to be, a roughly concocted sham (presumably to avoid extensive restoration work). However, I now have incontrovertible proof to hand! Ovolo lipping did not evolve from cockbeading; the two emerged parallel and simultaneously from existing and very different forms.
Cockbeading was a development of drawer aperture double-bead moulding (or – and I still hope to have supporting evidence of it someday – long-grain drawer aperture cockbeading), whereas drawer-edge lipping, though following a similar progression, evolved from drawer aperture crossgrain D-moulding (fig. 4) that partially migrated across the gap and was attached around the drawer’s periphery, around 1730 (fig. 5).
The evidence for this assertion came courtesy of Harriet Chavasse of Thakeham Furniture, who very kindly sent me the following images of a walnut tallboy in their possession.
Thakeham Furniture date their tallboy to 1720, however, I would tend to place it about ten years later. The (original) handles are of a pattern introduced closer to 1730 and waist mouldings became more compact and flush with the lower carcase around the same time.
For its 280+ years, the lowboy is very clean and exhibits remarkably little wear which presents the perfect opportunity to examine the drawers’ typical period construction. Note the lapped dovetail sockets in the pine drawer front were sawn prior to the attachment of the walnut veneer and crossgrain moulding (fig. 8). This was also the norm with drawers where the lipping was glued into rebated drawer edges and then veneered over. However, with the uptake of mahogany and solid drawer fronts, the restriction of lipped edges in the solid made sawn-through sockets impossible – which may help explain their fleeting existence.
The drawer’s bottom board is nailed up into a rebate in the drawer front and nailed to the bottom edge of the sides. The runners are then rubbed onto the underside of the bottom board. A few small holes are visible along the runners where they were temporarily tacked until the glue grabbed (figs. 9 & 10).
The oak for the drawers, at least, was imported, most likely from the Netherlands, as can be witnessed by the fine, regular and parallel saw cuts on the underside of the bottom board (figs. 9 & 10). The Dutch had an immense domestic industry of sawing oak sourced from all over Northern Europe and the Baltics in their windmill-powered mills which employed gangs of vertical frame saws.
The folk at Thakeham Furniture have a keen eye for what’s good and proper which is reflected in their extensive stock of quality antiques. It’s of no surprise then that I have used images of several of their items to illustrate my posts in the past, viz. Getting a Handle on Proportion. Thakeham Furniture is located in the provincial Mecca for quality antique shops that is Petworth in West Sussex. Petworth used to be one of my regular haunts and along with Petworth House, always make it well worth a visit if in that neck of the woods.