An Early Victim

Early bun-footed floor-standing chests of drawers and the upper chests of chests-on-chests and chests-on-stands that have subsequently migrated onto bracket feet have been the topic of many a post on this blog. Some of them evolved as their fragile feet or stands decayed and others made the transition to keep abreast of prevailing trends, while yet more are the fraudulent work of some greedy antiques dealers.

Many early transmutations look comfortable in, what are now, their old worn slippers and both dealers and private buyers are often fooled into thinking the bracket feet are original.

Such appears to be the case with the author, E.J. Warne, whose 1923 publication, Furniture Mouldings, Full Size Sections of Moulded Details on English Furniture from 1574 to 1820, illustrates a few, of what we now understand to be, inaccuracies.

Take, for example, Plate 70 (figure 1) which shows a late seventeenth century geometric chest which would normally stand on extensions of its own stiles (figure 2), but appears, in Warne’s illustration to be standing on George II bracket feet.

Warne_plate_70_01aFig. 1. E.J. Warne’s Carolean chest.

Charles_II_oak_moulded_COD_c1680_07aFig. 2. Typical oak geometric chest of around 1680. (Windsor House Antiques)

Further, Plate 75 (figure 3) clearly shows a late seventeenth century or early eighteenth century chest (determinable by its very thick-sides) with two short upper drawers, standing on mid-to-late eighteenth century bracket feet.

Warne_plate_75_01aFig. 3. E.J. Warne’s William and Mary chest.

William_&_Mary_walnut_COD_c1690_04a_LU3083312075613Fig. 4. William and Mary or Queen Anne thick-sided and bun-footed walnut chest (with replacement circa 1710 brasses), circa 1695-1710.

There are problems with a few other of Warne’s illustrations, though undoubtedly innocent.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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4 Responses to An Early Victim

  1. potomacker says:

    Geometric here refers to the surface decoration or the construction? And what era is this term applied to? I think these kind of clarifications help to better understand material culture history. I am curious why you want to deem Warne’s shortcomings innocent. Presumably he wrote to enhance his authority to determine original and authentic which in turn elevated pieces ti a higher sale price and obscured the standards of the marketplace and maybe for museum collections. Frankly I want to see furniture last as long as possible as functional pieces of furniture. Honest repairs can enhance or detract but that is an irrelevant concern to high end collectors and curators. Good work as usual


    • Jack Plane says:

      These oak chests have myriad little pieces of moulding stuck and nailed onto their drawer fronts in geometric patterns and are known as geometric chests.
      I don’t “want” to deem Warne’s work innocent or otherwise: I tell it as I understand it. He seems to have concentrated on quality furniture for his examples. Whether he drew his subjects from museums or old house collections, I have no way of telling, but either source would have contained plenty of earlier modernised or repaired items.
      If Warne had a fault, it is that he was born in an age when much wasn’t known or understood about antique furniture. He preceded R.W. Symonds who was an influential architect-cum-furniture designer and one of the first to study old furniture on an academic level and sourced many fine items of English furniture for some of the great collectors of the day. Symonds was described by The Winterthur Library as “the pre-eminent 20th century scholar and authority on English furniture” – though some of his scholarship has now fallen well short of the mark too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bob Barnett says:

    That is a fascinating book. I wish I could download a pdf copy. Thanks for sharing the publication with us.


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