Picture This CXXIX – Redux

Last night I watched the first episode of The Miniaturist, a television drama set in late seventeenth-century Amsterdam. The period-accurate attention to detail was astonishing.

At one point, the young Petronella approached and opened a coffre forte, virtually identical to those I have illustrated in this blog.

Excited as I was to see a coffre, I was a little disappointed it wasn’t screwed to the floor.

Jack Plane

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A Pair of George II Irish Walnut Side Chairs – Part Four

This morning, Wellard alerted me to the arrival of an intruder: I lifted my eyes from the bench and saw a van trundling up the drive towards the house. I dusted myself down and set off across the yard to intercept the vehicle. Daniel Maclaurin had kindly driven out to return the walnut side chairs that I last spoke of late last December.

Stuffover seats of this era were upholstered tightly and squarely viz. simple webbing, linen and kapok/horsehair stuffing, which were then covered with a decorative fabric (figures 1-3).

Fig. 1. Square-upholstered seat, circa 1750. (Mackinnon Fine Art)

Fig. 2. Square-upholstered seats, circa 1765. (Jeremy Ltd.)

Fig. 3. Square-upholstered seat, circa 1770. (Ronald Phillips)

Later seats were inclined to be more abundantly stuffed (figure 5).

Fig. 5. Regency chair with typically puffy seat, circa 1820. (Thakeham Furniture)

Later again, stuffover seats harboured internal coil springs which result in unattractive bloated upholstery that is no more comfortable than the square or puffy seats of earlier chairs.

Unfortunately this type of upholstery is what befalls many period chairs when reupholstered by some benighted dealers and upholsterers (figures 6 & 7).

Fig. 6. A circa 1730 chair with inappropriate, voluminous, internally-sprung seat.

Fig. 7. A circa 1765 chair with imprudent upholstery.

The seats of the new chairs, though seemingly austere, are in fact very comfortable and what’s more, encourage good posture (figures 8 & 9).

Fig. 8. Completed pair of Irish walnut chairs.

Fig. 9. Square-upholstered seat with linen cover.

Jack Plane

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Sawpit Perils

If you were a sawyer in the late eighteenth-century, you might not have begun your day’s work as early as other craftsmen and labourers, for the sawpit could, on occasion, be a hazardous place at the break of day.

Duellists, who customarily chose to square-up to one another at dawn, often did so within the confines of a sawpit. By the end of the eighteenth-century, dueling with swords had declined in favour of puff-bang pistols and the like: The walls of a sawpit would have arrested any stray lead, thus protecting on-lookers from potential injury. Plus, being an illegal activity, the pit would have gone some way to muffle the sounds of the shots.

Thomas Rowlandson, Slugs in a Saw-Pit, circa 1791.

William Heath, Slugs in a Saw-pit Hell to Pay, circa 1810. (Lewis Walpole Library)

The banner above the vacillating duellists in Heath’s print reads, ‘Did you mean to Offend me? indeed Sir not I. – indeed Sir I’m very glad on’t!!!

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXXX

This walnut secretaire chest-on-chest caught my eye recently; described by its vendor as circa 1740 and with original brasses.

Geo_II_walnut_secretaire-chest_c1735_01aFig. 1. Mid eighteenth-century walnut secretaire chest-on-chest…

Geo_II_walnut_secretaire-chest_c1735_01bFig. 2. … and with secretaire drawer open.

Geo_II_walnut_secretaire-chest_c1735_01cFig. 3. Interior of secretaire drawer.

Geo_II_walnut_secretaire-chest_c1735_01dFig. 4. Close-up of interior.

Geo_II_walnut_secretaire-chest_c1735_01eFig. 5. Close-up of interior drawers.

What say the sleuths?

Jack Plane

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Now You See Me… Now You Don’t

or, a potted history of dummy boards.

First appearing in the seventeenth-century, dummy boards are painted (usually on wood) silhouettes of people and occasionally animals (figures 1 & 2).

Fig. 1. Eighteenth-century painted pine dummy board depicting a woman of some wealth.

Fig. 2. Eighteenth-century dummy board of a spaniel.

Animals and domestic figures are normally life size, though some dummy boards were created larger than life in order to intimidate or scare the observer viz., wealthy households would often post effigies of their supposed private militia (figures 3-6) around the house and grounds to frighten off or deter would-be thieves whilst the family was away taking the waters or on a Grand Tour.

Fig. 3. Pair of eighteenth-century militia men.

Fig. 4. Two eighteenth-century soldiers.

Fig. 5. Fusilier dummy, circa 1750.

Fig. 6. Nineteenth-century hussar dummy.

One infamous Lancastrian decided to line the three colonnades of his mansion with dozens of dummy boards portraying armed soldiers. An acquaintance and frequent antagonist in neighbouring Yorkshire took affront at the outrageous display and mounted an attack on the house with his own militia, cutting all the ‘soldiers’ down in a hail of lead balls.

Much more common are the domestic dummy boards representing pets and exotic animals (figures 7-9) and domestic servants (figures 10-14) which were dotted about the interiors of vast houses to reinforce the impression of wealth and status to the casual observer as they meandered around large rooms and glanced through enfilades.

Fig. 7. Eighteenth-century painted cat dummy.

Fig. 8. Painted dodo dummy, circa 1740.

Fig. 9. Lion dummy board, circa 1750. (Christies)

Fig. 10. Seventeenth-century dummy maid.

Fig. 11. Seventeenth-century maid dummy board.

Fig. 12. Eighteenth-century dummy maid.

Fig. 13. Eighteenth-century dummy housekeeper.

Fig. 14. Eighteenth-century dummy manservant.

Gazebos and follies were also populated with dummy boards of sightseers – a popular pastime during the latter half of the eighteenth-century – (figures 15 & 16).

Fig. 15. Eighteenth-century pine figures, obverse…

Fig. 16. … and reverse.

Other areas of the grounds were similarly occupied by gardeners and various rustic workers (figure 17).

Fig. 17. Pair of seventeenth-century rustics. (Woolley & Wallis)

Fig. 18. Seventeenth-century partygoer (?).

Jack Plane

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Ah Diddley Dee Potatoes!

To all Irishmen, particularly those in absentia… happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXXIX

I came across yet another coffre fort recently. Like the previous examples, this late seventeenth-century walnut, iron and brassbound coffre would have kept money and other valuables safe whilst its owner travelled.

By utilising a T-handled key (figure 1), two captive screws (figure 2) enable the strongbox to be secured to a chamber or cabin floor.

Fig. 1. Key engaged with captive screw. (John Beazor Antiques)

Fig. 2. Captive screw extending beneath the coffre. (John Beazor Antiques)

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXXVIII

I previously mentioned privy furniture with interestingly shaped aprons. This oak Chippendale-style commode chair incorporates the familiar aprons along with a removable rush seat with which to access a ceramic potty.

Fig. 1. George III oak commode chair, circa 1770.

Fig. 2. Removing the seat reveals the potty (absent).

Jack Plane

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Happy New Year

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

Wishing everyone happiness and prosperity in 2019.

Jack Plane

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A Pair of George II Irish Walnut Side Chairs – Part Three

I completed the construction of the two chairs on Christmas day and had hoped to finish them this week; however it’s simply too damned hot.

The walnut chairs in-the-white.

When the weather cools from the current high 30s (US: stinking hot) to the mid 20s (US: still a bit warm), I’ll give them a 260 year-old polishing. After that, they’ll go off to the upholsterer and likely won’t reappear for a couple of months.

Jack Plane

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