Metal Applique

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Applique of metal work is a form of relief ornamentation in many respects closely related to carving. It may be either cast or wrought. Castings, called ormolu, are usually of brass plated with gold and finished a dull color. They are especially used in the styles of Louis XY\P Louis XVI. and Empire. In the Louis XV. style much of th<* ornament is applied in places where carving might have been used, and it is properly joined with the Lines of the article so as to become a part of them. In the Louis XVI. to some degree, and in the Empire style almost entirely, the applique ornaments are fastened directly on a plain surface without any relation to the construction whatever, as the article is complete without them. The beauty of their use depends on the arrangement of the pieces in relation to each other, the way they fill the space which they occupy, and on the design and execution of the metal work itself. Much of the metal work in ordinary use is poor in both respects. Perhaps the design, is good and the pattern was well modelled, but so many copies have been made, each cast from a previous moulding instead of from the original pattern, that all form and crispness is lost. Such work is neither handsome or decorative, and the designer should discourage its use whenever he can. In the best French examples applique metal work is carefully cast, exquisitely chased, so it becomes a beautiful piece of workmanship, and it may be admired as such even though its use is not approved. When wrought metal work is applied to furniture it is usually in the form of hinge plates, lock plates, or ornamented straps binding parts of the woodwork together. Furniture decorated in this way is best made of a coarse-grained wood and designed with large flat surfaces on which the metal may be applied for ornamental effect. Good results are obtained- by sinking the metal work so it is level with the wood surface, particularly when in the form of rosettes.

The markings of the grain of woods used for furniture is in itself an ornamentation, and many times it is quite sufficient. But to in crease its decorative effects veneers cut in various ways are used. A veneer is a thin slice of wood, and in the choice woods of the furniture maker many pieces with rich figures in the grain can be had as veneers that otherwise could not be obtained in shape to use. Then, also, by cutting a log in different ways the beauty of the grain is exposed so that its value is increased.

The veneers are not always used entire like so many boards. They are sometimes cut in geometrical patterns varying in size, and the pieces placed side by side in such a manner that the grain of adjoining


pieces runs in different directions, thus covering the surface with an almost inconspicuous diaper pattern.

In this method of using veneers but one kind of wood is required, though at times two or more may be used. When a color effect is wanted marquetry is used introducing the various colored woods, metal, shell, or ivory in the form of ornament on a ground of the wood of which the furniture is constructed.

There are no special difficulties to be avoided in designing a pattern for inlay. Almost any ornament that appears well in Hat colors will make good inlay, so that the problem is one of designing a conventional ornament suited to decorate the space when rendered in flat colors.

The nearest approach to inlay is ornament painted on the surface of the wood. This has been a common and handsome method of decorating furniture, though it is not now popular. One method is to treat all the ornament flat similar to inlay; another is to paint natural forms i>i a realistic way. The ornament is sometimes painted on the varnished surface of natural wood, and again it is placed on an enamel. In one class of work painting is executed on a panel first covered by silver or gold leaf, the design introducing figures, pastoral scenes, architectural compositions, etc.

The surrounding parts of the article are thickly varnished, and at times specks of gold leaf are mixed with the varnish. Such work is more or less an imitation of Japanese lacquer work, but is known as Verni? Martin because during the reign of Louis XV. the brothers Martin secured the exclusive right to make furniture varnished in this way, they claiming to have discovered the secret of making the lacquer used.

There remains another means for ornamenting the plain surface of furniture woodwork. That is by burning on it: with a metallic point an appropriate design. It is a method that lends itself to successful treatment in proper hands. Such examples as are most frequently seen are not desirable, largely because the patterns burned are not suitable. The color effect is, however, charming, running from soft brown tones of a pale color to a deep rich black. A combination of carving and burning gives satisfactory results. The wood may be light in color, like white maple, and the carving somewhat of the Indian (Hindoo) order; this, when complete, has the edges and background burned by a cautery. The work then varnished in the usual manner resembles a little old ivory carving and is well suited to certain rooms.



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