Mahogany Side Table With Pedestals And Urns

Pedestals and Urns : 5 ft. 8 ins. high x 1 ft. 3J ins. wide. Side Table : 5 ft. 4 ins. long x 2 ft. 4 ins. deep x 3 ft. high. Date about 1790.

  1. 180. The companion Pedestal and Urn to Fig. 179.
  2. The fact that he was commissioned to provide the plates in the " Price Book " by the Cabinet-makers' Society of that date—an association including both masters and workmen, and quite distinct in character from the present-clay trade union society speaks well for his status as a practical cabinet-maker, the credentials of both the firm of Hepplewhite and even Sheraton himself being somewhat dubious in this particular. Shearer, through the medium of the " Price Book "—a volume indispensable to every master and workman at this period—must have influenced his trade in even greater degree than either Hepplewhite or A\ Sheraton, and to him was pro bably due the prevalence of ^^ certain details which are abso-

flutely ignored by the two latter. Two of these are shown in the next example, Fig. 174, one being the scrolled pediment finishing 011 the volute with a turned patera, and the other the ogee-moulded bracket-foot. The latter especially is probably one °f the most familiar details in HSJJ^^. the cabinet-work of 1780-90, evidenced very strongly in the case of the conservative firm of Gillows of Lancaster, in whose cost-books this foot is illustrated on nearly every other page. The scrolled pediment, of the type shown here, is also referred to as the "Tuscan" form, and the pattern must have been an oft-repeated one to have acquired a definite name. In the cabinet, Fig. 174, tiie upper doors are of similar character to those on the lower part of Fig. 168. The under carcase is based on the form of the serpentine-fronted


5 fl. 11 ins. high x I ft. 3 ins. wide. Date ahnut 178.V

Fig. 180. The companion Pedestal and Urn to Fig. 179.

chests of drawers of the later Chippendale period. The top drawer is fitted with a grooved and lined writing-slide running on tongued fillets, and the whole piece suggests that its functions were of a composite character, its proper habitat being, in all probability, the bedroom.

Fig. 175 illustrates another phase of the Adam character which appears to have permeated the whole trade, but where the influence of Hepplewhite is not in any way apparent. Traces of the style of Chippendale will be noticed in the corner brackets and the central tablet, although the date of this table is probably some years after his death. The same character is also evident in the next example, Fig. 176, which, although having the general appearance of a writing-table, has been made and fitted as a sideboard.

The popularity of the pedestal sideboard for lofty and large apartments had been firmly established by Robert Adam, and an extraordinary amount of fine and difficult cabinet-work was frequently lavished on these pieces during the Hepplewhite period. Figs. 177, 179, and 180 show the oviform urn * which was a favourite pattern at this date, altnough superseded by the vase form in the hands of Shearer and Sheraton. These oviform urns were usually lead or foil lined, made with small lift-off caps on the tops and fitted with plated taps below. Their function appears to have been to hold rose-water for use in finger-bowls. In Fig. 177 the semicircular sideboard is of later character than the pedestals and urns, the original table being, in all probability, either straight or with the front swept in a flat bow. In Figs. 179 and 1S0 the urns are fitted with handles at the sides, the functions of the pedestals being those prescribed by Hepplewhite in the Guide. Fig. 178 shows the five-piece pedestal sideboard of this " Hepplewhite-Adam " period in its complete form, the urns here being fitted with a perforated three-tier terrace to hold knives, forks, and spoons, the top rising on a central pillar.

The furniture of this period, from 17S0 to 1792, merges from the Adam into the Sheraton period, and in manv ways forecasts the character of the work of the latter designer. Thomas Sheraton, however, in spite of plagiarism, and of influences received from others without acknowledgment and even with opprobrium in lieu of thanks, did so much for the improvement in the design of the furniture of his period, that the consideration of his style merits separate consideration at some length and detail, and this will therefore be reserved for succeeding chapters.

* See Fig. 129, as an example of Hepplewhite's version of urns ot this form.

Hepplewhite's Chairs, Sofas, and Settees.

N the first volume of this book, certain reasons were adduced in support of the theory that the trades of the " joyner " and the chair-maker were quite distinct during the reign of Anne and the first two Georges. The tendency of the later eighteenth century was towards greater rather than lesser specialisation. Sheraton refers, in the text to the Drawing Book, to a certain John Lane, who was a maker of knife-cases, and therefore capable of producing these articles both better and cheaper than other cabinet-makers. With specialisation such as this, it is difficult to imagine that the trades of the cabinet-maker and the chair-maker were combined in the hands of craftsmen such as Chippendale and Hepplewhite. When we come to examine their chair designs, as distinct from the pieces which were actually made at the period—in which the rationalising influence of the practical chair-maker had been at work—we find that we have been confusing terms, and that what we really implied by the term " chair-maker " was a designer of chairs. In this respect, in the case of Thomas Chippendale, we were enabled to compare his Director designs with some of the actual models made after them, and the result proved that, however fertile Chippendale may have been in designing, his want of practical knowledge—the trained eye for proportion of a practical craftsman—was at once apparent. Thus we had chairs without " stuffing-rails," and similar absurdities, illustrated on page after page of the Director.

Of all the eighteenth-century designers of chairs, with the single exception of Thomas Sheraton, Hepplewhite was the most practical, and the one whose designs needed the least modification in the process of manufacture. The reference here is, of course, to the author of the patterns illustrated in the Guide, which, if only for convenience, may be assumed to be George Hepplewhite himself. Even here, however, want of technical experience originate such absurdities as the " French sofa " illustrated in Fig. 241.

If in many of the furniture designs of Hepplewhite the influence of Robert Adam is traceable, there is strong evidence for the opposite in the case of chairs and settees. Hepplewhite's chairs are among his most original creations, and if the lapse of one hundred and thirty years obliges us to class together all the productions of his period which are in his style, and ascribe the authorship of them to him, there is not the same implication of plagiarism as in the case of Thomas Chippendale. With the latter,

what is known as the " Chippendale style " was so general throughout the trade, and at the very outset of his post-Director career, that we were compelled to view his claims to originality somewhat askance. Hepplewhite's Guide was the first of its kind in the field, and if he borrowed from Robert Adam, the latter was frequently the gainer thereby.

We can commence our examination of Hepplewhite's chairs and "sofas"—the term " settee," although more applicable, is of later date—with the following extracts from the Guide.


" Chairs.

" The general dimension and proportion of chairs are as follows : Width in front 20 inches, depth of the seat 17 inches, height of the seat frame 17 inches ; total height about 3 feet 1 inch. Other dimensions are frequently adapted according to the size of the room or pleasure of the purchaser.

" Chairs in general are made of (ij mahogany, with the bars and frame sunk in a hollow, or rising in a round projection, with a band or list on the inner and outer edges. Many of these designs are enriched with ornaments proper to be carved in mahogany as the designs A B, plates 1,2, &c.

" Mahogany chairs should have the seats of horsehair, plain, striped, chequered, &c., at pleasure.

I'lale 22 in all editions of the Guide.

" For chairs, a new and very elegant fashion has arisen within these few years, of finishing them with painted or japanned work, which gives a rich and splendid appearance to the minuter parts of the ornaments, which are generally thrown in by the painter. The designs K, plate 6 ; 0, plate 7 ; R and S, plate 8, are particularly adapted to this stile, which allows a frame-work less mass)' than is requisite for mahogany ; and by assorting the prevailing colour to the furniture and the light of the room, affords opportunity, by the variety of grounds which may be introduced, to make the whole accord in harmony, with a pleasing and striking effect to the eye. Japanned chairs should always have lined or cotton cases to accord with the general hue of the chair.

" This kind of chair in general is called banister back chair ; for which are given eighteen different designs.

" Chairs with Stuffed Backs are called cabriole chairs. The designs E F are of the newest fashion ; the arms to F, though much higher than usual, have (?> been executed with a good effect for his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The designs, plate 11, are also quite new. To the design X, plate 12, we have given a French foot ; the enrichments of which may be either carved, carved and gilt, or japanned."

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