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A Morris chair is an early type of reclining chair. The design was adapted by William Morris’s firm, Morris & Company, from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex, England. It was first marketed around 1866.
Morris chairs feature a seat with a reclining back and moderately high armrests, which give the chair an old-style appearance. The characteristic feature of a Morris chair is a hinged back, set between two un-upholstered arms.
Morris chair is a fairly flexible term. If you add the word Style, it becomes positively elastic.
Below are two from a recent auction. The first is considered a traditional Morris chair:
Morris Style Reclining Arm Chair
Description: Circa 1900, mahogany and pine, transitional mission style frame, later paisley upholstered cushions.
For some reason the auctioneer listed this under Furniture – English and Continental.
It has a robust back adjust mechanism:
The other is more of the “Mission” or the “Craftsman” Morris chair. This one is listed under Furniture – American:
Morris Style Reclining Arm Chair
Description: Circa 1900, later blue upholstery, oak frame, adjustable back with iron support bar, raised on shaped feet.
This back adjustment seems a bit less robust:
The content of this blog feels a bit light. I am obligated to add a few more chairs from the same auction. Third up is this chair just ready for you and your designer to make your own:
Queen Anne Wing Back Chair Frame
This lot has sold for $310.
Description: 18th century frame, oak and other hardwoods, with later front cabriole legs.
One way to get rid of all the vermin in your horsehair stuffing.
And one last chair to round things out. Or, in this case, a pair of chairs:
Pair of Transitional Carved Arm Chairs
This lot has sold for $400.
Description: Early 20th century, mahogany, floral needlepoint over upholstery, bowed arms terminating in eagle head, legs with acanthus carved knee and ball and claw foot.
One of a pair, the other looks just like it.
What really amused me about these chairs are the carved arms:
Yet more interesting(?) things from a recent auction.
There were three very different low boys at the auction a few weeks back. It is unusual to have that many low boys at one auction. They are as follows:
George II Inlaid Low Boy
Description: 18th century, oak, pine secondary, top with banded veneer bordered edge, single long drawer above three side by side short drawers, shaped skirt, on cabriole legs with ball and claw feet.
Size: 29 x 31.5 x 18.5 in.
English Queen Anne Low Boy
Description: 18th century, oak and elm, pine secondary, upper long drawer above three side by side short drawers, boldly scrolled skirt, cabriole legs with pad feet.
Size: 28.75 x 30 x 19.5 in.
Henry Ford Museum Reproduction Low Boy
Description: Colonial Manufacturing Co., with label and tag to interior of drawer, “Number 326 Mahogany Savery Low Boy”, upper long drawer above three side by side drawers, central with shell carving, fluted canted quarter columns, on cabriole legs with shell carved knee on ball and claw feet.
Size: 30 x 36 x 20.5 in.
I will mostly ignore the impostor for this blog. It has machine cut dovetails, believe it or not. The only interesting thing about it is the carved shell on the center drawer:
We will now compare parts of the two remaining low boys starting with the aprons and some drawer area details:
Some carcass detail:
All low boys have legs:
The cabriole leg continues up:
And edge treatments:
There was actually a fourth low boy at the auction:
Edwardian Inlaid Low Boy
Description: In the Queen Anne taste, circa 1900, mahogany, mahogany veneer, rectangular top with herringbone and sawtooth inlays, upper long drawer above a central hinged cabinet door flanked by two small drawers, shaped skirt, tall tapered legs with pad feet.
Size: 33 x 36 x 23 in.
And a fifth one at this weeks auction:
Description: Circa 1760, white pine secondary, top with molded edge, upper long lipped drawer above three side by side lipped drawers, shaped skirt with drop finials, raised on tall cabriole legs with pad feet.
Size: 32 x 35 x 21.5 in.
I will cover these later.
It just doesn’t really matter.
At the recent auction I saw and was mildly amused by this:
Primitive New England Hanging Cupboard
Description: Late 19th century, white pine, distressed green painted surface, hinged paneled doors with shelved interior, over two drawers.
Not really that interesting a piece. Out of force of habit, I looked at the drawer construction and it became more interesting. But only slightly:
The front dovetails are the then trendy thin pins. Looks to be around 1:6 or 9°. Or so. Fairly consistent leading me to think they were highly skilled or used some form of gauge.
The rear dovetails are fewer and coarser with the fairly extreme 1:2.4 or 30°. Darn near vulture tails in miniature.
Makes one wonder. Front dovetails as a means to show the skill of the maker and the rear pins more utilitarian? Putting the effort where it can be seen by prospective customers. Front pins made by the more skilled and rear pins by the lesser skilled, a division of labor?
It is fairly common for the drawer bottom to extend out the back of the drawer to become the back drawer stop.
I liked the turned knob and molding:
Dovetail angles. It doesn’t really matter, does it? Still, one can cogitate…
Today’s parable of the movement of wood concerns this George III Linen Press:
Description: Circa 1800, two-part form, high-grade burlwood mahogany veneers, mahogany, pine secondary, applied arched cornice with ebonized line inlay above a vertically veneered frieze, upper cabinet with two hinged doors, center with an applied reeded brass mount, each door featuring a rectangular panel with an inset square to each corner, interior with four pull-out linen drawers, base with two over two graduated cockbeaded drawers, raised on French bracket feet with a shaped skirt. (Thus sayeth the auction house.)
The maker of this press made an interesting choice when they made the doors. A large, wide board would have been a bad idea. The wide board would move and be highly unlikely to stay flat. A four-panel board would have been a common construction for a press in that era. Or any era. What is unusual is that they veneered over a four-panel door. A bad idea:
If you have ever read about, seen a video about or (God forbid) actually made a panelled door, you know that if you are using real wood for the panel, you don’t glue the panel to the frame. With our 20th/21st century sensibilities we know that the panels will move, expand across the width of the board. If glued, the frame may crack or glue joints may fail.
I have to believe that a 19th century cabinetmaker would have known about wood movement and the perils therein. Yet they choose to glue veneer to a panel that is guaranteed to (and did) move. With the expected results. To their credit, they did a really good job gluing the veneer down. No glue failures here. And the doors still exist in one plane, no warps. Impossible to say how long the veneer held it together.
Now, on to the drawers. I do like the pulls. They seem to be original:
The dovetails again are unique:
They seem to have left a pin off. Then again, symmetry is so overrated.
I know I said I would be finishing with the Barcelona Design Museum but there is just so much to process that I need to take a break from it until I figure out how to properly report on it. That and I am in week three of a cold I brought back from the Philippines. Oh, yeah, I was in the Philippines for about a week. I got per diem so it must have been for work. That’s the difference between a business trip and a vacation. If you get per diem, it’s a business trip. If you choose where you’re going, it’s a vacation. Something to be said for both.
Fortunately, the local better auction house has provided me with topics so plentiful that I should be able to enlighten and amuse you for quite a while. Eh?
First up is this American Hepplewhite Sideboard:
Description: Early 19th century, probably Mid Atlantic, mahogany, mahogany veneers, white pine and poplar secondary, concave central section with single drawer above two small cabinet doors, flanked by rounded corners, with cabinet doors, raised on square tapered legs. Size 38.5 x 64 x 23.5 in. (From the auction house.)
The curves were what caught my attention. There are many ways to bend or curve wood. We learned from a recent plantation visit that you can bend certain species by soaking them in a river for one year per inch of thickness to make the wood pliable. If you don’t have a convenient river, you can use steam for a more practical one hour per inch.
Then there is bent lamination in which thin layers of wood are glued and placed in a form of the desired shape. (Think freeform plywood.)
If you want to know about kerf bending, you can look it up.
If you can’t bend, you can always make it look bent or curved. There is the brute force method requiring a block of wood that is large enough to contain the curved part and cutting away the parts that fall outside the curves. This method leaves a lot of wood on the shop floor assuming, you can locate a block of wood that is large enough to contain the part. Then you need a saw (hand or powered) that is large enough to accommodate the blank.
A common variation is stacked lamination in which you do as above but one inch in height at a time. Start with a one-inch block of wood: work it to the desired contour. Glue another block atop it and contour to match. If you are into power tools, typically it’s a pattern router bit with bearing or a flush trim bit with bearing. And a router.
Repeat until you reach the desired height.
The downside of this technique is that, unless you like the striped look, you need to veneer it. Not a problem if veneering is where you are going. I can see some modern studio furniture using this technique unadorned.
Breadboard ends on the curved door provide stability and hide the end grain:
The center doors are also stacked laminations, just in the opposite direction. The interesting feature is how the gap between the doors is handled. Typically when doors meet, there is some device to minimize the gap between the doors, a rabbet, a molding or one door overlapping the other. On this server they used beveled edge. The doors do not meet with a 90° butt joint, they are angled:
I’ve seen this in other case pieces but this is the first time I’ve seen it used on curved doors.
No blog of mine can be considered complete without an examination of drawer construction. The veneer hides the truth but I believe the drawer front was cut from a thick block of wood:
The thickness of the drawer front does provide for some really interesting through dovetails:
As we saw in recent blog, the thick veneer allows the maker to use through dovetails instead of the fussy, annoying half-blind dovetails.
Olot is the capital city of the comarca of Garrotxa, in the Province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain on the European continent of the third planet of a star located at Sector 001. Approximately.
This blog is about the beds of Olot or more accurately, the headboards of the beds of Olot created in the late 18th century. Reading badly translated articles, by 1787, there were six workshops specializing in making headboards, making 300 to 500 per year. There was no master bedmaker but rather a collaboration between carpenters, carvers and painter/gilders. The articles also claim that some of these headboards were even shipped to the Americas in spite of their bulk and delicate nature.
From the wall in the exhibit:
The beds/headboards speak for themselves so I offer them without comment.
Woodworking is where you find it.
Over the next few blogs I will present the balance of my pictures from the Barcelona Museum of Design (Museu del Disseny de Barcelona). We were there in early November of last year. Perfect timing to avoid the election. (Who won? My wife still won’t tell me.)
I have already shared some pictures in a previous blog, Mules of Another Autonomous Region, a collection of eight slightly (extremely) over the top mule chests from the Catalan region of Spain. There is a history lesson back there too if you have yet to read it.
This blog is a quick one to highlight some pictures that don’t fit into other categories or topics of discussion.
I’m sure that most people realize the shape and volume 19th century dresses did not come entirely from petticoats and starch. But did you ever stop to consider what did the work. This did:
And this one:
The hoops were typically steel but whalebone and various forms of vulcanized rubber were also used. These hoops looked to me to be wood but short of climbing the cases, I couldn’t be certain. I just need them to be wood for the purposes of this blog.
Regardless of the material, I wouldn’t want to wear one. There were many health ramifications to such garments including being burned alive when the well-aerated fabric caught fire.
There was also an exhibit of 18th and 19th decorative fans:
An interesting Wikipedia article about crinolines HERE.
Next, beds of Catalonia. And it’s not what you think.
This blog has dovetail content but is not about dovetails. Dovetails are only used to illustrate the construction of the furniture in question. No dovetails were harmed in the production of this blog.
If you look at enough furniture you see things that defy expectations. Not wrong. I try not to be too judgmental. But things that not consistent with most other things I’ve seen. I always try to understand what they did and why they did it.
I really need to get a life.
Take this antique Empire chest of drawers:
The auction listing states:
Description: Attributed to Ohio or western PA, cherry top, mahogany and bird’s eye maple veneers with poplar secondary, upper projecting drawer supported by fully turned columns above three graduated cock-beaded drawers, tiger maple paneled sides, ebonized turned feet.
Simple enough. The form and wood selections are typical, nothing out of the ordinary. Do an image search for antique Empire chest of drawers and find many similar chests.
The variation is observed when you open a drawer and examine its construction:
(Cock-beading is a decorative bead added to a drawer, typically a thin strip of wood with a bead on one edge, set in a rabbet around a drawer front. These strips may be purely a decorative or may also be used to protect and conceal the edge of a veneer.)
A closer look may be required to see what caught my interest:
What is unusual to my eye is the use of a dark wood as a secondary wood in a veneered and cock-beaded drawer. The wood looks like walnut although it could be something else. Usually when the wood is being covered and concealed, a cheaper secondary wood is used as in this example:
I just wonder why. My first thought was that it was initially a walnut chest that had been remodeled to appease a client or respond to changing tastes. Furniture does get rebuilt with some regularity.
I am not entirely comfortable with this answer having had some time to consider it. Look at the columns in the above pictures. They look too good to be rework. Or do they? It certainly is an odd collection of woods. Maybe walnut is just what the maker had. There was less of the ability and opportunity to go out and get wood as needed. They often just had to make do with what they had.
Impossible to know but interesting to speculate…
More like pie safes of the 15% but 1% has more punch.
Pie safes are one of those ubiquitous items that seem to be found in almost every antiques mall in the US. Just like those cobalt viobots (violin bottles) with ears (tuning pegs):
There is such a wide distribution of these two items that I have a theory that they are required, it not by law, then by the secret cabals that run all the antiques malls in 46 of the lower 48 states. (They’ve been driven out of New Hampshire and Oklahoma.)
Pie safes have been around since the 1700’s protecting high value foods from whatever pests and vermin that have chosen to dwell in the encompassing dwelling. I have a previous blog with too much information and too many pictures HERE.
Most pie safes look ordinary and plain, not unlike this one:
But the elite 17% can’t be expected to use ordinary pie safes, they need something a bit more interesting. Because they can afford it.
Like this one:
And since it is a superior pie safe, it has dovetailed drawers:
(It wouldn’t be my blog without dovetails.)
And a fancy punched tin to match:
I worked very hard to find the word fylfot. I was trying to avoid swirling swastika or pinwheel. I knew the phonetics of the word but not the spelling. I looked at hundreds of images before I found a picture of the cover of Furniture in the Southern Style by Robert W. Lang and Glen D. Huey. Seeing the cover, I walked over to the bookshelf and found my copy, looked on page 144 and found the word fylfot. A quick google search showed me fylfot translates as swastika. Ya can’t win…
Fylfot was also used in the auction listing had I bothered to read it.
As we enter a new era, I wanted to show a pie safe from the other 17% as represented by this safe:
I recently spent a few days in New Orleans for no other reason than to avoid my family over the holidays. I was accompanied by my wife. The Marriott points were hers. It’s useful to have a place to sleep, even in New Orleans.
I have nothing against my family but I think we are all happy we live where we do. Elsewhere. You can now bicker by text and Skype remotely where in the past a physical presence was required. My wife and I did spend four days with the family in Missouri. The family moved there via Denver after I left for college. Visiting a place for almost 40 years does not make it home…
New Orleans in a great food town and we ate our way through it as only we can. The free breakfast at the hotel is almost worth what you pay for it. I’ve been told they’re not powdered eggs but instead arrive in a plastic bag. A lukewarm comfort at best.
This leave us time to fill between meals. We have already hit most of the museums, historic houses and antique shops on Royal during past visits. The antique inventory may change but the character remains consistent. To find new thing you need to go to new places.
This time we rented a car and headed out to the plantations west of town. We have avoided renting cars in the past in that overnight hotel parking runs $40 per night. A local lot allows you to park overnight for the discounted rate of $26.50! This is as much or more than the car rental. This trip we found a hotel three blocks from an in town car rental agency and rented one for the day as needed. About as fast as waiting for the valet.
The first plantation we visited was the Nottoway Plantation, now the Nottoway Plantation and Resort. Apparently have around 200 enslaved workers kept you from attaining resort status in the day.
It is the largest extant antebellum plantation house in the South with 53,000 square feet of floor space spread over three floors in 64 rooms.
Architecturally, the most interesting feature is the white ballroom. Everything is white. The floor is white. Walls are white. Trim is white. Window treatments, white. And one of the interesting feature in the ballroom is this alcove with the curved wall:
Eavesdropping on the guided tour, I heard the claim that the wall were made from bent cypress. To bend the cypress, the wood was soaked in the Mississippi for one year per inch of thickness. No claims were made as to the thickness of the cypress of the length of time soaked. The mansion was built in three years from lumber harvesting to move in so the wood must only be about 2″. Our Audioguide made similar claims so I will have to accept this as the truth, at least as they see it.
The furniture is not surprisingly mostly Empire and Regency with some Biedermeier/Belter style furniture thrown in as accents:
We can’t forget the French influences throughout Louisiana:
Another bed seen in many of the grand southern houses is the half tester bed:
If you are curious about the meaning of half tester, there is an informative blog HERE.
The last piece I am including in this preview is this carved chair:
Still, it amuses me:
The rest of the pictures can be found HERE.