Portrait Of A Russian Drawn By Dienay

Portrait Of A Russian Drawn By Dienay

(See page 236)

Old English Furniture.

The forging, or "faking," of "antique" furniture is a regular branch of industry, which flourishes exceedingly in England just now, when about every other person of one's acquaintance is a connoisseur or a collector of some sort. Bibelots and curios are in the nature

Carved Oak Flour Hutch.

Carved Oak Flour Hutch.

From " Old English Furniture." (Courtesy of Geo. Newnes of luxuries, and the collector of them is fully aware of the risks he runs in the pursuit of his hobby. It is somewhat different, however, in the purchase of furniture, which is a necessity, and the fact that it is "old," so far from necessarily enhancing its cost, in many cases makes it possible for it to be sold at a price at which no modern craftsman could afford to reproduce it. Herein lies the security of the buyer. But because an article of "antique" furniture is old, it by no means follows that it is genuine: in at least nine cases out of ten any considerable piece, such as an elaborately carved oak bureau or sideboard, purporting to be, say of the Tudor or of the Stuart period - which are the easiest to "fake" - will, on examination, be found to be made up only of portions of a genuine piece, which have been eked out with plain old oak, shaped and carved to meet the requirements of the dealer. Sometimes the accessory timber used is comparatively new, and the rich mellow colour of old oak, naturally acquired by the absorption of ammonia from the atmosphere, is simulated by fumigation and staining, but the difference would be evident to the practised eye.

These observations have been suggested by the perusal of "Old English Furniture," a capital guide for the novice, by Frederick Fenn and B. Wyllie, issued in the "Newnes Library of the Applied Arts." While much less expensive - the price is 7s. 6d. net - than some more pretentious works on the subject, it is free from padding, being, indeed, thoroughly practical from cover to cover. The illustrations are photographic reproductions of choice examples of old English furniture - there are nearly a hundred - ranging from Tudor times to those of Chippendale. Of the latter's "ribbon-backed" chairs and settees some particularly fine specimens are given from Mr. James Orrock's collection, and from the same source are the illustrations of some remarkably delicate and elaborate chairs and settees made by Pergolesi for the Adam brothers. As the author remarks, " these are not so generally well known, but the style is excellently shown in the photographs, which make it possible for anyone to recognise Pergolesi's work, if lucky enough to come across it. . . . The pieces are white enamel picked out with gold, and the coverings are cashmere, painted with a design exactly suiting the chair or settee."

Mahogany was not brought into this country until 1724), and Chippendale appears to have been one of the first cabinet-makers to use it in the manufacture of furniture. But he is regarded by our authors as a decadent in the craft, and to have been indebted to the Stuart period for his models. "In no case," we are told, "did he improve the form of a single piece of furniture which had existed before his time." Contrary to the popular impression, it is pointed out that Chippendale did not invent the feature of the claw-and-ball foot, but simply revived its use

Harly Chest, with Linen fold Carving. (Early Tudor.)

Harly Chest, with Linen-fold Carving. (Early Tudor.)

From "Old English Furniture." (Courtesy of Geo. Newnes. Lid.) from Stuart times. So too, with cabriole legs, which had been used for a century before his time. A thing which it is conceded, however, that

From Old English Furniture, by Frederick Fenn and B. Wyllie. (Courtesy of Geo. Newnes, Ltd.)

From " Old English Furniture," by Frederick Fenn and B. Wyllie. (Courtesy of Geo. Newnes, Ltd.)

Chippendale Ribbon-back Settee.

(From the Collection of James Orrock, Esq.)

Pergolesi Settee.

Pergolesi Settee.

(From the Collection of James Orrock, Esq.)

Chippendale not only invented, but made more exquisitely than it has ever been made before or since, was the bracket, and the "tip" is given that "reproductions of his fine sets of bracket shelves, with fret sides jutting out slightly in the centre front of the lower shelves, should sell by the thousand, if any modern maker had the enterprise to buy one of the originals and copy it without trying to improve on it."

Among the many practical hints to the novice is this: "Never make the mistake of taking off the original handles and lock-plates of drawers because they are incomplete. Get some good brass-worker to make the best copies he can of the ones that are original. The copies will be inferior in finish, but when they are in their places on the furniture this would only be apparent to an expert." And this: "All mahogany furniture that is genuinely antique is solid and immensely heavy. None which is made upon deal is of any value."

Stencil Design. By G. May Shepherd.

Stencil Design. By G. May Shepherd.

Suitable also for Marquetry or Embossed Leather.

The hints in regard to Sheraton furniture should prove particularly valuable to the inexperienced buyer, who is reminded that there is not a vast amount of genuine furniture of the Sheraton period, that is to say, work which was inlaid at the time it was made; though there is a good deal of originally plain mahogany of later date, which the dealer has had inlaid since " Sheraton" became easy to sell. Against this pitfall for the unwary, the only safeguard, we are told, is "a knowledge of or feeling for the forms which belong to the genuine inlaid period. These are much more elegant than the later styles, and give the impression of lightness." The best sideboards, perhaps, are the large semi-circular ones. Those to be avoided are " the ones which would be oblong, except that the front ends are just rounded a little at the corners." In their original state they generally had turned legs, but these the faker has changed to the taper variety. The inlaid shells, so characteristic in genuine old pieces, in the modern imitation work are " made by the gross, and plastered on like postage stamps without any real regard for the plan of the piece they are to embellish." The satinwood, if of the best period, is, like mahogany, veneered upon oak. " Collectors " who know a little about old furniture are aware of this. So are the dealers, and they not infrequently strip off the well-matched, walnut-wood facing from the oak carcase of a Queen Anne bureau and substitute veneer of satin-wood, whose newness they tone down to suit the taste of the buyer. The " collector," satisfied about the oak carcase, does not ask himself if satin-wood bureaux were ever made. Mr. Fenn would tell him he might as well expect to find a satin-wood four-poster. The inlays of the best period of satin-wood furniture are greenwood, harewood, or tulip. Rosewood was also used, but not as the principal inlay.

The objections to wall-hangings other than paper are that the cheaper sort - Indian or other cotton prints, chintzes, and the like - are as poor in effect as wall-paper, or worse, that they catch dust and germs more readily, and that the dearer sort - damask and tapestry - cannot be replaced. But these last costly hangings should be stretched on wooden stretchers like canvas, so that it will be easy to take them down when necessary. They can then be cleaned and repaired like other stuffs. Put up in this way, there is no objection to them but their cost. To justify that, they should be real works of art. It is ridiculous to pay as much for a poor wall-hanging as one would have to pay for a good picture.

A Beautiful lamp shade is to be found in a Hampstead studio. It is made of squares of silk painted in charming flower designs with transparent washes and sewed together with open insertions of lace. The effect under the light is charming.