Whitehall Blog

Archive for March, 2011

HIGH POINT FURNITURE MARKET

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

All of our retail clients are invited to HISTORIC MARKET SQUARE to the opening party for THE ANTIQUE AND DESIGN CENTER, a 125,000 sq. ft. antiques and design show featuring everything from fine period English , French, Italian and Swedish furniture to mid-century modernism to country American, with a generous sprinkling of funky!  And of course there’s jewelry, oriental rugs, cool reproduction mirrors, antique garden furniture and so much more.

PARTY open to retail buyers is March 31 from 5-8 pm.  You are also welcome on April 6th from 9 to 7 and on April 7 from 9 to 2.  All other times are strictly restricted to the trade–interior designers and furniture buyers, with their registered clients only.

So come see what the designers from all over America, Europe and South America are buying this Spring!  Hope to see you–we are in Booth 1 at the private entrance for March 31 and April 1–come see us!

Put this address in your GPS to reach the free parking lot for the Antique and Design Center in Historic Market Square:  316 W. Commerce St, High Point, NC

For a list of participants, lecture schedule (including yours truly–blush blush), Google Antique and Design Center

A Curious Question

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

I am curious to know if anyone is reading these blogs–would love to hear from you if you are–would love to answer any questions about any issues or discussions.

David

Blazing Buffet a deux Corps

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The buffet a deux corps is one of the grandest of all pieces of French furniture, literally meaning a buffet in two bodies it can incorporate many variations, but always one piece is set upon a slightly larger piece (thus two bodies!).  In the Anglo-American tradition this form is much rarer.  England has a few china presses and housekeeping cupboards.  American has a tradition of Pewter Cupboards which are enclosed at the top and often glazed–perhaps our melting pot brought this European concept to the colonies at an early stage and its usefulness for storage as well as display was appreciated.  For whatever reason, we have a long tradition of “step-back cupboards” and “Pewter Cupboards” showing every regional characteristic imaginable throughout America.

In France we have a range of forms from every region, sometimes a simple tow part piece, each with two doors; sometimes a buffet enfilade a deux corps–three or more doors and drawers in each section, thus “in a line”–enfilade; sometimes a “grand” piece, a particularly imposing or flamboyant piece; sometimes a grand buffet a deux corps horloge, one incorporating the movement of a tall case clock (very rare).  Currently you will find on our website every type of buffet a deux corps including one with a clock–please examine all of them after reading this study–each has a lesson in design and history to offer.

What we are now going to examine is a truly delicious example from Vire in Normandy–wood, carving, mounts–it has it all as you will see. (WOF-2114Z on our website)

c. 1800 Buffet A Deux Corps

c. 1800 Buffet A Deux Corps

This example is of solid cherry with brass escutcheons, drawer pulls and hinges–the latter aspect, brass rather than steel, is typical after the late 18th century when brass replaced steel almost exclusively.  The essence of this piece is pure neoclassicism–floral and repetitive carved motifs repeated over and over moving up the entire surface to the rather resplendent multi-tiered crown molding. Detail shots will reveal the intricacy of these carved motifs.

Apron Carving

Apron Carving

As you look at the apron detail, keep referring to the full view photo–you will see that while the entire piece is robustly carved, there is successful movement upwards so that this truly massive piece actually has a graceful presence that lifts the eyes ever upward–the most important visual statement accomplished by every fine cabinetmaker.  This apron has a centered urn of flowers flowing delicately across the base.  It will be repeated in various iterations to the top.

(NOTE:  if you view the photo details on our website you can blow-up the thumbnails for even more intense study.)

Top Center

Top Center

A brilliant device of this cabinetmaker was his use of slightly arched upper doors to move the eye upward.  Above the robust carved upper panels of the doors is an arching panel with the urn of flowers again–beginning tight and spreading outwards.

Upper Corner and Crown Molding

Upper Corner and Crown Molding

Here the cabinetmaker has literally crowned his achievement with a rounded corner on the crown molding and repeated several carved motifs to help again lift the eyes to the very top.  The molding conforms to the outset columns which grace the entire piece–and note those columns are stop fluted top and bottom–and each stop contains a line of tiny bellflowers which are of differing lengths to further the appearance of lightness and grace. The center flute up and down is longer than its flanking flutes.  (Stop flutes are the reverse of the flute, which is a rounded gouge, and partially fill the gouge or groove with, normally, a reed ending in a little sharp point.  In this case the reeds become flowers for their last few inches!)

Now let’s open a lower door.

Door Opened

Door Opened

If you have not noticed, the exterior has a gorgeous color and consistency–the finest cherry selected for every inch of this piece.  Inside we see several important aspects of successful cabinetmaking.  The elegant door panels are floating within a four piece frame cut to reflect the desired and intriguing shape of each panel–these frame rails are actually very thick to allow for the robust carving (see above full length photo.  Note that the shape of the base of each door panel is reflected across the bottom line of the apron.  Observe also the stock of the timbers (thickness) used for that apron as well as the corner upright stiles–all of which must be fitted together with large and substantial mortise and tenon joints.  Yet there is a minimal number of pins or pegs–this cabinetmaker made these joints with incredible precision.  Of course, unlike his English counterpart, the French cabinetmaker did not glue these joints–each peg could be rapidly popped out, the piece dismantled in a few minutes, transported to the new owner’s home and erected in place, again in just a few minutes.  In England every piece was, with a few exceptions, shipped in expensive crates to its new home in only a few pieces.  The Gillow firm offered their clients substantial rebates on shipping charges if they returned the crates!  And according to surviving records the English often had goods heavily damaged in shipment, sometimes sending a craftsman to the home to repair the piece on site.

Back of Commode–further study

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

blog3-16-11-0091

In this photo of the commode study from my last blog it is really amazing to see the care used in making the back. There are triple floating panels of oak set in oak stiles and each of the edges is carefully champhered with a molding plane to assure an elegant back (as if anyone but the owner would ever see it!).  We are studying a piece that was made in the tradition of native born cabinetmakers (menuisier tradition), not the elite ebeniste tradition and if you study any piece made by the great ebenistes you will find this care every time.  Is the term “country” French a bit condescending for such a piece?  Do we American dealers and collectors fail to appreciate the superb workmanship to be found throughout France in the 18th century?  I cannot think of a better term than “country French” for pieces made entirely of indigenous woods using carving to replicate bronze mounts–yet clearly these are pieces to admire with awe.

Neoclassical French Commode

Sunday, March 13th, 2011
c. 1770 Cherry Commode

c. 1770 Cherry Commode

c. 1770 commode-top view

c. 1770 commode-top view

This French commode represents high “provincial” design–suitable for a fine Parisian home, a chateau or perhaps the home of a very wealthy and successful businessman/merchant.  It is a fine example of the indigenous French cabinetmaking tradition called menuisier as opposed to the Germanic influenced Court/Versailles centered tradition of veneers and bronze mounts, the ebeniste tradition.  Instead of exotic imported woods used as veeners over an oak carcass, it is solid cherry–locally grown timber harvested, dried and used throughout many regions of France.  Yet in many ways it successfully mimics the formal version:  stop-fluted reeded columns turn and taper elegantly into short legs;  the columns are outset and the superb quality, original marble follows perfectly that outline finished with a molded top edge; the drawers are simply outlined in a thick applied band that would be bronze in the Court version; the proportions are perfect.

The quality of outer construction and design is matched by the hidden construction details.  The back consists of a set of three floating panels of oak–guaranteeing no amount of shrinkage will ever allow dust and dirt to reach the valuable clothing contained in the drawers. Each layer of drawers is separated by dust covers to add further security against dirt infiltration.

Sliding back the marble we learn several things!

Top under marble

Top under marble

First, we see that thick cherry solids are held together by two techniques depending on the security of each:  the upper stile or top rail is dovetailed into the column while the side stiles are mortoise and tennoned  into the columns (they allow the side panels to float free and never crack–again, no dirt gets in!).  Under the marble are more floating panels of oak further securing the piece structurally but most importantly sealing the case–marble is never a secure enough fit to keep all air and dirt out as it is unmoving and difficult to smooth and the wood under it is moving and shrinking, a sure recipe for dirt getting inside.

And we see the piece is not maker stamped–and frankly we did not expect to find such a stamp.  For interest, the next photo shows the concealed stamp under the marble of an Empire chest discussed in an earlier blog–please peruse it as reference.  This Empire commode was made by Gamichon and he stamped a drawer top (unusual) and every corner under the marble!  A very proud cabinetmaker indeed.

Typical French Maker's Stamp

Typical French Maker's Stamp

It is also fun to note the multiple thin dovetails used as a joint by Gamichon in contrast to the single large dovetail of our cherry “provincial” piece (“provincial” in quotes because it could easily have been made in Paris or another major French city–not in the countryside for a chateau only).

Now we can examine the drawer construction.

Center Top Drawer

Center Top Drawer

Here we encounter fine dovetailing and a cherry drawer fully lined in finely finished oak–the best possible construction rivaling anything in the Court/ebeniste tradition.

Top Center Drawer--Secret Locking Compartment

Top Center Drawer--Secret Locking Compartment

When the drawer is removed, the lidded left half of the drawer is clear.  It has a hinge about 3/4′s the way back and opens by simply lifting the side toward the front of the drawer.  We will soon see, the trick lock has been broken open by someone who no longer knew the secret of the locking mechanism.

Underneath the drawer (second photo below) we can see a small trigger mechanism–the drawer must be pulled out about half way to find this little steel trigger, neatly hidden in the bottom of the drawer–the drawer opens smoothly–no evidence of its presence.

Scar of MISSING Lock Plate

Scar of MISSING Lock Plate

Lifting the cover we can see where the lock plate was once installed–the trigger mechanism moved a pin into this plate to lock this “secret in plain sight” cover for the valuables till.

Trigger Under the Drawer

Trigger Under the Drawer

Facebook

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Please join our facebook page for regular antiques chat and updates–just search for “Whitehall Antiques”!

Thanks

An Important Regency Wine Cooler

Sunday, March 6th, 2011
Cooler Closed

Cooler Closed

Over the past 25 years we have sold this cooler and it’s mate several times–totally exciting to once again offer it for sale.  Made in London for a highly discriminating client this is simply one of the finest wine coolers ever made.  The rich mahogany timbers are enhanced by a perfect sarcophagus design and extravagantly mounted in cast gilt bronze mounts of exceptional detail.  If it seems like I am using a heck of a lot of superlatives in one description, I really can’t use enough!

Let’s also look at this great piece open–then we can discuss why it is a cooler, not a cellarette.  And we can explore all of the fine details and a rather interesting provenance as well.

wof2176z-open-1

Opened we immediately notice the heavy, original lead lining which allowed the butler to fill the cooler with ice surrounding the bottles of wine.  A cellarette will have wooden dividers to separate bottles of various types or a single type–that is openings made by the dividers may be uniform or varying in size.  There is no need for a lead lining in a cellarette as it will never be filled with ice.

This cooler was made about 1815 and represents stylistically what the Empire in France and Regency in England are all about design-wise.  It is based on a classical sarcophagus–tomb–and incorporates all of the trappings of Roman grandeur:  carved lion paw feet, cast lion’s head mounts (three no less, two as handles which could never support the immense weight), a strap of bronze around the entire object, carved rosettes.  Notice how the base cants sharply inward while the coffered top extends well beyond the base line with it’s projecting feet–protected they have thus survived almost perfectly all these years.  One can imagine a marble body stretched out on the top were this truly a tomb!

Above each foot is a supporting flattened pilaster, stop-fluted and capped by a carved rosette .  The piece has no secondary wood–it is entirely of finely chosen mahogany timber enhanced by equally lush flame veneer panels of mahogany.  Each of the three ringed lion masks is as finely chiseled as any bronze ever made–almost certainly the work of Matthew Boulton whose foundry produced England’s finest bronze mounts.  Each ring has a detailed entwined circled leaf motif taken from the larger bronze strap which bands the lid so handsomely.

This cooler and its mate were part of the collection of the late Billy Rose, a prominent and somewhat infamous Broadway mogul and sophisticated collector of fine antiques.  We originally bought them at Sotheby’s in NYC when his collection was dispersed.  The buyer of both eventually moved and asked us to sell one (rather a pity);  it went to a New York collector who sold it years later for a great profit!  Now the owner of the pair has asked us to sell the second one–someone else’s turn to have a truly great piece.

These coolers and related cellarettes were made to fit under the broad opening of a sideboard, thus this pair graced the floor under a magnificent pair of sideboards in a very substantial dining room, probably a country house of this lush period in English architecture and interior design.  It takes about a seven foot sideboard to have an opening substantial enough to accommodate this cellarette which is 30.25″ wide, 20″ high and 17.5″deep–they must open while sitting under the sideboard (no casters to slide them forward).

Price and details are on our website (www.whitehall.com) under the heading Wine Coolers/Cellarettes

Blue Grass Trust

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Looking forward to the annual Blue Grass Trust Antiques and Garden Show this week at the historic Keeneland Stables and Conference Center in Lexington, Kentucky.  We hope to see many of you there–a great, well balanced show for a fine cause of historic preservation.  It’s the 75th anniversary of the first race at Keeneland so don’t miss a fun weekend!