After the wonderful two days of learning about American glass, glass making and the history of glass development, it was time for Elizabeth and me to teach. The first course, Authenticating English and Continental Furniture from 1700 to 1840, was two days of class and hands on small group work. Then I taught a course for one day on the 19th century with the impact of all of the modern mechanical developments on both the “new” and revival styles. Finally Elizabeth and I taught a one day course as an intensive seminar studying 30 pieces as viewed through our eyes–why we view it as meritorious from style through construction to authentication–particularly fun as we again divided the group, this time in two parts, so that each group heard about all 30 pieces from each of us.
One of the important characteristics of 18th century French furniture is the quality of the gilt bronze mounts. Here Elizabeth is pointing out the superb mounts on a Louis XVI commode and noting how the parquetry (geometric inlays) relate to the bronze mounts and also noting the fine, thick marble typical of the original marble tops of the 18th and early 19th centuries. While copies of quality may indeed have fine marble, a thin piece is a dead give-away to replacement or a revival piece.
Elizabeth prepared a set of terrific hand-outs that everyone loved–”cheat sheets” for everything from dating to authenticating clues, including the all important reminders of authenticity. Great reminders whether shopping for the collectors, buying for the dealers or appraising for the appraisers in the classes.
Here I am discussing a piece made in London of a time almost identical to the French commode Elizabeth was discussing. The form is more chaste but the veneering brilliant and flamboyant employing satinwood, satin birch, harewood (dyed sycamore). touches of rosewood, etc. I am also pointing out the fact that every piece of veneer and inlay is shrinking over time, as the woods beneath the veneers have also shrunk. This leads to everything from substantial cracks to minute cracks as well as gaps between every single piece of the veneers and inlays. ALL wood shrinks over time, even the tiniest pieces of inlay, so always look for tiny gaps now filled with wax and grunge!
We had a wonderful array of pieces of wood, hardware, and construction examples to share on this first day of lectures–hands-on always are a real help both to understand each point and to not simply lecture with power point photos–a much livelier day!
With these samples we could easily examine one of the two principle methods of joinery from thousands of years BC to the present day–the contrast between mortise and tenon construction (in use by the Egyptians with furniture found in tombs dating to 3,500 BC) and doweled construction in regular use by 1830. While the chair parts are newly made they are all mortise and tenon construction whereas the ball and claw foot and rail on the right were joined with machine turned dowels. The importance of this–and the keys to spotting one or the other–cannot be emphasized enough. And we also examined the evolution of the second essential technique of fine joinery–the dovetail joint (simple, blind, blind mitered, slip). Again this joinery was in use for thousands of years, then lost from the end of Rome to the mid-17th century when the Dutch claim credit for its discovery (actually re-discovery). Agin we examined all of the 19th century mechanical substitutes for hand dovetailed joinery.
The history of hardware on an antique as well as the evolution of the styles and making of hardware is also important and again we had lots of pieces to share.
In all of the lectures other tools–hand and mechanical-were examined. While I obviously cannot share all of it, here are some pieces of wood which show hand plane marks and the lines left by machine planers when they develop little nicks in their blades. Can you tell which is which?
Here a group looks at some hardware bits with me:
Here students from Oregon, California, Texas, Florida. Connecticut and North Carolina gather around an array of hardware with me. We were particularly thrilled that this year three new students to our courses were in their mid-20s and just beginning their careers as appraisers! The opportunity to share information and learning opportunities with folks from around the country is an invaluable part of our annual seminars.
Here are some shots from day two as in groups of three they all explored a variety of pieces in the morning–every group studying every piece–and then joined together as Elizabeth and I explored with them their insights into each piece.
Every piece shared the story of it’s creation and it’s history over several hundred years of use. It is so much fun to “hear” their stories revealed by oxidation patterns, patination, sharp edges of little repairs, and so much more.
Everyone left excited for next year–some wanted to pre-register as we will be bringing in a brilliant teacher on prints and paintings from Texas, Brenda Simonson-Mohle while Elizabeth and I will teach a two day wood identification course. As soon as the third course is selected (or third and fourth if we do two one day seminars like this year) we will be letting you know the details!