Glossary of Antique Terms

A Acanthus Classical ornamental device based on leaves of the Acanthus plant.
Armoire French term for a large, tall cupboard or press used for storing clothes.
Art deco Derived from an historic Paris exposition in 1925 that celebrated the marriage of art and industry in denunciation of Art Nouveau. It introduced simple, streamlined forms that were majestically interpreted in exotic woods and materials. American designers of the 1930s took this look further, using asymmetry, arcs, sleek lines, and geometric shapes not only in furniture, but also in architecture and a wide range of household objects.
Ash A close-grained wood resembling oak; ash was popular for country furniture and for drawer linings.
B Baluster Turned, curving column consisting of several parts: a base, a swelling known as the poire (pear) or panse (belly), a neck immediately above this, above which, in turn, is a culminating capital. Balusters often used on legs for tables and chairs.
Banding Narrow decorative strips of veneer or inlay usually forming a border.
Baroque Style of architecture and decoration originating in Italy during late 16th Century and spreading to other areas of Europe. Style is characterized by large scale, bold detail and sweeping curves. It was followed by the rococo style.
Beech An hardwood often used to make chair frames and country furniture.
Bentwood Lightweight or laminated wood that has been bent into curved shapes by steaming or soaking in hot water.
Bergere French upholstered armchair. In the 19th Century, this term applied to an upholstered, deep-seated chair with a loose cushion and padded arms.
Bibliotheque French term - literally library. In furniture terms, it is a bookcase.
Biedermeier Commonly misunderstood as an actual cabinetmaker or furniture designer, Biedermeier was a fictitious character created by two German satirists in the late 1840s. The Biedermeier style in furniture was known for its clean lines, proportion, utility and geometry of form, which stood out as a rejection of the extravagance and ornament of the previous Empire Style. The furniture was often crafted from locally available fruit woods such as cherry and pear, as well as ash and oak. These woods provide much of the aesthetic that has become known as Biedermeier.
Birch Close-grained yellow wood used for chairs and case furniture.
Birds Eye Maple Pale wood in which the grain forms rings around small dark knots; popular for veneers.
Biscuit Unglazed, fired porcelain, usually left entirely undecorated.
Bombe French term - literally blown out. Used to describe the bulging forms frequent in Louis XV case furniture.
Bonheur Du Jour A ladys writing desk with shelves and pigeonholes, introduced in the mid-1700s.
Boulle Style of marquetry using tortoise shell and brass inlay perfected by Andre-Charles Boulle, Louis XIVs cabinetmaker.
Breakfast Table Small, four-legged table with two hinged flaps; easily moved.
Buffet A side or serving table usually of two or more tiers, the function of which was replaced in the 18th Century by the sideboard.
Burl Abnormal excresence on a tree that produces mottled or speckled patterns in wood, which is much prized in veneers.
Burl Walnut A veneer cut from a cross-section of the gnarled grain at a trees base.
C C-scroll Decorative devise based on the letter C, popular on Rococo furniture.
Cabriole A sinuous tapering leg, curving outward at the knee, in toward the ankle and out again at the foot. Cabriole legs were popular from early to late 1700s.
Carver A dining chair with arms, which is also often called an elbow chair.
Caryatid Support shaped like a female figure.
Castor A small wheel, made of wood, china, brass or leather, attached to the bottom of tables or chairs allowing them to be moved easily.
E Ebeniste French term for a cabinetmaker specializing in veneer.
Entablature Refers to components surmounting a column: the architrave, frieze and cornice.
Escutcheon Metal plate surrounding keyhole on furniture, serves both decorative and protective function; also a carved shield on a pediment.
F Finial Carved, turned or metal ornament mounted on top of a piece of furniture.
L Lacquer Layer of hard, glossy resin built up and carved, or inlaid with various materials.
M Mahogany Rich copper red wood from Central and South America.
Marquetry Floral, landscape or other pattern of veneer in woods of contrasting grains and patterns.
Massier Family The dynasty of the Massier Family as renown and respected potters goes back to the 18th century. The paterfamilias Pierre Massier (1707 - 1748) started as maître potier à terre in Vallauris (south of France). In the middle of the 19th century Vallauris was respected around the whole world for its outstanding quality of kitchen ceramics. Due to the composition of the extracted clay in the area around Vallauris, which can withstand high temperatures and doesnt influence the taste, it became the Provençal capital of kitchen ceramics. For the wellborn bourgeoisie, services were manufactured à la Louis XV. As heirs of this tradition, which Jacques (1806 -1871) and his brother Jérôme Massier (1820 - 1909) were, the Massier atelier went one step further and started making jewelry, stoves and fireplace mantels and eventually ending up manufacturing artistic ceramics. Especially the sons of Jacques, Delphin (1836 - 1907) and Clément (1844 - 1917) and their cousin Jean-Baptiste, alias Jérôme fils (1850 - 1916), made the name Massier a world-famous potter name. All started completely individual. Delphin and Jérôme stayed in Vallauris, Clément, the most commercial, moved to the Golfe-Juan. There his clientele came from Cannes, Antibes en Nice. The nearby railways made it easy to send his objects throughout France. He married Marie Dewick, a Scottish beauty but also a clever lady who easily connected with the many English people who visited Côte dAzur in those years. Clément was very successful in these years, of course for the bigger part because of his artistic craftsmanship. He used Lusterglaze of a exceptional beauty. The technique of his glaze possibly went back to the Iraq of the 9th century B.C. The reuse of this glaze was typical for the end of the 19th century. The emitting glow of pearlized colors, the mystery of the metalglaze, where a mystical fire was caught within, was a technique that occupied many ceramists. But the masters of these craft combined with organic forms, were especially Clément Massier from the Golfe-Juan and the Hungarian Vilmos Zsolnay from Pécs. In the meantime Delphin and Jérôme fils also developed and their factories growed. In contradiction to brother and cousin Clément, they didnt specialize in luster glaze. Their big love was: Majolica, a confusing word. Through Italy (it literally means Mallorca and stood for pottery that was smuggled from Spain through Mallorca to Italy) it was smuggled to France. Majolica is a form of pottery with tin glaze. Afterwards one puts a new layer of metaloxides in the polychrome patterns. Then its baked again. At the end the object looks glazy with bright colors which looks transparant. And here lies the interest of Delphin and Jérôme fils. They made the most lovely vases and pedestals and flowerpots, mostly with butterflies, flowers or birds in the graceful art nouveau style. The two brothers and their cousin won many prizes at national and international art fairs. Their work is very well preserved and represented at the Musée Magnelli , the ceramic museum in Vallauris. A well worth a visit.
N Napoleon III The Second Empire of 1848 - 1870. Period of joyous resurrection of many previous furniture styles most notably Renaissance, Rococo and Louis XVI styles. Furniture ornament during this period was rich and often exuberant, taking many forms and using variety of materials and techniques.
O Oak Popular wood for country and provincial furniture. Oak has a strong grain that darkens with age.
Ormolu Powdered gold used to decorate bronze, or other metal, furniture mounts; also refers to the mounts themselves.
P Parquetry Form of marquetry based on a repeated geometric pattern worked in contrasting woods.
Patera Circular or oval motif decorated in low relief and widely used ornamentally; often resembling a stylised flower or rosette.
Pine Softwood used for making less expensive furniture and often for the frames and carcasses of more expensive pieces.
R Reeding Decoration in the form of parallel ribbing, especially on columns and pilasters or on the legs of furniture.
S Sconce Wall light consisting of a backplate and candle holders.
Secretaire Writing desk usually with a drop-front
Serpentine In the form of an undulating curve.
Stretcher Horizontal crosspiece used to join and strengthen the legs and pieces of furniture.
T Torchere A stand for a candle or lamp.
V Veneer Thin sheet of grained wood applied to a surface for decorative effect; technique was popular in Europe from the 17th Century.
W Walnut Often favored for fine furniture, walnut has a faint grain and coarse with scattered pores. It varies in color from light to dark brown.
X X-frame Arrangement of diagonal stretchers joining the front and back legs of a piece of furniture and crossing to form an X.
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