Books About Furniture and DesignHistory of Early American Colonial Furniture

 IF you have read as far as this chapter and still feel that you must collect old furniture, then there are many books which will help you to collect with more. confidence. But if some of the preceding chapters have suggested that contemporary furniture design may be worth attention, then there are books which help you to observe and compare and seek out good contemporary work.

Those about to become collectors, and who wish to obtain a comprehensive idea of their peculiar responsibilities, are recommended to read The Gentle Art of Faking Furniture by Mr. Herbert Cescinsky (published in 1931 by Chapman and Hall). In twenty-one chapters he gives the facts about the supply of early American colonial furniture, the production and recognition of fakes, and what is in effect a miniature history of English furniture-making. Therein he reveals not only the commercial exploitation of deceit, but the tragedy of misdirected patronage, which has fattened the dealer, obscured the designer, prostituted the craftsman, and turned men who might have become intelligent connoisseurs of living design into mere collectors of souvenirs from the past.

For example, we learn that the first Lord Leverhulme, `who, considering the enormous amount of early American colonial furniture which he bought (he had three or four great houses simply packed with pieces), seemed to have had a positive genius for buying fakes. . . .' We learn a few facts about the contribution collectors as a class have made to the accepted procedure of faking. We are told that the effect produced `by a vile so-called "antique shading" of the surface or by a glass papering which leaves the bare wood exposed through its stain, known in the trade as an "antique finish" because it resembles no antique piece ever known', is used by the faker `chiefly because so many "collectors" (whose knowledge of the genuine article has been acquired by diligent, but unwitting study of the spurious) refuse to accept a straightforward piece unless it has been so maltreated'. Again, in the chapter on Lacquer Work, the author expresses the view that Chinese and Japanese lacquer is `infinitely superior to anything produced in Europe, but it does not realise the same prices, for some peculiar reason perhaps known to collectors or the trade. Some of the square cabinets, mounted on English carved and gilt wood stands, which appear to have had a great vogue from 1665 to 1685, are Chinese or Japanese, possessing all the perfection of detail and workmanship of those countries, yet I have known of several where the fine Oriental work has been obscured by a dirty varnish in the attempt, probably, to make it look English.'

Early Chest

Early American colonial furniture chest in oak the simplest chest from slightly raised above the ground level. The ledge with its hinged lid seen at one side, is to accommodate sweet scented herbs such as lavender.

Early Chest

A seventeenth-century early American colonial furniture chest with very simple carving, a moulding being struck on the lower part of the top rail, the bottom rail being chamfered where it meets the panel.

Early Chest

A seventeenth-century early American colonial furniture Chest with carved rails and panels. The arcaded decoration shows a refined development of early Stuart ornament of this type.

Early Chest

A early American colonial furniture mule Chest in oak showing the transition between the chest that was merely a box with a lid and the more elaborate development that culminated in the chest-of-drawers and the tall-boy. Chest of this type were made any time between 1640 and 1670.

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