This is a restoration of a New York sideboard circa 1790-1810 that I have just completed for a client. This sideboard had been worked on many times over the years. It has had four sets of hardware added from previous work. I found evidence that the original was a 2″ brass knob from the imprint left in the wood. I ordered the new Sheraton knobs from Ball and Ball. The back plate covers two later boring holes but I still had to patch two boring holes on either side from pulls that were added later. I made small oval patches and inlayed them to cover the boring holes. The sideboard came with two back boards, neither was correct. After doing some research into sideboards of this period I found a very similar side board in
The cabinet-makers London book of prices, and designs of cabinet-work in perspective, by the London society of cabinet-makers, 1803
I designed this back board taken from that plate in the book on page 325. I had some very old mahogany circa 1840 that I worked into the new back board.
At first the inlay looked very impressive but the more I looked at it something wasn’t quite right. I believe that the birds -eye maple ovals , circle and broad line inlay on the case , drawers, and doors was added later. Also the broader inlay over the drawers was later. The reason for this is because of the poor craftsmanship of the insetting as they were put in. In my opinion there are too many gaps and too much filler between the inlay and the mahogany veneer I do believe that the narrower (1/8″) vertical inlay and the cross banding inlay in between the lines are original to the sideboard. The vertical line inlay is made up of three layers of holly, walnut, and holly or maple, mahogany, and maple . It is very hard to identify the wood in the inlay.
For several years furniture styles have been associated with the reign of different monarchs or designers. We are use to names like Queen Ann or Chippendale to refer to certain furniture styles. In recent years this means of identification has changed. Art historians and curators have begun to recognize that furniture is better defined by periods of art. There were three major art styles that influenced 18th and 19th century furniture prior to the industrial revolution the baroque, rococo, and neoclassical. This is a more specific way of identifying different styles because sometimes different designers names coexist in the same art period. Hepplewhite, Adam, and Sheraton is an example of this. They were all designers of the same period producing very similar designs yet we have said this is Sheraton or this is Hepplewhite
Art, architecture, music, mathematics, and engineering all had a rebirth with the beginning of the renaissance. It was a new way of looking and understanding of life. This was due in part to the combination of science and theology. The perfection of geometry was considered to be a reflection of the perfection of God. All of the arts and sciences had geometry as their heart and soul. The results was a unified system of design for all the arts that was to last for almost 400 years. In architecture if geometry was it’s soul the orders of architecture was it’s heart.
Renaissance architects looked to Roman buildings and found the wonderful rhythm of geometry and that columns supported everything. They found that every part of the column and entablature was proportionally related to the whole. This was like poetry in stone. With windows, niches, doors and columns they could create metered patterns just like music or poetry.
In the preface of Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director, 1754, he says that to excel in this work one must understand the orders. The first five plates are of the five orders of architecture, Tuscan, Dorick, Ionick, Corinthian, and Composite. These are the same orders the renaissance architects like Serlio, Palladio, and others had set fourth 200 years before. Each of these men interpreted them a little differently because they had seen different originals. They also added pedestals to the columns.
As the renaissance gave way to the baroque the system of proportional design remained the same. In the baroque as the renaissance symmetry was dominate but wall began to be curved and filled with ornament almost like sculpture. In fact painting, sculpture, and architecture were often combined for very dramatic effect.