Forms of Decoration - Carving

The earliest way of decorating a wood article was perhaps by means of carving. In the case of oak, the hardness of the timber severely limited the craftsman, but the coming of walnut was more encouraging. It lent itself to the chisel readily, and in some instances the carving was decorated additionally with gilding to give a very rich effect. Pieces treated in this manner, partly polished wood and partly gilt, are known as 'parcel-gilt'. Mahogany was the carver's delight, and he was able to show with it all his skill. In addition, fretting was applied sometimes to mahogany pieces. This took two forms: the wood was pierced in a pattern with a fine saw, or the effect of a thin pierced sheet stuck down on the surface was imitated by carving. This latter type is known as 'semi- fret', and if often to be seen in Chippendales designs.

One other wood must receive a mention: pine. This was in use from the end of the seventeenth century, and its texture provided an excellent medium for carving. In most instances this was concealed under gilding or paint, and almost all the elaborately carved mirror-frames and tables of the eighteenth century will be found to have been made from this timber.

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