Forms of Decoration - Inlay

At the same time as carving came into use, there was introduced an alternative type of decoration: inlay. This took many different forms over the years, varying from simple straight lines in wood of contrasting colour to the ground (called 'stringing'), to the elaboration of marquetry in which the inlay often covers a greater proportion of the surface than the ground. This latter was in great demand shortly before 1700, when the form known as 'seaweed marquetry', so complicated in pattern that the walnut ground could scarcely be seen at all, came into prominence. This fashion did not last for long after the start of the new century, but there was a revival of it in a weak: manner in about 1860. Many different woods were used in marquetry; some were dyed in bright colours and others darkened by scorching to enhance the effect. Pieces of bone, tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl were also used sometimes.

A popular inlay on walnut furniture is known as 'herringbone', and consists of a band of two narrow strips of the same wood placed together with their grain meeting diagonally. The effect accounts for the name, which is alternatively 'feather- banding'.

A further type of inlay is known as 'cross-banding'. It consists of a band of inlaid wood, often to be found at the edges of a table- top, in which the grain of the wood runs outwards. Inlaying with a narrow strip of brass was done occasionally in the eighteenth century, but mostly in Regency times when more ambitious shapes, such as stars, were attempted also. It was very popular, and is looked on now as a feature of the period.

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