Forms of Decoration - Mouldings, Lacquer

Mouldings varied in shape with each period, and their study will help to identify the date of a piece of furniture. The narrow half-round moulding found on the edges of many eighteenth-century drawers is known as 'cock-beading'.

Lacquering was practised in the Far East for many centuries before it was introduced into Europe. Chinese and Japanese craftsmen decorated furniture by painting it carefully with many coatings of the sap of a locally grown tree, then after it had been well smoothed it was painted with designs in gold and colours. Some of this work was brought to England at the end of the seventeenth century, and became popular enough to be imitated as closely as possible by both professional and amateur artists, and much furniture made in England in the early 1700's was ornamented with this pseudo-oriental lacquer. In addition, pieces of English furniture were sent out to the East to be embellished in the authentic manner by local craftsmen, and quantities of cabinets and other furnishings of Far Eastern manufacture were sent to all countries of Europe. In addition to the lacquer just described, in which the smoothed surface was painted upon, often with small areas raised to emphasize details of the pattern, there was another type in which the designs were cut and then coloured. The finished article showed a smooth black panel into which were incised coloured designs about one eighth of an inch deep. This was called 'Bantam' or 'Coromahdel lacquer, and was made often in the form of large folding screens. Some of them were of as many as twelve leaves, each about two feet wide and eight feet high.

Occasionally, on arrival in Europe they were cut up regardless of their pattern to make cabinets or other pieces of furniture. Although the principal interest in lacquered furniture was at the beginning of the eighteenth century, it remained fashionable throughout the Georgian period and pieces were made at all dates. A considerable quantity of plain old furniture was lacquered in the 1920's when there was a revived fashion for it. Chairs and tables, tea-caddies and trays, made both of wood and of papier-mache, were painted with a black lacquer and inlaid with mother-of-pearl and then gilt during the 185O's. Some of these pieces were also painted with attractive panels in oil-colours. Black is the most common ground colour of lacquer, but pieces in which the ground is red, blue, green, yellow, or white, are known. The two last named are the rarest and the most valuable.

Collectable Antiques: