G GADROON Ornamental notching or carving of a rounded molding, resembling short flutes or ruffles. Often used in styles influenced by Italy.
GALLERY RAIL Small railing of metal or wood that is a term often used for the raised rim around the tops of tables, shelf, or tray.
GAME TABLE One of the earliest "specialized" tables, used for games, such as dice, cards, chess, backgammon, etc.
GARLAND A decorative detail representing a wreath or other arrangement of flowers, leaves, or fruit. See also Festoon, Swag.
GATE LEG TABLE A type of drop leaf table on which the leaves are supported upon extra legs which swing out like gates from the frame of the table on either side.
GESSO A plaster-like paste which may be molded into ornaments of various shapes and used to make a raised designs on furniture. Prepared by mixing whiting with size or glue, it is usually painted or gilded.
GILDING Ornamental coating of gold leaf or gold dust or a paint containing or simulating gold, used alone or along with other forms of ornament, such as enameling, to cover a piece of furniture.
GILT The past tense of gilding.
GIMP A woven ribbon used in upholstering to cover the heads of tacks.
GIRANDOLE Elaborate ornamental candelabrum associated with Rococo and Neoclassical design with branching arms that radiate out from a stone, marble, bronze or metal base. Also refers to heavily carved or glided sconces or wall-brackets with mirrored backplates to reflect the candlelight.
GLAZED DOORS Doors fitted with glass inserts, often in a lattice pattern or tracery.
GLAZING 1) In the furniture finishing process, the application of a thin wash coat which is then wiped off and blended, modifying the base color or bringing out the grain of wood. It produces a soft, mixed tone. Compare Pickling. 2) (Leather) Also know as top coating, the application of protective transparent resins to the leather.
GLISSANT (French) Literally, "sliding." A term short for "buffet à glissant," a buffet with an upper and lower body whose upper body has doors that slide out to the sides. Typically, a provencial piece.
GONDOLA CHAIR A side chair with open back, solid center splat and top rail, and uprights curved forward to rest on the seat rail; also called a chaise gondola.
GOOSENECK Describing something (such as the flexible neck of a lamp) curved like the neck of a goose. Term often applied to the double curved arch of the pediment of furniture such as highboys. Also called a swan neck.
GOTHIC Gothic Period (1100-1550) strongly influenced by ecclesiastical architecture. Warfare made the nobility was somewhat nomadic, so their straight, heavy furniture consisted principally of trunk like chests, folding chairs, and dining tables.
GOTHIC REVIVAL STYLE A term used referring to architecture and furnishings featuring pointed arches, cusps, crockets, and other design elements associated with the medieval past; popular in America largely in several decades after 1840.
GRAIN 1) The fiber arrangement in a piece of wood that creates a pattern. 2) (Leather) The natural pattern of pores and wrinkles which creates the texture of a hide.
GRAINING Process of painting to resemble the color and grain of wood or stone.
GRECO-ROMAN Decorative style reminiscent of late classical antiquity. Became popular in the 18th Century due to the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and formed the basis for 18th Century revivals.
GREEK KEY Classical Greek banding pattern of intersecting short lines at right angles, forming a series of squared hook shapes. Carved on Mid-Georgian and inlaid or painted on English Regency furniture.
GREEK REVIVAL STYLE A term referring to architecture and furnishings, especially from about 1820 to about 1850, in which ancient Greek Forms and ornamental details were used in more or less free interpretations.
GRILLAGE (French) Aviary wire. Sometimes used to replace original panels in armoire doors.
GRIFFIN A mythical creature having the head, forepart, and wings of an eagle and the body, hind legs, and tail of a lion. Sometimes used as a decorative motif.
GRILLE Term applied to an ornamental screen over an opening, composed of turned spindles, decorative wrought iron, or pierced carving.
GRISAILLE Monochromatic painting in shades of black, grey and white which attempts to imitate marble relief ornament. This technique was first used by 15th century Flemish painters to achieve a highly sculptural style. In the late 18th century, grissaile was used on walls and ceilings to imitate classical friezes. Frequently applied to furniture during the Renaissance and Neoclassical periods.
GROS POINT French for "large needle." A kind of coarse embroidery used in upholstery, in which the stitches are relatively large.
GROTESQUE Fanciful decoration comprising a combination of foliage, urns, animals, mythical creature, etc. Term derived from Roman wall-paintings found in Nero’s Golden House, the rooms of which became known as ‘grottoes’ when excavated in c.1500.
GROTTO Furniture designed in the late 19th anearly 20th Century in Venice. Comprised of for basic motifs; scalloped shells, sea horses, dolphins, and triton horses.
GUERIDON A small French occasional table or pedestal dating from the 17th and early 18th centuries usually in the shape of a footed column, pedestal or other central piece supporting a circular tray. Originally a decorative candle stand or table for a candelabrum made in the likeness of a young Negro figure or blackamoor holding a candle. Usually ornately carved and embellished.
GUILLOCHE Classical architectural motif forming a continuous figure-of-eight pattern. A continuous running or band ornament of interlacing curved lines enclosing circular devices. It became a popular furniture decoration from the sixteenth century onwards, especially during the Neoclassical period.
H H-HINGE Hinge with exposed, long, flat leaves which when opened resemble the letter "H."
HAIRCLOTH Fabric woven of horsehair or a mixture of horsehair and linen. Typical of 18th and 19th Century upholstery.
HALF COLUMN An architectural feature consisting of a column split in half. Often appears on the edges of highboys, cabinets, and secretaries, as a pilaster.
HALL TREE A tall metal or wood framework with hook, "branches", used to hang hats, coats, etc. Sometimes has an umbrella rack at the base.
HALLMARK The mark or marks designating that a piece of metalwork has received an official approval of quality.
HALVING JOINT Way of creating a flat join in crossing timbers by cutting out a half thickness from each piece.
HAND An industry term for the way a fabric or leather feels, refers to its resilience, drapability and flexibility. For example, "The hand of this leather is very soft."
HARDWOOD A general term for wood from broadleafed trees.
HASP A device for fastening; particularly a fastener consisting of a hinged metal strap that fits over a staple and is secured by a pin or padlock.
HAUT RELIEF Ornamental carving in which the carving is deep or undercut, which is also called high relief. Contrast Bas Relief.
HEADBOARD Panel at the head of a bed.
HENRI II Reigned in France between 1547 and 1559. Renaissance style of furniture during his reign underwent a revival in France in the 1890s referred to as Henri II style. Highly carved pieces include the buffet deux corps with its two superimposed units that often culminate in low pediments or cornices.
HERRINGBONE Inlay banding in which the alternately slanting grain produces a chevron or herringbone effect.
HIGH RELIEF See Haut Relief.
HIGHBOY A tall chest of drawers with a cornice or pediment crown developed in the 18th century, taking its name from "haut bois" meaning "high wood" in French.
Usually composed of two sections, with the upper chest being carried on a table like structure or lowboy.
HIGHLIGHTING Finishing technique in which colored finish materials are removed in a pattern that enhances the natural grain patterns.
HIP See Knee.
HOOD or HOODED TOP See Bonnet Top.
HOOP BACK Chair back whose uprights and top rail form a continuous curve.
HUNTBOARD A long, high, shallow sideboard. Originated as a board or frame from which one served drinks to a group after the fox hunt.
HUTCH From the French huche. A chest or cabinet with doors, usually on legs.
HUTCH TOP A storage unit with shelves, often sitting on a desk or chest.
I ICON Portrait or image. In the Greek and Russian church it refers to the panels containing portraits or figures of sacred personages, as the Virgin and the various saints.
INCISED A pattern or carving produced by cutting into a stone, wood, or other hard surface. The reverse of relief carving.
INLAY A form of decoration where a design is cut out of the surface and a piece of another material cut exactly the same size is inserted. Decorative form which involves cutting small pieces of ivory, precious metals, mother-of-pearl, bone or wood which are then fitted into carved-out recesses of the same shape on a solid piece of furniture to create a picture or geometric design. This differs from marquetry which uses applied veneers, not sole pieces of wood. Much used on furniture of the later 18th century.
INTAGLIO From Italian, 'incision'. A design or illustration cut into a surface, the opposite of ' relief '. Incised or sunken decoration.
INTARSIA A decorative technique of inlaying a design on a wooden surface in colored wood or mother-of-pearl across the entire surface. Originally from Italian style of marquetry of the 15th Century. Elaborate pictorial marquetry or inlaid paneling, used in Renaissance Italy and also 16th century Germany.
J JABOT Fabric that hangs on either side of a swag or valance.
JACQUARD Type of weave done on a loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801, making possible a variety of intricate patterns. Damasks, brocades, and tapestries can be woven on jacquard looms.
JAPANNING The process of lacquering furniture in the Japanese manner, very popular in the late 17th and earlier 18th century. A process by which furniture and metalwork were enameled with colored shellac and the decoration raised and painted with gold and other colors. Term used for various Western methods which attempted to imitate Oriental lacquer. Coats of heat-hardened spirit varnishes and, later, cheap oil-based varnishes were types of japanning applied to furniture from the 1660’s onwards.
JARDINIERE (French) Planter. A French term used to identify a decorative china or metal cachepot designed to hold a small potted plant or cut flowers
JIGSAW Narrow saw used for cutting detailed interior work, such as pierced work, fretwork, latticework, etc. Originally operated by a treadle, it was one of the first machines to which electricity was applied. Jig sawn detail is thus often seen in the earliest machine age in the 19th Century.
JOINER A person whose occupation is to construct articles by joining pieces of wood.
JOINERY The craft of assembling woodwork by means of mortise and tenon dovetail, tongue-and-groove, dowels, etc.
K KAS Dutch cabinet or sideboard; appeared first in the Dutch American colonies of New York and the Delaware valley. Made of carved "native" woods (walnut, pine, cherry, or maple). Paneled and painted with rather primitive ornaments of vases and flowers.
KEEPER Metal clasp (often brass or iron) used to hold two sections of a large dining table together.
KERF A saw cut. When applied to curved work, means a series of saw cuts against the grain, not quite all the way through, which permits the wood to be bent into curved shapes.
KETTLE BASE or KETTLE FRONT See Bombe.
KEY PATTERN Repeating motif of straight lines, usually at right angles, derived from classical Greek architecture; became a much-used border ornament. One example is the popular Greek key pattern.
KIDNEY Oval shape with a concave front (kidney shape), applied to dressing tables, writing tables, etc. Appears in 18th Century furniture of England and France.
KILN DRIED Refers to lumber dried artificially in warm chambers. The heat is regulated to prevent too sudden loss of moisture, thus preventing checking, warping, and other defeats.
KINGWOOD A wood native to Brazil, also called violet wood from the color of its markings. Used in fine cabinetwork.
KLISMOS Classical Greek chair with saber legs, the front ones curving forwards and the back ones backwards. The chair-back has a concave top-rail attached to verticals. Popular Neoclassical form in Europe and America. Style revived in the French Directoire period.
KNEE The upper, convex curve or bulge of a cabriole leg.
KNEEHOLE Opening in the center of desks, chests, or bureaus, between the two banks of drawers; so called because they make room for the sitter's knees. Sometimes filled part way from the back with a door compartment.
KNIFE BOX A highly decorative box case for silverware, often made in pairs and displayed on sideboards; introduced at the close of the 18th Century.
KNUCKLE JOINT Joint; such as that between separable leaves of a drop-leaf table, which resembles a finger joint.
L LACCA Italian lacquer much used on the colorful, painted furniture of eighteenth-century Italy; can refer to true Oriental lacquer as well as japanning. Imitated more cheaply in lacca contrafatta or arte povera.
LACQUER 1) Oriental varnish obtained from the sap of the tree gum. Its high-gloss finish became fashionable in Europe in the 17th century. Mother-of-pearl, coral and metals were often inlaid in the lacquer ground to create a decorative effect. 2) Layer of hard, glossy resin built up and carved, or inlaid with various materials.
LADDER BACK A chair-back in which back posts joined by horizontal cross-rails give a ladder effect. Also called Slat Back.
LALIQUE A luminous, transparent glass introduced in the early 20th century by René Lalique of France. Most of his designs have a sculptural quality achieved by pressing and alternating a dull with a polished surface.
LAMBREQUIN Fringe-like motif imitating fabric swag. The term originally referred to the scarf worn by a knight across his helmet.
LAMINATE The process of bonding or gluing together layers; the final product may also be referred to as a laminate.
LATTICE Carved crisscross pattern in cutout or pierced work, found in chair backs, highboy pediments, etc. See also Fretwork.
LAURELING Decorative banding of laurel leaves, often found on half-round moldings.
LAVABO A washstand or washbowl, often with a fountain or water supply.
LEAF 1) A piece that extends a desk or tabletop surface, 2) A decorative motif, used in both realistic and conventional forms.
LE BRUN Charles Le Brun (1619-90). French designer and painter who is considered to have originated the Louis XIV style.
LIBRARY TABLE Large table with drawers and space for books, mostly on a pedestal base.
LINEN FOLD or Linenfold 1) Form of carving, which imitated vertical folds of drapery, probably Flemish in origin. Probably after the folded napkin on the chalice in Catholic ritual, it was widely used in the 15th and 16th centuries to decorate furniture and wall paneling. 2) A carved motif or ornamental panel treatment that looks like a scroll or folds of linen.
LINING Fabric used as a backing (inner surface) for drapery panels. Lining can provide body and fullness, light control, and privacy. Often lining fabrics are decorative and chosen to be a pleasing contrast to the drapery fabric.
LION HEAD DRAWER-PULL A furniture mount, usually brass or ormolu, with a ring suspended from the lion mask.
LION MASK A very popular motif for furniture decoration during the first half of the 18th century and again during the Regency period.
LION MOTIF Heads and paws of the lion used as decoration. For example, cabriole legs often featured knees with carven lion heads and feet with carven paws. Heads were also cast in brass for hardware such as the lion-and-ring handle.
LOOP-BACK Describes a chair having an oval back and no arms. See also Bow Back.
LOOP HANDLE A curvy brass loop commonly used on mid 18th century drawers.
LOOSE SEAT See Slip Seat.
LOPERS Poles, normally rectangular, which could be pulled out from the sides of a cabinet to support the flap-top of desks.
LOTUS Classic ornament in the shape of a conventionalized water lily.
LOUIS XIV Known as the Sun King, he reigned in France between 1643 and 1715. Influenced the Baroque style in furniture during the earlier part of the reign, which later developed into the Regency style. A distinctly elegant style characterized by massive furniture and rich textiles and ornaments. the palace of Versailles was decorated in this style. Created and popularized by Le Brun and Mansart. Mahogany and oak were widely used. Baroque was large, masculine and symmetrical. Regency was characterized by its use of curves and introduction of chinoiserie. Ornamentation was usually done with rocks, shells, and flowers. Sometimes called Louis Quatorze.
LOUIS XV Classic French furniture design, from 1723-1774. Smaller, more intimate style less pomp baroque. Louis XV is a simpler style than Louis XIV but with curved lines and some rococo ornamentation. The style of furniture was essentially Rococo with soft flowing lines, shell and flower ornamentation, rich upholstery, inlaying and painted furniture. Sometimes called Louis Quinze. See also Rococo.
LOUIS XVI Classic French furniture design, roughly from 1760 to the French Revolution in 1789. Louis XVI furniture style shows greater solidity and has straight lines, geometric shapes, classic symmetry, marquetry, minimal ornamentation and the predominant use of mahogany. One of a number of "neoclassic" styles in which simple, classical lines replaced the excess of the preceding rococo. Sometimes called Classic Revival.
LOUIS-PHILIPPE Reigned in France between 1830 and 1848. Louis-Philippe style furniture includes flat panels and a lack of moldings. Straight and smooth support posts are bare of ornament and their corners are rounded. Few decorative motifs.
LOUPE (French) Burl.
LOVE SEAT Chair, settee or small sofa, designed for two people. Popular in Queen Anne and later styles. Sometimes called a courting chair. See also Tete-a-Tete.
LOWBOY Low chest or table with drawers.
LOW RELIEF A form of decoration in which the design is only slightly raised from the surface. See also Bas Relief.
LOZENGE Decoration (panel, overlay, motif, etc.) shaped like a diamond.
LUNETTE Semicircular or half-moon shape making up a piece of furniture, often filled with carved decoration, Lunettes carved in this way originated in the 17th century and enjoyed renewed popularity during the 19th century Jacobean revival.
LYRE Harp like stringed instrument used as a decorative motif for chair backs, table pedestals, etc.
LYRE SPLAT A classical-style chair back filling in the shape of a stringed lyre (a lyre is the Ancient Greek version of a harp), used on chairs during the later 18th century and also as the leg support on some sofa tables and occasional tables. See also Lyre.