Heals today is known as one of the top retail stores in London, which has been trading since 1810. But antique collectors from Preston know it for the iconic Arts & Crafts furniture of Ambrose Heal, grandson of the founder. Those from Lancashire can view his antique cabinets, Victorian dining chairs and antique desks in person or online, at the V & A museum.
Heals of London was established in 1810 by bedding manufacturer John Harris Heal . But it was Ambrose Heal who was to have the greatest impact, establishing the definitive style seen in Heals antique cabinets and Victorian dining chairs of Lancashire dealers today.
The Arts & Crafts Furniture of Ambrose Heal
Ambrose Heal left school to embark on a variety of apprenticeships – encountering the same standard taste in furniture mimicked by his father’s own store. However, Ambrose had an individual and progressive talent, which he brought to bear on his own designs.
An antique desk, chest and wardrobe by Heal were exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Society Exhibition of 1899. He continued exhibiting, joining the Society in 1906, and the Art Workers’ Guild in 1910. He began selling his Arts & Crafts furniture through the family firm – causing dissent among the workers still making traditional, elaborate pieces. However, when C.R. Ashbee took his Guild of Handicraft to Chipping Camden in 1902, Ambrose Heal was able to recruit some of the craftsmen wanting to remain in London, establishing a niche.
Heals continued to promote harmonious design and simplicity of ornament, whilst satisfying conventional tastes through its “antique” furniture department. With Arts & Crafts Furniture in decline by 1915, Ambrose Heal attempted to bring in machine production, taking the company into Modernism. He also had a bigger store built at 196 Tottenham Court Road. This included a new exhibition area, the Mansard Gallery, which continued to showcase Heals designs into and beyond the Art Deco period – and into today.
You can find Heals of London antique cabinets, dining tables and bedroom furniture in Lancashire antique shops. A selling exhibition at the Mansard gallery took place in April 2010 – with one antique cabinet priced at almost £20,000.
Macassar Ebony (Diospyros celebica), is a species of flowering tree in the family Ebenaceae that is endemic to the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Its common name is derived from the main seaport on the island, Macassar
Macassar Ebony wood is variegated, streaky brown and black, nearly always wide striped. It is considered a highly valuable wood for turnery, fine cabinet work and joinery, and is much sought for posts (tokobashira) in traditional Japanese houses . That is why Japan used to be the main importer for this wood . It is also used as a wood in fingerboards for guitars and other related instruments.
The tree grows up to 20 meters height under favourable circumstances, although such trees are rarely seen nowadays. Since Macassar Ebony has been a woodworkers favourite for centuries, most of it has been felled and used in high quality furniture . The wood is often defective, showing cracks, and in particular heart shakes and splits . It is not easy to dry and is best given ample time for this. Converting logs into boards as soon as possible is recommended .
As this exceptionally beautiful species ebony has been much appreciated by woodworkers all over the world through the past two centuries it has now become a very scarce and expensive timber . The small available amounts on the market have led to very high prices, Macassar ebony nowadays belongs to the highest priced timbers on the world , the region of growth is quite restricted .
Dresden Pottery refers more to an artistic movement than a particular porcelain company
In fact, several competing studios emerged under the Dresden umbrella, in the Saxony capital in response to the rise of romanticism during the 19th century.
Dresden was an important centre for the artistic, cultural and intellectual movement, and it attracted painters, sculptors, poets, philosophers and porcelain decorators alike. It was not the porcelain factories but the painting studios that were responsible for Dresden Porcelain being so well known all over the world.
There were at least forty porcelain painting studios located near or in the city of Dresden, all decorating porcelain in the Meissen style and a large percentage of the porcelain was produced by the Meissen factory. Most of it being seconds, sold in the white, that didn’t pass the Meissen factory quality control.
In 1883, in response to the exciting developments happening all around them, four prominent ceramic decorators registered the famous Dresden blue crown mark, and the widely popular dresden style was born.
The Four Original Dresden Companies were:
Karl Richard Klemm, located in Striesen and founded in 1869. The Klemm Dresden crown was registered in the RWZR under number 24.
Donath & Co, located in the Wachsbleichstrasse 25 and founded in 1872. The Donath Dresden crown was registered in the RWZR under number 25.
Oswald Lorenz, located in Dresden as a commission agent. The Lorenz Dresden crown was registered in the RWZR under number 26.
Adolf Hamman, located in the Serrestrasse 8 and founded in 1866. The Hamman Dresden crown was registered in the RWZR under number 27
All the above studios were decorating porcelain in the meissen or Vienna style; and marking their pieces with the same Dresden crown mark. The dresden collector will find it quite impossible to identify the exact origin of wares produced at this time.
After a few years though, each of these studios did register their own specific marks at the RWZR and it became easier to identify indivual studios.
A longcase clock, also tall-case clock, floor clock, or grandfather clock, is a tall, freestanding, weight-driven pendulum clock with the pendulum held inside the tower, or waist of the case. Clocks of this style are commonly 1.8–2.4 metres (6–8 feet) tall. The case often features elaborately carved ornamentation on the hood, which surrounds and frames the dial, or clock face.
Traditionally, longcase clocks were made with two types of movement: eight-day and one-day (30-hour) movements. A clock with an eight-day movement required winding only once a week, while generally less expensive 30-hour clocks had to be wound every day. Eight-day clocks are often driven by two weights – one driving the pendulum and the other the striking mechanism, which usually consisted of a bell or chimes. Such movements usually have two keyholes on either side of the dial to wind each one. By contrast, 30-hour clocks often had a single weight to drive both the timekeeping and striking mechanisms. Some 30-hour clocks were made with false keyholes, for customers who wished that guests to their home would think that the household was able to afford the more expensive eight-day clock. All modern striking longcase clocks have eight-day movements. Most longcase clocks are cable-driven, meaning that the weights are suspended by cables. If the cable was attached directly to the weight, the load would cause rotation and untwist the cable strands, so the cable wraps around a pulley mounted to the top of each weight. The mechanical advantage of this arrangement also doubles the running time allowed by a given weight drop. Cable clocks are wound by inserting a special crank (called a “key”) into holes in the clock’s face and turning it. Others, however, are chain-driven, meaning that the weights are suspended by chains that wrap around gears in the clock’s mechanism, with the other end of the chain hanging down next to the weight. To wind a chain-driven longcase clock, one pulls on the end of each chain, lifting the weights until the weights come up to just under the clock’s face.
In the early 20th century, quarter-hour chime sequences were added to longcase clocks. At the top of each hour, the full chime sequence sounds, immediately followed by the hour strike. At 15 minutes after each hour, 1/4 of the chime sequence plays, at the bottom of each hour, half of the chime sequence plays, and at 15 minutes before each hour, 3/4 of the chime sequence plays. The chime tune used in almost all longcase clocks is Westminster Quarters. Many also offer the option of Whittington chimes or St. Michael’s chimes, selectable by a switch mounted on the right side of the dial, which also allows one to silence the chimes if desired. As a result of adding chime sequences, all modern mechanical longcase clocks have three weights instead of just two. The left weight provides power for the hour strike, the middle weight provides power for the clock’s pendulum and general timekeeping functions, while the right weight provides power for the quarter-hour chime sequences.
Wylie & Lochhead was a Scottish cabinetmaking firm who became famous for their high level of craftsmanship in their furniture, which followed the Glasgow School style of design. Admirers of Wylie & Lochhead Arts& Crafts furniture in Preston will find their antique cabinets, antique dining chairs and other furniture in high quality antique shops and showrooms. The designs are usually attributed to E.A Taylor – sometimes wrongly, as John Ednie designed for them too, though his work was often attributed to Taylor.
Wylie & Lochhead was formed by young cabinetmakers Robert Wylie and William Lochhead in 1829. They became highly successful, with a string of workshops, showrooms and warehouses in Glasgow employing over 1700 workers. By the 1900s they were a household name across Scotland, renowned for their artistic designs and high levels of craftsmanship.
Antique dining chairs by the finest craftsmen
With branches established in London and Manchester, the fame of Wylie & Lochhead spread. The popularity of designs by George Walton, and Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries at the Glasgow School, had a huge influence on the firm’s own designs. The success of Mackintosh’s famous Cranston tea rooms placed them under great pressure to satisfy demand for the Glasgow Style, but the size of the firm, and its marketing and manufacturing skills, made the style available to a huge market, both in the United Kingdom and abroad.
Wylie & Lochhead employed the best talent in the area, developing close links with the Glasgow colleges and keeping abreast with the latest designs. Their three main designers were E.A Taylor, John Ednie and George Logan. In 1902, their Arts & Crafts Furniture designs were considered of such high quality they were displayed at the Turin International Exhibition alongside those of Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Four.
Wylie & Lochhead often incorporated other designers’ styles into their antique dining chairs and antique cabinets. Preston buyers will see motifs and other design elements borrowed from, among others, Rennie Mackintosh and Baillie Scott – who also designed Arts & Crafts furniture for the company. In 1957, the company was purchased by House of Fraser.
Sheraton-influenced furniture dates from about 1790-1820. It’s named for the London furniture designer and teacher Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806), who trained as a cabinetmaker
Sheraton’s work often overlapped with that of British designer George Hepplewhite. However, the slightly later Sheraton style tends to be simpler, almost severe, and favors “a fiercely rectilinear silhouette. Few pieces actually built by Sheraton survive today. But his designs and ideas influenced entire generations of furniture-makers, especially in the young U.S., as seen in the works of early American masters such as Duncan Phyfe, Samuel McIntire, and John and Thomas Seymour.
Sheraton Style Legs:
In contrast to the popular cabriole legs of earlier styles, such as Queen Anne and Chippendale, Sheraton pieces usually have straight, sometimes tapered, legs; occasionally the back legs would be splayed. They are often rounded (another distinction from Hepplewhite, who preferred a square shape), and frequently have reeded edges, in imitation of Classical columns. They are joined sometimes with stretchers.
Sheraton Style Feet:
Complementing the slim, straight legs of a chair or table, Sheraton-style feet are usually simple: a rectangular spade foot, a cylindrical foot or a tapered arrow foot. Bracket or bun feet might appear on heavier pieces, such as chests, desks and bookcases.
Woods Used in Sheraton Style Pieces:
Because Sheraton furniture is characterized by contrasting veneers and inlays, pieces often contain more than one type of wood. For the base, satinwood was a favorite, but mahogany and beech were also popular. For the decorative elements, common woods included tulipwood, birch, ash and rosewood. Since craftsmen frequently used the local woods at hand, American versions of Sheraton’s designs might use cedar, cherry, walnut or maple as well.
Other Sheraton Style Features:
- Sheraton is known for its light, elegant appearance, especially delicate compared to earlier Queen Anne and Chippendale styles.
- Pieces are embellished with small, low-relief carvings or painted designs, along with intricately patterned and detailed marquetry and veneers, often in dramatically contrasting woods. Some pieces are completely painted, dyed, or japanned (coated with a thick black lacquer).
- Common motifs include drapery swags, lyres, ribbons, fans, feathers, urns and flowers.
- Typical hardware on case pieces includes lion’s heads, stamped plates, rosettes and urns.
- Pieces have simple but strong, well-proportioned geometric shapes, usually square or rectangular. Sofa and chair arms often flow cleanly into the back, without a noticeable break, and the backs themselves are square-shaped. The square-back sofa with exposed arms and reeded legs is perhaps the quintessential Sheraton piece.
Giltwood is wood that has gold leaf or gold paint applied to it, a process known as gilding. Some of the best examples of giltwood are the frames that surround paintings.
Giltwood frames are considered valuable in their own right and are collected apart from the paintings they were meant for.
High-quality antique giltwood tables, chests, chairs, architectural detailing and frames are highly prized, sometimes becoming museum pieces.
The purpose of gilding is to give the appearance of solid gold, a practice that began over 4,000 years ago in Northern Africa. Paintings from Egyptian tombs from around 2000 B.C.E. show workers pounding gold into thin sheets to apply to pieces of furniture and coffins. The Greeks applied gilding to statues in around 400 B.C.E., and gilding techniques have continued to be used
in Europe, South America, Spain, Britain and the United States.
During the 18th century, Louis XIV of France flaunted his wealth with gilded furnishings, framed artwork and architectural detailing, marking France as a leader in the decorative arts.
There are two methods of true gilding: oil gilding and water gilding.
Oil gilding uses an oil-based product on a prepared surface, and the leaf is gently pressed onto the surface.
Water gilding uses a water-based adhesive that causes the gold leaf to adhere to the surface.
If you have piece of giltwood, evaluating its worth involves the condition of its structure, especially tiny holes caused by insects. The gesso layer is a factor; flaking gesso can mean imminent damage. Look closely at the ornamentation. Is any of it showing cracks? This will have an impact on the value. Another important consideration is the finish. Most gold leaf should be at least 23 karats, mixed with small amounts of copper and silver. Watch out for imitations in the form of white gold and bronze powder. These treatments will affect the value
In 1859, after 300 years of self-imposed semi-isolation, Japanese ports re-opened to trade and the mass market in the West got its first glimpse of the country’s outstanding decorative arts. The fashion for all things Oriental quickly took hold with Europeans buying Japanese-made goods or buying locally made items that mimicked the Japanese style.
Among the ceramics which found a new popularity were Satsuma wares – a fine Earthenware with a distinctive cream-coloured ground and delicately crazed Glaze decorated with Overglaze Enamel and Gilding. From the 1870s, Japanese craftsmen had to look for new markets for their wares. They were encouraged to sell their wares to the West and Satsuma wares were exhibited at a series of international exhibitions. The subsequent export wares created a demand for more affordable, gaudier Satsuma.
The best quality pieces dating from the early Meiji period (1868-1912) represent the pinnacle of Satsuma production. They took months to make with the result that Satsuma wares were prohibitively expensive to all but the very wealthy at home and abroad.
Most Satsuma artists bought glazed blanks from potters which they decorated freehand with traditional Japanese motifs and patterns such as foliage and flowers (frequently chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, lotus flowers and leaves, prunus blossom and bamboo); landscapes (dragons, lions and unicorns); real and mythical birds; and human figures engaged in ceremonial, military or everyday domestic activities. The scenes are usually surrounded by densely filled borders of flowers such as peonies or diaper or Fretwork designs
German influence was discernable in the furniture of this period, the style becoming heavier. The fine designs of the 18th century were for a short time forgotten but not the craftsmanship. Mahogany, rosewood and satinwood were used, an 18th century revival occurred, the result being some of the finest furniture ever made was produced, Pride in craftsmanship was paramount and nineteenth century makers vied with each other to produce the very best. Gillows, Holland, Morell & Seddon. Lamb, Wright & Mansfield and others used the best materials available to proudly produce furniture fit for The Kings, Queens, Emperors, the Aristocracy and Gentlemen of The World. All previous knowledge and style was employed, honed and developed to greater effect. England was confident enough to throw her doors open to the whole world, “The Great Exhibition of the Works of all Nations 1851 held in London was the first of its kind not to restrict any Nation such was our prowess at that time that England and her Commonwealth took over half of the space available, in1862 we did it again! We will never see the like again; 19th century furniture was amongst the best ever made.
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George Hepplewhite (1727 – June 21, 1786) was a cabinetmaker. He is regarded as having been one of the “big three” English furniture makers of the 18th century, along with Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale. There are no pieces of furniture made by Hepplewhite or his firm known to exist but he gave his name to a distinctive style of light, elegant furniture that was fashionable between about 1775 and 1800 and reproductions of his designs continued through the following centuries. One characteristic that is seen in many of his designs is a shield-shaped chair back, where an expansive shield appeared in place of a narrower splat design
Very little is known about Hepplewhite himself. Some established sources list no birth information; however a “George Hepplewhite” was born in 1727 in Ryton Parish, County Durham, England. He served his apprenticeship in Lancaster and then moved to London, where he opened a shop. After he died in 1786, the business was continued by his widow, Alice. In 1788 she published a book with about 300 of his designs, The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide, with two further editions published in 1789 and 1790.
With contemporaries such as Thomas Chippendale producing pieces in a variety of styles, Hepplewhite’s famed style is more easily identifiable. Hepplewhite produced designs that were slender, more curvilinear in shape and well balanced. There are some characteristics that hint at a Hepplewhite design, such as shorter more curved chair arms, straight legs, shield-shape chair backs, all without carving. The design would receive ornamentation from paint and inlays used on the piece.