Masterpieces of Furniture in Photographs and Measured Drawings: Third Edition

Masterpieces of Furniture in Photographs and Measured Drawings: Third Edition

by Verna Cook Salomonsky

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This well-known reference work has been consulted by generations of collectors, curators, dealers, historians, and craftsmen, and it remains in use decades after its initial publication. Photographs and measured drawings of the most striking furniture pieces of the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries constitute the major part of the book; the accompanying text indicates stylistic features and developments, prototypes, types of wood, function, and location of the original.
Selected mainly from collections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design, the objects include chests, tables, chairs, dressing tables, desks, highboys, commodes, couches, and other furniture. Periods and styles include Colonial American, Duncan Phyfe, Windsor, Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Chippendale, Louis XIV, eighteenth-century Dutch, sixteenth-century Italian, and representatives of other eras. The book's most outstanding features are the measured drawings for each piece of furniture. Accurate to the nearest 1/16th of an inch, these drawings are especially valuable for woodworkers creating detailed replicas.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486213811
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 01/14/2016
Edition description: First Edition, Third
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Verna Cook Salomonsky (1890–1978) was one of the first prominent women architects in the United States. She studied at Columbia University's School of Architecture and at the École Spéciale d'Architecture in Paris. In the 1920s and '30s she designed hundreds of houses in the suburbs of New York City and elsewhere.

Read an Excerpt

Masterpieces of Furniture

In Photographs and Measure Drawings

By Verna Cook Salomonsky

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1974 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-21381-1


Plate No. 1


Italian XVI Century

THE creative ability of the Italians during the 16th century is reflected in the designing and fashioning of furniture, as well as in the other arts. England and France received much inspiration from this period of the Italian Renaissance.

The dominant characteristics of this furniture were a strongly developed architectural character of outline, the absence of luxurious comfort which we find in many of the succeeding styles, and the feeling of dignity attained by well balanced construction and richly ornamented surfaces, contrasting with structural frames of simple designs.

The contour of this piece is characteristic of 16th century Italian chairs. The deeply tenoned stretchers and rails give a decided staunchness to its structure.

A point of difference between this and other models lies in the broad stretcher between the fore legs which is decoratively scrolled and pierced. In addition, the underpart of the side stretchers are shaped.

The unpadded back and the padded seat are covered with leather and held in place by rows of brass headed nails. The intricate design on the back leather is exquisitely tooled in gold.

The acanthus finials, terminating the back supports, are typical of this period. In this instance, they are gilded and it is quite probable that this gilding has been applied over a coat of red, superimposed on a coat of white.

The short fringe around the lower edge of the seat apron and at the bottom of the back is of dull green silk.


Plate No. 2


XVI Century

THE interiors of Italian palaces in the early Renaissance were graced by but few pieces of furniture. Chests, benches, stools and chairs, beds and tables were usually considered all that was necessary. Walnut was the wood most generally used.

This particular chair was built in the 16th century, the period of the "High Renaissance," Craftsmen at that time knew the efficient use and combination of materials. They were fully aware of the effect to be obtained by relieving the severity of line with the introduction of rich carvings, turnings or patterns of cut-out design. Their ability in this direction is illustrated in this chair by the bold scrolled outline at the lower edge of the broad front stretcher.

Thick leather, tacked to the back posts, is without support except by one cross rail at the top of the back. The leather forming the seat is attached only to the side rails and is tacked to the four leg members. The seat is without framework at front and rear.

The arms are perfectly horizontal with broadening tops which return sharply at their juncture with the back posts. This projection at the top of the arms rolls over at the front.

An optical illusion is produced by the photograph which gives the legs the appearance of slanting toward the top, whereas in reality all of the legs are perpendicular.


Plate No. 3


THE furniture of the Italian Renaissance did not attain the degree of luxury nor comfort which was so marked in both France and England.

This small side chair — presumably made for a child — is rectangular in form with the back slightly raked, the slant commencing at the seat line. The front legs, of delicate turning, rise above the level of the seat but are not covered by the upholstery. The uprights of the back, terminating in exceedingly delicate finials, are connected by upper and lower horizontal rails shaped in a scrolled pattern, strongly influenced by the Baroque. Large decorative rosettes are carved in the center of both the cresting and lower rail, which are joined by short, delicately turned spindles.

The seat, which tapers slightly toward the back, is covered with velvet brocade of a rich, red color, and finished at the lower edge with a narrow fringe of the same color. Small, turned buttons, recalling the designs of the larger rosettes on the back rails, conceal the heads of the wooden pegs on the legs and back supports.

The small side chairs were the most pleasing and the most successfully designed chairs of this time in Italy.


Plate No. 4


XVII Century

THE few items of Spanish furniture which were in common use during the 17th century were those dictated by necessity. Of importance were chairs which in structural form resembled those of Italian origin. They were prevailingly rectilinear and of robust contour. Walnut was the material most frequently employed, although pine, oak and other woods were used to a lesser extent.

In the specimen shown here, knob and baluster-like turnings decorate the rectangular framework of back and leg supports. The contour of the rear legs, however, differs both in form and scale from that of the front legs. Of particular interest is the oddly shaped front stretcher, carved in bold relief.

The Spanish were excellent leather craftsmen, their products creating admiration throughout Europe. At this time, as well as in the 18th century, decorative leathers were used in Spain by cabinet makers for the coverings of seats and backs of chairs. These were held in place by rows of large brass-headed tacks, producing an ornamental edging at chair rails and at back supports. In this example a flowing Renaissance design is embossed upon the broad leather surfaces.

Also distinctly Spanish is the use of brass finials which in this chair are placed at the top of the back supports.


Plate No. 5


English About 1660

AFTER the reign of Charles I of England, the so-called Cromwellian style came into vogue, following on the heels of the Jacobean. The chairs of this period, made of hard wood, were of rather heavy character, although lighter than those of the previous style, with a square half-back and seat upholstered in leather of an Oriental fabric. An invariable feature of these chairs was the turned or twisted legs and stretchers, which made their appearance at this time and persisted for several centuries afterwards.

This particular arm-chair is made of walnut. The twisting and turnings are both easy and graceful. The square ends of the arms terminate in turned rosettes of excellent design.

The quaint charm, due in some measure to the squareness and sturdiness of its proportions, is heightened by an unusually attractive upholstery of petit point, with a design of bright flowers in tones of yellow on a blue-green field. This material, however, is undoubtedly of later date than the chair. The upholstery on the back is not cushioned but stretched and tacked to a heavy framework, exposed from the rear.

Side chairs of this style employ the same design.


Plate No. 6


American 1625-1675

THIS chair of American Colonial execution is similar in type to that shown on the preceding plate. It is of the severe and angular construction favored at this period and reflects a spirit of honest and conscientious craftsmanship.

Its shallow padded seat and squat back panels are upholstered in leather held in place by rows of brass headed nails and covered in a like material are the connecting portions of the back supports.

The framing of knob-turned work, as developed in this chair, is from an earlier English source than is the spiral turnings. Both manners of treating chair frames, however, gained popularity abroad and in our colonies, and occasionally the two methods, knob-turning and spiral-turning, were employed in the same frame.

Although English prototypes of this example were generally constructed of oak, walnut and other local woods were also used in their Colonial adaptations. Witness the maple used in this particular chair.

In addition to the employment of leather as upholstery, Turkeywork and other fine textiles came into general use about the middle of the 17th century.


Plate No. 7


THIS high backed side chair executed in Flanders in the 17th century is of walnut, a wood then used as the principal alternative of oak. The low seat of ample proportions is upholstered in petit point — the French were at this time keen patrons of the art of tapestry weaving — which is fixed to the frame with large brass-headed tacks. The raked uprights of the back are tapered to the top where they terminate in a simple cut-out design. These back supports are connected by three broad horizontal rails, slightly curved in plan, and of an interesting cut-out pattern of reversed curves. The front legs and underbracing are turned in a full, sturdy pattern of the vase, ring and bulb with a finial of characteristic turning surmounting the middle of the central stretcher.

The contrast between the easy flowing lines of the horizontal splats of the back and the close, full turnings of the legs and braces gives to this chair a quaint charm. But, in spite of its simplicity of line, it is quite elegant in style and is enriched with a tapestry of an over-all floral pattern of rich and mellow tones.


Plate No. 8


English 1670-1680

A NEW style of furniture was introduced in England during the reign of Charles II, the predominating note of which was the influence of fashions imported from the countries of Europe. The changes in proportion, garnishment and contour are faithfully shown in the chairs of this period.

The back of the Flemish Stuart chair illustrated is high and narrow, and, as was the custom after 1660, has panelwork of cane between the broad, carved uprights of the splat. The main supports of the back are of turned wood, this treatment also extending to the front legs which terminate in scroll feet turning outward, a feature borrowed from the Flemish. The broad, horizontal rails uniting the back at the top and bottom of the splat effect and also the front understretcher are ornamented with an elaborate and pretentious design in carved and pierced work. The carved scroll and floral pattern, the latter usually representing a Tudor rose, was imported from Holland and used universally by the English artisans of this time.

Although this period is sometimes called the "Walnut Period," other woods including maple, beech and oak were employed. This particular chair is made of beech.


Plate No. 9


American Late XVII Century

DETAILS introduced from Flanders under the reign of William and Mary were boldly reflected in both the turning and carving of the furniture of early America.

In this maple Carolean chaise longue or day-bed, an article of furniture then in common use, are incorporated some of the typical Flemish and rococo motifs so much in favor at this time. This is emphatically evidenced by the use of the so-called Flemish scroll, or S-scroll, elaborately if rather crudely, carved in the openwork cresting rail and in the stretchers, and also by the turnings of the legs with their rather sturdy interpretation of the vase or baluster form. These legs are terminated by ball shaped feet, while the main back supports, topped at the cresting rail with turned finials of urn derivation, are indicative of a column of classic proportions.

From this period date many chairs and couches in which cane was used for the seats and backs, a practice that was introduced in Europe from India. They were first called Cane or India chairs.

Day-beds such as this example, which were intended to be placed against a wall, have only one stretcher decorated, while those designed to be seen from all sides were fitted with two ornamental stretchers.


Plate No. 10


American 1700-1725

DURING the reign of Queen Anne, in the early 18th century, the banister back chair was developed from earlier and more simple types. The characteristics of this chair are found in the straight and high backs which was frequently adorned with a carved head piece of scroll design. The legs and uprights were turned and the seats were of woven rush. The most interesting feature of this type of chair and the one from which it derives its name is the banister back, made of four upright spindles, each one-half a banister, with the smooth, flat side toward the front and the back rounded.

The spacious chair shown here is of unusually fine proportions, with flat, broad seat and slender, graceful arms resting upon turned uprights of good design. The broad, fluted foot with a slight turn outward is of Spanish origin, a feature borrowed from the Spanish Stuart chair, which preceded this style. The bulbous turning of the underbracing is another feature to be found in this type.

The wood used is maple, which has been stained to a walnut color.

The workmanship on these chairs was not brought to the fine finish of the later pieces but suggests a true and simpler craftsmanship.


Plate No. 11


French 1643-1715

UNDER the patronage of Louis XIV the arts of France were carried to magnificent luxury. It is to the credit of this monarch that the decorative arts were put on a plane with painting, architecture and sculpture, from which resulted the fine art of furniture making in France and the perfection of its workmanship.

The decorative treatment of the furniture of this period was based upon the combination of the straight line and the curve. The general proportions gave a feeling of strength and breadth. In the chair shown on these pages the supports and arms of walnut are in the form of large, sweeping scrolls with the outer surfaces carved in low relief with shells, ample scrolls, and acanthus leaves in restrained and graceful patterns. The underframing, an adaptation of the X form, is composed of reversed curves, enriched with carving.

The impetus given to the art of cabinet making under Louis XIV was also extended to that of tapestry weaving. Upholstery was greatly in favor and was therefore almost invariably used on the fauteuils or arm chairs of this period. Frequently gold and silver headed nails held the tapestry in place.


Plate No. 12


English 1775-1800

THE Windsor or "turned" chair, whose popularity has remained unabated to the present time, was developed during the reign of Queen Anne. Graceful simplicity of line and elimination of detail together with sincere and staunch construction are no doubt responsible for the favoritism shown this type of chair. Particularly is this true of its adoption in the colonies, where ease of production, combined with its durable and pleasant character, caused it to develop to a greater degree than in England.

There were many types of Windsor chairs, among them being the fan and comb-back and the bow or hooped-back, to which latter group this specimen belongs. Practically every member of a Windsor chair is turned, and in this case, the spindles at the back and also the legs and stretchers are of bamboo turnings. The seat is hollowed out into a saddle form, a feature almost invariably used in the fashioning of these "turned" types.

Local woods such as ash, oak, hickory and pine were combined in different parts. Hickory, because of its strength, was often used to form the small turned spindles of the back.

Originally this style of chair was made for use out of doors, and was in consequence painted to withstand the weather. Although grey and green were the most favored colors, this example appears in a coat of red.


Excerpted from Masterpieces of Furniture by Verna Cook Salomonsky. Copyright © 1974 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Italian Side Chair,
2. Italian Arm Chair,
3. Italian XVI Century Chair,
4. Spanish Chair,
5. Cromwellian Type Arm Chair,
6. American Leather Covered Chair,
7. Flemish XVII Century Chair,
8. Charles II Side Chair,
9. American Chaise Longue,
10. Banister Back Chair,
11. Louis XIV Arm Chair,
12. Windsor Arm Chair,
13. Splat-Back Side Chair,
14. Arm Chair, style of Queen Anne,
15. Queen Anne Settee,
16. American Easy Chair,
17. Portuguese Chair,
18. Louis XV Arm Chair,
19. Louis XV Chaise Longue,
20. Double Chair, style of Chippendale,
21. Stool, style of Chippendale,
22. Chippendale Style Chair,
23. Chippendale Style Chair,
24. Chippendale Style Chair,
25. Chippendale Style Sofa,
26. Chintz Covered Chair,
27. Hepplewhite Style Chair,
28. Hepplewhite Style Chair,
29. Window Seat, style of Hepplewhite,
30. Settee, style of Adam-Hepplewhite,
31. Sheraton Style Chair,
32. Sheraton Style Chair,
33. Sheraton Style Chair,
34. Sheraton Settee,
35. Sheraton Style Arm Chair,
36. Italian Settee,
37. Duncan Phyfe Chair,
38. Lyre Back Duncan Phyfe Chair,
39. Italian Table,
40. Jacobean Oak Table,
41. Jacobean Oak Bench,
42. Flemish Table,
43. American Maple Table,
44. American Tilt-Top Table,
45. American Butterfly Table,
46. American Drop Leaf Table,
47 a Tripod Table,
47 b Queen Anne Stool,
48. American Card Table,
49. Chamber Dressing Table,
50. Chippendale Style Card Table,
51. Louis XV Table,
52. Hepplewhite Card Table,
53. Hepplewhite Side Table,
54. Hepplewhite Dressing Table,
55. Beau-Brummel Dressing Table,
56. Pembroke Table,
57. Pembroke Table,
58. Folding Table, style of Sheraton,
59. Sheraton Breakfast Table,
60. One of a Nest of Tables,
61. Duncan Phyfe Drop Leaf Table,
62. Duncan Phyfe Dining Table,
63. Jacobean Sideboard,
64. Sideboard, style of Hepplewhite,
65. Small Sideboard, style of Hepplewhite,
66. Sideboard, style of Sheraton,
67. Mixing Table,
68. Italian Chest,
69. Cupboard,
70. Connecticut Chest,
71. Paneled Chest,
72. Low Chest of Drawers,
73. Chest of Drawers,
74. Chest of Drawers,
75. English Bow-Front Commode,
76. Chest of Drawers,
77. Cabinet, style of Adam,
78. Desk Box on Frame,
79. William and Mary Writing Cabinet,
80. Slant Top Desk,
81. Knee-Hole Desk,
82. Tambour Desk,
83. Desk, style of Sheraton,
84. Vargueno,
85. Queen Anne Secretary,
86. American Secretary,
87. Block-front Secretary,
88. Sheraton style Bookcase-top Desk,
89. Straight-front Secretary,
90. Painted Highboy,
91. Walnut Highboy,
92. Lacquered Highboy,
93. Mahogany Highboy,
94. Bed with Tester Rails,
95. Field Bedstead,
96. Louis XVI Bedstead,
97. Knife Box, style of Hepplewhite,
98. Dressing Glass,
99. Mirror,
100. Fire-screen,
101. Miniature Tall Clock,

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