Sgraffito – definition

Sgraffito

Sgraffito derives from graffiare (Italian for “to scratch”) and graphein (Greek for “to write”) and is yet another example of a term that has been slowly adapted (or corrupted, some might say) for use in the American marketplace. Technically and historically speaking, sgraffito is used to describe a method of fresco used on walls (amazing examples still survive on even the exteriors of old buildings throughout Europe) and a means for decorating ceramics. [...] Click here to continue reading.

Cartouche – Definition

Cartouche – Definition

The decorative arts world has many “squishy” and vague vocabulary words, but few are “squishier” and vaguer than cartouche. Originally, the term comes from Egyptology and is used to describe a oval enclosing hieroglyphics and having a horizontal line at one end. (The line denotes royalty.) The oval had significance not unlike that of a closed circle, in that it was believed that an oval around a person’s name provided protection [...] Click here to continue reading.

Grisaille – definition

Grisaille

Grisaille, from the French word gris meaning grey, is a term used to describe works of art painted entirely in a monochromatic palette. Technically speaking, there are other terms that apply when the monochromatic palette used is of a different color (brunaille for brown, verdaille for green, for instance), but grisaille is often misused to cover all monochrome works, regardless of hue. There are also plenty of works that are considered grisaille that [...] Click here to continue reading.

Trundle Beds – Definition

Trundle Beds

When many people see trundle beds, they think of Little House in the Big Woods. They may also think of impoverished people, frontier living, too many people and not enough room. In reality, trundle beds have been around far longer and have a very different tradition in history.

But first, to define them: trundle beds (also sometimes called truckle beds) derive their name from little wheels or casters that allowed them to [...] Click here to continue reading.

Lithophanes – Definition

Lithophanes

Lithophane comes from two Greek words: lithos, meaning stone and phainein, which has a more shaded meaning that is close to making something appear quickly. The term refers to an image or scene that is etched or molded into very thin porcelain, so that the intaglio image “pops” when light is placed behind the porcelain. (Because of their windowpane-like appearance, they are sometimes mistakenly referred to as “lithopanes.”) This makes lithophanes three-dimensional, unlike [...] Click here to continue reading.

Flagg and Homan Pewter

Flagg and Homan Pewter

In the mid-19th century, Cincinnati was booming and production of all kinds of goods increased rapidly, as the city’s industries found themselves well positioned to be supplying the frontier. Utilitarian wares such as pewter were in great demand, and in 1847, Prussian-born Henry Homan (1826-1865) and English-born potter Asa Flagg (1813-1854) began a partnership manufacturing pewter.

Despite the short nature of the partnership (Flagg moved on in 1851), the [...] Click here to continue reading.

Mustard

Mustard

The word mustard is thought to come from two words: “mustum,” a Latin word for young wine, which is called must, and “ardens,” a Latin word for hot. It was a hot condiment made by grinding mustard seeds up with must to form a paste, and still today as a condiment made from mustard seeds (whole, ground, or cracked) and mixed with a liquid like water or lemon juice to create a paste, [...] Click here to continue reading.

O’Sullivan, Timothy H. – Photograph

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (circa 1840 to 1882)

Timothy O’Sullivan immigrated to New York City from Ireland with his parents when he was a small child and it was there that he later found work in Mathew Brady’s photography studio. (Brady, who was afflicted with vision problems that struck when he was still a young man, depended heavily on the talent he found in recruits like O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner.) While O’Sullivan appears to have [...] Click here to continue reading.

Page and Print Sizes – Definition

Sorting Out Sizes of Pages and Prints

Page and Book Sizes You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can at least tell its size, but to do that, you have to know a little bit about the printing process, which basically, at least when it comes to paper sizes, has two eras: the modern era and the hand press era. In the hand press era (pre-1820, for [...] Click here to continue reading.

Dovetail

Dovetail – A Definition

Examining a piece of furniture is like examining a crime scene – forensics play a role in unraveling puzzles about the who, what, where, when, how of each object. One of the “fingerprints” commonly found in pieces of furniture is the dovetail joint (also known just as dovetail or, in Europe, often called a swallowtail or fantail joint). The photograph here shows the front corner of a drawer in a [...] Click here to continue reading.

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