Typical Case Moldings



M ateríale protetto da copyrigh

of single shapes; often more vertical than horizontal.

(round) frieze appears only on High style pieces.

Heavy waist consists of small molding and projecting thumb molding.

Sparse population and limited afflu-encc constrained the development of case furniture in the New World during this period. The use of moldings was not as formalizxrd as it would later become.

The highboy was introduced in this period. William & Mary highboys typically stood on six turned legs. (See photo, right.) Highboy corniccs were relatively small in scale. (See drawing, left.)

Curiously, the largest molding on a William & Mary highboy occurred not at the top, but at the middle, or waist. The waist consists of a molding attached to the upper case, which nests in a recess (not shown) in the projecting lip of the lower case. Locating this much visual mass in the middle of the piece results in an ungainly appearance, which might explain why highboys of this period have never been as well regarded as those from later periods.

The drawers in a William 8¿ Mary case piece were hung flush with the drawer dividers and carcase edges. The broad surfaces of the drawer fronts were set off by thin strips of molding, usually a single or double astragal, attached to the dividers and carcase sides.

The earliest highboys.

Six legs, a small double cornice and a large waist molding give this piece a less graceful presence than later highboys.

Whether applied or integral, recessed or relieved, moldings bring style to a structure. Different combinations of these concave and convex surfaces, or profiles, plav with light and shadow to create the overall visual effects that define a piece of furniture. Moldings please the eye by easing transitions between parts and surfaces, by dividing large open areas into subsections, and by refining edges, corners and other borders. The size and overall shape of a molding can enhance the visual balance or scale of a piece, or even create an illusion of motion.

I he use of moldings in furniture reached its zenith during the 17th and 18th centuries, when cabinetmakers worked by complex rules of form and proportion. Today, cabinetmakers observe these same rules when building reproduction pieces. In this article, I'll go over some of the different molding details that were used on furniture during four different periods: William & Mary, Queen Anne, Chippendale and Federal. As you look at the profiles shown here, keep in mind that there are usually quite a few historically accurate options.

Architectural Origins

Cornice, rail, plinth, soffit—these arc just a few of the terms that furniture makers borrowed from architecture. Even when cabinetmaking was recognized as a separate craft, apprentice cabinetmakers were taught the classic orders of architecture established by the ancient Greeks and Romans. With each of these orders (Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) mathematical formulas determined the size, location, proportion and profile of every element—from a structure's height and width to the taper and fluting of its columns—even to the shape and size of its smallest molding.

Early American furniture makers adapted the proportional and ornamental rules of the classic orders to the furniture they designed and built. Thus it's no accident that period furniture appears so well-proportioned.

There are also practical reasons why period furniture moldings were similar to architectural moldings. With a few minor exceptions, the same molding planes used in carpentry were also used in cabinetmaking. By using the same moldings as housewrights, cabinetmak-

cornice is made of a few simple shapes.

Small waist, curved bonnet.

The Queen Anne style introduced the broken arched pediment, or bonnet. The waist molding is small, simple and flush with the lower case.

Due in part to new architectural books illustrating the classic orders, furniture and architecture both became more formalized during this period. Highboys, lowboys, desks-on-frame and tall chests of drawers all gained in popularity.

The cornices on Queen Anne highboys were larger and projected farther than William &C Mary cornices. A favored arrangement was to place a molded lip, often a reverse ogee, over a large cove and astragal. The Queen Anne idiom introduced the broken arched pediment, often called a ''bonnet top." The curved moldings had to be roughed out with carving tools and finished with scratch stock. To make this work easier, large, simple profiles were used, such as a small ovolo over a large cove.

The waist molding on a Queen Anne highboy was much more restrained than on William &C Mary pieces. In some localities, craftsmen held the waist molding flush with or set in from the lower case. During the Queen Anne period, drawers were no longer installed flush with dividers. Instead, the facade was broken up by rabbeted overlay fronts outlined with a small "thumbnail" edge treatment. (See Basic Molding Profiles, next page.)

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