Antiques Glossary - P
Author: Jim Coylepadouk
Hard, heavy wood, varying from golden-brown to
crimson in colour with a darker figuring. It was
imported to Britain from the Andaman Islands in
the Bay of Bengal and from Burma from the 18thC,
and used for decorative woodwork such as
fretwork, and occasionally for chairs. amboyna
is a variety of padouk from the East Indies.
Pocket watch with a glass-fronted inner case
containing the movement, and fitting into an
outer case of metal. Such watches were very
widespread in Britain from c.1670 to 1830.
A cone or almond-shaped motif which originated
in 17thC India, and is derived from the Oriental
boteh. The name comes from Paisley, a Scottish
cotton centre where shawls decorated with the
motif were made in the 19thC.
Chinese for 'white copper' -the name given to a
silvery-coloured alloy of copper, zinc and
nickel. It was made in China from ancient times
for money, hinges on furniture, domestic items
and - because of its ringing quality - for bells
and gongs. Although its export from China was
illegal, some reached Britain in the 18thC; a
similar alloy was made in Britain which led to
the development of nickel silver.
(c. 1510-90) French Renaissance potter whose
distinctive designs in multicoloured,
lead-glazed earthenware were extensively
imitated in the latter 19thC. Busy natural
history themes are most characteristic of
Palissy's style - dishes and plates with
reptiles, shells, fish and animals moulded in
high relief on a pond-like ground, and blues,
greens, browns and yellows as the predominant
Classical architectural style inspired by the
16thC Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, which
influenced later furniture and interior decor
styles throughout Europe. The style was brought
to Britain by architect Inigo Jones. Grand-scale
architectural designs were translated into
furniture and interiors by 18thC
architect-designers such as William kent.
Typical features are pediments and columns, and
Classical motifs combined with baroque
decoration, such as marbling and gilding.
See decorative motifs.
Early 19thC French doll used to model dresses
and hair styles.
Flat surface set within a grooved framework as
used in furniture or to cover a wall. It may sit
proud of or flush with the frame. For panelled
construction see joining.
See jumping jack.
(d.1728) London-based huguenot silversmith who
produced dinner pieces for the aristocracy and
much domestic silverware in Queen Anne style
with traces of ornate Huguenot decoration.
Small, boat-shaped, silver or ceramic vessel
used for feeding infants and invalids in the
18th and 19th centuries.
Small, heavy, decorative objects, usually of
glass, but also of bronze or semiprecious stone,
used to stop papers blowing away. The earliest
glass paperweights were made in Italy and
bohemia c. 1843, but the most ornate and
valuable examples were made in France at
baccarat, clichy and st louis. From 1848 they
were produced at many British glassworks, the
best being made by bacchus . See millefiori
Material made of a mixture of pulped paper,
glue, chalk and sometimes sand, which is
moulded, then baked and decorated to make
ornaments and lightweight furniture. It was
first used in Europe in France during the 17thC
- the term is French for pulped paper - and was
developed and patented in Britain by Birmingham
furniture-maker Henry Clay from 1772, and
further developed in the early 19thC by the
Birmingham firm of jenners & betteridge. Clay
produced small items such as tea trays and
panels for tea caddies, as well as larger pieces
of furniture. The papier m?ch? surface is ideal
for painting or japanning and can also be inlaid
with materials such as mother-of-pearl.
Term used to describe silverware or furniture,
parts of which are gilded, such as areas of
carved or moulded decoration.
Fine-grained, hard-paste white porcelain with
marble-like appearance. The name comes from
Paros, an Aegean island where Greek and Roman
marble was mined. Parian ware was developed in
Britain at either copeland or minton in the
1840s. It is usually unglazed and uncoloured and
was used to make dolls' heads and slip-cast to
make busts and figures.
French fashion doll of the mid to late 19thC.
Parisiennes are elegantly dressed, often with a
wardrobe of clothing and exquisitely made
A form of marquetry with a balanced, geometric
pattern. The designs rely on the contrasting
grains or colours of different woods. Oyster
parquetry consists of small branches cut
transversely to produce circles or ovals
reminiscent of oyster shells, which are laid in
rows. Parquetry was used by British
cabinet-makers from c. 1660, and was
particularly fashionable in 18thC France and
See pole arms.
Large flat-topped desk at which two people can
work facing each other, made from the mid-
18thC. The desk has drawers and cupboards on
each side and stands on two pedestals.
Hard, dense, straight-grained wood from South
America. Its name comes from the brown and red,
feather-like pattern of its markings. 17thC
cabinet-makers used the timber for parquetry and
inlaid decoration; in the late 18thC it was used
sparingly as a veneer.
Matching set of jewellery, usually including a
necklace, brooch, bracelet and earrings. Parures
were first worn in the 16thC and came into vogue
again in the 19thC.
Literally 'little wool', used in the context of
Oriental carpets for cashmere - the wool of the
Kashmir goat - in some 16th and 17thC Indian
1 Cut glass used to simulate gemstones in
costume jewellery. Paste is usually colourless
but may be tinted by a foil backing. Strass is a
particularly fine-quality paste made with lead
crystal. Paste is lighter in weight and more
easily scratched than a true gemstone. 2The term
used for the unfired mixture of clays and other
substances used to make a ceramic body.
A drawing or sketch executed in crayons made of
ground colour pigments, chalk, water and gum. A
fixative is necessary to seal the powdery pastel
colours to the base material, which is usually
Vessel for the burning of pastilles - tablets of
aromatic infusions bound in gum arabic. The
burners have been known since Elizabethan times
and were usually of silver until the 19thC. In
the 1830s and 40s, pottery and porcelain
burners, often in the form of model buildings,
were popular; the aromatic fumes escaped through
chimneys and windows. See cassolette.
Discoloured circles on the unglazed base of a
porcelain figure where balls or pads of clay
were placed during the firing to prevent
dribbles of running glaze from cementing the
figure to the kiln floor. Patch marks typically
occur (in threes or fours) upon derby figures.
1 Storage compartment in a rifle butt for small
cloth or leather patches used to wrap around the
bullet to ensure its tight fit in the barrel,
common on US and continental rifles of the
18thand 19th centuries. 2 Small object of vertu
- a box for holding the patches used in the
18thC to disguise spots on the skin.
The circular piece of cork, card or composition
which covers the hole in the crown of a doll's
head and to which the wig is usually fixed.
pate de verre
Literally 'glass paste', a substance made from
powdered glass, often coloured, mixed with water
and a flux to help the ingredients to fuse. The
paste was applied to a mould in successive
layers and fired, then sometimes carved when
cool. The technique was perfected in France
during the 19thC, the translucent glass being
ideal for ornaments.
Swiss watchmaking company, established as a
partnership between Polish watchmaker Antoine
Patek and Frenchman Adrien Philippe c. 1844. In
the late 19thC the partnership replaced
Abraham-Louis breguet as the most prestigious
continental maker. Patek Philippe is known
particularly for its art deco designs of the
1930s, but also pioneered the first stem
keyless-winding watch in the 1840s, and the
first perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1925.
19th and 20th-century furniture with mechanical
devices that adjust or transform the size or
function of the piece - such as adjustable
chairs and expanding tables. The furniture was
often, but not invariably, made under official
patents in Britain and the USA.
Small circular or oval ornament in low relief,
usually resembling a flower or acanthus leaves.
See decorative motifs.
Literally translated as 'paste on paste' - the
process of building up layers of porcelain slip
to give a translucent, three-dimensional effect
in low relief. The operation involves painting a
thin wash of slip onto a coloured but unfired
piece of porcelain. Subsequent layers, sometimes
in different colours, are added when the earlier
layers are dry, gradually - sometimes over weeks
or months - building up a design in varying
thicknesses and intensities. The design can then
be sharpened by engraving and the piece fired.
The technique was developed at s?vres c. 1850-75
and perfected by minton from 1870.
The surface colour and finish built up by age,
wear and polishing. A patina on wood furniture
shows depth and grain and helps indicate its
age. A patina on metals such as bronze or copper
results naturally from oxidisation or can be
artificially induced by chemical treatment.
A sample coin made to evaluate its design.
The French word for 'paved', referring to a
jewellery setting in which gemstones, typically
in groups of seven, are set very close together
like paving stones to hide the backing metal.
The technique was popular in the late 18th and
Pink to yellowish-white timber used in country
furniture and often stained black (ebonised), as
it takes a stain well. In the late 17th and
early 18th centuries, pearwood was widely used
for picture and mirror frames and cabinet
Pearls form when foreign particles are covered
by organic tissue, called nacre, or
mother-of-pearl, in the shells of certain
molluscs. A wild or true pearl occurs naturally,
whereas a cultured pearl forms around an
artificially implanted particle. Pearls vary in
colour according to the habitat of the mollusc,
ranging from shades of pink to black. They are
often named after the mollusc in which they were
formed, as in clam or mussel pearls; the finest
are Oriental pearls from the pearl oyster.
Pearls are classified according to their shape
and lustre - the most valuable being spherical
and drop-shaped specimens with a satin-like
lustre. Other valued pearls include the
irregularly shaped baroque pearls, tiny seed
pearls, and blister pearls which grow attached
to the interior of the shell.
Type of art glass with trapped-air decoration
developed in both France and the USA in the late
19thC. The glass has a pearly appearance and was
sometimes decorated with acid engraving. It went
under several names, including verre de soie,
mother-of-pearl satin-glass and pearl ware. A
British version made by Thomas webb & sons and
stevens & williams c. 1880 is known as
quilted-cushion glass. The molten glass was
blown into a diamond-patterned mould. When cool
the patterned glass was covered with a thin
layer of clear glass to create an air space
around each diamond. Finally the object was
given a satin finish by treating it with
Translucent, usually blue, pressed glass
developed in Britain in 1889. It is seen mainly
in ornamental wares and has raised opalescent
See wiener werkstatte.
A solid, moulded or carved support variously
adapted to form stands for urns, sculptured
figures, lamps and furniture.
The triangular or curved gable surmounting the
fa?ade of a Classical-style building which has
been much adapted in furniture design,
especially in cabinets, bookcases and longcase
clocks of the 18thC
Instrument for measuring walking distances used
in the 19thC. The watch-like device was strapped
to the leg and a weighted arm on a ratchet
clicked up each step.
Optical toy popular in Victorian times. It is
based on the camera obscura, usually in the form
of a box containing a pictorial scene which is
magnified by a small lens and viewed through an
eyepiece when held up to the light. Peep-shows
could be large enough to be used by travelling
showmen and viewed by four of their customers at
a time, or small enough to be condensed into a
16thC tankard with a vertical row of pegs or
studs inside to measure the contents. Peg
tankards are found in silver, silver-gilt or
base metal. A few replicas were made at York in
peg wooden doll
Small wooden doll of the 18th to late 19th
centuries, with limbs pegged together at the
joints for articulation.
Pegg, William 'Quaker'
(1775-1851) Porcelain painter responsible for
some of the most lavishly decorated derby ware
of the early 19thC. Large gilded urns, dessert
services and tureens with richly coloured
botanical designs - of parrot tulip flowers, for
example, and often incorporating fruit,
vegetables and insects - were typical of his
output. He was employed at Derby 1796-1800 and
1813-17; his work is unsigned.
Finely painted enamel on copper made for
Imperial use, akin to canton enamel but of far
(1791-1863) English glass-maker based in
Southwark, south London, who in 1819 introduced
the French process of embedding ceramic
medallions in clear glass (sulphides). In 1831
and 1845 Pellatt patented methods of producing
pressed glass, and in 1850 he revived the early
Venetian process of making ice glass. During his
career Pellatt published a number of books about
Small, light table said to have been introduced
by the Countess of Pembroke (1737-1831) in the
second half of the 18thC, with two drop leaves
and one or more drawers set beneath the centre
section. Pembroke tables were used as ladies'
breakfast or writing tables. They were often
reproduced in the sheraton style during the late
Victorian and Edwardian periods. See sofa table,
A rod with a heavy metal weight, or bob,
attached to the end, which swings under the
influence of gravity and has a naturally
isochronous motion or beat. In a clock, the
pendulum is linked to an escapement mechanism,
in order to regulate the action of the going
train. The going train, in turn, gives an
impulse to the pendulum on each swing, so
maintaining its movement. The pendulum's
potential was first recognised by Italian
astronomer Galileo Galilei in the 16thC,
supposedly as he watched a chandelier swinging
in Pisa Cathedral. Only in 1657, however, was it
successfully applied to regulate a clock by the
Dutchman Christian Huygens. The first British
clock-maker to make pendulum clocks was John
fromanteel c. 1659. The regulating capacity of
the pendulum provided a breakthrough in accurate
timekeeping. However, simple pendulums were also
vulnerable to temperature changes; they shorten
and beat more quickly when cold and lengthen and
beat more slowly when warm. An effective
solution was provided by the incorporation of
various temperature compensation devices. The
two most common forms, both introduced in the
17205, are George graham's mercury pendulum and
John harrison's gridiron pendulum with the rod
composed of alternating brass and steel. Both
work on the counterbalancing effect of the
differing rates of expansion of different metals
in opposing directions. At the beginning of the
20thC, Charles Edouard Guillaume introduced the
nickel-steel 'Invar' pendulum which was not
affected by temperature at all.
Originally a standard silver coin used in
medieval England which was derived from the
Roman denarius -hence the pre-decimalisation
abbreviation 'd'. Early pennies were sometimes
cut in half or quarters to make halfpennies and
fourthlings, or farthings, although these later
became round coins in their own right. The first
copper pennies were minted in 1797.
A late 18th to early 19th-century style of
decoration on furniture, boxes, fans and other
wooden objects. Black ink was used on pale wood
such as pine or satinwood, and flowers, scrolls,
arabesques or designs drawn on with a fine quill
pen, and then protected by varnishing.
chinoiserie penwork patterns are common on
An early form of revolver which has a barrel
block with several chambers. Both flintlock and
percussion pepperboxes were made in the 18th and
French architects, interior decorators and
designers of furniture, silverware and textiles.
They were leading architects to Napoleon I from
the turn of the century until 1814 and largely
responsible for creating the Classical empire
style. Their elegant furniture designs were
regularly constructed by cabinet-maker Georges
jacob from 1791.
A type of gun mechanism introduced in the early
19thC. A small amount of explosive powder
enclosed in a metal cap fits over a nipple in
the breech and is detonated by being struck by
the hammer when the trigger is pressed. This
sends a burst of flame into the powder charge,
which explodes and propels the bullet from the
barrel. An alternative name for a
percussion-lock weapon is cap and ball.
(d. 1801) Italian-born engraver, decorative
artist and designer. He lived in Britain for the
last quarter of the 18thC, working with
architect Robert Adam.
A gem ranging in colour from dark green to
yellow-green. Peridots are usually faceted or
polished and sometimes confused with emeralds
and green corundums.
Belonging to a particular time. A 'Sheraton
period' table, for example, dates from
Sheraton's time, whereas a 'Sheraton style'
table is a later piece made in Sheraton style.
See carpet knots.
A small hand-held telescope which was made for
popular use during the 17thC.
Low-temperature firing of ceramics in a muffle
kiln - a small, inner kiln, rather like an
enclosed box within a main kiln - which enables
enamel colours to be fixed onto glazed pottery
A very fine, small, diagonal embroidery stitch
usually on a canvas ground.
See china stone.
Staffordshire salt-glazed stoneware or glazed
earthenware group of two or three figures,
sometimes playing musical instruments, seated on
a church pew or high-backed bench. Pew groups
were produced in the 18thC and reproduced in the
19th and 20th centuries. See staffordshire
Alloy made from tin, with hardening agents such
as lead, copper and more rarely antimony, added.
New pewter is silvery in colour, becoming grey
as it oxidises, and eventually turning almost
black. Quality pewter contains mainly tin and
little lead. English pieces made before the
17thC show little decoration. Lower grades of
pewter were used for tavern ware and spoons.
Before 1503, English pewter was marked with a
guild mark (a hammer or crowned hammer, and
later a rose or crowned rose) but thereafter the
London Guild required individual maker's marks.
Early examples are simple initials, but from c.
1600 these were placed in a circle (often
beaded). 17thC marks are often pictorial, while
18thC examples are larger and more complex. Over
6000 marks have been recorded on English pewter.
Elsewhere in Europe, marking systems included a
town mark, a maker's mark and a quality mark.
A 19thC optical toy, also known as a magic disc
or fantascope. Illustrated circular cards are
fixed onto a disc with slits at intervals around
its circumference. A handle is fixed to the
centre of the disc, and the disc is spun. The
user looks through the slits at a mirror where
the image is reflected and appears to be moving.
Early machine for recording and reproducing
sound, using a wax cylinder. It was invented
1878 by Thomas Edison in the USA. See
(1768-1854) Leading US cabinet-maker. His
furniture was beautifully made from the finest
woods, usually based on designs from the pattern
books of British cabinet-makers Thomas sheraton
and Thomas hope.
are all-bisque dolls made in Germany from c.
1910 and designed to sit or lie on a piano.
Miniature painted wooden dolls made in Germany
c. 1800-1940, designed to 'dance' on a piano or
similar instrument. The dolls actually stand on
supports of wire or bristle, between which the
'real' legs are suspended, the feet not quite
coming into contact with the surface. When the
piano is played, the vibrations cause the
figures to move as if dancing. They are also
known as spinet dolls, bristle dolls and
(1881-1973) Spanish-born artist whose highly
individual style greatly influenced 20thC
European art and ceramics. Picasso began his
prolific ceramic work in 1947 in the Madoura
pottery at Vallauris in southern France. Many of
the artist's hand-modelled and hand-painted
originals were replicated at the pottery and
sold in limited editions.
A spiked helmet worn by German troops,
introduced in the early 19thC and copied
Wooden furniture that has been stripped of paint
using a coating of lime to reveal the plaster
base coat beneath, resulting in a pale,
white-veined finish. The process, used in the
20thC, is usually applied to furniture made of
light-coloured woods such as ash or pine.
A framed picture in which a working clock face
is incorporated - into a church tower or town
hall for example. Some examples are linked to a
musical movement or chime. Picture clocks were
popular in the 19thC, and were mainly produced
in continental Europe.
A type of teaspoon mass-produced from sheet
metal from 1740 to the end of the century, with
fancy motifs stamped on the underside of the
bowl. The spoons are Old English or Hanoverian
in style (see cutlery) and motifs ranged from
Rococo shells to flowers, birds, or politically
inspired symbols of Liberty or Empire.
is an Austrian or French beidermeier wall clock,
dating from the second quarter of the 19thC. The
enamel dial has a gilt surround set within a
gilt border like a picture frame.
pieces of eight
Large silver coins struck throughout the Spanish
Empire from the 15thC with a face value of eight
reales, the standard Spanish unit of currency of
the time. Together with the gold doubloon, they
featured importantly in international trade and
A scalloped decorative rim reminiscent of the
crimped edges of a pie, which was popular on
furniture and silverware (when it is known as a
Chippendale rim) in the mid- 18thC, and much
reproduced in the 19thC.
A coin deliberately struck on an unusually thick
blank, often as a collector's or commemorative
piece rather than for general circulation.
The section of wall between two windows, a site
often put to decorative use in interior design.
Tall, slim pier glasses (also known as trumeau
mirrors) were popular features from the late
17thC. They are mirrors, often ornately framed,
designed to be fixed to a pier and complemented
by a small, freestanding pier table or a commode
Intricate decoration made by cutting shapes
through a solid surface such as metal, wood or
ceramics to form a pattern. In ceramics, the
clay body is pierced or reticulated before
firing. Pierced decoration known as devil's work
was practised in China by the 16thC, and is a
feature of some late 18thC British creamware. It
was revived in a very intricate form by the
Royal worcester factory in the 188os, notably by
George Owen. Piercing on silver is done by hand
with a fine saw or, since the 19thC, by
die-stamping. It can be practical as in sugar
casters or potpourris, as well as decorative as
in an outer casing for a cup or jug. See
openwork, fretwork, lacework and reticulated.
Italian for 'hard stone', which has come to
apply specifically to a 'jigsaw' of semiprecious
stones and different coloured marbles used to
create a patterned surface. Pietra dura is built
up piece by piece, each sliver of stone
intricately cut and then glued edge to edge with
the next, and laid on a backing stone such as
slate. It can take days for a fine wire-bladed
bow saw to cut through some harder stones such
as jasper and agate. The finished surface is
highly polished and used to decorate cabinets
and table tops. Pietra dura is also known as
A small, glass, silver or ceramic bucket-shaped
container, 2-4 in (50-100 mm) high, used as a
dipper for transferring milk or cream from a
larger container in the 18thC, and also known as
a cream pail.
A flattened - rectangular in section - Classical
column topped by a moulded or sculptured
capital. Pilasters appear on chests, cupboards
and chimneypieces of the 16th and 17th
centuries, on cabinet-work throughout the 18th
and early 19th centuries, and in the form of the
tapering pilaster leg in furniture.
1 Raised, upper surface of carpeting or other
textile such as velvet, also known as the nap,
and made either by teasing or combing a woven
surface, or by shearing looped ends that are
woven or 'knotted' into a fabric. See also
flat-weave. 2 The obverse die in coin-making.
A flattened, spherical or pear-shaped vessel
with loops on either side of the neck to which a
chain is attached so that it could be hung from
a belt. The ceramic pilgrim-bottle shape was
known in ancient China as well as in medieval
Europe. In both cases the form reflects original
leather and metal shapes with no foot-rim, which
were designed to sling from a saddle. The
bottles are also known as costrels, and Chinese
versions as moon flasks. Decorative pilgrim's
bottles have been made since the 16thC,
including elaborate embossed silver examples and
similarly shaped scent bottles in the 18thC. See
Pilkington's Royal Lancastrian
Pottery, established near Manchester in 1892 by
the Pilkington family, who also owned coal mines
and glass-houses. The pottery initially
manufactured tiles and, later, other ceramics,
developing an innovative, hard, transparent
glaze and lustre finishes. Large-scale
production began in 1903, and from 1913 the
wares were known as Royal Lancastrian. The
pottery closed in 1957.
Chinese carpet without a border made from c.mid-
18thC to fit around a pillar or column, giving a
See tripod table
Alloy of zinc and copper that resembles gold,
and often used as a misnomer for rolled gold. It
was invented by Christopher Pinchbeck, a watch
and clock-maker, in London c.1720. It was used
for many inexpensive items, such as watch-cases,
snuffboxes, seals and clasps, but was superseded
by gilded metal, rolled gold and 9 carat gold.
General term for a family of coniferous
softwoods widely used in furniture-making. The
wood is coloured straw to pale red-brown and
often prominently grained. It was highly valued
in the 16thC, particularly because of the wide
planks which could be produced from it. The
timber's smooth surface later led to its use as
a base for gilding. Its wide planks also made
pine seem suitable for the carcasses of veneered
furniture - and it was cheaper than oak - but,
as a softer wood, in time it tends to warp.
During the 19thC, pine was widely used to
produce cheap furniture which was often painted.
Small cog in clock mechanism which transmits the
driving force to the next wheel in the train.
An instrument with a flattened, circular end,
and often an ornate handle, for compressing
burning tobacco into a pipe bowl. Pipe stoppers
were popular in the 19thC and were made in a
variety of materials, especially copper, brass,
and hand-carved wood and ivory. The handles
often feature a grotesque bird or animal, or a
Small, silver saucepan with a bellied,
pear-shaped or cylindrical body, used since the
17hC for warming beverages. The pipkin usually
has a long, straight handle at right angles to a
pouring lip or spout, and was occasionally
accompanied by a spirit burner and stand. Large
examples may have hinged covers. Most surviving
pipkins are from the 18C. Brandy saucepans are
small versions for warming brandy.
1 inlaid decoration of fragments of gold and
silver in tortoiseshell or ivory boxes, fans,
buttons and jewellery. Piqu? was introduced in
Italy in the mid-17thC. In Britain, Matthew
boulton mechanised the technique during the
1760s. It was revived by art deco craftsmen in
the 1920s. Piqu? point is composed of tiny
points of metal; piqu? cloute has larger points
arranged in a pattern; piqu? pose has flakes of
gold or silver; in piqu? d'or minute gold
figures and ornaments are set into
tortoiseshell. 2 A piqu? diamond is a flawed
stone, containing inclusions which appear as
spots sometimes visible to the naked eye.
Small, hand-held firearm, introduced in the
(1784-1855) Italian gem engraver who produced
superb coin designs for the British Royal Mint
in the early 19thC. His St George and the dragon
design is still used on modern sovereigns.
A white, close-grained and tough timber often
used by late 18th and early 19thC cabinet-makers
as a substitute for beech, especially for the
production of painted chairs and the
underframing of card tables and pembroke tables.
Process of toughening, smoothing and polishing
metal by hammering it with a broad, smooth-faced
hammer. Planishing removes marks made by any
previous shaping of the piece and ensures
uniform thickness of the metal.
Ceramic panel with relief or painted decoration
for walls or furniture. A tableau is a large,
painted porcelain plaque with an integral frame.
A man-made substance which can be moulded under
heat and pressure and which hardens on cooling.
The first usable plastic -Celluloid - was
developed in the USA c. 1863, and used for
making dolls' heads and bodies and also in both
the USA and in Europe for various objects such
as combs and cutlery handles, but it was brittle
and highly inflammable. Celluloid is plant fibre
treated with alcohol which is combined with
other ingredients and compressed hydraulically,
then moulded into shape by steam or hot air. The
first completely synthetic and relatively
efficient plastic was bakelite, patented 1907.
PVC, polystyrene, acrylic and nylon were adapted
to textiles and a wide range of useful wares
from the 1930s. In 1942, Earl Tupper introduced
cheap plastic domestic ware in the USA, but not
until the 1960s were plastics widely used for
A term for articles made of gold or silver for
ceremonial use - particularly in church - or for
domestic purposes. Not to be confused with
silver or gold-plated wares such as sheffield
plate and electroplate.
Overlapping metal plates, usually hand-beaten
and joined by rivets or leather straps, worn as
protection against weapons.
A straight-sided, metal-hooped wooden pail,
sometimes with a lining of metal, and about 1
-1?ft (30-45 cm) deep. The buckets were used for
carrying dirty plates from the dining room and
have a vertical slot to allow easy removal of
the contents. Sometimes the slot was later
blocked up so that the pail could be used as a
A camera which records an image on a
light-sensitive plate of glass
Oval or circular plate or stand made of silver
with a reflective glass or mirror surface, which
was used as a platform for an epergne,
candelabrum or other elaborate table-centre
decoration in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Metal or wooden stand for holding plates before
an open fire, used in the 18th and 19th
centuries. Plate-warmers vary in shape but often
form a tripod. One type, known as a cat,
comprises three crossed rods.
Valuable, rare and untarnishable, silvery-white
metal-harder, stronger and with a higher melting
point than gold. Platinum was first used to make
jewellery in South America from the 15thC, both
in its pure form and mixed with gold. It only
appeared in Europe as a decorative medium in the
mid-19thC when the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe made it
possible to melt the metal for crafting. It is
often used in settings for diamonds or other
stones, either pure or in the form of an alloy,
usually with iridium. To be hallmarked, the
metal must be at least 95 per cent platinum.
A technique similar to cloisonn? enamelling that
produces a translucent stained-glass effect.
Wire is soldered onto a metal base, or former,
to form cells which are then filled with
translucent enamel colours. After firing, the
base is dissolved away to leave a coloured,
glass-like shell. Until the 19thC, the method
was used mainly in Russia and Scandinavia, for
ornamental tableware, but in the late 19thC it
became popular with French and British
jewellers, especially those working in art
nouveau style. The Japanese developed a similar
technique for vases and bowls c. 1900 using
molten glass instead of enamels.
Hard, heavy, yellow to brown fruitwood used for
the turned work on 16th and 17thC country
furniture and inlaid decoration.
A type of miniature popular in the late 17thC
which was drawn in plumbago, or graphite - the
soft, steel-grey to black form of carbon used in
lead pencils. Plumbagos are usually larger than
other portrait miniatures - around 4-6 in (10-15
cm) high as opposed to 2-3 in (50-75 mm).
Fabric similar to velvet but coarser and with a
longer pile, sometimes called 'poor man's
velvet'. Hard-wearing wool plush has been used
for upholstery since at least the 18thC, but in
the 19thC was especially popular for table
coverings and curtains. High-grade plush was
woven from silk, cotton or a combination of
both. In the 20thC plush was used for teddy-bear
The Devon town where, in 1768, Britain's first
hard-paste porcelain was made under pottery
owner William cookworthy. Production was moved
to bristol two years later.
Wood composite made of at least three layers, or
plies, of wood veneer glued together under
pressure. The grain of each sheet is laid at
right angles to that of the layers above and
beneath to increase strength and prevent
warping. Plywood was used in 18thC
furniture-making, but its potential was only
fully explored by beidermeier craftsmen and the
Vienna furniture-makers thonet in the 19thC for
making bentwood furniture. During the 1920s and
30s plywood became a 'natural look' alternative
or addition to tubular steel, and was used by
designers such as Alvar aalto, Gerrit rietveld
and Marcel breuer.
General term for a portable timekeeper carried
in the pocket, first made in the mid to late
16thC. Earlier watches had been worn hanging on
a chain around the neck. Pocket watches were
replaced by wristwatches from the 1920s. See
also hunter-cased watch.
point de Venise, point d?Angleterre
Technique for decorating leather with impressed
gold dots used in bookbinding from the 17thC.
Means of decorating woodwork, using a hot tool
to burn patterns into a surface, practised since
at least the early 17thC in Italy. It was
particularly popular during the Victorian period
in Britain and during the arts and crafts
movement which encouraged home crafts. It also
appears on cottage-style furniture of the early
A small adjustable screen mounted on a pole
designed to shield a lady's face from the heat
of the fire. Another type of adjustable pole
screen is the banner screen, with a panel of
needlework or painted wood hanging from a
horizontal bar which can be raised or lowered on
a vertical pole of wood or metal. A writing
firescreen combines writing table and
firescreen. Some are in the form of a slim
writing desk with a drop front above a cupboard,
and supported on raised feet so that the
furniture piece itself formed the screen; a gap
at floor level allowed heat to reach the
writer's feet. A simpler version is a table
fitted with a sliding screen of pleated silk at
the back. Both types were introduced during the
Long-staffed weapons with a blade used for
cutting or thrusting. They include the earliest
spears and pikes, the half-moon-bladed gisarme
used until the 1500s, the partisan, with its
long, tapered blade, used from the mid- 14thC,
the halberd, glaive and poleaxe or ravensbill.
Polearms became redundant on the battlefield
with the advent of gunpowder, but many survived
as parade arms and emblems of rank. The
spontoon, for example, was carried by British
Royal Artillery sergeants until 1845, the
boarding pike still used by navies until the
early 20thC, and a 19thC fashion for ceremonial
polearms resulted in a new wave of manufacture.
Halberds and partisans are still carried today
by the Yeoman Wardens of the Tower of London,
and the Swiss Guards of the Vatican.
Small, spherical or apple-shaped container with
a pierced lid used to carry aromatic herbs.
Pomanders were originally worn around the neck
or wrist as a means of guarding against odours,
and have been known by this name since the
16thC. See also vinaigrette.
Frosted art glass developed in 1885 in the USA.
Clear glass was blown into a mould and when the
object cooled the surface was acid-engraved to
create the frosted appearance. The surface was
then stained amber or rose and decorated with
painted fruits and flowers. Pomona glass is
mainly seen in the form of decorative
See etruscan style.
(1891-1979) Italian designer-architect and
founder of the Italian architecture and design
magazine Domus (1927). Ponti designed furniture,
notably his 'Superleggera chair' which became a
familiar sight in Italian restaurants. The
designer is also known for his art deco-style
ceramics and silverware, and light domestic
goods ranging from door handles to coffee
machines and cutlery and bathroom fittings.
Circular mark on the bottom of a glass object
left by the pontil, the iron rod to which the
glass is attached for the final stages of
shaping. On early glassware the mark was left
rough, or pushed upwards to make a kick, but
this was also done on forgeries. A pontil mark
or punty, is no proof a piece was handmade, as
it is seen on some pressed glass.
18thC tin-plated ironware with a japanned
finish. The objects, which include trays, vases
and boxes, are richly decorated with flowers or
country scenes and gilding. Thomas Allgood and
his sons produced the ware at Pontypool, South
Wales, using a coal-based varnish and applying
it in many coats with firing between each - a
long process that made the products expensive.
Similar but lower-quality items made in
Birmingham and elsewhere are often wrongly
called Pontypool ware.
art pottery studio in Poole, Dorset, producing
hand-decorated earthenware and stoneware,
established 1921. It was founded by potters John
and Truda Adams, designer Harold Stabler and
ornamental pottery manufacturer Owen Carter of
the Dorset tile company Carter & Co. The pottery
produced bold, simple-shaped vases, jugs and
candlesticks, decorated with lively colours and
a characteristic matt glaze developed by Carter.
From 1963 the company traded as Poole Pottery.
A hardwood produced by a genus of trees native
to Britain. It is creamy-white to yellow or grey
in colour with a close grain. It is liable to
shrinkage and unsuitable for cabinet-work, but
is seen in late 16th and early 17thC inlaid
decoration and in some late 17thC marquetry.
Plain style of woven fabric, used for soft
furnishings, in which the weft passes in turn
under and over the warp, as in darning. However,
the wefts are fewer and thicker than the warps,
giving the fabric a ribbed finish. Any type or
mix of yarn - wool, silk, cotton, for example -
can be woven in this way, but the original had
silk warp and wool weft and was made at Avignon
in France, for a time the seat of popes
(1377-1408), hence its original name papeline
True or hard-paste porcelain is a white,
translucent material, non-porous, strong and
heat-resistant. The secret of its manufacture
lies in the essential ingredients of china clay
and china stone particles which fuse at high
temperatures, binding the clay into an
impermeable paste. Hard-paste porcelain was
produced in China from about the 8thC, but not
achieved in the West until the 18thC as the
ingredients were unknown. meissen was the first
European factory to succeed, c. 1708, and by the
middle of the century Austrian, Italian and
other German factories were also in production,
using German clay. The first British hard-paste
porcelain was made at plymouth in 1768,
following the discovery of Cornish china clay.
True porcelain cannot be marked easily with a
file; its glaze is thin, and enamelled colours
can be felt slightly above the surface.
Soft-paste or imitation porcelain attempted to
reproduce the quality and appearance of the true
porcelain made in China without access to the
same ingredients. It is a mixture of white clay
and other ingredients, such as ground bones,
flint, glass, soapstone and china stone. Unlike
true porcelain, the surface can be marked with a
file, the glaze is coarser, less glittering, and
sometimes uneven, and the enamelled colours sink
into the surface, sometimes completely.
Soft-paste porcelain was first made in Europe
for the medici family in 16thC Italy. In the
early 18thC it was produced by s?vres and other
French factories and, c. 1745, by chelsea and
Bow in Britain. bone china, a variation of
hard-paste which contains bone ash, was
introduced in 1794 and used for tea and coffee
services and other tableware.
Small bowl or cup with or without a lid and a
single or pair of tab (or flat) handles, set
horizontally. The term is derived from
'pottager', a vessel for pottage or stew.
Porringers were made throughout the 17thand 18th
centuries, in silver, pewter and delftware, and
revived in the late 19thC. The Americans use the
term to describe a shallow, one-handled bleeding
bowl. See barber?s bowl.
Hooded armchair with high back and wings and
leather upholstery, for the porter or page boy
to sit in. The chairs were popular in the
portfolio table or stand
Item of drawing room or library furniture
designed for the display of artwork. The 18thC
version was simply a small easel, like a
bookrest, that stood on a table. In the 19thC,
when Victorian homes had pretensions to artistic
taste, a folio stand was a familiar sight; it is
a small table with an adjustable top; a stand
with two slatted panels hinged on one side
forming a 'V which could be opened on a ratchet
to take more folios; or incorporated into a
Blue and white cameo glass vase dating from
about the 1stC Roman Empire, once owned by the
Duchess of Portland, and now in the British
Museum. wedgwood made copies in jasperware. The
best glass replica was made by John northwood in
See character doll.
Two-handled, 17th to early 18th-century cup used
for holding posset - a hot, spicy milk drink
curdled with ale or wine. Posset pots were
usually lidded, and spouted versions were made
in order to draw off the liquid from below,
avoiding the floating ingredients. Posset gave
way to punch in the second half of the 18thC.
The pots are found in slip-ware and delftware,
and in ornamental glass and silver.
posted-f rame movement
A clock movement, also known as a birdcage
movement, which is held in a cage formed by four
corner posts as opposed to one held by front and
back plates. It was universally used in the
earliest mechanical clocks, and usually in
non-portable clocks to c. 1650, in lantern
clocks to c. 1800 and in turret clocks to c
970s and 80s reaction against the rationalism
and functionalism of modernism. It is either of
two trends: one which reverts to more
traditional, formal, even Classical approaches;
the other seeks to go beyond art, form and
meaning altogether, and favours works which are
anarchic, outrageous or transitory.
Post-modernism is closely identified with
radical Italian design groups, including
Archizoom, Studio Alchymia and Memphis.
Decorative lids, originally for shallow,
circular pots containing bear's grease (used as
a men's hair dressing), toothpastes, potted
savoury pastes or relishes. They were a
speciality of F.&R. Pratt, a Staffordshire
pottery (see prattware) 1846-80, and were
typically decorated with transfer-printed
landscapes, portraits, buildings or reproduction
paintings. The bases are usually plain and have
no bearing on the value of the lid, the scarcity
of the print being the major factor.
See dish ring.
The 19thC fashion for decorating glass so that
it resembles porcelain. Prints were glued to the
inside of glass vases which were then overglazed
A mixture of flower petals and spices, or their
essences, used for scenting the air. Potpourri
containers were popular from the mid-18thC and
made in silver or pottery.
1 General term covering items made from any
ceramic material, that is, anything made of
clay. 2 Specific term referring only to items
made from either earthenware or stoneware.
Identification marks on ceramics, which may
include details such as pattern name, initials
or symbols of manufacturer and craftsmen, and
dates of manufacture or establishment of
factory. They are usually found on the underside
of the piece, but are occasionally incorporated
into the decoration itself. Pottery marks are
not reliable indicators of origin as forgery has
been rife, especially during the 18thC. See
Chinese reign marks.
Term introduced in Victorian times for a low,
upholstered ottoman or a large, solidly stuffed,
frameless footrest that is also large enough to
be used as a seat.
1 The process of making a design on the reverse
side of silver or other metal to make a pattern
of small relief dots; see embossing. The result
is referred to as pounce work. 2 A fine powder
which was rubbed into parchment to slightly
roughen it for writing and make it receptive to
ink. Pounce was also used before the invention
of blotting paper in the 18thC to dry the ink.
It was sprinkled from a small pounce pot or
pounce box which had a perforated cover. Pounce
was also sprinkled through a perforated paper
pattern to reproduce a design on fabric or
ceramic which was placed beneath.
1 British currency with a face value of 100
pence (20s), first struck in the form of gold
coins in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Silver
pounds appeared during the Civil War (1640s);
the first ?1 banknotes were issued as an
emergency measure by the Bank of England between
1797 and 1826 but were not commonly seen until
the introduction of the Treasury ?1 note in
1914. The present ?1 coins were issued in 1983.
2 Unit of weight. See troy weight.
Small carved wooden doll, made throughout Europe
from the late 17thC. Simple versions are carved
in one piece, and represent a baby in swaddling
clothes. Later dolls have separately made limbs
attached to a turned body and head, and are
often found in family, farm, village or Noah's
ark groups. Poupards with a
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