Antiques Glossary - W
Author: Jim Coyle
- Waals, Peter
See cotswold school.
- Wackerle, Josef
(1880-1959) German porcelain modeller who broke away
from the convention of imitating 18thC figures and
produced statuettes of sporting girls and figures in
contemporary dress. He was artistic director of the
nymphenburg porcelain factory 1906-9, and later produced
some models in modern dress for the berlin porcelain
- Wagner, Otto
(1841-1918) Viennese architect and furniture designer, a
pioneer of functionalism with his conviction that
'nothing that is not practical can be beautiful'. His
work influenced other key designers such as Josef
Hoffmann and Adolf Loos, and from 1899 he was a member
of the vienna secession. Wagner's furniture is
distinguished by its lack of ornamentation, functional
quality and combined use of metal and wood. Some of his
bentwood designs were produced by the thonet brothers.
Wood panelling or a piece of furniture with much
panelled work. The term was used in medieval times to
describe oak timber suitable for wagon (wain)
construction, and later for straight-grained oak
suitable for panelling. A wainscot bed is one with solid
panels at its head and/or foot; a wainscot chair is a
- wall clock
A general term for a weight or spring-driven clock
intended for wall-mounting, including the cartel clock,
lantern clock, girandole, tavern clock and regulator. A
hooded wall clock has a hood that can be lifted off from
the wall-mounted movement. A wall dial is a Georgian,
Victorian or Edwardian spring-driven timepiece with a
circular dial in a wooden surround. Some versions have a
short box extension with a glazed aperture through which
the motion of the pendulum can be seen.
- wall pocket
Pottery or glass vase for hanging on the wall to hold
flowers, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is
most often in the shape of a flat-backed cornucopia.
A close-grained hardwood, light golden-brown to dark
greyish-brown in colour with dark streaks and often with
a rich grain pattern. Walnut took the place of oak as
the most favoured wood for furniture-making c. 1660
until the introduction of mahogany in the 1720s. The
European species was used for high-quality solid
furniture in Tudor England, and for the finest Italian,
German and French furniture of the 16th and 17th
centuries European walnut became scarce after 1709
following severe weather in France, but the darker
American walnut was used throughout most of the 18thC.
- Walter, Alm?ric
(1859-1942) French art nouveau and art deco glass-maker.
He specialised in thick, opaque pate-de-verre pieces,
such as sculptural ornaments, ashtrays and small dishes
in greens, yellows and turquoise, often decorated with
naturalistic forms such as insects, small reptiles and
sprays of berries.
- Waltham Watch Company
The first of several American watch companies to
mass-produce cheaper watches for the general public. The
company was established in the mid- 19thC, and together
with the Swiss industry initiated the decline of the
more conservative and exclusive British watch trade.
- Walton, George
(1867-1933) Scottish architect and designer of metalware,
textiles, furniture and glassware. He was a member of
the glasgow school, which established the British
version of art nouveau style, and his polished iron and
copper candlesticks and chandeliers are typical of this
genre. His furniture designs, some for the retail
business liberty and some for High Wycombe
manufacturers, echoed 18thC forms with their emphasis on
high backs and strong vertical lines.
- Wandering-hour watch
- wardian case
A glass-sided case like a miniature greenhouse for
growing display plants such as ferns or tropical species
indoors. The name comes from Victorian naturalist
Nathaniel Ward, who transported botanical specimens from
his travels in this way. Domed wardian cases mounted on
stands were popular in Victorian parlours.
Term used from the early 19thC for a large, freestanding
cupboard with hanging space for clothes. In the 18thC,
clothes were stored in presses.
- warming pan
Round, lidded container made of copper or brass, with
long wooden, iron or brass handle. The pan held hot
coals or charcoal - or later water - and were used to
warm beds. It became popular in the 16thC but was
replaced in the 19thC by metal or stoneware hot-water
bottles. Most later examples were purely decorative.
A three or four-legged stand for holding a washbasin, a
common item of furniture in the USA and Europe from the
18thC. Larger, heavier models with a marble or tiled
top, drawers, and a cupboard for a chamber pot beneath
were popular in the 19thC.
- watch paper
A disc of paper with the name of the watch-maker or
repairer decoratively printed on it, used in Britain
from the 18thC. The papers are usually placed at the
back of an open-face watch case or in the back of the
- watch stand
Small stand of wood, ceramics, brass or other metal
designed to hold a pocket watch at night or for standing
on a table so that it can serve as a miniature clock.
- watchman's clock
See tell-tale clock
- water clock
Clock run by the regular flow of water from one
container to another, based on the clepsydra, an ancient
timekeeping device, and revived in the 18th and 19th
centuries. Many copies of these revivals, with false
signatures and dates, were made in the 1920s and 30s.
- water gilding
Water-soluble pigments mixed with a preparation of gum
and dissolved in water before being transferred to
paper. Watercolour is translucent, whereas gouache is
Irish glass was produced at Waterford from 1729. Flint
glass was superseded by the fine-quality lead crystal
for which the town is best known in 1783. From then
until it closed in 1851 the factory produced various
tablewares, including bowls, glasses and decanters. The
bluish tinge often said to distinguish Waterford glass
is a myth. A new factory opened in 1951 producing
traditional Waterford styles.
- Waterloo leg
See sabre leg.
- wax doll
Doll with head, and sometimes limbs, made wholly or
partly of bleached beeswax, popular c.1750-1930s. Solid
wax may be carved into shape or liquid wax poured into a
mould. Eyes are either painted on or small black beads
stuck on with a drop of wax. Waxed-composition refers to
a wax coating over a composition base; colour can be
applied to the base itself prior to the wax coating, or
directly onto the wax.
Large, wheeled device for measuring distances on the
ground. Waywisers were used by the Post Office to
measure postal routes prior to 1840, as the charge for
sending letters was based on distance. As the device was
pushed along, the distance was recorded on a brass dial
situated beneath the handle.
- Webb, Philip
(1831-1915) British architect and furniture designer,
closely linked with William morris, Webb designed
jewellery, glass, metalwork and embroidery for Morris's
decorative arts firm, but concentrated mainly on the
design of solid oak furniture. He disliked veneers but
sometimes adopted stained or painted surface finishes,
or an applied gesso or lacquered leather feature. Webb's
designs were highly influential in the arts and crafts
movement with its ideals of handcraftsmanship.
- Webb, Thomas, & Sons
Family firm of glass-makers based around stourbridge,
Worcestershire, since the early 1830s. From its founding
the firm has made a variety of household wares, but in
the 19thC it was especially noted for engraving and fine
cameo glass, and from 1886 it also made burmese glass.
The company closed in 1991.
- Wedgwood pottery
The pottery founded in 1759 at Burslem, Staffordshire,
by Josiah Wedgwood that gave Britain, and Staffordshire
in particular, its special place in the history of world
ceramics. The factory was a pioneer of new products such
as those modelled by William greatbach, and coloured
with lead glazes developed by Wedgwood during his
partnership with the Staffordshire potter Thomas
whieldon. Then came creamware - the Wedgwood version was
known as Queen's Ware in honour of Queen Charlotte, the
firm's patron - which rivalled porcelain throughout
Europe in the 1760s and 70s and competed with the
endless supplies of chinese export porcelain. Other
landmarks included a fine red stoneware such as rosso
antico, the black basaltes and the jasperware that came
to be the company's best-known product. By the mid-
18thC the products ranged from brooches and snuffboxes
to statuettes, plaques and tablewares. They were widely
copied and exported all over Europe and the USA. The
successes of the 18thC maintained styles for some time
into the 19thC, and emphasis shifted from handcrafted
pottery to production of bone china, still produced, and
majolica. In the 20thC a genuine attempt to escape from
the 18thC clich? was made by the input of designers such
as Keith murray, c.f.a.voysey and Eric ravilious.
- Wedgwood, Josiah
(1730-95) Staffordshire potter and factory owner whose
innovations revolutionised the British ceramics
Early 19thC British chest of drawers with six to twelve
shallow drawers for storing coins or other small
articles. A hinged flap overlaps the drawers on one side
and is fitted with a lock.
- Welsh dresser
- Wemyss ware
Cheerfully decorated pottery produced at the Fife
pottery near Kircaldy in Scotland, 1880-1930, and
imitated elsewhere. It is distinguished by brightly
coloured underglaze motifs of flowers, fruit, berries
and birds. A wide variety of products were made
including table ware, especially jam pots; useful ware
such as jugs and washbasins; and novelty products such
as doorstopper pigs. Wemyss is pronounced 'weemz'.
A lightweight, compact stand with three or more shelves
on which to put knick-knacks, books or ornaments.
Whatnots appeared towards the end of the 18thC, and
continued as drawing-room features throughout the
Victorian era. In Victorian times a whatnot was known as
an omnium and the French equivalent is an ?tag?re.
- wheel barometer
A mercury barometer in which the mercury tube is
concealed in the back of the case and the reading is
taken from a dial like a clock face. As the mercury
rises and falls with air pressure changes, a weighted
cord, connected by a pulley to a float resting on the
surface of the mercury, causes the pointer wheel to
move. The British scientist Robert Hooke is credited
with its invention in the mid-17thC, but few were made
until the mid-19thC.
- wheel engraving
- wheel lock
A firearm ignition system developed in the early 16thC.
A metal wheel with a roughened edge was rotated by a
spring mechanism. A piece of pyrites, gripped by the
doghead, was pressed against it. When the trigger was
pressed the wheel rotated against the pyrites,
generating sparks which ignited the gunpowder. The wheel
lock made it possible for loaded weapons to be carried
safely as the doghead could be pulled clear of the pan
containing the gunpowder.
- wheel of life
- Whieldon, Thomas
- (1719-95) Influential master potter at Fenton Low,
Staffordshire, c.1740-80. The modellers Aaron Wood and
William Greatbatch, and Josiah Spode (who was to found
his own great factory), were among Whieldon's
apprentices, and Josiah Wedgwood was his partner,
1754-8. Whieldon mainly produced salt-glazed stoneware
and creamware in the form of tea services and knife and
fork handles, but it was his use of coloured lead
glazes, in the days before enamel colours, that
characterised his output. Early examples, in the 1750s,
were limited to shades of olive-green, grey, brown and
slate blue, with yellow and orange being introduced
later. During the partnership with Wedgwood, mottled
glazes included marbled, agate, and notably
tortoiseshell effects, and the green and yellow glazes
that were to lead to cauliflower ware were developed.
- white gold
An alloy of gold with either platinum or with zinc and
nickel. White gold was a popular setting for diamonds in
the late 19thC. It is similar in colour to platinum; the
two metals can only be distinguished by an acid test.
- white metal
1A soft, base metal alloy, often abbreviated to 'WM',
which was used for inexpensive commemorative medals,
especially in the 19thC. When preserved 'as new', the
material looks attractive but it is susceptible to wear
and corrosion. 2 Trade term sometimes used to describe
silver which is below the sterling standard and cannot
by law carry a British hallmark.
Any cutwork embroidery in white thread on a white or
natural ground, such as ayrshire work and broderie
- Wiener Werkst?tte
Austrian association of artists and craftsmen founded in
Vienna in 1903 by the designers Josef Hoffmann and
Koloman moser. Textiles, wallpapers, ceramics, metalwork
and furniture were produced with an emphasis on handmade
articles and functionalism - in which the design
reflected the object's purpose. Early products showed
some of the rectilinear version of art nouveau style
which was pioneered by Charles Rennie mackintosh and the
glasgow school. Hoffmann's geometric patterns
anticipated the art deco style of the 1920s. Furniture,
carpet and ceramics were often strikingly simple, some
of Moser's furniture displaying a clean-lined, modern
treatment of Oriental and Egyptian designs. Following
the First World War came freer styles typified by the
ornate silverware and naturalistic themes of Dagobert
P?che. P?che also worked in furniture, ceramics, glass,
textiles and wallpapers. The workshop closed in 1932,
unable to compete commercially with industrial
- wig block
A head-shaped piece of wood on a stand to hold a wig, or
a smaller rounded top on a longer-stemmed wig stand.
- Wilkinson, A.J.
Staffordshire pottery at Newport which employed art
potter Clarice cliff and other leading artists of the
1930s. From 1929 the pottery mass-produced Cliffs
- Willaume, David, I
(1658-1741) huguenot silversmith who worked in London
using many techniques and designs which were far
advanced. His pieces are individualistic - a large
teapot decorated with three rows of cut-card work is
typical and ranged from salvers and cutlery to elaborate
tableware. His son David Willaume II (1693 -1761) took
over the business in 1716. For a time the two
silversmiths were thought to be one and the same.
- William and Mary style
ritish decorative arts style linked with the reign of
King William III and Queen Mary (1689-1702).
trong yet soft, white to pinkish, flecked wood. Because
of its long fibres, it was used for the dowels in early
joined construction. The young shoots have long been
used for wickerwork. In the 17th and 18th centuries it
was sometimes dyed black to imitate ebony.
- willow pattern
A Chinese-influenced pattern, based on a Chinese legend
but designed in Britain, which was widely
transfer-printed on pottery and porcelain tableware in
underglaze blue. It was first engraved by Thomas minton
for the caughley pottery in Shropshire c.1780, and much
imitated, even by the Chinese.
- Wilton carpets
Early carpets produced in Wilton, Wiltshire, from the
late 17thC, were ingrain carpets, made using a
flat-weave technique with a bulky texture. In 1740,
narrow Brussels looms were set up by two former
savonnerie weavers to produce moquette carpets in
competition with kidderminster manufacturers. In 1769,
Blackmore& Son combined the Wilton and axminster
businesses. The Wilton industry increased in the 1840s,
making luxury hand-knotted as well as machine-made
- Windsor chair
Term applied to a chair with a solid wooden seat with
sockets into which turned legs and back and arm spindles
are fitted. The term has been in use since c. 1724, but
its origin is uncertain, as this type of chair was not
confined to Windsor, Berkshire, but made in many
provincial areas. A variety of timbers was used,
sometimes all in the same chair, such as beech for the
turned members (legs and spindles), elm or sometimes yew
for the seat, and ash, elm and some fruitwoods for the
bentwood parts. Yew examples are the most desirable
today. High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, was a leading
centre of Windsor chair production by the early 19thC.
- wine cistern
A container for holding several bottles of wine, also
known as wine fountain. They were made of marble or
various metals and woods, but in the 18thC were often
mahogany bound in brass, lined with lead and were
watertight, in order to hold ice. A wine cooler holds a
single bottle in ice, and is usually made of ceramics,
or in sheffield plate or electroplated silver.
- wine funnel
A funnel sometimes with a curved spout and a sieve for
separating sediment, used for decanting red wine from
the 17th to 19th centuries. The funnels are found in
silver, porcelain, pewter or silver plate. Late 28th and
early 19th-century examples are smaller and plainer than
those made after the 1820s.
- wine table
1 Semicircular table sometimes with a pivoted arm and
coaster fitted to the inside curve which could be swung
across to pass wine to fellow drinkers. Wine tables were
used for after-dinner drinks around the hearth from the
late 18th to early 19th centuries, hence the alternative
names of social or fireside tables. 2 A small table with
a galleried top to hold decanters and clean glasses, and
notches cut out of the rim where dirty glasses can be
hung by the foot.
- wine trolley
- wine waiter
Table on castors with partitioned top for holding wine
bottles, used in the 18thC to circulate wine during a
meal. Some wine waiters incorporate a cupboard.
- wing chair
Upholstered chair with wings extending either from the
upper part, or from the whole length of the back in
order to protect the occupant's head from draughts. Wing
chairs were first introduced during the latter part of
- Wood, Ralph
(1715-72) One of a famous family of staffordshire
potters to whom many Staffordshire figures, often of
provincial characters, and flatwares are attributed -
although sometimes on rather slim documentary evidence.
Many toby jugs and rustic groups with in-glaze colour
are attributed to Wood and his son, also Ralph
- Wood, Samuel
(c.1704-94) Prolific London-based silversmith, a
specialist in cruets and casters.
- Woodall, Thomas and George
Two of the most important of late 19th and early
20th-century British cameo glass carvers, trained by
John north wood and then employed by Thomas webb & sons
of Stourbridge. Their joint works are rarely signed ?T
&l G Woodall? and are in Victorian Classical style,
although George in particular had a talent for figure
compositions. His early work was hand-carved, while
later pieces were worked with an engraver's wheel. In
the late 19thC, the brothers headed a team of up to 70
craftsmen producing inkwells, candlesticks, door panels,
scent bottles, plaques and vases.
A print formed from a design carved in relief on the
plank surface of a woodblock. The background is cut away
leaving the design raised, and it is this which receives
the ink. The inked design prints and the background
remains free of ink. In a wood engraving, the design is
cut into the endgrain surface so that the background is
in relief and takes the ink, and the engraved design
shows white on the finished print.
- work table
A small table with a bag or box suspended beneath the
top in which to store articles related to the use of the
table - such as needlework or chess pieces. Work tables
date from the early 19thC, and were popular in the
Spiral ridges of slightly increased thickness on the
inside of some hollow-ware, shaped, on the wheel, by the
Zigzag pattern used on British pewter and silverware in
the 17th and 18th centuries. An engraving tool was
pushed over the surface at a 45? angle, while rocking or
turning the object.
- Wright, Frank Lloyd
(1867-1959) US architect and designer whose work had a
widespread impact on 20thC decorative arts. Wright
designed his buildings to fit in with their environment,
with complementary interior furnishings and fittings.
Although he was closely connected with the American arts
and crafts movement, he did not reject mechanical
methods, and much of his work has a machine-made look
which was to inspire the Dutch furniture designer Gerrit
rietveld. Wright explored the potential of new materials
such as painted and tubular steel and his work was
dominated by an emphasis on the angular; long narrow
slats were a recurring feature in his furniture.
- writing chair
See corner chair.
- Wrotham ware
Slipware produced by a group of potteries in Kent c.
1612-1712. The coarse reddish body of the pieces was
coated with white clay slip, decorated with slip-trailed
swirls or stamped motifs and then covered with a
yellowish lead glaze. Candlesticks were a speciality and
tygs and other vessels survive, some with the name of
potters such as Nicholas Hubble, John Green and George
- wrought iron
Ironwork that is drawn and worked into elaborate shapes
on an anvil while hot. It is not as hard or brittle as
cast iron and is used for objects such as grilles,
screens, garden furniture, candle-holders and andirons.
Wrought iron has been made since ancient times. In the
late 19thC, William morris, a central figure in the arts
and crafts movement, encouraged the use of decorative
wrought ironwork in Britain, a pattern echoed throughout
Europe. One of the finest exponents was the French
designer and metalworker Edgar brandt.
Spiral or diagonal ridges, fluting or reeding especially
fashionable on 17th-19thC glass. It is also found on
furniture, pewter and silver - the top of a wrythen-top
spoon is a spirally fluted oval.
The Chinese term for a porcelain palette consisting of
five colours (wu is the Chinese word for five). The
design is not outlined in underglaze blue (as in doucail).
Wucai was formerly spelt wu-ts'ai.
- Wyon family
A family of gifted and prolific coin and medal engravers
who dominated British die engraving during most of the
19thC. Thomas Wyon (1792-1817) was an engraver at the
Royal Mint 1811-15 and designed the Waterloo medal of
1815. His brother William (1795-1851) was the chief coin
engraver at the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death,
and his work included the early portrait of Queen
Victoria that appeared on the 1840 Penny Black postage
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