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Antiques Glossary - W

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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 factory.
  • 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.
  • wainscot
    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 panel-backed chair.
  • Waiter
    See salver.
  • Waldglas
    See bohemia.
  • 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.
  • walnut
    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
    See chronoscope
  • 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.
  • wardrobe
    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.
  • washstand
    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 outer pair-case.
  • 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
    See gilding.
  • watercolour
    Water-soluble pigments mixed with a preparation of gum and dissolved in water before being transferred to paper. Watercolour is translucent, whereas gouache is opaque.
  • Waterford
    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.
  • waywiser
    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 industry.

  • Wellington chest
    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
    See 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'.
  • whatnot
    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
    See 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
    See zoetrope.
  • 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.
  • whitework
    Any cutwork embroidery in white thread on a white or natural ground, such as ayrshire work and broderie anglaise.
  • wickerwork
    See basketwork.
  • 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 production.
  • 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 designs alone.
  • 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).
  • willow
    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 carpets.
  • 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
    See coaster.
  • 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 the 17thC.
  • 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 (1748-95).
  • 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.
  • woodcut
    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 Victorian era.
  • wreathing
    Spiral ridges of slightly increased thickness on the inside of some hollow-ware, shaped, on the wheel, by the potter's fingers.
  • Wrigglework
    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 Richardson inscribed.
  • 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.
  • wrythening
    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.
  • wucai
    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 stamp.

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