The cassone, or marriage coffer (hope chest), was a form on which the craftsman's skill was lavished. In addition to elaborate relief work and gilding, these coffers often were painted on the front and sides and occasionally inside the lid as well, with appropriate biblical or mythological scenes. Motifs popular with the Italian carver included cupids, grotesque masks, scrolled foliage, and strapwork. The fixed writing desk is the forerunner of the writing bureau, which became an indispensable article of furniture as writing became more general. A type of chair called a sgabello was much favoured at this time in Italy. The seat was a small wooden slab, generally octagonal, supported at front and back by solid boards cut into an ornamental shape; an earlier variety was supported by two legs at the front and one in the rear; a solid piece of wood formed the back. Another chair of the period was the folding X-shaped chair, sometimes called a Dante chair. Tables were generally oblong, supported by columns, consoles (brackets), or terminal figures, with a long central stretcher running from end to end. Italian Renaissance furniture forms reshaped the furniture of the remainder of Europe.
Other constructional improvements of the 15th century included the introduction of drawers into cupboards and similar storage furniture, and neater and more efficient joints, such as the mitre and the mortise and tenon. Panelling was frequently decorated with a flat form of ornament called linenfold, or parchment. Linenfold was widely used in the north of France, Flanders, Low Germany north to the Baltic, Scandinavia, and England. The linenfold of France, the Low Countries, and Germany is carved with a sharper definition and greater delicacy than was usual in England and elsewhere. Both panelled furniture and room panelling were decorated with linenfold. Other forms of carved decoration on furniture became more common during the 15th century, when surfaces were carved with tracery and other Gothic motifs. During the Middle Ages a great many pieces of furniture, including those with carved decoration, were painted and sometimes gilded, a practice that continued well on into the Renaissance (the present state of existing pieces, with their plain wooden surfaces, is misleading). Chairs, tables, and various types of cupboards were also frequently draped with bright fabrics, while chairs, settles, and other seat furniture were provided with cushions.
Working in The Empire Style. Charles-Honore' Lannuier, a French immigrant, was one of the first cabinetmakers to introduce this style in America, according to Schwartz. He added gilded carving to his pieces that made them elegant and appealing in his New York workshop. Duncan Phyfe's shop was influenced by this style as well in the 1820s and 1830s, but in a much more restrained way although still quite elegant in its appearance. But the more elaborate designs came out of Boston and Philadelphia. All the craftsmen working in this style were likely fed by publications of the day. They included designs based on those shown in British author Thomas Hope's Household Furniture and Interior Design and others adapted from French styles. Of course, the name Empire originating from the French wasn't used in England due to political conflicts with France at the time. The British preferred Regency as their moniker for the style with many of the same elements. Americans, being friendlier with the French than England after our own conflict for independence, took to the name Empire more readily back then, and it endures when describing these pieces today. Occasionally the term Classical will be used to describe these styles as well.
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