Apr
06
2011
1

Were Argyle gravy jugs named after the Duke of Argyll?

Inveraray castle kitchen, ArgyllIf you’ve heard of an argyle gravy jug, you’ll know it’s a pot with a double wall. Hot water goes into the cavity between the outside and inside, and creates an insulating jacket to keep the gravy warm. They were popular in wealthy British households in the later 18th century, a period of elegant dinners [more...]

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Oct
22
2010
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What is an etagere?

etagere design american 1850sWhat makes an etagere different from other sets of shelves? The name came into fashion in the 1850s when English adopted the French word étagère for a piece of furniture with open shelves for ornaments and oddments. The etagere was a decorative piece made from hardwood by a cabinet-maker. It looked good in a drawing-room [more...]

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Sep
14
2010
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Is a highboy different from a tallboy?

Antique American highboys Tall chests of drawers, made in two pieces, with an upper chest fitting into the top of the lower, were popular in the 18th century. In Britain they are known as tallboys, while Americans call them highboys. The English master cabinet-maker Chippendale inspired some of the best designs on both sides of the Atlantic, including [more...]

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Jun
07
2010
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Can a luckenbooth brooch have a heart but no crown?

antique luckenbooth brooches - Anstruther-Duncan collectionMost luckenbooth brooches sold today are heart-shaped with a crown above. Sometimes the design is a pair of interlocking twin hearts.  But it wasn’t always so. This kind of traditional Scottish brooch could be a very simple outline heart, as you can see in some museums. So don’t take it as a rule that only [more...]

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May
20
2010
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What is the Art Loss Register?

bad artists imitate great artists stealThe recent theft of paintings from the Paris Museum of Modern Art which included works by Picasso and Matisse, will concern all gallery owners and private collectors. Stolen works of art and antiques often disappear never to be seen again, or if they do re-emerge, it is often several years later. In an attempt to [more...]

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Mar
22
2010
4

What is a Jacobite drinking glass?

jacobite wine glassesImagine your social club has to meet in secret because it's affiliated with a banned political party. This was roughly the situation facing the 18th century Jacobites: supporters of the Stuart royal dynasty whose ancestors had sat on the throne in London before falling out of favour. Despite the risk of being arrested for treason,  [more...]

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Feb
23
2010
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What is a hong bowl?

Two views of a hong bowl (photo by myoarin - CC-BY)A hong bowl is a punch bowl made in China for the export trade, originally in the 18th century, when European countries established trading posts in China. Back then, such a trading post was called a factory, in Chinese, hong. The factories didn’t produce anything but were rather the base of the factor: the agent, [more...]

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Nov
04
2009
2

How did the Victorians make feather flowers?

Victorian feather flower arrangements under glass domes (Photo by quezi.com - CC-BY)Travellers to South America in the 1800s brought flowers made from feathers home to Europe or the USA. Feather flowers were displayed in the London Great Exhibition of 1851, and over the next few years instructions for making your own appeared in various ladies' magazines. The Victorians had a taste for novelty crafts that ornamented [more...]

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Jul
30
2009
2

What is mourning jewellery?

Mourning brooches. Victorian grieving hand - photo by et sans. Georgian enamel picture brooch - photo by perfectjewels - both CC-BYIf you were bereaved in the 1800s, your clothes and jewels had to be black for a period of mourning, the length depending on whether you were widow, daughter, sister etc. Apart from the usual gold and silver settings, mourning jewellery was made of black jet – a “stone” derived from coal -  onyx, black [more...]

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Jun
10
2009
1

What is chinoiserie in interior design?

Wall covering painted with Chinese pagoda and European fruitChinoiserie was a new fashion in the 18th century when China and the Far East seemed incredibly exotic to people in Europe. Imported arts and crafts had an excitingly different beauty from those made at home, and some were clearly superior to anything European – especially Chinese porcelain. Designers and craftsmen wanted to recreate the [more...]

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