Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Beauty and Elegance of Hand Carved Splendor

When it comes to design, pieces with simplicity of d├ęcor can be compelling. They can offer a subtle anchor around which other pieces can be balanced.

As wonderful as subtle pieces can be, sometimes a room calls for something less… understated. In these cases, elegantly, delicately carved pieces just might fit the bill. With delicately carved pieces you can almost imagine the artisan pouring his heart into carving the flowers, tassels or shells. When we see the piece decades or centuries after it was created we can’t help but be amazed by the patience it no doubt took to turn a piece of wood into a work of art… even if it’s in the form of a clock, chest or some other functional piece.

And so it is that we focus on three distinctly different hand carved chests. The first is an exquisite 18th century Italian four drawer commode. This piece is a delight for the mind. Each drawer is outlined by a series of volute carvings while the drawers are flanked by figures on each side that seem poised to leap from the piece. On the bottom level are two terms - term means character on a gaine while gaine is typically the part of a sculpture representing the bottom of a body upon which a bust may be set. Above each Term sits a nude figure, one standing and the other seemingly in mid stride of a run. Finally, above the nudes stand two more characters, a male and female dressed in 18th century attire.

Along the bottom is a carved ribbon. The drawer knobs are rounded flowers and the piece sits on two carved paws. This commode, while quite detailed, is simple in appearance and may have been have been made for a member of the merchant class. It is, in a word, captivating, as almost each tap of the carpenter’s chisel can be imagined as he toiled to build something that we could enjoy centuries later.




(A term on a gaine from the gardens of Versailles)







This second piece is anything but simple. It is elegance defined: A French 18th century serpentine walnut Louis XV style richly decorated four-drawer chest with scrolled feet and scalloped skirt. Its lines are smooth, if not straight, and it has a Rocaille theme with shells and acanthus leaves carved into its drawers. The front corners feature a carved mesh pattern with shells at the bottom and leaves at the top. And finally, this piece is accented by wonderful brass handles formed of leaves. From afar the piece is so well crafted that it looks like it might have been machine cut because it seems so symmetrical, but a upon closer inspection it can be seen that each shell, each leaf, each volute has its own unique shape and lines and shadows.






The third of our chests is an 18th century Swedish period Baroque cabinet with low relief carvings of natural elements, and raised panels. This stunning piece features a mosaic of richly carved elements from tassels to fruits to leaves to flowers. The top and the bottom each feature 3 lions while each door, panel and drawer is outlined with a black repeating ridge pattern that unifies the piece into a wonder to behold. Made from oak and ebonized wood, this piece is a monument to classical carpentry as its majesty draws the attention in any room.











These three pieces, each with their different styles, share the distinction of being anything but subtle. Each is a vibrant execution of beauty that seems to have been carved as a labor of love. Such care very much stands the test of time and we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy it today.