Metal Applique in Wood Furniture

Metal Applique in Wood Furniture

Applique patterns of metal work is a form of relief ornamentation in many respects closely related to wood carving. It may be either cast iron or wrought iron. Castings, called ormolu, are usually of brass plated with gold and finished a dull color. They are especially used in the styles of Louis XV., Louis XVI. and Empire. In the Louis XV. style much of the ornament is applied in places where carving might have been used, and it is properly joined with the lines of the article so as to become a part of them. In the Louis XVI style, to some degree, and in the Empire style almost entirely, the applique ornaments are fastened directly on a plain surface without any relation to the construction whatever, as the article is complete without them. The beauty of their use depends on the arrangement of the pieces in relation to each other, the way they fill the space which they occupy, and on the design and execution of the metal work itself. Much of the metal work in ordinary use is poor in both respects. Perhaps the design, is good and the pattern was well modelled, but so many copies have been made, each cast from a previous moulding instead of from the original pattern, that all form and crispness is lost. Such work is neither handsome or decorative, and the designer should discourage its use whenever he can. In the best French examples applique metal work is carefully cast, exquisitely chased, so it becomes a beautiful piece of workmanship, and it may be admired as such even though its use is not approved.

When wrought metal work is applied to furniture it is usually in the form of hinge plates, lock plates, or ornamented straps binding parts of the woodwork together. Furniture decorated in this way is best made of a coarse grained wood and designed with large flat surfaces on which the metal may be applied for ornamental effect. Good results are obtained by sinking the metal work so it is level with the wood surface, particularly when in the form of rosettes.

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