The Accidental Mannerist
One thing about being a furniture maker these days is that you tend to get commissions that are all over the place stylistically. Nineteenth Century rustic followed by mid Twentieth Century Modern, a built-in piece and then back to the Seventeenth Century. It’s hard to specialize in a particular style. Recently though, I have had back to back to back pieces in the Mannerist style. The style came to England in the late Sixteenth Century through Continental (European) artisans and pattern books. It was based on Northern European renaissance ideas of classical design which gives the pieces a naive quality. Roughly speaking there are two groups of Mannerist-style furniture in Colonial America ; a low relief carved strap-work variety and an applied ornament variety with deep moldings and architectural elements. I’ve got both types here, starting with this valuables cabinet based on the one the Symonds shop made for Joseph and Bathsheba Pope in 1679. It has the applied elements and the strap-work carving and is at once both crude and remarkably refined. The applied turnings and moldings really throw light around to dramatic effect, especially in low or raking light. Inside is an arrangement of drawers which I have dovetailed though the original has butted and nailed drawers.The center medallion was typically carved with the owners initials. (this one is available, and can be carved to suit).The next piece is a desk box I designed based on the Mannerist carved Hadley chest tradition of the Connecticut River Valley. Interestingly the Valuables Cabinet above could have been made by John Pease who later moved to the Hadley area and may have helped to start that school of carved furniture.In all, I’ve made five Mannerist style pieces this year and it has been great to soak in the period and try to get into the heads of these early masters.The awesome hasp-lock on the desk was made by Matthew Stein. Below is another Hadley style trunk which is also available.Lastly, I rarely post things on this “blog” but you can see more recent, up to the minute, or week, posts on Instagram at davidsantickdavid
So, I had an idea for a leg design inspired by motorcycle girder-forks (yeah, I know this bike doesn’t have them). I was also thinking about the work of Carlo Mollino, a 20th century furniture designer. The leg could be used on tables, case pieces and chairs. The idea wasn’t to mimic the forks exactly but more to subtly tap into the industrial strength of the shapes.
I liked the simplicity and efficiency of the design, but couldn’t resist the temptation to use more traditional joinery. This made for some tricky mitered mortise and tenon joints. I made full scale model of the leg in poplar first to see how to it would work, and look.
I had some large planks of sepele which would yield a 3 foot by 9 foot table. The planks were 18 inches wide and I wanted to show that so I joined them together with bread-board ends. I used the space between the boards as a design feature and aligned the aprons to allow light through. Placing the aprons in the center also keeps them from hitting your knees.
I hand planed the top and left the faceted marks from the planes for a more lively hewn surface. It just seems warmer and friendlier. The finish is linseed oil and shellac.
It’s hard to photograph this table in our little gallery. I really like the stance and angles down bellow.
I don’t mind mixing styles, good design is good design.