Antiques Auction Glossary
The world of antiques and collecting can be a mysterious and mystifying place. Premiums' jargon, strange terminology and weird names don't help. This online guide, kindly supplied by Reader's Digest (taken from their publication TREASURES in your HOME), lists everything you ever need to know... from the Finnish architect and furniture designer Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) to Zwischengoldglas – literally 'gold between glass' – a method of decorating 18th century beakers and goblets.
All material within the glossary Copyright © 10/2004 Reader's Digest Association Limited.
Vienna regulator - Originally a highly accurate, weight-driven and pendulum-regulated wall clock, like a small, elegant longcase clock, with a glass-panelled case. The clocks were first made in Vienna from the early 19thC, but c. 1860 versions of much inferior quality were mass-produced in Germany for the European and US markets. The Viennese examples, made during the biedermeier period (1815-45), commonly have restrained rectilinear cases with pedimented tops; later German types are fussier in style, with a profusion of turned ornament.
Vienna Secession - A group of artists and designers who, influenced by the rectilinear, vertical designs of Scottish architect-designer Charles Rennie mackintosh and the glasgow school, broke away from the artistic establishment in Vienna. Two leading figures, Josef Hoffmann and Kolomon Moser, went on to establish the wiener werkstÆ’tte.
vignette - 1 Decoration of vine leaves and bunches of grapes, used in medieval carvings and fashionable again for friezes on furniture in neoclassical style. 2 Picture or decoration (on porcelain, for example) whose edges fade into the surround instead of having a sharply defined border.
Vile & Cobb - (1751 -64) Cabinet-making partnership between William Vile (c.1700-67) and John Cobb (c.1715-78). Their furniture was noted for its consistently excellent workmanship, although it was overshadowed by Thomas chippendale's output. Vile, the senior partner in the firm, was in 1761 appointed cabinet-maker to the royal household by King George III, for whom he produced some of the finest English furniture in rococo style, using rare woods and delicate marquetry decoration.
vinaigrette - Small, gilt-lined metal box designed to hold a sponge soaked in spiced vinegar or aromatic oil, and held in place by a grille. The aroma was inhaled when the hinged lid was raised, to fend off foul smells or to revive swooning ladies. Vinaigrettes became popular and fashionable items from the late 18thC until the end of the 19thC.
violet wood - See rosewood.
vitrine - A display cabinet with glass doors or lid and often glazed sides as well, in which small items of interest such as coins or fossils were kept. Vitrines were introduced in the second half of the iSthC and reproduced later in the 19thC. Towards the end of the 19thC the vitrine table, with a lined display compartment and glass top and sides, was introduced.
Vitruvian - scroll See decorative motifs.
voider - An early form of tray, used for clearing scraps from the dining table in the 17thC, that evolved into the butler's tray.
volcanic glass - See lava glass.
volute - A decorative coil - as for example on ornamental handles on pottery and at the ends of the horizontal comb-piece topping some windsor chair backs. It was copied from the coils near the top of an Ionic column in Classical architecture.
voyeuse - Low-seated chair for sitting astride with the elbows resting on the padded top of the back - while watching card games for example. It was first made in France in the mid- 18thC. A similar chair for ladies to kneel on (since they could not sit astride with modesty) is called a voyeuse â€¡ genoux.
Voysey, C.F.A. - (1857-1941) British architect and designer who believed in functional design, and was associated with the art furniture movement. He was also influenced by the purist ideas of William morris and the arts and crafts movement. His best furniture was produced 1895-1910, and he designed wallpapers and fabrics. Voysey influenced both art nouveau style and the development of industrial design.
vulcanite - Hard, black material made by heating rubber with sulphur and used to simulate jet in jewellery and for some early fountain pens. It is also known as ebonite.
Vulliamy family - Three generations of a clock-making family of Swiss origin working in London c. 1750-1854. Justin (c. 1730-90), Benjamin (1747-1811) and Benjamin Lewis (1780-1854) made longcase, bracket, and mantel carriage clocks. Benjamin Lewis had the unfortunate tendency to replace the original movements of clocks sent in for repair with his own new movements.