Dictionary of English Pieces - Pembroke Tables, Pier Tables, Screens, Settees and Sofas

Pembroke Tables

These have folding flaps, which can be supported on hinged concealed brackets at each of the longer sides of the rectangular top. The legs of the earlier ones are square and tapered, but by about 1790 they change to round ones with turned ornament. They came into use about 1750, and are said to owe their name to a Countess of Pembroke who first ordered one. The Pembroke table was made in mahogany, satinwood, and sometimes harewood, and decorated with inlay and painting; frequently they show workmanship of the highest quality.

Pier Tables

Tables made for placing against the piers of a room: the areas of wall between windows. Originally they had mirrors above them. They are sometimes called side tables.

Screens

These have two purposes; to keep away draughts from doors and windows, and to ward off" the heat of a fire. Draught screens were first imported at the end of the seventeenth century from China, and they are made of lacquered wood with designs in gold and colours, or with the designs incised (Bantam or Coromandel Lacquer). Many are of eight or ten folding panels, and they stand up to eight or more feet in height. Screens of similar folding type, but not quite so large, were made with panel of painted or embossed leather.

Fire screens are small and portable, and date also from the late seventeenth century. The stands were of all styles, following the fashion of the time when they were made, and the screen itself often held a panel of tapestry or needlework.

Settees and Sofas

A settee is understood to mean a chair with space for more than one person to sit, and a sofa is a larger piece of furniture with room on it to recline. Neither of the terms seems to have come into general use until the early eighteenth century, but some settees with tall backs in the form of two chair-backs joined together date from about 1680. Shortly, they became very fashionable, and elaborately carved and heavily upholstered examples were made. Most of them reveal considerably more fabric and trimming than they do woodwork. In about 1730 there came a reversion to the first style, and the settee appeared again like an armchair but having the back in duplicate or triplicate, side by side. This type continued to be made throughout the eighteenth century, but the upholstered variety was made as well; each conforming in outline and detail to the fashion of the time when it was produced.

The love seat is a very narrow settee or sofa with only just sufficient space for two persons to sit on it; hence its name. Many early eighteenth-century armchairs were widened ruthlessly into love seats about thirty-five years ago, when the demand for them greatly exceeded the supply.



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