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Box

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1680-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Olivewood cut in 'oyster' fashion, with sycamore (?) string inlay. The olive wood is cut transversely to maximize the visual impact of grain and make the best use of the generally small pieces of wood. In the 17th century, table tops, and tops and sides of case furniture were frequently veneered wholly with olive oysters in geometric arrangements defined by white stringing or banding. It is likely that most olive veneered furniture was London-made, as customs returns show that the great majority of olive (more than 95 percent) was imported into London. The fashion for olive furniture declined sharply after c.1710, and it is rarely cited thereafter either in furniture makers stock or on trade-cards and advertisements. There is no obvious reason for this other than changing public taste.

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Miss Amy E. Tomes

  • Museum number:

    W.52-1940

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

BOX
ENGLISH: End of 17th century

Olive-wood veneer with inlaid sycamore (?) stringing. Hinged lid with convex flanged rim on front and sides; on top a radial design of olive-wood oyster-pieces in a design of concentric circles, with inlaid stringing design of interesting and tangent circles and portions of circles. Plain front, and ends convex, base flange. Base covered with purple velvet. Openwork lock-plate of silver. Interior lined with modern red velvet.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1680-1700 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Olivewood cut in 'oyster' fashion, with sycamore (?) string inlay. The olive wood is cut transversely to maximize the visual impact of grain and make the best use of the generally small pieces of wood. In the 17th century, table tops, and tops and sides of case furniture were frequently veneered wholly with olive oysters in geometric arrangements defined by white stringing or banding. It is likely that most olive veneered furniture was London-made, as customs returns show that the great majority of olive (more than 95 percent) was imported into London. The fashion for olive furniture declined sharply after c.1710, and it is rarely cited thereafter either in furniture makers stock or on trade-cards and advertisements. There is no obvious reason for this other than changing public taste.

Object history note

Bible Box with key, bequest of Amy Tomes, daughter of Lady Tomes (who bequeathed other objects to the museum in memory of her husband, Sir Charles Tomes in 1920s & 1930s)

Notes from R.P.s 1532/40, 1043/40 & 6667/35

Minute, H Clifford Smith
who visited Miss Tomes in 1936 to see the furniture that was collected by a great uncle of hers about 40 years earlier and was until recently at her father's house, Mannington Hall, Norfolk (no specific reference to the Bible Box)

The box was among 39 articles (mostly chair sets) that came to the Museum on Miss Tomes death in 1940 by enemy action (a bomb).

Miss Tomes' Will lists
"My large Chippendale 'oyster' bible box"

Descriptive line

Olive wood box; England; 1680-1700

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

[Olive wood] is typically used for furniture making, both in the solid and as a veneer... there is scant evidence for use of the wood prior to the Restoration... Although official figures are lacking prior to 1697, it is obvious that olive wood was already being imported in significant quantities by that date, for olive veneers are commonly found of British furniture from c.1660 onwards. In 1688 Stalker and Parker wrote that it was 'highly in request amongst us.' Its popularity was undoubtedly due to its strong figure; John Evelyn called it 'most curiously diapered. It was typically cut in 'oyster' fashion, that is, transversely or obliquely, to maximize the visual impact of the figure and make the best use of the generally small scantlings. Mouldings were laid across the grain for the same reason. In this respect, there was little difference between the use of olive and walnut, but the higher contrast between light and dark wood gave olive a greater visual impact. Table tops, and tops and sides of case furniture, were frequently veneered wholly with olive oysters in geometric arrangements defined by white stringing or banding, and commonly used in conjunction with reserves of floral marquetry... Although evidence for relative values is difficult to come by, it appears that olive was held at least in equal regard to walnut for veneered furniture.

The customs returns show that the great majority of olive (more than 95 percent) was imported into London. Some may have been shipped coastwise from London to other ports, but it is likely that most olive veneered furniture was London-made. It is not uncommon to find furniture in which olive veneers have been supplemented with other woods, frequently ash. This is certainly an indication of relative scarcity, and may indicate non-metropolitan manufacture. The fashion for olive furniture declined sharply after c.1710, and it is rarely cited thereafter either in furniture makers stock or on trade-cards and advertisements. There is no obvious reason for this other than changing public taste.
BOWETT, Adam. : Woods in British furniture making 1400-1900 : an illustrated historical dictionary (Wetherby : Oblong Creative Ltd, in association with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2012.) P. 173 - 175.

Materials

Olive wood; Sycamore

Techniques

Inlay

Categories

Containers; Woodwork; Medieval and renaissance

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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