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Sunday 2 April 2017

THE LIEGE STYLE WARDROBE | 18th Century Liège Style Furniture | Linen Closet - Liège Style Cloth Cabinet

Patrick Damiaens | Liège style furniture

 18th Century Liège Style Furniture 

The Liège style wardrobe or linen closet is a particularly popular type of period furniture. At the time, in the 18th century, they were in high demand due to their functionality and usability. As a result many of them were manufactured. Even though their quality is not always of a very high standard, you often run into these types of furniture at antique fairs and at local antique dealers.

Composition of the Closet
The general features of a Liège style wardrobe remained unchanged throughout the 18th century. Essentially, this type of linen closet is composed of three main compartments: the plinth or base, the midsection containing the doors and the pilaster, and, lastly, the top or “crown”. The construction is always solid, i.e. it is manufactured in high quality quarter-sawn oak wood, and all the different pieces of wood are held together by dovetail and mortise and tenon joints.

It is an “honest” piece of furniture, meaning that everything you see is real.
On average the Liège style wardrobe has a height of 2.3 meters. It is roughly 1.8 metres wide and has a depth of 0.7 metres. As mentioned earlier, they were in high demand, particularly appreciated for their practicality. An interesting feature, for instance, is the ability to dismount or dismantle the furniture into different modules. In other words, this linen closet can be easily taken apart if necessary. The separate modules or parts may be (re)assembled by making use of pins and pegs. Unfortunately, most of the time the original lay out of the wooden interior has disappeared.
Unique pieces of woodturning or nodes were attached to the upper cross beams at the back side and/or on the doors of the furniture piece, and were used to hang clothing on. Sometimes drawers were present at the bottom of the wardrobe.
The front side of this particular cloth cabinet seldom has a contoured profile (i.e. round, curved, bent, or hollowed). It is almost always flat or planar.


The Plinth or Base
The base of the cabinet may be styled in various different ways, with a cut-out plinth or with ball -or pear-shaped feet. In the 18th century the legs were often drenched in tar to avoid moisture from the floor from seeping into the cabinet. Typical for the Maastricht (NL) region was the so-called “claw” foot. Specifically, these furniture feet resemble a lion’s paw or the claw of a bird of prey (claw-and-ball foot). The furniture feet were always positioned in line with the posts and the pilaster, meaning that there were a total of three feet; two on each side and one in the middle.   

The Doors
The mullion or pilaster is located between the two doors and often houses the lock mechanism. Fixed pilasters are rarer than the ones that turn together with the right door. The lock is then located in the two door stiles. The most prevalent Liège style wardrobe generally consists of two or three doors, while types with four or five doors also exist, albeit in very small numbers.
The construction of the doors is captured in a traditional frame of rails, intermediate rails and stiles, finished with an elegantly profiled cornice. The most commonplace door composition is the one with two panels (proportion: 1/3 – 2/3). The doors are equipped with brass hinges. Original 18th century hinges were made of metal and covered with a thin layer of brass.
As indicated earlier, the front side of this cloth cabinet rarely has a contoured profile. It is almost always flat or planar. A rare but beautiful example of a Liège style wardrobe with a contoured profile can be found in the Cinquantenaire Museum (Dutch: Jubelpark Museum) in Brussels (B) (see photograph).


The Stiles
Almost all Liège style wardrobes have corner posts (stiles) which have been placed in a 45 degree angle. They often occur in planar (flat) or contoured (curved; i.e. convex) forms. Hollow (i.e. concave) corner posts or a combination of convex and concave posts also exist but are more infrequent. A nice example of this particular type of wardrobe can be found in the d’Ansembourg Museum in Liège.
Protruding corner posts truly give added value to the cornice, turning it into a real eye-catcher. However, most of the time the Liège style wardrobes are fitted with caved in or inward-facing corner stiles (see photograph).

The Top or Crown
The top or crown of a Liège style wardrobe is usually constructed in a horizontal fashion, although I am also familiar with a couple of masterpieces which have a curved crowns. The cornice is truly the eye-catcher of this cloth cabinet, with beneath it a frieze of approximately 12 cm in height, followed by an astragal moulding profile.
The frieze is abundantly decorated with style-specific ornaments. The cornice is often overhanging (i.e. it sticks out) and is nicely profiled, albeit less “dominant” than is the case with the Namur style wardrobe.
Sometimes the overhanging part of the cornice is cut out in a “Lambrequin” motif and adorned with style-specific ornaments. A nice example can be found in the d’Ansembourg Museum in Liège (see photograph).
The Liège style wardrobe exists in every Liège style period, always with its specific recognizable ornaments and compositions.

18th Century Liège Style Furniture 

Woodcarving and ornaments
The 18th century joiners or cabinet-makers operating in and around Liège successfully managed to skilfully integrate various decorations, compositions and ornaments, typical for of the French Louis XIV, Regency and Louis XV and XVI, into their own furniture. Fortunately, they did not attempt to compete with their French counterparts – for instance with the well-known and expensive cabinet-makers Boulle and Riesener – despite their extraordinary technical skills and competencies.

As previously mentioned, Liège style furniture is an “honest” type of furniture, meaning that everything you see is real. All the ornaments and embellishments are carved out of solid wood/mass, i.e. none of the wood carving has been glued or applied to the cabinet.

Translation KOEN VERHEES

18th Century Liège Style Furniture 


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