Roman desks and lacquer

Roman desks and lacquer

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I've been watching the Netflix piece on Ancient Rome and noticed a beautifully lacquered desk which I felt might not be accurate for the time. Does anyone have information about their use of lacquer for their furniture?

Roman desks and lacquer - History

When he was 19 years old, he became a full-time student of Najeon Chilgi, with his
father as his teacher and mentor. Not only did he want to help his father, an aged factory
worker, ease the burden of supporting the whole family, but also he was attracted to his
father’s view that Najeon Chilgi was as valuable as any art taught in college. But most of all, he
didn’t want the legacy of the lacquer art to die with his father. A dedicated student, Song spent his
20s learning his father’s skills and techniques, sacrificing his social life for the art and his family.

The painful decade of apprenticeship began to pay off as his reputation grew along with his income. By this point,
he decided to raise the level of his wood lacquer work from producing house wares to creating lacquer art. Another learning
process ensued, during which he made extensive tours to museums and galleries across the country to learn from surviving
masterpieces of Najeon Chilgi. He also read countless art books to study the forms, colors, patterns and techniques,
and made numerous experiments in his wood lacquer workshop to create his own style. His 30s were spent this way.

Najeon Chilgi is often called a comprehensive art as it involves a number of crafts including woodwork and metalwork,
in addition to making mother of pearl strips. Therefore, a craftsman must spend many years studying Najeon Chilgi
as well as to be proficient in many other different crafts. When Song Bang-ung was in his 40s, he began entering national
craft shows and competitions and gained a nationwide reputation as an exemplary craftsman. He received several prizes
and awards, including the President’s Prize, the highest honor any artist can get in a national arts and crafts competition
in Korea. However, his most special award was the Culture Minister’s Prize at the 1981 National Folk Craft Show 1981
was the year his father passed away and he felt the award honored the man who taught him everything he knew. In 1990,
his artistic achievement of 40 years was officially acknowledged when the Korean government honored
him to succeed his father as a Master Craftsman of Najeon Chilgi (Kkeuneumjil), and listed his art
as ‘Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 10.’

Today, his love of Najeon Chilgi deepens as he spends more time and energy developing
the art, and teaching it to young people. Like his father, he believes in the importance of
education and bequeathing this wonderful lacquer art to future generations.

The Korean traditional art of Najeon Chilgi, or “lacquerwares inlaid with mother of pearl
designs,” is often compared with similar arts in China and Japan. There are, however,
significant differences. In Korea, for example, they use only the iridescent interior lining
of abalone shells after grinding and cutting the lining into paper-thin strips. Chinese artists,
on the other hand, use thicker strips from various shells to inlay into wooden objects, while Japanese craftsmen consider
the mother of pearl inlaying as a subsidiary part of the Makie Kobako art. Many believe Najeon Chilgi is unique not only
because the Korean artisans have mastered the technique to extract the brilliant iridescence from the abalone shell,
but also because they have used the resplendent colors of the mother of pearl to their fullest extent to create such
exquisite designs.

Woods Used in Hepplewhite Style Pieces

As Hepplewhite furniture is characterized by contrasting veneers and inlays depicting seashells or bellflowers, pieces often contain more than one type of wood. For the base, mahogany was most often the wood of choice, but satinwood and maple were also popular.

Other woods include sycamore (especially common for the aforementioned veneers), tulipwood, birch, and rosewood. Since those crafting these pieces frequently used the local woods at hand, American versions of Hepplewhite's designs can be made of ash or pine as well.


There are many types of lacquer that have been used in wood finishes. There are centuries of long histories in carved lacquerware in Asian countries. Many of the pottery and wood pieces still populate museums today.

There are more types of common wood finishing lacquers used today: precatalyzed and nitrocellulose. They are more durable and long lasting than other shellac or wax finishes. Nitrocellulose lacquers are produced from wood pulp for its cellulose nitrate (the main ingredient in lacquer) and are common in automotive painting. We use precatalyzed unless your project demands otherwise.

But What About Cultural Appropriation?

It&rsquos all about the lens through which we view the movement. From a historical perspective, the European fascination with Chinese design was simply an interest in the novel. &ldquoThe key factor to keep in mind about chinoiserie is that it was a seduction of the unknown, a strong sense of curiosity during an era of very little travel at that kind of distance,&rdquo says fashion and decorative art historian Patrick Michael Hughes, an adjunct professor of fabric styling at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

It&rsquos a theme found throughout the history of art and design. &ldquoCertainly there are elements of cultural appropriation in chinoiserie, but no more so than the Regency period&rsquos fascination with Egypt as championed by Napoleon, or America&rsquos consistent adoption of Greek and Imperial Roman styles of architecture in its churches and courthouses,&rdquo says Dr. Bertram. &ldquoIn all these cases the intention is not to ridicule or degrade, but to imitate and celebrate a distant culture, allowing both ancient and novel ideas to cross-pollinate throughout world fashion.&rdquo

But some 17th- and 18th-century critics did deride the chinoiserie, not only for being a chaotic and hedonistic style, but also for potentially making a mockery of Chinese art and design. Those sentiments continue with a contemporary perspective: it&rsquos easier for us now to point out the concerns about the West interpreting &ldquootherness.&rdquo

&ldquoI believe the &lsquoWestern gaze&rsquo and &lsquoexoticism&rsquo will always have their issues, as long as there are humans studying art, design, and the decorative arts,&rdquo says Hughes. &ldquoThe terms &lsquosumptuous,&rsquo &lsquodesire,&rsquo &lsquoseduction,&rsquo and &lsquopossession of beauty&rsquo are not new pursuits. What is new and exciting is the de-colonization within these terms and discussions with new frames of context and thinking.&rdquo

Classical Chinese Furniture: History

The early history of Chinese furniture recorded in excavated material, engraved stone and stamped brick reveals a mat-level furniture culture. The ancient Chinese knelt or sat cross-legged upon woven mats surrounded by various furnishings including low tables, screens, and armrests. Examples of excavated lacquer furniture from the ancient kingdom of Chu (ca. 500 BC) demonstrate an aesthetic of minimalism and simplicity, and others are decorated with unique colorful patterns and bear finely carved decoration in relief and openwork. The blending of artistic form with practical functionality can be seen as a common thread running throughout the long history of Chinese furniture.
Developments toward high seating were influenced by foreign customs and the migration of Buddhism. During the second century AD, the Han emperor Lingdi was recorded to have had a fascination with things foreign, including the foreign or "barbarian" seat (huchuang). This term referred to the folding stool, which at that time was commonly used by nomadic tribes in the more remote northern and western regions where it was also used for mounting horses. Being easily carried over the shoulder, it quickly became a popular seat for traveling or hunting.

Low platforms were another early form of raised seating furniture which were used as honorific seats by high officials and religious dignitaries during ceremonial and sacrificial rites. Records from the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) indicate that these sitting platforms were called ta the relatively longer chuang was used both for sitting and reclining.

With the eastward migration of Buddhism from India, chairs and raised platforms began to appear with more frequency as the status enhancing seats of great masters, along with the custom of disciples gathered around seated upon stools. Hourglass-shaped stools made of straw and basketwork also begin to appear during the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-586 AD) period similarly shaped stools of rattan are still found throughout modern China.

During the transitional period—from mat to chair—kneeling and cross-legged positions upon the seating platforms was common. Additionally, the raised platform also began to function as a large, medium-height table for dining.

By the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), stools and chairs had become common amongst the elite and those of rank. Prototypes to the yoke back chair as well as the round back chair appear in contemporary paintings and wall murals which depict the sitter with legs both pendant and crossed.

By the Northern and Southern Song (960-1279) periods, many types of high furniture had developed and were commonly used throughout all circles of life. Scenes recorded within contemporary paintings as well as archeological finds reveal that tables, chairs, stools, and benches of the architecturally related recessed-leg style were widely used.

Waisted cornerleg furniture is also evidenced in Song paintings, although, this more elegant form, with roots tracing back through Gandhara to early Greek architecture, appears to have been reserved for the elite and for activities of ritualistic and ceremonial significance.

Many basic patterns established during the Song dynasties continued to mature throughout the Yuan and Ming periods into beautiful well-rounded and robust forms that were smoothly finished with thick lacquer coatings and finely detailed with painted decoration. During the late Ming and early Qing periods, furniture of a minimal classical style was abundantly produced in durable tropical hardwoods after a ban on imports was lifted in 1567. The use of these hard, dense woods spawned advancements in joinery techniques permitting the creation open, elegant forms previously unattainable in softer woods. This popularity of this furniture, which often reflected the restrained, elegant tastes of the scholar official's class, also spread through the rising nouveau-riche merchant class.

After the fall of the corrupted Ming ruling house in 1644, China again flourished under the benevolent rule of the early Qing emperors. While early Qing furniture-makers generally held to classic patterns, a tendency towards refinement emerges correlating to that which permeated all of the decorative arts. Qianlong's fascination with antiquity stimilated archaistic decoration and styles in furniture design. Qing-style furniture is more angular in form, and the surfaces are often elaboratedly decorated.

Materials and Production

Roman era oil lamps were made of a variety of materials including stone, clay, shell, glass, and metal.

Stone lamps were usually carved however, early stone lamps were simply stones with natural depressions.

Clay lamps were manufactured using a number of methods. They could be hand-molded, wheel thrown, or impressed into a mold. Some show signs of being made using a combination of these methods. Clay lamps make up the majority of lamps found in the archaeological record.

Lamps made of glass were blown and, unlike clay lamps, were capable of holding oil without the risk of seepage. They also projected light more efficiently than lamps of other materials. However, due to the presence of air bubbles, blown glass cannot stand up to the intensity of a direct flame the way clay or metal can. As a result, glass lamps tended to break easily. This may be one reason why they are found less often in the archaeological record.

Metal lamps were either cast or hammered into a mold, though casting seems to have been the method of choice. Bronze appears to have been the most common metal used, however, lamps of iron, lead, gold, silver, and copper have also been found. Although metal lamps were sturdier, and thus had a longer lifespan than lamps made of other materials, they often did not survive into the modern day. This is likely due to the fact that metal objects, especially those of precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper, were often melted down and reworked into something new.

Fuel and wicks
Besides the vessel itself, oil lamps also require some kind of fuel as well as a wick. Fuel types ranged from animal fat to bees wax to various plant based oils including olive oil, sesame oil, and grape-seed oil. Olive oil is believed to have been the primary source of fuel used in the Mediterranean. Wicks were any kind of fibrous material, typically linen, papyrus, or other plant fibers.

Roman lamp with fibrous material in wick hole.

Maker’s marks
A maker’s mark is a word or symbol typically found on the base of an artifact. They are similar to modern brand logos which appear on everything from cars to clothing to food products. In much the same way brand names are used today, maker’s marks were used in ancient times to advertise products of a specific craftsman or workshop to potential buyers. Today, archaeologists can use maker’s marks to trace the origin of artifacts.

Leaf and branch maker’s mark on base of Imperial Roman discus lamp. This mark was common on lamps produced in Northern Africa.

FLORENT maker’s mark on base of Imperial Roman discus lamp. This mark was common on lamps produced in the vicinity of Rome.

Eight-spoked wheel maker’s mark on base of Roman Levantine lamp. This mark was common on lamps produced in the Levant.

One of the more prolific maker’s marks found on Roman oil lamps was the word FORTIS. This mark was typically impressed into the base of “Factory lamps” that originated in Northern Italy between AD 70 and AD 230. “Factory lamps” are lamps that were produced on a massive scale, much like commercial goods are today, and then exported throughout the Mediterranean and Roman Empire.

FORTIS maker’s mark on base of reproduction Roman “factory lamp.” This mark was common on “Factory lamps” produced in Northern Italy.

Known for: Confident, statement Italian style with a penchant for 20th century Maximalism

Exquisite, channel-tufted sofas, sculptural metallic table lamps and dining tables delicately trimmed with decorative glass panels—not bad for an Italian brand which started as life as a small pottery workshop. Marioni, the first on our list of Italian furniture brands, has come a long way in the last five decades (it was founded in 1966) and, whilst its brand name might not be as well known as the designer style it evokes, its pieces are no less impressive.

Its Maximalist tendencies (just look to its brilliantly named Notorious collection) showcase a confidence in its abilities as well as an appreciation of the Modernism movement which Italy contributed to greatly. Monochrome striped marble furniture recalls the Memphis Movement, metallic elements nod to Carlo Scarpa architecture and Milo Baughmann-esque swivel chairs complete the collection. Traditional Italian design characterises the rest of its range but it’s these statement pieces which really inspire.

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Spurius Tadius was also known as Ludius or Studius. He was famous for the murals that he painted during the Augustan period. The main themes of his murals were landscapes, and his most famous works were of landscapes of villas and ports.

Although painting was not fully appreciated in the early ancient Roman era, it was highly appreciated in later eras. Due to many unfortunate circumstances, a lot of paintings have been destroyed, and many talented Roman painters remained unknown.

Many of the best-known Roman paintings hung in the houses of Pompeii, but they met a horrific end. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius tragically claimed the lives of thousands of citizens of Pompeii, and many great artworks were also destroyed. All that remains are mere records and descriptions of the paintings that once adorned the houses of Pompeii.

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I have paintings done in 1968 in Roma. I want to know more about the history of these paintings but I can’t make out the name of the artist. Any suggestions?

Watch the video: Προετοιμασία MDF για βάψιμο.