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Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto (February 3, 1898 — May 11, 1976) was a Finnish architect and designer, sometimes called the "Father of Modernism" in the Nordic countries. His work includes architecture, furniture and glassware.
Alvar Aalto was born in Kuortane, Finland. He studied architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology from 1916 to 1921. He returned to Jyväskylä, where he opened his first architectural office in 1923. The following year he married architect Aino Marsio. Their honeymoon journey to Italy sealed an intellectual bond with the culture of the Mediterranean region that was to remain important to Aalto for the rest of his life. Aalto moved his office to Turku in 1927, and started collaborating with architect Erik Bryggman. The office moved again in 1933, to Helsinki. The Aaltos designed and built a joint house-office (1935-36) for themselves in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, but later (1954-55) had a purpose-built office built in the same neighborhood. Aino Aalto died in 1949 and in 1952 he married architect Elissa Mäkiniemi (died 1994). In 1957 they designed and had built a summer cottage, the so-called Experimental House, for themselves in Muuratsalo, where they spent their summers. Alvar Aalto died in May 11, 1976, in Helsinki.

Auditorium of the Viipuri Municipal Library in the 1930s.

Although sometimes regarded as the first and the most influential architects of Nordic modernism, a closer examination of the historical facts reveals how Aalto (while a pioneer in Finland) closely followed and had personal contacts with other pioneers in Sweden, in particular Gunnar Asplund and Sven Markelius. But what they and many others of that generation in the Nordic countries had in common was that they started off from a classical education and were first designing in the so-called Nordic Classicism style before moving, in the late 1920s, towards Modernism.

In Aalto's case this is epitomised by the Viipuri Library (1927-35), which went through a transformation from an originally classical competition entry proposal to the completed high-modernist building. His humanistic approach is in full evidence there: the interior displays natural materials, warm colors, and undulating lines. The Viipuri Library project lasted eight years, and during that same time he also designed the Turun Sanomat Building (1929-30) and Paimio Sanatorium (1929-33): thus the Turun Sanomat Building first heralded Aalto's move towards modernism, and this was then carried forward both in the Paimio Sanatorium and in the on-going design for the library. But though the Turun Sanomat Building and Paimio Sanatorium are comparatively pure modernist works, even they carried the seeds of his questioning of such an approach and a move to a more daring, synthetic attitude.

Aalto was a member of the Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne; attending the second congress in Frankfurt in 1929, and the fourth congress in Athens in 1933. It was not until the completion of the Paimio Sanatorium (1929) and Viipuri Library (1935) that he first achieved world attention in architecture. His reputation grew in the USA following the critical reception of his design for the Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, described by Frank Lloyd Wright as a "work of genius".

It could be said that Aalto's reputation was sealed with his inclusion in the second edition of Sigfried Giedion's influential book on Modernist architecture, Space, Time and Architecture. The growth of a new tradition (1949), in which Aalto received more attention than any other Modernist architect, including Le Corbusier. In his analysis of Aalto, Giedion gave primacy to qualities that depart from direct functionality, such as mood, atmosphere, intensity of life and even 'national characteristics', declaring that "Finland is with Aalto wherever he goes".

Aalto's awards included the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1957) and the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1963).


Architectural term for the flat upper member of a capital on a column or pilaster, on which the architrave of entablature rests. On the Tuscan, Doric and Ionic orders of architecture the abacus is square: on the Corinthian and Composite, each face is convex.
Source: John Gloag Dictionary of Furniture


French term for "drop lid" or "fall front" as in an abattant secretary. acanthus - Stylized carving of the acanthus leaf commonly used to decorate furniture.


Trees of genus Acacia similar to locust trees. Some Australian and Sandwich Islands varieties produce beautiful veneers in a wide range of colors from yellow, red and green.

acanthus carving

The leafy carving on much traditional furniture. It is said to resemble the leaves of the acanthus bush.

Source: Fred Taylor

acantine spray

Elegant Edwardian Carved and Parcel-Gilt Mahogany Looking Glass, first quarter 20th century, in the George II style, the cresting modeled as a pierced circle centered by a carved giltwood acanthine spray, h. 46-1/2", w. 29-3/8".

St. Charles Gallery-New Orleans
ESTIMATE 700 - 1000

acid etching

A technique using acid to decorate glass to produce a matt or frosted effect.

Source: Antiques Price Guide 2004, Judith Miller ISBN -7894-9550-3

acorn finial

An acorn-shaped wood turned ornament common in Jacobean furniture as finials on chair and bedposts, as pendants and profiles of table leg turnings.

Adam Brothers

Adam Brothers - Robert 1728-1792 and James 1730-1794 were English architects, influenced by the excavations at Pompeii in the 18th century. Characteristics of their style are straight lines,mythological figures, delicate ornaments, classical symmetry, satinwood, marquetry, and inlay.

Adam, Robert

Robert Adam (1728-92) is considered the greatest British architect of the later eighteenth century. He was equally if not more brilliant as a decorator, furniture designer, etc., for which his name is still a household word. No previous architect had attempted such comprehensive schemes of interior decoration.

Adam was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, the son of a well known Scottish architect. In 1758 he returned from Italy where he had lived for several years, and set up an architectural practice in London with his brothers.

While in Italy he greatly admired the Palladian style and used classical Grecian and Roman ornaments in his designs for both buildings and furniture.

However, he broke new ground by introducing an interpretation of the style which he called Grotesque: "... by grotesque is meant that beautiful light style of ornament used by the ancient Romans in the decoration of their palaces, baths, and villas." This is the basis of the Neoclassical style of which Adam was the principal British exponent. In 1773, 1779, and 1822, the three volumes of The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam were published, posthumously in the case of the third volume.


The trade name or signature of the Adams brothers.

Aesthetic Movement

The Aesthetic Movement was a trend that sought to reform and simplify household decoration. It was re-branded as theArts & Crafts Movement and exported to the British Empire as an anti-Victorian international style.
Japonisme (the taste for the arts of Japan)

In 1853, after nearly 250 years of self-imposed isolation, Imperial Japan yielded to the cannon threats of American commodore Matthew C. Perry and almost immediately let loose a flow of Japanese goods to the West which astounded Europe and America with unheard-of treatments of line, shape, and color that would inspire revolutions in fine art, architecture, and particularly interior decoration for decades to come. One of these trends, the Aesthetic movement, carried the appreciation for Eastern design ideas to new heights and set the stage for the Arts & Crafts era that flourished a short generation later (1900-1925.)

Part of the allure of Japonisme was the culture's different perspective on design. Patterns and compositions were often asymmetrical, the polar opposite of the mirror image symmetry familiar to Europeans and Americans still wrapped up in the Greek and Gothic revivals of the early 19th century.

Many Japanese motifs were based on conventionalized forms of the natural world, such as flowers (especially chrysanthemums), birds (cranes), and insects(dragonflies and butterflies). Most importantly, Japanese artisans were masters in the use of strong lines, open or undecorated space, and restraint and understatement in general, treatments that were utterly unlike the overcomplicated and profusely decorated furnishings in vogue during the Victorian era.


Between 1870 and 1900, these ideas came together in Britain in a new designphilosophy called the Aesthetic movement. Although it was a mixture of manystyles, Aestheticism drew greatly from Japanese elements.

With art for art's sake as their principle, Aesthetes emphasized art over everything else. They favored strong, simple colors: bright blues, greens ,and especially yellows (which may explain their fondness for displaying stuffed peacocks). Those colors were used in interiors set off with black furniture, clearly inspired by the lacquered wares from Japan.

The sunflower was a popular motif because its bold color and simple shape could be stylized, much like the chrysanthemum of Japanese art.

(Japanese design was an important influence on Charles Eastlake.)


As the movement swept through America, people started to believe that beautiful objects should exist for the enjoyment of everyone, not only the elite. It was thought that a beautiful environment could actually enhance one's quality of life. (Japanese design was an important influence on Charles and Henry Greene and the development of California bungalow).

The Aesthetic movement in the United States shows its strongest influence between 1860 and 1890. Forerunners were firms like Herter Brothers, Pattier and Stymus and Kimbel and Cabus.

The furniture is distinguished by:

1.) The use of contrasting materials.

2.) Marquetry or other flat surface decoration (like painting)

3.) Rectilinear shapes.

4.) Sturdy construction.

Through his interior designs and mass production of beautiful glass objects, Louis Comfort Tiffany exemplified the spirit of the movement.



A form of quartz mineral with a strongly banded composition in which each layer differs in color and translucency. Colors range from reds, browns and yellows to greens, bluish white and white. Used for making jewelry, cameos, and in decorative objects d'art.


Alabaster - A fine grained stone that is usually gray or white in color and is slightly translucent.


Generally translucent and white or grey in color, alabaster is a form of the mineral gypsum which can be polished to a smooth and waxy finish. Often used in sculpture, decorative stone panelling, beads, and cabochons.


A type of wood native to Southeast Asia typically orange or reddish-brown with a curled and mottled grain. Used for veneers and furniture.

American Indian Symbols

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A large, two-handled earthenware vessel with a narrow neck and usually an ovoid body, originally used in Greece for the storage of grain. Later adopted as a Neoclassical decorative motif.


Functional supports of cast iron or brass used in open fireplaces to hold logs.

animal figures (Chinese)

Animal Figures - And what they symbolize

Mythical Animals

1. The Fish-tail Dragon - Yu Lung - represents a Carp changing into a dragon in ascending a waterfall. Symbol of passing the Examinations.

2. Pan K'uei - is an ancient form of Coiled Dragon.

3. K'uei Wen or Fin-footed Dragons or Hydra.

4. Dragon Long is the symbol of the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, eternity, Yang and Yin, male vigor and fertility, and has many other attributes. Considered as one of the 12 Ornaments. One of the most complex and multi-tiered Chinese symbols. The dragon is a good natured and benign creature. In decorations often two dragons are playing in the clouds with a ball or large pearl symbolizing its power to bring the necessary rain.

5. Phoenix - Feng-Huang - represents the Empress, beauty, goodness, warmth, prosperity, peace, the Sun, abundance harvests, reason in government. It is commonly used as a female symbol. Rules of the Southern Quadrant. Also called Vermilion Bird.

6. Taotie - Ogre Mask - a sacrificial animal and a warning against avarice, gluttony, sensuality, self indulgence. Stylized Full-face zoomorphic mask with ears, horns and large fangs, but without a lower jaw. In some bronzes the similarity with a water buffalo head without a lower jaw is obvious, but in many others instances this is not the case. It appears on bronze vessels of the Shang dynasty and thereafter on objects in various media, especially those with archaistic decoration. These fantastic creatures may have served as intermediaries between the world of men and the realms of the spirits.

7. Unicorn - Ch'i Lin - symbolizes benevolence, rectitude. A good omen. Symbol of Military Officials of the 1st Grade.

8. The Three Legged Toad or Hsia Ma in the Moon which it swallows during an eclipse. Symbol of the unattainable and of money making.


1. Cat - the Protector of silkworms and disperses evil spirits.

2. Deer - Lu - longevity and also is the official emolument, honor, and success in study.

3. Elephant - is the last of the 4 Animals of Power and Energy. It represents strength, sagacity, and prudence.

4. Horse - Ma - Eight horses togetrer in a decoration represents the famous horses from the story of King Mu (The eight horses of Wang Mu) from the 10th century BC.

5. Tortoise - guards the Northern Quadrant. Represents longevity, strength, endurance. A Messenger to the Human Race.

6. Leopard - one of the four Animals of Power and Energy. It represents bravery, martial ferocity. Emblem of Military official 3rd Grade.

7. Lion - Shi-Zi - Same as the "Fo Dog" - play a big part in Chinese folklore and are usually depicted looking more mythical than real. Pairs of stone lions rival even dragons in popularity as guardians in buildings and temples. It is one of the four Animals of Power and Energy. Symbol of valor, Emblem of Military Officials 2nd Grade.

8. Tiger - Hu - King of the wild animals, the tiger is a symbol of courage and bravery and it can drive off demons.


Fish - Yu - Fish in Chinese sounds like the word for "Abundance and Affluence" so the fish symbolizes wealth. Fish shown with a lotus blossom symbolize "Year after Year may you live in Affluence".

1. Goldfish Jin Yu - The Chinese words for goldfish are identical with the two words meaning "Gold and Abundance" therefore many Chinese keep goldfish at there home or in ponds in temple gardens.

2. Carp Li - Similar sounding to the word "Business" in Chinese, the carp symbolizes a wish for benefit or advantage in business.

Birds and Insects

1. Bat - Fu - symbol of longevity, prosperity, happiness. One of the top symbols for good luck. The word "bat" in the Chinese language sounds identical to the word for "Good Fortune".

2. Bats - if five - "the Five blessings" of long life, health, riches, love of virtue, and a natural death.

3. Butterfly - joy and conjugal felicity. Butterfly is pronounced in homonym with the word die which means a 80 years old. Two butterflies together is meant a wish of "longevity". "Die" is also pronounced similar to another word which means to "pile up" or "repeat" - and thus given the meaning "many".

4. Cicada or - Ch'an - immortality, resurrection, happiness, and eternal youth, restraint of cupidity and vice.

5. Cock - Gong-Ji - Wards off evil. A picture of a red cock will protect a house from fire. A white cock placed on a coffin will keep demons at bay. A cock is never to be killed or bad luck will arise.

6. Crane - He - Symbol of longevity and often shown together with a pine-tree and a stone, also symbols of longevity. The bird, and sometimes the mount, of the immortals. It aids in communication with the divinities.

7. Cricket - courage and summer.

8. Duck - felicity and conjugal fidelity.

9. Eagle - Ying - symbol of strength, an eagle shown perched in a pine-tree is a suitable gift for an older man, wishing him strength of an Eagle and longevity of a pine-tree. An eagle on a rock in the sea symbolizes "hero" who fights a lone battle.

10. Goose - e - Symbol of married bliss.

11. Heron - Lu - Heron in Chinese sounds a lot like the word for "path or way". A painting of a heron and a lotus has the meaning of "May your path be always upward".

12. Peacock - Kong-Que - Symbolizes dignity and beauty,

anthemion (Alternate name: Honeysuckle ornament )

A lotus-and-palmette design with acanthus leaves added.

A classical ornament featuring honeysuckle or palmettes with foliage (acanthus leaves) below; used singly on antefixes (ornamental blocks concealing tile-ends at the edges of a roof), or as a running ornament on friezes.

anthemion motif

The classically inspired anthemion, or honeysuckle motif, originated with Greek and Roman architecture and was used extensively on furnishings and decorative arts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is marked by a stylized flower design of scrolling or radiating form. Famous furniture makers and designers including Gillows of Lancaster, Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite incorporated this motif in their furniture designs.


Antique: A man-made object which should be of manageable proportions, have decorative properties, be more than 100 years old, and which, by reason of its quality, beauty, rarity, antiquity, curiosity, or vogue, is sufficiently esteemed and/or coveted as to have value.


A work of art, a piece of furniture or any other decorative object which, according to United States law, must be at least 100 years old. The value of an antique depends upon its authenticity, beauty, age, rarity and condition.

Apostles Spoon

Apostle Spoons: Early spoons made in sets of 12, each one surmounted by a different apostle as a knop. Some sets of 13 were made to include the figure of the 'Master' (Christ). 1478 is the earliest hall-mark recorded.

Apothecary jars

Cylindrical or oval shaped covered jars either of glass or china, designed for the storage of medicinal herbs. Some are presently converted to lamp bases or used as ornaments. Also called pharmacy jars.
applied decoration - Relief decoration typically applied to the surface of a ceramic. Often used by Wedgwood to adorn their jasper wares.


Applewood: Hard, fine-grained wood used for country furniture in the eighteenth century; it was also employed for inlay and veneer.


Decoration that is formed separately and then applied to a piece. In textiles, decoration that is made from a different material and then applied to the main ground, often with braids or decorative stitching.

Source: Antiques Price Guide 2004, Judith Miller ISBN -7894-9550-3

Appraisal Process

Appraisal Process - Calling the market or ascertaining as best we may what price the property will probably bring.
Frederick M. Babcock, FASA

Appraisal Report

The appraiser's report is the document prepared by the appraiser, where as the appraisal is the intellectual property of the appraiser.
Source: Gene Ruelle, ASA
Ideology presented by John Wiley FASA, USPAP 2006 Audio Course.


Appraising - Appraising is simply a process. It has no significance except in relation to some other action: taxation sale, inventorying, financing, acquisition, compensating, advising, investment analysis, or some other action.
Frederick M. Babcock, FASA

A valuation or an estimation of value of property by disinterested persons of suitable qualifications. The process of ascertaining a value of an asset or liability that involves expert opinion rather than explicit market transactions.
Black's Law Dictionary Sixth Edition

Appropriate Market Level

Appropriate Market Level - Personal property is commonly bought and sold in or at several market levels depending on the quantity, quality and condition of the property. The purpose and function of the appraisal determines the appropriate market that an appraiser analyzes and reports on, relevant to the subject property at auction, wholesale, retail and liquidation. Implied in the definition of Fair Market Value and of market value, is the fact that the appraiser knows the appropriate and relevant market level at which a property changes hands under certain circumstances.

ASA Int'l Personal Property Committee


A board placed at right angles to the underside of a shelf, chair seat, or table top. Arabesque - An ornamentation consisting of an interlacing design of foliage, usually designed for a vertical panel, with the sides resembling each other.


The piece of wood underneath the seat rail of a chair or settee, or beneath the legs of a table or chest.

Source: Antiques Price Guide 2004, Judith Miller ISBN -7894-9550-3


Carved architectural ornament suggesting arches. Often used on chair-backs and applied on panels.


Illustrated are the various arch forms.

Arched stretchers

Arched stretchers are arc or hoop shaped. Examples are seen on "C" and "S" scrolled stretchers of William and Mary chairs and on various Windsors. They are sometimes called crinoline stretchers on Windsors.

Architectural furniture

Furniture in which includes architectural characteristics such as paneling. Usually in the form on large pieces. Examples of architectural pieces are wainscot chest and chairs, structural corner cupboards (perhaps with a shell carved dome) and fluted columns.


The molding around a door or aperture on a piece of furniture.

Source: Antiques Price Guide 2004, Judith Miller ISBN -7894-9550-3


Medieval maker of chests (arks)


A movable wardrobe, usually with one or two doors, originating in late 16th century France.

Art Deco

Art Deco was a popular design movement from 1920 until 1939, affecting the decorative arts such as architecture, interior design, and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as fashion, painting, the graphic arts, and film. This movement was, in a sense, an amalgam of many different styles and movements of the early 20th century, including Constructivism, Cubism, Modernism, Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, and Futurism. Its popularity peaked during the Roaring Twenties. Although many design movements have political or philosophical roots or intentions, Art Deco was purely decorative. At the time, this style was seen as elegant, functional, and ultra modern as well.

Art Deco

Period from 1925 to about 1935 when designers were influenced by simple geometric patterns.

Art Nouveau

Period from 1889 to 1925 associated with a curvilinear swing design. Inspired by plant and animal forms in nature and frequently incorporating the figure of women.

Art Nouveau (1895-1910)

Proportions Elongated.

Essential elements Sinuous elongated forms. Elaborate carving or inlay. Floral, curving, and various organic motifs.

Woods Oak for mass-produced pieces; mahogany, rosewood, maple, or exotic woods such as amboyna for elegant examples.

Notable forms All types.

- Marvin D. Schwartz, American Furniture: Tables, Chairs, Sofas and Beds. 2000

The French "new art" that took bold in Europe and America in the 1890's.

The style became prominent in Europe in the 1890s, affecting virtually every branch of design from glass making to architecture. Although the Art Nouveau style was a major force in European design, it had only a limited following in the United States.

It was strongly influenced by Japanese and Gothic art forms. Aubrey Beardsley, the illustrator, William Morris, the designer, and James Ensor, the Belgian painter, were prime forces. Horta and Van de Velde were outstanding names in the interiors done in this style as were Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Scotland, Hector Guimard in France, and Antonio Gaudi in Spain.

See also: Michael Thonet


The style used flat patterns of twisting plant forms based on nature, sometimes tortured. It was characterized by its use of fluid, sinuous lines and organic, elongated forms,


In America, a few disciplines, such as glass making, fell under its sway, but furniture designers rarely adopted the style as a whole. Instead they employed isolated motifs.

In 1904, at the Saint Louis fair, the French Pavilion exhibited numerous pieces executed in the Art Nouveau style. Shortly afterward, major Midwestern manufacturers, especially those in Grand Rapids, Michigan, began to produce furniture somewhat reminiscent of the French prototypes.

These American examples generally combine an Eastlake or Rococo Revival form with applied floral decoration and whiplash curves in a vaguely Art Nouveau manner.

Art Noveau

Art Nouveau
The decorative art movement centered in Western Europe. It began in the 1880s as a response to mid-19th-century art. Art nouveau started in London and didn't continue past World War I. The style was rich in ornament and asymmetrical, looking like plant tendrils. Designers used ideas full with symbolism, frequently used dreamlike and exotic forms. Used in decorative arts, furniture, jewelry, and book design and illustration. The equivalent in Germany-Jugendstil, Sezessionstil in Austria and Modernismo in Spain. Some outstanding designers of art nouveau include Aubrey Beardsley, Charles Ricketts, Walter Crane, from England. In Belgium the architects Henry Van de Velde and Victor Horta. The architect and designer of the Paris mÈtro entrances, Hector Guimard, and jewelry designer RenÈ Lalique. America had the architect Louis Sullivan and the designer Louis C. Tiffany.

art techniques

Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique, a variant of etching.

Intaglio printmaking makes marks on the matrix (in the case of aquatint, a copper or zinc plate) that are capable of holding ink. The inked plate is passed through a printing press together with a sheet of paper, resulting in a transfer of the ink to the paper. This can be repeated a number of times, depending on the particular technique.
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters‎, Francisco Goya (1799)

Like etching, aquatint uses the application of acid to make the marks in the metal plate. Where the etching technique uses a needle to make lines that print in black (or whatever colour ink is used), aquatint uses powdered resin which is acid resistant in the ground to create a tonal effect. The tonal variation is controlled by the level of acid exposure over large areas, and thus the image is shaped by large sections at a time. Another tonal technique, mezzotint, begins with a plate surface that is evenly indented so that it will carry a fairly dark tone of ink, then smoothing areas to make them carry less ink and thus print a lighter shade; or, beginning with a smooth plate, areas are roughened to make them darker; or, these two techniques may be combined.


A highly figured hardwood having a variety of shades from a grayish hue to deep brown. Used chiefly in structural concealed portions of furniture.


The process in which a piece is examined to determine the amount of precious metal contained. This examination is conducted at a legally appointed assayer's office to insure compliance with legal standards and the piece is officially stamped or hallmarked upon completion.


A narrow moulding, semi-circular in profile, sometimes carved. It is used particularly for glazing bars and the closing edges of doors.



Flat, tapestry-woven coverings named for the French manufactory in Aubusson, established in 1664. Aubusson fabrics are highly-regarded and of exceptional quality.

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