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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Renaissance Revival Walnut Bed

My current project is the restoration of a Renaissance Revival walnut bed. The bed is between the size of a full and queen size bed. here is a photo of the bed after the finish had been removed.

The Renaissance Revival movement in furniture lasted roughly between 1860 and 1880 and came into popularity in America after the civil war. It was part of the larger Victorian era and followed the Rococo Revival Movement (1840-1865). Most people refer to this style of furniture simply as "Victorian" which is understandable seeing as how there were several movements within this era which overlapped, and also that furniture makers seemed to borrow design elements and blend them making it difficult to attribute a specific movement to a specific piece.
One of the design elements present in this bed is the applied ovolo molding on the foot board and side rails. The presence of this molding is a key characteristic of the Renaissance Revival movement. In addition, the overall architectural feel of the design matched with its massive proportion also indicates Renaissance Revival. Rococo Revival tends to have curviness as an overall feel. As one movement transformed into the other, design elements were carried over and utilized often making it hard to pin a specific piece down to one particular style. for example, the use of the carved fruit and vine motif on the head and foot board is characteristic of the Rococo Revival movement but is also seen in the Renaissance Revival movement.This bed has enough design elements to place it firmly within the Renaissance Revival movement.

The finish on the bed has a crackled look to it which is probably a result of the use of linseed oil to "feed" the finish. This practice, which is still seen today, is thought to rejuvenate an old lifeless finish. Despite the short term effects, this leads to a softening of the finish since the oil often doesn't dry and eventually the finish below softens and collects dirt, cracking the finish to form this pattern. Below is a photo of the finish:

In Some Cases the finish can be sanded down and then re distributed on the wood through the use of alcohol. Unfortunately, This finish was so damaged that removing the finish was the better option. I also saw several indicators on the piece that this was not the original finish.
Before Removing the finish , I repaired part of the molding on the top of the foot board:

The Fruit and Vine molding are applied to the face of the foot and head board and are actually made from paper or wood fiber. Because of this, care is needed when removing the finish. I removed the carvings from the piece for this reason and also to more easily repair cracks in the carvings.Here are some photos of the Foot board before and after the finish.


In future posts I will detail the repair and refinishing of the piece.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful piece! I had wondered what the cracks were...we have a very old clock with the same thing, but the pools of oil or finish aren't square(ish), but more round, like pools. Next time your over, I should show you.