The technique of graining – painting surfaces to resemble wood – dates back to Egyptian times. It first became popular in Europe in the second half of the 17th as a simulation of the exotic hardwoods that were starting to be used in veneer form at that time. Because these woods, such as rosewood and satinwood, were expensive and rare, techniques of painting or graining were developed to imitate them.
It was also used in interiors, primarily on doors and panelling, often to disguise cheaper softwoods, such as pine, to resemble the medullary rays of quarter-cut oak; this technique is sometimes known as “scumbling”.
During the Regency period, “Rio”, or Brazilian, rosewood became the most popular of the exotic veneers, and the most imitated by the furniture decorators. A suitable “ground colour” would be painted onto the well prepared surface; this was allowed to dry before a semi-transparent graining colour was applied sparingly and swept, with a graining comb, into the distinctive swirls of rosewood. This would then be sealed with a coat of varnish.
These painters were highly skilled; by the end of the Regency period the graining techniques were as valued as the rosewood itself. This lovely set of chairs are particularly finely grained, and of top quality. Nowadays, with the fashion for painted furniture, a simulated set will fetch as much, or more, than actual rosewood chairs!
Contact Thakeham Furniture in West Sussex, UK – to know more in detail about antique furniture, English antique furniture, rosewood antique furniture and satinwood antique furniture.