BAFRA Glossary of Terms – Conservation


A Classical Fleshy leaf decoration of the acanthus mollis, used for example on capitals of the Corinthian order.


A series of arches, generally supported on columns. Arc en arbalète: a complex cusped serpentine edge shaping of a table, tray or panel in the form of a bow.


A narrow moulding of semi-circular form, sometimes carved, used particularly for glazing bars and the closing edges of doors (see also beading).

Ball and Claw

A common carved decoration of the feet of cabriole legged furniture from the early 18th century, inspired by the Oriental Pearl of Wisdom gripped in a dragon’s or eagle’s talons.


A turned column in a balustrade or the stem of a table, shaped to swell out in the lower half. Known as an inverted baluster when the swelling is in the upper half.


An ornamental inlay, generally in contrasting wood, laid cross-grain or diagonally, or in other materials such as ivory of brass. Herringbone banding or mitred form was used on walnut from the early 18th century.


An architectural and decorative style originating in Italy and spreading through Europe on the 17th century; characterised by its exuberant grandeur and bold curvaceous forms, sometimes tending towards heaviness and pomposity.


See Astragal. Also used of moulding of small repeated roundels (i.e. beads). Properly called pearling.


The angled cutting of an edge, particularly of a panel or mirror plate (see also chamfer).


Bole clay of varying colour according to the period, which was mixed with glue size and applied over gesso to prepare a ground for gilding.


Foliate and figural marquetry or turtle (tortoise)-shell and brass (and sometimes pewter, mother of pearl and ivory) made fashionable in France by André Charles Boulle (1642-1732). The term Première-partie is used when the ground is brass and Contra-partie when it is turtle-shell.

Bracket Foot

A flat two-piece symmetrical foot, set at a corner and shaped like a bracket on the outer edges.


The front of a cabinet or chest etc., whose ends are recessed. A recessed centre is known as a reverse breakfront. The term “wing” bookcase is also used.

Butt Joint

A simple glue joint between two surfaces.


An ornament generally carved on the knees of cabriole legs and popular in the mid 18th century, based on a round or oval convex polished stone, usually with rocaille or foliate surround.

Cabriole leg

An elegant leg, most popular in the first half of the 18th century, formed on a convex curve above a concave one and resembling an animal’s leg.


The top of a column or pilaster, frequently carved following a Classical order.


An ornately-edged tablet, properly in the form of a scroll unrolled to bear an heraldic coat of arms.


Properly a nautical wedge, but used of the framing joint across the ends of a table top to secure and stabilise the boards.

Club foot

A foot popular in the early to mid 18th century and generally used on a cabriole or turned tapered leg which swells to a depressed circular pad, often resting on a wooden disc, when properly termed – Pad foot.


A mixture of resin, whiting and glue size, used to make mouldings such as picture frames.


A scrolled bracket or truss; or a table attached to a wall, the top supported by such a bracket.


A projecting moulded ledge finishing off the top of a piece of case furniture, sometimes embellished with dentils etc. See also entablature.


An ornamental decoration set in the centre of the top of a mirror cabinet or chair back etc.


A slither of wood let in along the grain to join two pieces of wood together, often used as a mitre joint. The slither may be dovetailed.


A small rectangular block used in an equidistant series along a cornice. Taken from the Ionic and Corinthian orders.

Domed top

Properly a three-dimensional vault, but also used of the arched top of a late 17th/18th century cabinet, or of a box etc.


A small wooden peg used in joinery for securing a mortice or tenon or other joint.


A thin board generally of softwood, fixed to the rails between the drawers of a chest.

Egg and Dart

A Classical decorative carving, repeating these motifs usually applied to an ovolo moulding. Also known as Echinus


A garland or swag of flowers and foliage suspended from both ends.

Fielded panel

A wooden panel with a raised central area and bevelled or moulded surround.


A knob or ornamental projection at the top of an upright member or on a pediment. A downward-pointing finial is called a pendant.


The outward concave curve of a leg etc. The general term for a flared rim is Everted.


The fine powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood produced by the activity of boring insects.


Pierced or applied (blind fret) decoration repeated, often used in bands with Chinoiserie, Gothic or Greek key designs.

Gadrooning (Fr. = ruffle)

A carved decorative edge moulding of repeated convex tapered ribs generally diverging obliquely either side of a central point. When set square to the edge, may be differentiated by the term nulling.

Gesso (It. = chalk)

A mixture of whiting and glue size applied to wood to provide a smooth or low relief carved surface before painting, gilding or lacquering.

Greek key

A Classical interlocking geometric decoration repeated in bands.

Ho-ho bird

A carved and gilded Chinoiserie bird based on a crane, often found on Rococo mirrors or crestings.


Decorative patterns or figural designs made up of pieces of different coloured woods etc., set into cut-out sections of the ground wood (see also marquetry).

Inscrolled Foot

A carved foot (especially of the late 17th / early 18th century) which curls under and inwards (also known more fancifully as Braganza, Spanish or knurled foot), as opposed to the later and more elegant (out) scrolled foot.


The European imitation of Oriental lacquer, using spirit and oil varnishes, from the late 17th century.


The sharp edge found especially on the corner of some cabriole legs, having the profile of the keel of a boat.


The cutting of one side of a piece of wood with a number of deep close-set parallel slits so as to bend it.


A Chinese or Japanese decorative finish of figures in landscapes etc. on a ground built up with the sap of the lac tree in black or more rarely in other colours.


A relief carved motif popular on panelling from the 16th century, depicting vertical folds of cloth.


A decorative motif of a stylised water lily flower, originally Egyptian but popular circa 1810-1840.


Architectural, figural or foliate surface decoration made of veneers of different coloured woods laid on to a wooden ground (see also inlay and parquetry). Arabesque or seaweed marquetry was a type depicting feathery fronds, popular circa 1700.


The oblique bisecting line at the joint of two pieces of wood, generally set at right angles.

Mortice and tenon

A joint of two pieces of wood where a square or rectangular projection cut on the end grain of one (tenon) fits into a socket of identical size cut into the other (mortice). Through-tenon: where the mortice is cut right through a piece of wood.


A main vertical framing member in joinery (see also stile).


An architectural and decorative style deriving from a new interest in the Classical world which spread through Europe in the second half of the 18th century. Made popular in Britain particularly by Robert Adam (1728-1792).


A double-curved Gothic moulding consisting of a concave above a convex arc. Also used of bracket feet of this three-dimensional profile on mid-18th century cabinet furniture and clock cases.


Cast of bronze ornaments or mounts with fire (mercury) gilt surface.

Outset corner

A circular or square projection beyond the line of the sides of a table top etc. See also architrave.

Ovolo moulding

A sunk convex moulding of quadrant profile used especially at the corners of panels etc.


Veneers cut across the grain of small branches of trees such as walnut, olive and laburnum, laid decoratively. Popular circa 1700.


A Classical ornament based on a stylised leaf with outcurved fronds.

Paper mâché

A durable and malleable material made from paper or cardboard and glue-size, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries for architectural mouldings, boxes and smaller items of furniture. Also known as Carton Pierre (Fr.).

Parcel Gilt

A surface which is partially gilded to highlight features.


A relief carved motif panelling from the 16th century, based on two addorsed ogee-shaped mouldings.


Geometric veneered surface decoration of various coloured woods (see also marquetry).

Patera (Lat. = shallow dish)

A circular or oval Classical dish ornament, sometimes containing a flower head or fan motif.


A Classical gable of low pitch, used as a cresting on mirrors or cabinets (triangular, segmental open, broken, scrolled or swan neck).

Peg foot

A slender turned foot used on cabinet furniture in the late 18th / early 19th century. Also known as a toupie (Fr. = spinning top).

Pendant or drop-finial

See Finial. Repeated pendants beneath a rail may form an apron. Also another term for chain.

Pietra Dura/Pietre dure (It. = hard stone)

An inlay technique of using cut and fitted highly polished coloured stones to create images, 16th century Italian origin. Both spellings ae used, the latter being the plural and more common.


A flat column, usually of a classical order, used decoratively in low relief.

Pitched top

Generally of a lid, where four sloping or hipped sides to a ridge or flat centre. Called pyramidal where the slopes meet at a point.


A granular or sanded ground found on early 18th century gesso furniture, in contrast to a punched or pitted ground also used for making texture at the time.

Quadrant Stay

A sliding piece of metal of quarter circle circumference, used to support a fall front secretaire drawer.


Four matching figured sheets of veneer laid to produce a symmetrical design. Found particularly on early 18th century walnut furniture.


A horizontal framing member in joinery, such a seat rail, back rail etc.


Repeated half round convex mouldings used especially on round pillars or legs and sometimes in flutes.


A revival of Classical architecture and decoration etc. in 15th century Italy which spread to Northern Europe during the 16th century and brought a new naturalism.


A repeated decoration of small scale reeds. Often used in flat panels or bands.


An architectural and decorative style developed in France in the early 18th century as a reaction against the heaviness and seriousness of Baroque. Its essence was frivolity, lightness and asymmetry. The name derives from Rocaille – Fr. Rockwork.


A cast brass or ormolu foot mount used on furniture in French taste.


A coloured composition of plaster and marble chips etc., used to imitate marble and sometimes pictorially, especially on table tops in 17th century Italy.


The shape of a scallop shell with a lobed or foiled edge.

Shoe or shoe-piece

A shaped horizontal bar used on many 18th century chairs, fitted round the bottom of the splat over upholstery and tacked through into the back rail.


A slender turned baluster, often decoratively used in rows.

Spiral twist

The turning of a leg or column etc., in the form of a screw head.

Stiff Leaf

A Gothic carved motif of curled acanthus leaves, used on capitals etc.


A subsidiary vertical framing member in joinery (see also muntin).


A symmetrical ornament of flat interlaced bands or ribbons, of Northern Renaissance origin.


A horizontal member or rail which connects and braces legs, sometimes used decoratively, such as cross-stretcher or arched stretcher.


A thin decorative inlaid line of brass or contrasting wood, generally in veneer.


An ornamental garland or festoon of flowers and foliage, or of drapery, suspended from both ends (see also chain).


A pedestal or pilaster tapered to its base, the top formed as a human figure.


A flat canopy, especially over a bed.


A Gothic Motif of three cusped arcs or lobes.

Trifid foot

A club foot generally found on a cabriole leg formed into three parts, sometimes with foliate decoration.


A Classical motif of superimposed thematic emblems such as military or musical.

Vernis Martin

A form of translucent japanning developed in France in the first half of the 18th century by the Martin Brothers.

Vitruvian Scroll

A repeated Classical scrolled wave decoration named after the Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio.


A scroll based on a ram’s horn, as used on the capital of the Ionic order etc.

Wainscot (Dutch = wagenschott)

A type of fine straight-grained quarter cut oak imported from the Baltic and originally used for wagon shafts. Later synonymous with oak.


A decorative motif based on water lily foliage, popularly carved on mouldings circa 1810-1840.

Wave Moulding

A convex curve between two concave curves.