On November 14 &15 I’ll be back at the Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe in York, Pennsylvania to teach the first of two classes devoted to the design, structure, and carving of a basket of flowers cartouche of the type seen on mid-18th century high chests and double-chests made in Philadelphia.
Less than a dozen original examples of this form survive, at least four of them in public collections. The way they are constructed makes these basket ornaments even more susceptible to damage than other styles of cartouches and many of the originals have suffered breaks and losses.
Examining a number of the originals for this project, it was interesting to discover they could be made up from seven or more separate blanks carved separately and glued together. Eighteenth century furniture cartouches are typically made of one large blank and a smaller blank glued at the middle or top to extend the design while saving the labor of extensive wood removal had they been made from one full thickness blank. But the depth and complex nature of the design of the basket and flower cartouche requires the use many more elements.
With back-cutting thinning out the leaves and the front of the basket and the numerous glue joints, the cartouche would wind up in many more than seven pieces the first time it was dropped!
The lowest section of the basket and flower ornament is the largest blank, its grain oriented vertically. It constitutes the back of the basket, the leaves and small flowers cascading along the sides, and has a flat platform left uncarved where a second blank, also with vertical grain, is glued. The large blossom, its grain oriented horizontally, is the third blank, glued to the second blank, using it as a base to extend out over the forth blank, which is the front of the basket, also with its grain oriented horizontally.
The fifth blank is the upper, central carving of three leaves and unopened buds. It fits in a V-shaped cut in the lower first blank with the top tilted forward.
There are small platforms on the first blank on either side of the base that supports the large blossom where either small flowers or bunches of unopened buds would be glued (these small flowers and buds are missing or replaced on many of the cartouches but the platforms remain.) That makes seven separate elements but the size of the platforms on either side of the large blossom and empty holes in the same areas on some of the cartouches suggest they may had additional leaves, flowers, or buds attached. These basket and flower cartouches might have been made from nine or ten separate elements.
For the most part the blanks are carved to a finished state before the cartouche is assembled.
I’ve begun carving the bottom blank, front of the basket, and upper three-leaf frond. If you want to carve along, here are the measurements of the blanks needed!
10″ 3/4 high x 10 1/8″ wide x 7/8″ thick. Grain oriented vertically.
Platform for flower:
4 1/4″ high x 2 1/4″ wide x 1 1/2″ thick. Grain oriented vertically.
Upper three- leaf frond:
9″ high x 5″ wide x 1 1/4″ thick. Grain oriented vertically.
3″ high x 3 1/4″ wide x 2 1/2″ thick. Grain oriented horizontally.
Front of the basket:
3 1/2″ high x 6 1/2″ wide x 2″ thick. Grain oriented horizontally.
2 pieces 2″ x 2″ x 1″ thick