Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Serpentine Shape

One of my favorite pieces of furniture is Amy Howard's Serpentine Chest. I especially like it in the finish pictured below. I first saw this magnificent piece in a showhouse, as part of the 'teenage girl' suite.

Amy Howard Serpentine Chest

The word 'serpentine' means snakelike; convex in the center, flanked by concave ends. It is a beautiful shape that has historically been used in Louis XV commodes, and also in 18th-century English sideboards, cupboards, desks, and chests. Hepplewhite is credited with originating the serpentine shape in sideboards.

Reproduction Hepplewhite serpentine sideboard

18th century serpentine sideboard, 1st Dibs, Walter McIntyre Antiques

The serpentine shape is also found in architecture, as seen in this pictures (below) of the San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Four Fountains) fascade in Rome, Italy, and the Serpentine Walls at the University of Virginia.

Four Fountains, Rome

The beautiful Serpentine Walls at the University of Virginia

Anyone familiar with London's famed Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens knows 'The Serpentine', a lake that spans both parks. It received the name from its snakelike, curving shape. A central bridge divides the lake into two parts, and defines the boundaries between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

On the grounds of Kensington Gardens is the famed Serpentine Gallery, one of London's premiere contemporary art galleries (and home to the costly and problem ridden Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain).

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  1. In France , the serpentine shape it is called " arbalete shape "
    but I like " serpentine" .
    I love the drawers on the 1st picture.

  2. What an interesting brick wall. I know that sounds like a joke, but I am serious. Great post.

  3. Great post! I'm loving your blog and I'm adding it to my feed. Thanks!


  4. Thanks for the comments! I love doing this blog, because so many different things catch my eye, and it is fun to research and write about them.

  5. Great post Sarah. I have always loved that shape, as it is somewhat nurturing and feminine (in furniture at least) and it always appealed to me but I never had words to describe it before...
    serpentine it is!

  6. Love this post! What a beautiful collection of images to go along with it and thanks for all the info!


  7. In Philly, I describe this as "round belly" as opposed to other bath cabinetry which we call "regular". Technical names, french, and art in general is lost on my clients. Thanks for the lesson! It's gorgeous stuff by the way...rich wood. Nice taste.

  8. Beautiful post and great examples!


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