Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Talking of handwriting, the other day my folks and I spent a happy lunchtime dissecting Albrecht Dürer's engraving of Erasmus, via the medium of a thank you card that someone had sent in the post.

As you do.

Naturally my horticulture-obsessed female parent focused on the lily of the valley in the jug. Classically educated as he was, my dad went for the Greek and Latin. Which left me either to really appreciate the hat or the furniture.

So the hat... yeah, let's take a moment there. Interesting, in a hat-made-from-a-sweet-pepper sort of look. I've seen worse on Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot. And, um... That's all I got.

Yes, okay, millinery is not my forte; I went for the furniture. At this point, and not for the first time, I truly appreciate just how much I don't know about mouldings. Or moldings. Either of them. It's shameful. Somehow I've yet to find the book or article that truly makes it click for me, so I'm reduced to trying to remember the basics by rote. And failing. I think that's an ogee on the underside of the desk/table edge. Or is it a cyma reversa?And what's the difference anyway? Is there a difference? Either way, I like it, and how it's echoed in the cut out for the feet of the writing slope. I mean it may date from 1526, but I could live with that furniture. I like its clean lines.

Mind you, I could live with that engraving too. Click on the pic for a big ol' zoom in to fully appreciate the detail. You can practically run your hands over the wood, and have you spotted them? The end grain of the dovetail pins? Steep angle, no? Somebody better at that sort of thing might want to guesstimate the slope. But quite a narrow pin apex, verging on London style. I shall call it Rotterdam style - until someone tells me not to. So dovetailed top rails to a table? Or is it actually a chest? Or what? I know not (obviously), but I had a disproportionate amount of fun speculating about it.

So my tip o' the day: For the ideal thank you card, when faced with a choice of fluffy kittens frolicking amongst spring flowers or a 16thC engraving that apparently the sitter really didn't like terribly much, consider the recipient's available time to appreciate the card. Kittens - 2 minutes, tops. Erasmus - a comfortable 25 minutes. And a blog entry.


  1. You are correct, it is a cyma reversa. Note that the ends of the curves terminate in a vertical axis. If they end in a horizontal axis it becomes a cyma recta. In this case the moulding and the profile on the book stand are both performing visually as a support. In other words acting as a brace to support a mass above it. Ogee is often used to describe a cyma reversa or cyma recta but is not as specific.

    George Walker

  2. Hat
    If you look closely you see that he is actually wearing an old pair of Y-fronts on his head.

  3. George, thank you. That's very helpful.

    Jacob, that's... less helpful.

  4. Could have been worse. The card might have had Melancholia I by Durer instead. You'd have been there all day....:)



Owing to vast quantities of spam this blog is getting, I'm afraid only registered users can post. All comments are moderated before publication, so there may be some delay. My apologies.