1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sideboard

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SIDEBOARD, a high oblong table fitted with drawers, cupboards or pedestals, and used for the exposition or storage of articles required in the dining-room. Originally it was what its name implies—a side-table, to which the modern dinner-wagon very closely approximates. Then two- or three-tiered sideboards were in use in the Tudor period, and were perhaps the ancestors, or collaterals, of the court-cupboard, which in skeleton they much resembled. Early in the 18th century they began to be replaced by side-tables properly so called. They were one of the many revolutions in furniture produced by the introduction of mahogany, and those who could not afford the new and costly wood used a cheap substitute stained to resemble it. In the beginning these tables were entirely of wood and comparatively slight, but before long it became the fashion to use a marble slab instead of a wooden top, which necessitated a somewhat more robust construction; here again there was a field for imitation, and marble was sometimes replaced by scagliola. Many of the sideboard tables of this period were exceedingly handsome, with cabriole legs, claw or claw and bill feet, friezes of acanthus, much gadrooning and mask pendants. Many such tables came from Chippendale's workshops, but although that great genius beautified the type he found, he had no influence upon the evolution of the sideboard. That evolution was brought about by the growth of domestic needs. Save upon its surface, the sideboard-table offered no accommodation; it usually lacked even a drawer. Even, however, in the period of Chippendale's zenith separate " bottle cisterns " and " lavatories " for the convenience of the butler in washing the silver as the meals proceeded were, sparsely no doubt, in use. By degrees it became customary to place a pedestal, which was really a cellarette or a plate-warmer, at each end of the sideboard-table. One of them would contain ice and accommodation for bottles, the other would be a cistern. Sometimes a single pedestal would be surmounted by a wooden vase lined with metal and filled with water, and fitted with a tap. To whom is due the brilliant inspiration of attaching the pedestals to the table and creating a single piece of furniture out of three components there is nothing to show with certainty. It is most probable that the credit is due to Shearer, who unquestionably did much for the improvement of the sideboard; Hepplewhite and the brothers Adam distinguished themselves in the same field. The pedestals, when incorporated as an integral part of the piece, became cupboards and the vases knife-boxes, and, with the drawers, which had been occasionally used much earlier, the sideboard, in what appears to be its final form, was completed. Pieces exist in which the ends have been cut away to receive the pedestals. If Shearer and Hepplewhite laid its foundations, it was brought to its full floraison by Sheraton. By the use of fine exotic woods, the deft employment of satin wood and other inlays, and by the addition of gracefully ornamented brass-work at the back, sometimes surmounted by candles to light up the silver, Sheraton produced effects of great elegance. But for sheer artistic excellence in the components of what presently became the sideboard, the Adams stand unrivalled, some of their inlay and brass mounts being almost equal to the first work of the great French school. By replacing the straight outline with a bombe front, Hepplewhite added still further to the grace of the late 18th-century sideboard. No art remains long at its apogee, and in less than a quarter of a century the sideboard lost its grace, and, influenced by the heavy feeling of the Empire manner, grew massive and dull. Since the end of the 18th century there has indeed been no advance, artistically speaking, in this piece of furniture.