Woodwork History

Woodwork History

Around 2000 B.C. the Egyptians used wood to make furniture, such as beds, tables, chests, and many other items. Wood has been used by every civilization in the world, and is still used today to make manufacture paper, furniture, buildings, and a huge variety of everything else.

Wood is generally used from a country’s own natural resources and it wasn't until trade was developed from city to city and country to country, that different types of wood became available in Woodworking. Humans have decorated wood in such detail that Woodworking had become a prominent state of art. It has always been human nature to ornament every single article that a person owned. In some ancient civilizations, people used staffs carved with the story of their heritage. This is proven during the Middle Ages with all the wooden statues that still stand all around the world. Almost every- European city has some of these historical statues preserved in some type of sanctuary, and the statues are taken very good care of.

The middle age was not the only civilization which showed extreme patience in their woodworking as a person can see when they look at some Byzantine art, or Gothic art. These figurines and statues show how people literally loved the art of Woodworking.

The only downfall with working with wood is that over time wood tends to split and crack. Ancient wooden sculptures have long been lost due to deterioration. No one really knows when man first began painting their Woodwork. It is thought that color was not only used to bring a Woodworking statue to life, but that it was also painted to protect the wood from the elements as well as insects which would eat away at the wood.

Nothing can exceed the skill with which the Muslim wood-carvers of Persia, Syria, Egypt and Spain designed and executed the richest paneling and other decorations for wall linings, ceilings, pulpits and all kinds of fittings and furniture. The mosques and private houses of Cairo, Damascus and other Oriental Cities are full of the most elaborate and minutely delicate woodwork. A favorite style of ornament was to cover the surface with very intricate interlacing patterns, formed by finely molded ribs; the various geometrical spaces between the ribs were then filled in with small pieces of wood carved with foliage in slight relief. The use of different woods such as ebony or box, inlaid so as to emphasize the design, combined with the ingenious richness of the patterns; give this class of woodwork an almost unrivaled splendor of effect. Carved ivory is also often used for the filling in of the spaces. The Arabs are past masters in the art of carving flat surfaces in this way.

As for the Intarsia style of work, objects with intarsia decoration are known from the tomb of Tutankh-Amun (fourteenth century BC). The earliest examples from the Islamic period in the Museum for Islamic Art in Cairo can be dated to the ninth century, while Syrian objects with intarsia decoration have survived from the tenth century. These early works are from the religious sphere, such as the panels of preaching chairs, Koran stands, and, more rarely, the doors of mosques and saints' tombs. The tech¬nique of intarsia spread westwards from Egypt and Syria to Andalusia and Morocco, and eastwards to Iran and India. Syrian and Egyptian intarsia have retained their unmistakable style and even today they are technically among the best examples of this ancient craft.
The early works from the eleventh and twelfth centuries show that the cabinet-maker's art was highly developed at a time when woodworking in medieval Europe was still at a crude early stage. This is true both in their decorative elements and in the construction of complicated and set compartmented parts, which are worked with unusual precision, and with polygonal frames and fillings.
At first sight this may seem surprising, since compared with the forested regions of northern and central Europe, the Orient is very short of wood. On the other hand it should be remembered that several of the precious woods which have since become native, such as cedar, cherry and walnut, were introduced to central Europe by the Romans (Wohrlin, 1990).
Craftsmen say that their works are in the Mamluk tradi¬tion both in their decoration and in die types of furniture made. This, however, is only partly true. In Syria, as in the whole of the Orient, traditional furniture was relatively sparse. People sat on divans, cushions with brocade covers, which were arranged round the walls of reception rooms. The use of tables was not common; food was served on brass or copper trays placed on folding supports. In the homes of well-to-do citizens these supports were already decorated with intarsia work at an early period. Household equipment was kept not in cupboards but in wall niches, good examples of which may still be seen in the Azem Palace in Damascus. The only traditional pieces of furni¬ture were chests for storing textiles and possibly jewelry. In the countryside these usually only had carved decora-tion, but urban diesis were generally decorated with intarsia work. Before the eighteenth century chairs and armchairs were only meant for important people. At the end of die eighteenth century and beginning of the nine¬teenth the growing, western-orientated, "bourgeois" class, following the example of Istanbul and Cairo, introduced a European style in rushing. Uctagonai, rouna or siar-shaped tables were produced, as well as chests of drawers and clipboards, massive armchairs, cradles, sideboards, folding chairs, screens and large mirror frames. It is impos¬sible to say whether all this products were made for the Syrian upper class, for Europeans living in Syria or for export to Europe (again predominantly to France). The only clues are the occasional inlaid inscriptions. Besides these new products the traditional range of wares continued to be made. The most striking and best known of these are the high-heeled sandals, usually called "bridal shoes", though they were also used for visits to the baths. The ornamentation follows two different basic patterns:
1. A strictly geometrical tradition, modeled on the inlaid stone floors of Mamluk palaces of the four¬teenth and fifteenth centuries. These, for their part, had absorbed influences from Roman and Byzantine floor mosaics. This style of decoration is mainly found in intarsia work in wood using various colored woods, and in bone inlay.
2. A very simple all-over geometrical decoration (usually consisting of rhombuses), is combined with lavish vegetable forms, such as palmettos, tulip, carnation and peony motifs, and vases. This style of decoration is based on the Ottoman tradition. Pieces of this kind are decorated over the whole surface with mother- of-pearl and are therefore particularly expensive. Today this style is predominantly used for furniture intended for export to the Gulf region.
The decoration of the two basic types can be supple¬mented in rare instances by inlaid inscriptions in severe kufic or remarkably fluid and elegant naskhi.
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