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Wharton, Edith (1862-1937); Codman Jr., Ogden (1863-1951) / The decoration of houses

XVI: bric-á-brac,   pp. 184-195

Page 184

IT is perhaps not uninstructive to note that we have no English
  word to describe the class of household ornaments which
French speech has proyided with at least three designations, each
indicating a delicate and almost imperceptible gradation of quality.
In place of bric-~-brac, bibelots, objets d'art, we have only knick-
knacks-defined by Stormonth as "articles of small value."
  This definition of the knick-knack fairly indicates the general
level of our artistic competence.  It has already been said that
cheapness is not necessarily synonymous with trashiness; but
hitherto this assertion has been made with regard to furniture and
to the other necessary appointments of the house.  With knick-
knacks the case is different.  An artistic age will of course pro-
duce any number of inexpensive trifles fit to become, like the
Tanagra figurines, the museum treasures of later centuries; but it
is hardly necessary to point out that modern shop-windows are
not overflowing with such immortal toys. The few objects of art
produced in the present day are the work of distinguished artists.
Even allowing for what Symonds calls the "vicissitudes of taste,"
it seems improbable that our commercial knick-knack will ever be
classed as a work of art.
  It is clear that the weary man must have a chair to sit on, the

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