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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 194

             The Decoration of Houses
ling of a substance deliberately chosen for its resistance (where
another might have been used with equal fitness) is rather a tour
de force than an artistic achievement.
  These last generalizations are intended to show, not only that
there is an intrinsic value in almost all old bibelots, but also that
the general excellence of design and execution in past times has
handed down to us many unimportant trifles in the way of fur-
niture and household appliances worthy of being regarded as
minor objects of art.   In Italy especially, where every artisan
seems to have had the gift of the plasticatore in his finger-tips,
and no substance was thought too poor to express a good de-
sign, there are still to be found many bits of old workmanship -
clocks, appliques, terra-cottas, and carved picture-frames with
touches of gilding-that    may be characterized in the terms
applied by the builder of Buckingham House to his collection
of pictures - "Some good, none disagreeable."       Still, no accu-
mulation of such trifles, even where none is disagreeable, will
give to a room the same distinction as the presence of a few really
fine works of art.  Any one who has the patience to put up with
that look of bareness so displeasing to some will do better to buy
each year one superior piece rather than a dozen of middling
  Even the buyer who need consult only his own pleasure must
remember that his very freedom from the ordinary restrictions
lays him open to temptation.  It is no longer likely that any col-
lector will be embarrassed by a superfluity of treasures; but he
may put too many things into one room, and no amount of
individual merit in the objects themselves will, from the deco-
rator's standpoint, quite warrant this mistake.   Any work of art,
regardless of its intrinsic merit, must justify its presence in a room

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