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Wharton, Edith (1862-1937); Codman Jr., Ogden (1863-1951) / The decoration of houses
(1898)

XVI: bric-á-brac,   pp. 184-195


Page 190

          The Decoration of Houses
190
quality.   The habit of mixing good, bad, and indifferent in furni-
ture is often excused by necessity:  people must use what they
have.   But there is no necessity for having bad   bric-A-brac.
Trashy "ornaments" do not make a room more comfortable; as
a general rule, they distinctly diminish its comfort; and they have
the further disadvantage of destroying the effect of any good piece
of work.    Vulgarity is always noisier than good breeding, and it
is instructive to note how a modern commercial bronze will "talk
down" a delicate Renaissance statuette or bust, and a piece of Deck
or Minton china efface the color-values of blue-and-white or the
soft tints of old S~vres.  Even those who set down a preference
for old furniture as an affectation will hardly maintain that new
knick-knacks are as good as old bibelots; but only those who
have some slight acquaintance with the subject know how wide
is the distance, in conception and execution, between the old ob-
ject of art and its unworthy successor.   Yet the explanation is
simple.   In former times, as the greatest painters occupied them-
selves with wall-decoration, so the greatest sculptors and model-
lers produced the delicate statuettes and the incomparable bronze
mountings for vases and furniture adorning the apartments of
their day.  A glance into the window of the average furniture-
shop probably convinces the most unobservant that modern
bronze mountings are not usually designed by great artists; and
there is the same change in the methods of execution.    The
bronze formerly chiselled is now moulded; the iron once wrought
is cast; the patina given to bronze by a chemical process making
it a part of the texture of the metal is now simply applied as a
surface wash; and this deterioration in processes has done more
than anything else to vulgarize modern ornament.
 It may be argued that even in the golden age of art few could


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