10 Apr 2021
June 17, 2010 - Filed under: Antique Cabinets,Antique Tables,History of Antiques — Harriet

The barley-sugar twist leg or generic barley twist as it is more commonly known is a well known design feature on furniture that has been with us for many years.

As far as we know, it was originally Baroque, of Spanish-Moorish origin and came to England from Portugal with Katherine of Braganza in1661 when she married Charles II.

As with all antique tables and other furniture, the barley twist leg was originally hand made and hand carved; however, English craftsmen soon learned to create the intricate twist on a lathe. This led to much more sophisticated variations of the barley twist being made such as double and open which involved hollowing it out. These sophisticated examples of the leg embellished many fine antique cabinets, side tables and chests of the period.

The age of walnut in Britain (1670-1720) displayed the cabinet makers’ art to the full where the buttery colour of the wood produced a wonderful barley twist which has only improved with age over the 300 years or so since pieces were made, predominately during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14).

The barley twist as a design feature is most commonly seen these days in oak as it was much revived during Victoria’s reign, although fine examples in walnut from the time of Queen Anne can still be found. When looking for period and revival walnut and oak barley twist antique cabinets in Preston or surrounding areas, a reputable antique dealer will be able to source pieces for you.

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