16 Apr 2021
September 10, 2009 - Filed under: Antique Furniture,History of Antiques — Harriet

The burr of the walnut tree is a growth or excrescence that usually appears at the base of the trunk. Pictorially the growth could be described as a huge wart that creates a grotesque and offensive protuberance to a very pretty tree. Ironically it is this protuberance that has been used to create some of the most beautiful antique English furniture from its hey day in the Queen Anne period through to Victorian, Art Deco and modern day, producing stunning bookcases, cabinets, desks and chests of drawers.

Although the use of walnut for cabinet making waned during the reign of Queen Anne when frosts killed off many home grown trees and walnut was superseded by imported mahogany, the rare burr always found a ready market for exotic veneers. The comparatively plain walnut which produced a pleasing swirling effect, and the burr which provided a much busier mottled pattern spattered with black knots and moles, meant that the latter presented the cabinet maker with something exceptionally beautiful to work with. Quarter veneering and mirroring vivid graining from the burr provided a stunning decorative statement to the fronts of bookcases and made vast differences to the original price and continued value of the piece. In this way, the wart of the walnut tree was able to compete successfully with the imported beauty of Cuban mahogany and the two were often married together to create exceptionally beautiful pieces of antique furniture that are heavily prized today.

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