Women and their Work

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Charm of Brass in the Home

JEANNE JACKSON February 15 1925
Women and their Work

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Charm of Brass in the Home

JEANNE JACKSON February 15 1925

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Charm of Brass in the Home


ONCE upon a time, so says the legend,

into the famous Angel Choir of Lincoln Cathedral there stole a mischievous imp who, for his temerity in wishing to listen to so holy a choir, was turned into stone and now perches on one of the capitals, leg thrown over knee, making one in the long row of Angel Choristers. Nowa-

A few of these small knockers are shown in the illustration—the peculiar one with the devil-like head being the Durham Sanctuary knocker.

Brightening Dull Corners

days this Lincoln Imp is reproduced in brass in many forms amongst which is a quaint little knocker for a bedroom door. These knockers have become quite a vogue, and there are many other equally quaint designs from the “Dartmoor Pixie” to Dickens’ famous “Old Curiosity Shop” and replicas of the Durham Sanctuary knocker. The original of this latter knocker has a vivid and interesting history. It opened a door of safety “in the peace of St. Cuthbert” to fugitives who, once they had reached and grasped the knocker, were assured of sanctuary until they were pardoned or were safely out of the country. This custom continued until 1521.

THE home in which brass is used to brighten up the dull corners and give the finishing touch to the decorations always has that air of good taste which makes it stand out in the minds of visitors as a beautiful home; and it is the artistic touch lent by the use of such small things as candlesticks, knockers and hooks which give it this air. The most beautiful of pictures is improved if well hung. Even the method of hanging may have its importance, and the brass hook has, therefore, become popular. These hooks are nowadays made in exact reproduction of handsome designs; many of which had their origin in remote medieval times, though they were further developed, amongst the well-to-do classes in Europe, during the

ReAmoSngste’these hooks are numerous slender curved designs like the double snake and more elaborate heavier designs with heads which remind one of Medusa, who turned men to stone at her glance. Drawer handles and book ends, too, of weird and wonderful designs, peacocks with gorgeous tails, small replicas of the Taj Mahal, Greek temples, brass lions’ feet for supporting small cabinets with tiny lions’ heads for the drawers, and many more products of the brass founder’s art, used in the right place give a finishing touch which nothing else can supply.

Two Types of Brass

FROM the home-maker’s point of view there are two chief types of brass, and the tone of the home should be taken into consideration when choosing pieces. The simpler type of home is the best background for bright little kettles, and candlesticks such as those illustrated, which, by the way, are 200 years old, while the more sombre and stately home with darker, richer furnishings, lends itself admirably to the use of that charming Oriental hand-engraved brass so much in evidence in these days.

Let us take an average home and fit it up as fancy takes us. The first cheery note comes with the door knocker which, when well chosen, gives a favorable impression right away. There are at present on the market many well finished replicas of famous knockers of all times and countries from the simple but stately Harvard to the very elaborate European designs of the middle ages and each has a history well worth knowing. Romance is intermingled with history in some of their stories—who does not know the old story of Priscilla and John, where the maiden, after listening to praise of his rival from the lips of the young man, remarks; “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” and the use of the Standish knocker, a replica of that on the old Miles Standish property, brings thoughts of that sweet romance in early American history, every time one enters the house which bears it. Then there is the Hancock knocker, reproduced from the historic Hancock home in Boston; the Webster, a knocker which is found on the Daniel Webster home in Marshfield; another from the George Washington home at Mt. Vernon and the Poet Longfellow’s home at Cambridge. There is also the neat little Canada knocker and a very large number of others of all sizes and designs.

Judicious Use of Individual Pieces

THROUGHOUT the house this first

note of individuality can be continued by such judicious touches as a hall dimly lit with one of the old square, barred brass lanterns which take one back in

thought to the days when the watchmen with their lanterns and staffs walked the streets at night and were a butt for the gay, knocker-pulling, young bloods of those days. More rare, but nevertheless very handsome indeed, is the lamp which consists of a framework of fine brass, almost wire, filled in with patterns of colored glass, blended and fitted to give an effect like a stained glass cathedral window. The use of such a lamp gives a fine dim glow in a hall which is more beautiful than that given by a lamp shaded in one color only. The friendly glimmer of a toasting fork, such as that illustrated, surmounted with the executioner and block and the coppery reflection on a thin brass curb surrounding a dull red fireplace; the subdued light from a lamp like that in (the next picture and the soft glow of candles flickering in tall brass candlesticks of British or Colonial design and casting their light upon one of those dainty little brass ladies who make such admirable dinnerbells, gives to a dining room a peculiar charm and fascination which is not to be obtained by the indiscriminate piling in of so-called artistic pieces.

In the living room, too, there is great scope for personal taste in bowls, trays and smoking accessories. A tiny brass kettle, supported by chains from the mouths of two elephants, with an old English round tray which resembles an ancient shield are effective about the fireplace. Two of those tall slender lamps with small square heads and a huge brass bowl with lions’ heads standing out from it and a battle scene engraved around it will give a vivid gleam of color, and express, perhaps, better than anything else could do, the taste of their owner.

Brass in the Kitchen

WE MUST not forget the kitchen, for here the simpler kinds of brass utensils shine, some such things as the smooth black-handled little kettle our

grandmothers used to boil for their tea, and the big shining pans they used for those preserves we loved and the mugs or tankards from which the ale was quaffed, all give a warmth and cosiness generally lacking in our modern kitchens.

Then the great brass gong which stands in the hall or dining room and calls the family down to meals; this can be a simple affair or one of those more elaborate ones, carved and shapely, supported by nymphs or devils according to the mood or fancy of the owner.

Upstairs the same “home” note is carried out by the use of bedroom knockers, drawer handles and hooks such as those previously mentioned, which all make useful as well as ornamental adjuncts to any bedroom. At the top of the stairs, perched on the corner of the balustrade perhaps, a small lamp of a similar design to that in the dining room or hall is somewhat unusual and pretty.

In the case of the second type of home, these various items can be replaced by those of similar use but more elaborate design. The door knocker could be one of those beautifully carved things portraying, say, an Italian cathedral; the hall gently perfumed with incense burned in a quaint, carved “Aladdin’s Lamp” or perhaps a quaint old ugly brass Buddha. The lamps in hall and living room might be of that pierced brass with golden beaded tassels, through which the light glows so luxuriously, making it look like a sort of fairy fretwork, a product of the gold gnomes one reads about who work out their wonderful cre-

their wonderful creations in dark caves, miles beneath the earth. There are many beautiful designs in candlesticks and bowls, lined and colored, in Eastern designs—ferns, elephants, flowers, dragons and dancers— and graceful specimens of cobra candlesticks curving snake-like upwards to the flat head which holds the candle. Cigarette boxes and such like trifles of apparently very square and simple design develop, upon inspection, into finished specimens of the Easterners art for, though their beauty is not so apparent as that of the moulded brass, the patterns are finely traced and durable and seem to be more beautiful the closer one looks. Brass clocks are not very common, but there are some good designs to be found from the simple square musical kind set on Grecian-like pillars to the elaborate ones set in a network of finely chased flowers and leaves, each tiny piece perfectly finished and graceful.

All the charm of the East, without any of its sordidness, can be felt while taking tea in a room fitted with hangings and carpets of the fine colors and workmanship which come only from the East, particularly if a small brass octagonal table, one of those tall slender pots with the long curved spouts and the lid surmounted by a crescent, such as one glimpses now and again in the fairy books of the Arabian Nights and its complement of little long handled cups be used for the dispensing of the tea and the chief ornament in the room be a brass urn or vase, wide lipped, such as one would expect a genie to emerge from. This kind of room, of course, does not appeal to the average person as a room which is to be frequently used, but it makes a boudoir fit for a queen.

For the More Elaborate Taste

FOR people with very elaborate taste there is an infinite variety of queer and pretty little knick-knacks—the Eastern slave market scene, beautiful girls and ugly Buddhas, tall slender candlesticks colored to represent delightful mosiac work and indeed the variety of articles is S3 great that it is only possible to mention a small number of them—it must be left to the individual taste of the homemaker to choose his or her own particular pieces. For those who do not particularly care for the unbroken surface of the plain highly polished brasse« there are quite a number of useful and ornamental things made in hammered brass, which is quite beautiful and give« a much softer effect than the hard smooth surface one usually associates with thi» metal. Then, too, there is the absolutely modern brass, which has no charm from its associations but depends entirely upon its own grace. Highly polished and beautifully made, carved in conventional designs of Tudor roses and pretty, petallike folds, and a wealth of well finished detail work, there are some really handsome specimens of candlesticks, ink wells, paper knives and other small articles.

However, the charm of brass in the home can be thoroughly appreciated without one reaching the stage of the miner’s wife in far-away Northumberland who had such a collection of brass fireirons, candlesticks and little things like shoes, stirrups, dogs, etc., that she had to spend the whole of Friday cleaning them, and then had to wrap them up and lav them away to keep clean for Sunday.

The collector’s habit of filling the room« with brass of all kinds, even though each piece in itself be a work of art, will merely result in making a museum of beautiful brasses, not a beautiful home. It is well placed pieces, rare enough to be appreciated, which help to give that artistic touch to a home which we all desire, an4 we must try to avoid indiscriminate buying simply because we like any particular piece, and buy with an eye to the whole; whether it will fit in with our particular scheme of coloring and style of furniture and above all whether it will be an unnoticed item going to make up a beautiful whole, or a blatant, even if beautiful, piece, which attracts too much attention.

Finally, to the lady who says: “Oh, yes, it sounds alright, but how is it going

tobe kept bright and shining?” I would say that unless she is prepared to clean it continually then the best method is to apply a very thin coat of good French ! polish after the brass has been thoroughly cleaned and this will keep it bright for months, when the polish should be thoroughly cleaned off and the process repeated. Of course, several of the kinds ¡ of brass mentioned do not need any cleaning, their beauty is spoiled by continual rubbing of the surface.