escutcheon |iˈskəCHən| noun
- a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms.
- (also escutcheon plate) a flat piece of metal for protection and often ornamentation, around a keyhole, door handle, or light switch.
Keyhole escutcheons were generally on both sides of a keyhole in order to protect the wood from chipping when keys were used. The front plate was decorative (see images bottom) while the inside plate was usually rather plain.
In furniture design, escutcheon also refers to decorative plates (such as shown around the knob on the chest of drawers, above) or decorative pediments (shown on a corner of the chest, below.) Early escutcheons were of wrought iron and usually plain, and were used to prevent wear. In the 17th century brass became popular, and could be worked in fine designs for upper class furniture. In 18th-century France, lavish designs in ormolu (finely ground gold was applied in a mercury amalgam to an object, usually bronze) became popular.
In Chinese, Korean, and Indonesian furniture escutcheons were yellow or pale white brass (known as paktong in Chinese), and were placed on all types of common to high end furniture, such as the Korean kitchen piece shown right.
It makes sense, then that “modern” escutcheons could include the brass plates around the door handles, as shown in the leather door below, or the decorative painted iron plates on the Mason Monterey chairs, as shown in the conserved museum piece, below.
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