Illustrated Architecture Dictionary ............... Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

(sir pen TEEN, TINE )

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Four Fountains), Rome, Italy

Circa 1860 2-piece bookcase - Boies-Lord House (Hamburg)

Genesee Building/Hyatt Regency-Buffalo


1. Snakelike: convex in the center, flanked by concave ends.

Used especially in Baroque architecture.

2. A mineral or rock consisting of hydrous magnesium silicate, usually green in color and having a mottled appearance.

Used for decorative stone.


The juxtaposition of a concave and convex form to create a sinuous line. Usually the center is convex and prominent.

Used in Louis XV commodes, and also in 18th-century English Hepplewhite pieces, cupboards, desks, and chests.

Hepplewhite is credited with serpentine- and bow-fronted shapes in sideboards.

When the center curve is concave and receding, the line is called a reverse serpentine or oxbow

Furniture - Making Serpentine Fronts

The bowfront and serpentine-fronted pieces were made by a rather ingenious method, which was easier for the craftsman and resulted in pieces that have never lost their shape over the years.

Planks of secondary wood, such as pine, were stacked one above the other and glued together, the height of the pile being the front thickness of the drawer. After marking the shape of the drawer on the top plank, they would then be sawed into the curve desired, resulting in the bowed or serpentine front about an inch or more thick. This front would then be veneered to cover up the lines of the many planks that lay one atop the other. ,

One may check this construction by looking at the inside of the drawer front to see if the lines of the planks are there. If so, they are likely to be in period,unlike those reproductions that might have had a single board bent by machine years later. Since there is no stress on the cutout front done in the old manner, the drawers will never go out of shape, unlike those bent under pressure. -- George Michael's Treasury of Federal Antiques pp. 23-24

Examples from Buffalo:

Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement ?2002 Chuck LaChiusa
| ...Home Page ...| ..Buffalo Architecture Index...| ..Buffalo History Index... .|....E-Mail ...| ..