The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – W is for …

Wafering iron

Wafering irons were iron sheets used for making thin cakes and bearing in relief impressions of designs sunk into them. They are among the finest examples of Italian renaissance popular decorative art. They were made in large quantities in the 15th and 16th centuries in Umbria band possibly Perugia. The impressions on the irons were made with small punches, each punch bearing in low relief a single figure or other ornament, often heraldic. An intricate pattern covering the whole surface of the wafering iron was built up by combining and repeating several of these punches.

A fancy moule à gaufres or wafering iron held by the Musée Lorrain (Wikimedia Commons)


Waldglas – from the German word for “forest glass” – refers to the earliest items of bohemian glass, dating from the early middle ages. Waldglas is a thick, robust, mold-blown product in greenish, yellowish or brownish colors, which used wood as a source of potash for the flux.

Four waldglas beakers, 16th century, Germany. Image via Christie’s.

Wardian case

A Wardian case is a glass-sided case that resembles a miniature greenhouse. It was used for growing display plants indoors, such as ferns or some tropical species. This Victorian term comes from naturalist Nathaniel Ward, who brought botanical specimens home from his travels using a similar case. Domed Wardian cases were often mounted on stands, a popular decoration in Victorian parlors.

English cast iron Wardian case on stand. Image via LiveAuctioneers.


A Wax-jack is a stand, usually made of silver, for a coil of taper which may be lit to melt sealing-wax. Wax-jacks were made from the mid-18th century onwards, especially in England.

British wax-jack, circa 1675. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wellington chest

A Wellington chest is an early 19th century English chest-of-drawers with a single tier of six to twelve shallow drawers. It was used for storing coins or other small articles. A hinged flap overlaps the drawers on one side and is fitted with a lock.

George IV golden faded rosewood wellington chest with secretaire drawer. Image via Thakeham Furniture.


A whatnot is a small worktable or stand with three or more shelves used to hold books, ornaments etc.  – similar to the French étagère, and very popular in the 19th century.

An early Victorian rosewood whatnot, circa 1840, in the manner of Gillows. Image via Sotheby’s.

Wiener Werkstätte

The Wiener Werkstätte (German for “Viennese Workshops”), was founded on May 19, 1903. Two of the founders were the artists Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. Important members of this workshop included the painter Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Wilhelm Lizst, Emil Orlik, Dagobert Peche, and Oskar Kokoschka. The Wiener Werkstätte created works of craftsmanship in a very distinctive style. The workshop mainly dealt with creating jewelry, fabrics for clothing, ceramics and pottery, and furniture, all characterized by simple shapes, minimal decoration and geometric patterning. For the Palais Stoclet in Brussels, the high point of the organization, Hoffman served as architect, and Klimt and Czeschka (among others) contributed craftwork, this type of collaboration was called “Gesamtkunstwerk.”

Tea service by Josef Hoffmann, Wiener Werkstätte, 1903. © MAK/Georg Mayer

Windsor chair

A Windsor chair is a traditional English chair with a shaped solid wood seat, a curved top and spindle back. Made since the 17th century, they have been produced on an industrial scale since the 19th century.

From Yew Tree House Antiques: Early 19th century English yew wood Windsor hoop back armchair, with “Prince of Wales” ostrich feather decoration.


Wrigglework  refers to a zigzag pattern used on British pewter and silverware in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wrigglework was created by pushing an engraving tool over the surface at a 45° angle, while rocking or turning the object.

A wrigglework pewter plate by James Hitchman of London, circa 1720. Image via Christies.

By Vera Vandenbosch