The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Q is for…


Qingbai is Chinese porcelain from the Song dynasty (960-1279) with its signature translucent misty-blue glaze. It is also known as yingqing.

A Qingbai carved deep conical bowl, southern Song dynasty, 13th century. Image via Christie’s.


A quadrant is a navigation instrument used for measuring altitude. It is made up of a quarter-circle of wood or metal marked with a graded scale of angles. From the late 16th century quadrants made of brass, or brass and mahogany, with a pivoted radius, or index arm, came into use.

An Astrolabe quadrant, probably Italian circa 1400. Image via Dorotheum.


A quaich is a drinking vessel (pronounced “quake”, from the Gaelic word “cuach”), a uniquely Scottish invention. It is believed that its ancestor was the scallop shell, in which drams of whisky were taken in the Highlands and Islands. Like the shells, quaichs were always wide and shallow. The distinctive shape has remained the same for more than four hundred years.

Antique silver Scottish quaich, circa 1900. Image via Scottish Antiques.


A quarrel or bolt is the term for the ammunition used in a crossbow. The name quarrel is derived from the French carré (“square”), referring to the fact that they usually have square heads.

Crossbow bolts or quarrels, probably 15th or 16th century. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Quartering is a veneering lay-out/technique using four pieces of wood with the same grain pattern to form a surface. Each quarter has a pattern that is a mirror image of the one alongside.

Detail image of a Tucker & Marks-designed powder room with quartered veneer walls. Photo by Edward Addeo.

Quartetto tables

A set of four small tables, slightly decreasing in size from one table to the next, so that they can be fitted into each other to form a nest, or used separately.

A set of regency specimen-wood quartetto tables by Gillows, circa 1810-15. Image via Christie’s.


A quatrefoil is an ornamental design that usually consists of 4 partial and intersecting circles, resembling a flower or four-leaf clover.

The quatrefoils adorning the loggia of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy.

Queen’s Ware

Queen’s Ware is a type of Wedgwood ceramic named after the gift of a tea set to Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, which resulted in the appointment of Wedgwood as Potter to Her Majesty in 1765. Wedgwood immediately named his range of cream colored tableware Queen’s Ware. By 1775 Wedgwood’s Queen’s ware was being imitated all over Europe as the continental potteries reacted to its virtual monopoly in high quality earthenware. In France the imitation wares were known as “faience anglaise”.

Tureen with plate. Wedgwood Queen’s ware, circa 1770. Photo by Jacques Pugin. © Musée Ariana, Geneva, Switzerland.


Quilling or Paper Filigree is an art form that involves the use of strips of paper that are rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs. During the Renaissance, French and Italian nuns and monks used quilling to decorate book covers and religious items. The paper most commonly used was strips of paper trimmed from the gilded edges of books. These gilded paper strips were then rolled to create the quilled shapes. Quilling often imitated the original ironwork of the day. The name quilling is said to be derived from the fact that the nuns and monks originally used feather quills as their tool to roll the paper.

Tea caddy with quilled decorations, circa 1780-1800. Image via the V&A.

By Vera Vandenbosch