The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – V is for …


Vambraces or forearm guards are tubular defenses for the forearm, worn as part of a suit of plate armor. They were often connected to gauntlets. Vambraces may be worn with or without separate couters (elbow pieces) in a full suit of medieval armor. The term originated in the early 14th century. 

From Peter Finer: Vambrace, or Dastana, decorated in gold koftgari with a series of Qur’anic inscriptions. India, circa 1700.


A vargueño or bargueño is  a form of portable writing desk originating in renaissance Spain. It is made up of two chests, the bottom one usually having drawers (called a taquillón) and the top one having a hinged desk surface which also serves as a side-mounted lid. The interior of the desk is equipped with small drawers, pigeonholes, etc., for storing papers and supplies. The vargueño has also been used for sewing or as a jewel chest.

18th century Spanish vargueno. Interior design by Suzanne Tucker/Tucker & Marks, photo by Matthew Millman.


Veilleuse is a French term meaning night-light. It describes a device to keep broth or drinks warm on the bedside table: a small oil lamp or candle placed in cylinder was used to heat a covered cup or small teapot on top. Veilleuses were used in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Maiolica veilleuse, probably Monte Milone, last quarter 18th century. Image via Sotheby’s.


Vermeil, also known as silver-gilt or gilded/gilt silver, is silver which has been gilded with gold.

Goblet covered in vermeil and silver by Johann Jebenz, Augsburg, circa 1700. Image via Sotheby’s.


Vermicule is a form of decoration developed for Sèvres porcelain, patterned with a mass of little worm like lines.

Sèvres porcelain bleu nouveau and gilt vermicule three-piece garniture, circa 176—1762. Image via Christie’s.

Verre églomisé

Verre églomisé is a French term referring to the process of applying both a design and gilding onto the rear face of glass to produce a mirror finish. Gold or silver foil was applied to the glass back and engraved with a needle before placing black or another contracting color behind the foil. This was then enclosed with a second layer of glass or a coating of varnish. The name is derived from the 18th-century French decorator and art-dealer Jean-Baptiste Glomy (1711–1786), who was responsible for its revival.

From Clinton Howell: Neoclassical style mirror with verre églomisé panel, 18th century.

Vesta case

A vesta case is a small case or box for carrying vestas, which were wax or wood matches that pre-dated the safety match. They were usually pocket-sized and produced from silver and other metals and more rarely in porcelain or papier-mâché.

Late 19th century French silver vesta case in pillow form. Image courtesy of Aalders Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

Vitruvian scroll 

The Vitruvian scroll is a scroll pattern used in architectural moldings and borders in other media. It is also known as the Vitruvian wave, wave scroll, or running dog pattern. The pattern resembles waves in water or a series of parchment scrolls viewed on end.


A volute is a spiral, scroll-like ornament that forms the basis of the Ionic order, found in the capital of the Ionic column.

By Vera Vandenbosch