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Title: Jacobean Furniture and English Styles in Oak and Walnut
Author: Candee, Helen Churchill Hungerford, Mrs.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's notes:

    italics converted to _
    bold converted to =
    small caps converted to +
    gesperrt converted to ~
    page 33 ...he native effort fred... typo repaired at
         ...the native effort freed...
    illustration caption typo stretches repaired at stretchers
    illustration caption typo carbriole repaired at cabriole
    'patine' is the French version of the Latin/Italian,
        and English word 'patina'
    page 11 word screscent repaired for crescent
    This book contains instances of hyphenated and
    unhyphenated variants of words. All retained.



  JACOBEAN FURNITURE


[Illustration: Plate I--THE SMALL JACOBEAN ROOM OF ELEGANCE AND INTIMACY]



  JACOBEAN FURNITURE
  AND
  ENGLISH STYLES IN OAK AND WALNUT

  BY
  HELEN CHURCHILL CANDEE

  +Author of "Decorative Styles and Periods,"
  "The Tapestry Book," Etc.+

  _WITH FORTY-THREE ILLUSTRATIONS_

[Illustration]

  NEW YORK
  FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS



  _Copyright, 1916, by_
  +Frederick A. Stokes Company+

  _All rights reserved_



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                      PAGE

    I +Early Jacobean Styles+                    3
      =James I Crowned 1603.=

   II +Jacobean Styles to Charles II+           14

  III +The Middle of the Century+               27
        =End of the Pure Jacobean.=

   IV +Carolean Styles or the Restoration+      37
      =Charles II, 1660 to 1685.=

    V +The End of the Seventeenth Century+      48
        =William and Mary, 1689-1702.=



ILLUSTRATIONS


  PLATE

  I The small Jacobean room of elegance
  and intimacy                                          _Frontispiece_

                                                        FACING
                                                         PAGE

  II Late Tudor mantel                                      4

  III Late Tudor bed                                        5

  IV Large oak chest                                        6

  V Early Jacobean chest of carved oak                      7

  VI Oak chest with drawers                                 8

  VII Oak stand and marquetry cabinet                       9

  VIII Gate-leg table, forming console with gate
  closed                                                   10

  IX Oak chairs                                            11

  X Oak chest of drawers                                   12

  XI Early Jacobean cabinet                                13

  XII Oak chairs                                           16

  XIII Spiral turned chair, characteristic of first half
  of Century                                               17

  XIV Oak cabinet, dated 1653                              20

  XV Oak gate-leg dining table                             21

  XVI Oak day beds                                         24

  XVII Stuart chairs                                       25

  XVIII Marquetry cabinet about 1700                       28

  XIX Walnut cabinet                                       29

  XX Stuart settee with carving. Second half of
  XVII Century                                             42

  XXI Charles II chairs in varying styles in carving       43

  XXII Walnut sofa                                         44

  XXIII Gilt mirror, time of Charles II                    45

  XXIV Interesting chair transitional between Stuart
  Styles and William and Mary                              48

  XXV Chairs in variants of William and Mary               49

  XXVI Chest of drawers in burr walnut veneer              50

  XXVII Small walnut table                                 51

  XXVIII Carved chairs. Period of William and Mary         52

  XXIX Walnut chairs, William and Mary                     53

  XXX Queen Anne single chair. Queen Anne arm
  chair. Walnut Queen Anne chairs                          54

  XXXI Queen Anne chair                                    55



JACOBEAN FURNITURE



CHAPTER I

EARLY JACOBEAN STYLES

JAMES I CROWNED 1603


When a passion for collecting antique furniture first swept America,
and prizes were plucked from attics, cellars and old barns, the eagle
eye of the amateur sought only those fine pieces that were made in the
age of mahogany and satin-wood. Every piece was dubbed Colonial with
rash generalisation until the time when a little erudition apportioned
the well-made distinctive furniture to its proper classes. Then every
person of culture became expert on eighteenth century furniture, and
the names of Chippendale and his prolific mates fell glibly from all
lips.

That much accomplished, the collector and home-maker then threw an
intelligent eye on another page of history and realised that the
seventeenth century and certain bits of oak and walnut that had stood
neglected, belonged to an equally interesting period of America's
social development.

All at once the word Jacobean was on every tongue, as Colonial had been
before. Attics, cellars and barns were searched again, this time for
oak and walnut, not mahogany, and for heavy square construction, not
for bandy legs and delicate restraint. It was the marvellous carved
chest that first announced itself, and then a six-legged highboy, and
the lower part of a thousand-legged table--which now we call a gate.
These, we said with inspiration, are the gods of the first settlers;
mahogany is but modern stuff.

But this time we were more savant than before, and instead of starving
our eager minds on the occasional resurrected American bit, we went
at once to the source, to England, and there found in abundance (for
the long purse) a charming sequence of styles covering all the times
of our earlier history as settlers and colonisers. Thus were we able
to identify these strange early pieces of our own and to recognise our
quarry when found in a dusty corner.

That very old pieces still are found, pieces brought over here in
the days of their mode, is proved to any collector. In two towns on
Long Island Sound I recently found for sale two six-legged highboys,
William and Mary, and that great rarity, a straight oak chair known as
a Farthingale chair, made without arms for the purpose of accommodating
the enormous crinoline or farthingale of its day. This chair may have
supported the stiffly dressed ladies of Elizabeth's court, so like it
was to the Italian models of Tudor times.

[Illustration: Plate II--LATE TUDOR MANTEL

  From a house built in 1606, which shows a toning
  of Tudor style into Jacobean]

[Illustration: Plate III--LATE TUDOR BED

  With motifs which characterised early Jacobean carving, dated 1593]

The pity of it is, that no sooner had the artistic eye of the true
collector begun to search for seventeenth century furniture than
the commercial eye of the modern manufacturer began to make hideous
variations on its salient features. He caught the name of Jacobean and
to every piece of ill-drawn furniture he affixed a spiral leg and the
Stuart name; or, he set a serpentine flat stretcher and called his
mahogany dining set, William and Mary. These tasteless things fill our
department stores, and it is they that are rapidly filling American
homes. And the worst of it is, that both buyers and sellers are
startlingly yet pathetically glib with attaching historic names to the
mongrel stuff, and thus are they misled.

New furniture must be made, however, or resort must be had to
soap-boxes and hammocks. The old models are the best to follow for the
reason that the present is not an age of creation in this direction.
The stylist is always a hobby-rider, and I must confess to that form of
activity, but it is always with the idea in mind to make and keep our
homes beautiful. And so I make the plea to manufacturers to stick to
old models of tried beauty, and to buyers to educate their taste until
they reject a hybrid or mongrel movable with the same outraged sense
that they reject a mongrel dog.

Now let us pass through the gate that leads to happy hunting-grounds
of study where we find historic men and women, both royal and common,
making the times that called for the furniture we now admire as deeply
as they admired it.

One might almost say that since Henry the Eighth's introduction of
the styles of the Italian Renaissance into England, that country has
produced no original style of furniture. But lest this statement be
resented by affronted savants and hurt sentimentalists, side by side
with that fact must be placed another, that England has played upon
the styles she imported with such skill and grace that she has thus
produced variants of great and peculiar beauty.

England has taken the furniture creations of Europe through the
centuries and has impressed them with her national traits, with a
resulting beauty entirely her own. The effect is bewildering to all
but the student of styles, for without study one is often unable to
account for certain alterations of detail and construction. It cannot
be too often repeated that as each nation in turn adopted the Italian
Renaissance, that nation impressed its own signet upon the style. Thus
came all the variations.

It is to be remembered that in the case of England, the affair is one
of great interest and complication. In the sixteenth century Pistaccio
and his artist mates hurried from Italy at the bidding of Henry VIII
and planted their classic patterns in the British kingdom. That was an
infusion of the pure Renaissance drawing is visible but with a general
flattening of the relief blood of the Renaissance, and it lasted well
into Elizabeth's time before the Anglo-Saxon temperament altered it
characteristically.

[Illustration: Plate IV--LARGE OAK CHEST

  In noblest type of early Jacobean carving]

_Courtesy of Charles_

[Illustration: Plate V--EARLY JACOBEAN CHEST OF CARVED OAK]

By the time James I, in 1603, established the Stuart reign, the
style became markedly British, and British styles called Jacobean in
compliment to James' Latinized name, prevailed until another imported
fashion came along. Then came another and another, and so on even until
the end of Georgian styles and the beginning of Victorian.

The Jacobean style developed serenely, playing happy pranks with
itself, altered by mechanical inventions and by new woods, until the
second half of the seventeenth century, when Charles II introduced
strong French influence and Portuguese--which was not greatly different
from Spanish. The French influence came lightly from the light ladies
of the frivolous court, and the Portuguese from Charles' queen,
Catherine, whose home was Braganza. Bombay as her dowry threw Eastern
colours and design into the mêlée.

British styles were not yet to be let alone, for no sooner was the
French way set than the Dutch pattern appeared, brought over by William
and Mary. Delicately it came at first, giving place for hints from
the court of Louis XIV, and then in full force by the time Anne took
the sceptre in 1703. And all these styles imported throughout the
seventeenth century, what were they but the several interpretations of
the Renaissance as it was expressed in France, Portugal, and Holland?
Let not the student stagger under these complications of English
styles, for although there are yet more reasons for the shapes and
ornament of furniture in England during the seventeenth century they
are all bright with incidents of kings and courts.

Tudor monarchs stop in 1603 at Elizabeth's death, but Tudor styles were
not at once outgrown, rather they linger along far into the seventeenth
century, heavily and elegantly regarding the newly throned Stuarts
and their bewitching manners. The Tudor table, for instance, was a
serious piece of furniture, put together as squarely and solidly as a
house. Its enduring qualities are proved by the number of these tables
still extant which, as refectory tables, are the smart thing for the
dining-room of to-day. Bulbous legs with Italian carving, heavy square
stretchers low on the ground, and draw-tops, are the distinguishing
features. It is even suggested by the erudite that these tables are the
last flicker of the style left by the Romans during their occupation of
England, so like are they to pictured tables of Rome at that time.

To fix in the mind certain important motifs used in early Jacobean
carving, a pause may be made before the fine oak bed pictured in
Plate 3, that we may discuss them. It is dated 1593, ten years before
James I, but, although Tudor, it has certain decorative features, the
development of which was left to the Jacobean styles of the seventeenth
century. Note especially among these the characteristic round arch
savouring of the Norman, of which two are shown on the bed's head.
These arches frame a rough inlay which appears also on the square
blocks of the tester. Holly and bog oak were the favourite woods for
this inlay on oak, woods obdurate enough to make the labour difficult.
The half-circle repeat is used freely as a moulding on the headboard,
and this develops in later furniture into an important motif. The
general construction of this bed is noble in its proportions, and in
all changes of fashion must it stand with the dignity of a temple.

[Illustration: Plate VI-OAK CHEST WITH DRAWERS

  This is carved with all the characteristic motifs of early Jacobean
  work--the arch, the guilloche, the S curve in pairs]

[Illustration: Plate VII--OAK STAND AND MARQUETRY CABINET

  Here are combined the Jacobean robust strength and Spanish Moresque
  detail]

As pictures on a screen melt one into another, so styles merge. Plate 6
shows a chest full of Jacobean promise yet retaining Tudor feeling. The
fact that it has drawers under the coffer pronounces it as a novelty of
the early seventeenth century, and therefore Jacobean.

It especially well illustrates the pattern for carving that occupied
workers through the reign of James I. There is the Norman arch, low and
wide, set on short supports which have now lost their architectural
look of a column. The arches at the ends have as ornament the
guilloche, that line of circles that sinuously proceeds through all
that time. The carving just under the lid shows the characteristic S
curve in one of its many varieties, and the line of decoration just
above the drawers indicates the development of the half-circle. Thus
are shown in this one early piece the principal motifs of the carvers
who were coaxing the models of a past Renaissance into an expression
that was entirely British.

The small oak cupboard on Plate 11 is another transition piece, being
in feeling both Tudor and Jacobean. Here the guilloche is enlarged to
form a panel ornament, and the acanthus becomes a long fern frond to
ornament the uprights. One hardly feels, however, that this piece was
ever the accompaniment of elegant living, although much antiquity gives
its present distinction.

Continuing with the low round arch as an ornament in the low-relief
carving of James' time, an example of its use is given in the folding
gate-legged table which is the property of the author (Plate 8). The
turned legs finished with squares, top and bottom, are characteristic
of the first quarter of the century. The arch is here used as an
apron to give elegance, and above is a drawer carved with leaves. In
construction this table presents three sides to the front, as does the
cabinet just considered, and its Italian inspiration is evident. Like
all old oak of the time, it is put together with wooden pegs, and bears
the marvellous patine of time.

Had the chairs of early Stuart time not been heavily made and squarely
constructed we would not have had so many examples with which to gladden
the eye. Almost without exception they are variants of the Italian,
originality having not then appeared possible to chair makers. Three of
the four chairs in the plates illustrate this so well that it is worth
while to make a comparison with old Italian chairs.

[Illustration: Plate VIII--GATE-LEG TABLE. FORMING CONSOLE WITH GATE
CLOSED

  The turned legs with square bases and tops indicate date as early
  as 1610.
  The deep apron carved with fretted arch is an unusual feature]

[Illustration: Plate IX--OAK CHAIRS Early XVII

  Century Italian Inspiration]

The chair on Plate 9 with a crescent-shaped carving on the back had
its first inspiration in Venice, that great port getting the idea from
the wares of Constantinople which the merchant ships brought to her
with prodigality. All of these chairs are of the square construction
that endures, and all have baluster legs but of different styles of
turning. All are understayed with honest stretchers, but one has the
front stretcher close to the floor, indicating a little earlier mode.
The colonnade of arches forming the back is nearer its Italian origin
where a column supports the arch rather than a bulbous spindle.

One more feature to note on these chairs, that is common to both late
Tudor and early Jacobean styles, is the decoration of split spindles or
pendants applied to a flat surface. This decoration is a favourite for
wood panelling, for chests of drawers and all large pieces about the
middle of the century.

We have but to call to mind the costume of Henrietta Maria, the queen
of Charles I, to realise why these armless chairs were the most popular
of the time; the voluminous skirts of the ladies of the court--whom
others imitated--could not have been squeezed into an arm chair with
courtly grace.

The sort of room in which this furniture was set--how happy we of
to-day would be to have their panelling! Occasionally an entire room
is taken from some old English home and set up in one of our American
dwellings, such as the rooms now owned by Mr. Frederick Pratt and Mr.
W. R. Hearst. And thus we know what beauty surrounded the English
family three hundred years ago. Panelling in squares covered the walls
from floor to ceiling or to a high level, above which hung tapestries
or embroideries. And as the architect of the house composed the
panelling it was drawn with such skill as to miss either hap-hazard or
monotony.

The linen-fold panel of Gothic and early Tudor popularity was no
longer repeated. The true Jacobean panel is small and square with
carving on the pilasters and cornice in rooms of elegance. To this day
no more home-like way of treating the walls of large rooms has been
devised than this wood panelling, which gives a sense of seclusion
and of richness that is never so well imparted except by the use of
tapestry--and the combination of the two nearly approaches perfection.

Jacobean styles, so-called, extend through the greater part of the
century, but each succeeding Stuart marked his special progress on
them. The styles of the first kings, James I and his son Charles I,
lifted the family movables from heaviness to comparative lightness, and
grew away from the Renaissance in truly original ways. On this fact
rests much of its interest. The other great fact for us is that these
years of the first Stuart kings were the years of the first American
colonisation.


[Illustration: Plate X--OAK CHEST OF DRAWERS

  An interesting example of the Jacobean use of decorative mouldings]

[Illustration: Plate XI--EARLY JACOBEAN CABINET

  Carved and put together with wooden pegs. A guilloche carving ornaments
  each panel]



CHAPTER II

JACOBEAN STYLES TO CHARLES II


Brutally natural we may call the earlier characters in English history,
but attached to the Stuart name there is always poetic romance. And
without romance what would our lives be! So when we sit in our loved
library or dining-room at home, embellished by a few bits of furniture
such as the Stuarts lived among, those bits are like consolidated
stories, things to dream about in the hours of ease.

James I and his son Charles cared about things they lived with, and
cared, too, about giving them as much as possible a certain lightness
of effect, in revolt from Tudor bulk. Perhaps the necessity for
surpassing strength was waning. Men no longer wore tons of armour,
furniture in the seventeenth century no longer journeyed from castle
to castle. Inigo Jones was at work also, with his marvellous talent
at classical architecture, setting a standard of cheerful elegance in
design that lightened the Tudor magnificence.

When James I began to rule in 1603, Inigo Jones, a lightsome young man
of thirty, was employed by the King as a composer of masques. After
developing his architect's talent he produced the palace at Whitehall,
Hatfield House and other residences. His also was the invention that
threw over the steps to the Thames the noble water-gate, York Stairs,
that stands there now, a record of the merry days when ladies and
cavaliers, all gay as flowers, crossed the greensward, filed under this
richly carved arch, and were handed into elegantly equipped barges on
the river.

While things of an artistic sort were progressing in England, other
events closely concerning us in America were also active. The entire
century runs two parallel lines of history, one that of the gaiety
of the house in power, the other that of the struggle of the people
divided into religious sects. While "'twas merry in the Hall, when
beards wagged all," persecution was rife among religionists, and the
Puritans were finding it hard to stay in their own loved land.

Thus came the sufferers to America to plant new homes; and thus
coming, brought with them such furniture as was in vogue at the time
of migrating. And so it happens that our earliest bits of furniture,
chairs that supported grim Pilgrim fathers, tables which were set out
by provident Puritan mothers and maids, are Jacobean in mode. The
chair of Elder Brewster which has asylum in Hartford, Conn., is a fine
example of the heavy turned work of the day, and numerous oak chairs
show the strap-work and other low-relief carving so well known in early
Jacobean pieces.

One especial class of chair (Plate 12) when found in England is called
for one of its shires, Yorkshire, but when drawn from New England
hiding places, we name it a wainscote chair. The design of the back
easily gives reason for the name, for it is formed from a bit of
panelling similar to that in vogue for walls. Stolid and strong are
these chairs, square-built and stayed with four strong stretchers,
usually near the floor.

The collector considers the charm irresistibly increased when the front
stretcher is well worn with the friction of many feet, the resting
feet of a long procession that has walked down the centuries. Even
better is the smoothness of the chair-arms which comes by contact with
the human hand, that restless member with a habit of idly rubbing an
inviting surface. Like all makers of chairs, the ancient cabinet-maker
left back-legs in utilitarian simplicity, while he limited variety
to the front-legs. In this type of chair, turning gave the usual
ornamentation. This baluster effect had many varieties, but all united
in finishing with a square block at the bottom and where the seat-frame
met the leg, or where the front stretcher crossed, if it was placed
high.

The ornamentation of the back was done with the light spirit that
distinguished early Jacobean styles from the preceding Italian
models, yet without the elegance that appeared later in the century.
These chairs undoubtedly have charm and interest, but as works of art
they are not comparable to those which preceded, nor to those which
followed. They were, however, distinctly English, and as such, command
interest.

[Illustration: Plate XII--OAK CHAIRS

  Called both Wainscote and Yorkshire chairs]

[Illustration: Plate XIII--SPIRAL TURNED CHAIR, CHARACTERISTIC OF
FIRST HALF OF CENTURY]

A close study of the motifs used by the wood-carver shows all the
favourite lines, the guilloche, that ever interesting play upon
circles, the S curve in pairs, the rounded arch, the half-circle, the
rose and the tulip. Cushions were a part of the chair's equipment. The
tired ladies of the seventeenth century were not asked to recuperate
on a thick oak plank unsoftened by padding. Loose cushions of velvet
and of embroidery were usual, for this was an age when handsome fabrics
were made all over Europe, and freely used in flashing blue and ruby
red against the oak.

Nearly allied to the wainscote chair, yet infinitely more refined, is
the chair of spiral parts, with back and seat upholstered. Without arms
it was favoured by ladies of voluminous petticoats who pattered about
the thrones of James I and Charles I. With arms it is sometimes called
Cromwellian, suggesting that the doughty Dictator ruled therefrom. But
the austerity of the wainscote chair seems more fitting to his resolute
manner.

This turned chair with its padded back and seat, so often dignifies
our modern interiors that it is worth our while to know about it. While
the wainscote chair belonged more especially to cottage furniture
which was made all over England according to varying local taste, this
chair was more or less of an aristocrat, and furnished the halls of
wealth. Its origin is Italian. France used it freely, but she too got
her first model from the Italians. In the time these chairs prevailed,
England outside of London was scant of luxury. The homes of all but
the wealthiest were short of the comforts that ameliorate the jolt of
life's car in these our modern days.

But the whole country was sprinkled with inns and taverns wherein were
gathered such luxuries as the times afforded, and thither went the
man of the family, bored by the too rigid manner of the home. Those
who travelled, too, in the saddle or by lumbering coach, fell happily
into the warm embrace of the chairs at the hospitable inn at each stop
on the journey. The post-road made the string, the inns the pearls,
and in this way the surface of England was covered with a net for the
delectation of the restless. But old-time descriptions of the highways,
their ruts and sloughs, their highwaymen even, show how laborious were
the journeyings and how more than glad were travellers to alight.

Ben Jonson declared a tavern chair to be the throne of human felicity.
Thus he spoke praise, not only of the inn but of such furniture as
pleases us in these days. If, therefore, any husband of to-day rebel
against the stiffness of backs, or weakness of legs, of the antique
chairs at home, let him be reminded of Jonson's opinion on these same
chairs.

The chair with spiral legs and other members runs through the larger
half of the century, and has significant variations. One shown on Plate
13 has a female head on the uprights of the arms, which represents
Mary of Modena. The figure is given at full length in a model that our
furniture manufacturers have many times repeated.

While baluster legs for chairs and other furniture were a product
of the reign of the first James, we may set down the more elegant
spiral twist as an evidence of a better developed taste for which a
few leaders were responsible. Such a man as Inigo Jones must have
influenced widely the public taste in all liberal arts. Although
his examples were set in the larger art of architecture, the crowd
swaggering about the Banqueting Hall, which still excites our delight
at Whitehall, must have been inspired to introduce a daintier style at
home.

It was in 1625 that Charles I succeeded his father, and soon after
invited Van Dyck to be of those who surrounded the royal person. It
sometimes seems to the art-seeking tourist, that Charles' patronage of
art had as motive the production of an infinity of portraits of his own
much-frizzed, much-dressed self. But apart from painting portraits
of the King, which the model made a bit pathetic, through the attempt
to associate majesty with preciosity, Van Dyck had a large part in
improving England's taste. Another name is that of Sir Francis Crane,
he who helped his royal master with the noble art of tapestry-making at
the Mortlake Works.

To continue with the use of the spiral leg--as its modern use creates
interest in the subject--it is found as the support on those most
enticing of tables, the gate-leg. Not that all gate-leg tables are
thus made. Alas no, economy travels heavily in all ages, so the less
expensive baluster turning prevailed. But the spiral is the favourite
and gives great value to the old tables. Rarely indeed are they to be
found at bargains since we in America have taken to collecting Jacobean
furnishings.

Gate-leg tables are labelled with the name of Cromwell by those liking
to fix a date by attaching to it a ruler. Without doubt, the great
Commoner leaned his weary elbows on such a table when things went
wrong, or curved a smiling lip above it--if he could smile--when the
table was weighted with savoury Puritan viands. But for many years
before Cromwell, English homes had found the gate-leg table a mobile
and convenient replacer of the massive refectory tables of Tudor or
Roman inspiration.

In large size these tables set a feast for the family, in smaller
drawing they held the evening light; or, smaller yet, they assisted
the house-mother at her sewing. The wonder is not that we of to-day
find them invaluable, but that mankind ever let them go out of fashion.
Collect them if you have the purse, but if you must buy a modern copy,
remember that mahogany was not in use for furniture in England until
the century after, for modern manufacturers flout chronology and
produce gate-leg tables in the wood of which the originals were never
made. They even lacquer them, in defiance of history.

[Illustration: Plate XIV--OAK CABINET, DATED 1653

  Decorated with split spindles, and with inlay mother-of-pearl, ivory
  and ebony.
  The legs show tendencies not developed until the next century under
  Queen Anne]

[Illustration: Plate XV--OAK GATE-LEG DINING TABLE

  With oval top and rarely proportioned spiral legs. A drawer
  distinguishes the piece]

Since the fashion is for old tables in the dining-room, these Jacobean
gate-leg tables are found practical as well as beautiful. The large
size, about four and a half feet wide by six feet long, accommodates
a moderate family and presents none of the inconveniences that make
certain antiques mere objects of art or curios. I must confess to a
thrill of delight when sitting at such an old oak board set out with
old lace and silver, not only for its obvious beauty, but by the
thought of the groups who have gathered there through three hundred
years, groups of varying customs, varying habits of thought, varying
fashions in dress, yet human like ourselves, and prone to make of the
dining-table a circle of joy.

The inlaid cabinet on Plate 11 is an aristocrat. Though it is dated
1653 it exhibits the split spindles of earlier years, and these are
executed with such nice feeling that they accord well with the Italian
look of the piece. In truth, its principal decoration is Italian,
an elaborate use of inlay in mother of pearl, ivory and ebony. Its
feet, too, are entirely un-English, yet it remains a Jacobean piece of
English make. The influences always at work in England left their mark
on the development of English styles. Always and always a monarch was
marrying a foreign wife, or importing a court painter or architect,
and these folk naturally brought with them the fashions of their own
countries. It seemed as though the English knew that native art was not
a flower of the first order of beauty and so were modest about it, and
ever willing to adopt the art of other countries.

It is the custom of the inexact to include in Jacobean furniture all
the styles of the seventeenth century up to the time of William and
Mary, and this gives to such loose classification an extraordinary
variety. Furniture does not die with a monarch, nor do new designs
start up in a night; goods last after the master has gone, and the new
master uses the old style until a later one has been evolved. James
died and Charles I took his place in the year 1625, but the lightening
and elaborating of furniture came not all at once, and depended as much
on mechanical invention and the use of new woods as on the rise and
fall of monarchs.

And yet, as the first man to be pleased was the king, and as the king
in Charles' case had a lighter nature than his forerunners and had
moreover a Continental encouraging of that lightness, we fancy we
see an evidence of gaiety, of jocundity, in the furniture of his day.
He was a king who intended to take all the privileges of his state,
and one of these was to surround himself with beauty of the type that
brought no reminders of hard living nor serious thinking, no hint of
grim Puritan asceticism.

So the oak of England which had supplied austerity was now carved
into shapes hitherto unknown. Typical of the results of elaborate oak
carving are the chairs in Plate 17. The arm-chair is a typical example
of a chair of the middle years of the century, and later. Here the
square construction of the chair is not altered from Tudor days, but
note how every part has been lightened, until an elegance and beauty
have been attained which make it worthy of the finest rooms of any
time. The carver when given free rein has left little of the chair
untouched. Legs, stretchers and uprights, are all made with a well
proportioned spiral, and at each square of joining a rosette is carved.

Here also is seen an innovation in the ornamental stretcher across the
front which, instead of being near the ground, is raised to a height
out of reach of a ruthless boot which might mar its elaboration. This
stretcher shows the use of the long curving palm in place of the
classic acanthus, and also introduces the fat little cherubs which
French designers affected.

Other points to notice are the very open back, composed of spirals and
three rows of carving. It was at this time that pierced carving came
into vogue, so far surpassing in beauty the wainscote backs.

The incising of the seat-frame is another peculiarity of the middle of
the century. Perhaps the most interesting matter of all is the caning.
Wooden seats were the only ones hitherto; although cushions had been
used to soften them, they lacked at best the reciprocal quality that
we call "giving." Springs were far in the future, but a luxury-loving
aristocracy seized at once upon this amelioration.

There is more or less quibbling upon the subject of caning, as to the
date of its introduction. No one can fix it exactly, which robs the
enthusiast of the pleasure of announcing with oracular precision, that
his chair is of certain year because of its caning. The middle of the
century saw it, the first part did not, but it lasted through varying
styles of furniture, and is lasting still.

Its origin is undoubtedly Eastern, for the tenacious splints from which
it is woven are from warmer climes than England's. And that brings us
again to one of those little facts in history of which our household
gods are ever reminding us, the trade that united India with Portugal,
Portugal with Flanders, and the Flemish with England.

The small chair in the Plate is, to the careless eye, a little sister
to the larger, but the wise observer notes at once the substitution of
the S curve heavy in carving for the more elaborate pierced palm.
Also the cane panels in the back, and the very decided change in the
shape of the front legs. The heavy S curves are the same which later on
gain in thickness and evolve into the ogee curve seen later, and which
is often mistakenly ascribed to William and Mary, although originating
earlier and receives the name of James II. Arbitrary names are hard to
make consistently exact; dates are hard to place on every piece, but
is it not enough to know within a very few years the time of making of
one's valuable antiques?

[Illustration: Plate XVI--OAK DAY BEDS

  Carved after manner in vogue in second half of XVII Century]

[Illustration: Plate XVII--STUART CHAIRS

  Of lightened construction, open carving and incised seat frame]

To finish the scrutiny of the smaller chair, note the curve of the
front legs, the first attempt at deserting the straight perpendicular
line of construction. This is the beginning of an insidious French
influence which prevailed throughout the last third of the century. It
beautified, of course, as the gift of France to the world is the _luxe_
of the eye, but from the time of its introduction dates the end of the
furniture which was of solely English invention.

So comes the end of this early Jacobean mode, in its best time of
flowering when it was drowned in a flood of foreign influence. It
was in the styles prevailing through the reigns of the first two
Stuarts and of Cromwell, that England expressed only herself in her
furniture. It is this which makes the periods rich with originality and
of peculiar interest. When the Jacobean styles began Shakespeare was
living those sad years whose disillusion produced his later plays, and
Jacobean styles were at their height at the Restoration when Charles II
played the part of king for his royal pleasure.



CHAPTER III

THE MIDDLE OF THE CENTURY

END OF THE PURE JACOBEAN


Two matters influenced greatly the furniture makers of the middle of
the seventeenth century. And these had less to do with kings and courts
than with humble folk. One was the invention of a saw, the kind of a
saw that would divide a plank into as many thin sheets of wood as were
desired. Naturally, those who looked upon these thin sheets imagined
new ways of using them for the embellishment of furniture.

Heavy carving had been almost the only ornament when inch-thick planks
were the usual material. Now, a wondrous field of possibilities lay
before the ambitious in the way of inlay and veneer. Possibly André
Boulle in France gave the inspiration, but even so the English inlay
is a matter all by itself. From the invention of that saw arose a
style of decoration that developed from such simplicity as the rare
and occasional flower seen on early Jacobean panels, to the exquisite
elaboration known as the sea-weed pattern, and other masses of curving
filaments, which found highest perfection in the last quarter of the
century.

The cabinets on Plates 18 and 19 illustrate the almost unbelievable
fineness of the work. In the larger cabinet the inlay is drawn with
a free hand and is less characteristic of English design than the
other, excepting the naïveté of the birds and trees, and the central
panel wherein a gaily caparisoned youth strides a horse held by an
infinitesimal blackamoor--a bit of the East's submission thus noted.

Wherever a plain surface was found, the new ornament seized it.
Cabinets and chests of drawers offered the best opportunities, but
next to them were tables. The tops gave a fine field--although there
is always a lack of unity of feeling between a table maker and a table
user. The one thinks the table should be left inviolably empty, the
other regards it as a rest for books and bibelots. But there is also
the drawer of the table and its apron, so upon these the inlay designs
were put in all their dainty beauty of design.

This class of work must not be in any way confused with the Dutch inlay
of a later epoch and which is imitated to-day ad nauseam. If you have
naught else to guide you in knowing the old English from modern Dutch,
there are the shapes of the pieces on which the inlay is put, besides
the pattern of the work.

The second matter which made a change in the general aspect of
furniture in the second half of the seventeenth century was the use of
walnut wood in place of oak. It is a pretty bit of history, that
of the rich-toned walnut. As far back as Elizabeth's day furniture of
that wood was imported from Italy in all its beauty of design, colour
and finish. The wise queen ordered trees brought from Italy and forests
planted, that England might have a supply of the admired wood. She did
not live to see the trees of use, but in the century following hers,
it came suddenly into vogue. Imagine the delight of those who had been
working in the more obdurate oak, to feel this finer, softer wood under
the tool.

[Illustration: Plate XVIII--MARQUETRY CABINET ABOUT

  1700 Showing Dutch Indian influence in its design and ornament]

[Illustration: Plate XIX--WALNUT CABINET

  With veneer and inlay of seaweed pattern showing the extreme skill
  of cabinet
  workers in the second half of the XVII century.
  Drop handles are noticeable]

Putting together the invention of the saw which could slice wood as
thin as paper as well as fret it into sea-weed, and the adoption of
walnut wood, still another type of beauty in furniture was produced,
that of the plain large-panelled scheme. By cunning skill panels of
walnut veneer were produced where the grain of the wood supplied the
design. Add to this the wonderful finish of the cabinet-maker, and the
piece had the beauty of bronze and the simplicity of classicism. But no
picture can give adequate idea of the beauty of the old burr walnut.
Its bronze surface of innumerable tones, all polished by generations
of caressing hands and never by varnish, must be seen and touched to
be appreciated. The patine of time is heightened by the patine of
affection, and both together make of the plain walnut furniture a thing
of appealing beauty to those who love restraint in ornament.

A word about this thing we call patine. It began in these old pieces
with the original finish of the old maker, who, having done all of the
work himself, was tenderly careful of results. This early necromancer
played on the wood of his precious meuble with soothing oil, with tonic
of turpentine and with protective wax. With the oil he fed the open
pores of the wood, until all were filled against the attack of less
judicious nutriment, then with pungent turpentine and fragrant honest
wax, he rubbed patiently the surfaces. No varnish, as he valued his
art. Varnish as we know it now was not in his laboratory. It was not
needed when every man was lavish of the labour of his hand.

Thus was begun the patine for which we collectors cry to-day. But the
assistance of the housewife was a necessary adjunct, for never through
all the centuries must she do other than rub with oil and wax the fine
old oak and walnut. I have seen the work of centuries destroyed by a
modern vandal with a can of varnish.

The lawns of England are made by centuries of unremitting care. The
patine on old English furniture is brought about by the same virtue.
If there be any who do not value the rare old finish, then for his
household wares the manufacturers provide a vat of varnish into which
whole sets of chairs are dipped to avoid even the labour of brushing on
a coat of the shiny stuff.

Roundhead and Cavalier each had to be suited with furniture, so the
varying styles, the elaborate and the plain, met all requirements.
In the midst of it all reigned Charles, the second of the Stuart
kings, fostering art with his wondrous assistant Van Dyck, and making
a thousand mistakes in the art of government, yet ever standing a
romantic figure. We feel an interest in all that concerned his life as
a man, feeling more pity than indignation at his futile descent upon
Parliament to pluck therefrom the five members who offended him. And
who does not, when in London, glance at his high-bred marble effigy at
Whitehall with a secret sympathy for his miserable end? We all love a
gentleman, and time has nothing to do with effacing that. The elegance
Charles I introduced into his time delights us now, and we thrill at
the thought of owning any of the fine accessories with which he or his
nobles surrounded themselves.

After Charles came the Commonwealth. Republican as we are, we feel an
unaccountable revolt against any suggestion of Cromwell's taste in
life's elegant accessories. He was the great Commoner, and as such has
no skill at dictating fashions for aristocrats. So we accord to him a
leather-covered chair with spiral turned frame, and a gate-leg table,
feeling he should be grateful for the award, as even these things were
not of his own invention.

Of the two great divisions, the Cavaliers and the Roundheads, the
aristocratic party fell into subjection. All that was austere came to
the fore, and all that had the charm of gaiety and mirth, elegance and
extravagance, was disapproved by those in power. Cromwell's personality
did not inspire the makers of pretty kickshaws for my lady's boudoir,
nor luxuries for my lord's hall. So nothing was to be done by the
cabinet-makers but to repeat the previous styles.

The asceticism of the Puritan inspired no art in the few years of
Roundhead rule, but there is no telling what might have happened had
Cromwell stayed several decades in power. At the end he took most
kindly to living in the royal palace of Hampton Court. The quick
assumption of elegance of the beggar on horseback is proverbial. After
Napoleon had forgotten his origin, no king was more acquisitive than he
in the matter of thrones and palaces, nor more insistent in the matter
of royal pomp. But "Old Noll" did not live to rule like a prince of the
blood, nor to develop a style of luxurious living that left a mark on
the liberal arts.

The development of walnut furniture went imperceptibly on, with oak
still much in use, when all at once a new fact in history gave a new
excuse for changes in the mode. The Cromwells passed and the people of
England took back the House of Stuart, and did it with such enthusiasm
that even the furniture reflected it at once. But it is just this
reflection of events in the art of a period that gives undying
interest to old styles, and especially to those ancient pieces that are
left from the hands which made them and those who first used them in
palace or cottage.

Back, then, came the old delight in royally born royalty, in being
governed by a king and not by a commoner. With open arms the king was
welcomed, and Cavalier families that had been in sad plight, blotted
out by confiscation and disapproval, sprang lightly back to their
former places. This was the time of the Restoration, that time when
England adopted the rottenness of the Continent to stimulate whatever
of vice lay in the Briton, forgetting to take with it the fundamental
good. But the naughty game was one so prettily played that we never
tire of its recounting. And as it produced so many changes in house
furnishings, it must be considered.

It was in 1660 that Charles II was called to smile from the throne on a
pleased public. It was about that time that a queen was chosen for him,
Catherine of Braganza, who brought with her, very naturally, some goods
of her own.

The styles in England at this time were especially England's, the native
effort freed from copying Italy's Renaissance. But on this fell a sudden
avalanche of new ideas greatly at variance with her methods, and from
now on the styles of England took inspiration from the styles of the
Continent, and have ever since continued the game.

But let this sink into the consciousness: each style adopted takes
on the strong characteristics of the country adopting them. If to
originate a decorative style was not the natural impulse of Britain,
it was her talent to alter that style in a way that expressed her
characteristics. In the time of Charles II she had a love for the light
side of life, coupled with prodigality and elegance, and this can be
read to-day in the relics of those times.

Catherine the Queen brought no children to inherit the throne--the Duke
of York being accused of having selected purposefully a barren mate for
his brother--but she brought Bombay as a dower. So, with her Portuguese
furniture and her Eastern designs, her gifts turned the heads of
artists and artisans. In England are found those chairs for which we go
to Portugal, yet they were made in England in the seventeenth century,
the high-back straight chair covered with carved leather in both back
and seat, put on with a prodigality of big nails, and having bronze
spikes as a finish to the uprights of the back. The fluted foot came
then, a sort of compromise between a claw and scroll, and known in
our land as a Spanish foot, and used until the end of the seventeenth
century. It is found on much furniture of early Colonial times prior to
Anne's day.

But perhaps the first change in Charles' reign was seen on the chairs
of pierced carving of palm and S curve and cherub, with caned seats or
backs. The carving on these chairs at once took as its popular device
the crown, the crown which had been hidden out of sight in the years of
the Commonwealth. As if to show the wealth of affection with which it
was welcomed, it was repeated as many as five conspicuous times on one
chair. With what complacence must Charles have looked upon this gentle
flattery!

For the Queen's satisfaction there were matters from the Near East
in the way of ivory and ebony inlay, carved ebony, introductions of
small black beings into designs, always in obvious subjection to white
masters. But these were exotics of a sort that English taste preferred
to import rather than manufacture. Ladies who took to embroidering
affected the Bombay designs and colours.

Charles II had been reigning but six years when the Great Fire swept
away uncountable treasures in the way of furniture. To be sure, there
was all the rest of England. But at that time London was practically
all of elegant England. Country gentlemen had estates and big houses,
but owing to the impossibility of transportation on the always miry,
rutted roads, they went without the luxuries of town life. So, with the
Great Fire of London perished so much of old oak and walnut furniture
as to make collectors weep who turn their thoughts thereon.

But as the phoenix rises unabashed from the flames, so rose the
inspirations of Sir Christopher Wren, Grinling Gibbons, and of minor
artists and artisans. Wren rebuilt the fallen monuments, giving to the
world his great St. Paul's, and a pattern of church steeple that climbs
high in American settlements as well as all through London; and the
lesser workers gave men new patterns in beds and chairs for repose, and
in tables for comforting viands, for games, or for the gossip which was
a deep game of the day.



CHAPTER IV

CAROLEAN STYLES OR THE RESTORATION

CHARLES II, 1660 TO 1685


If it was to the Queen of Charles II that the Carolean period of
furniture owed its Portuguese strain and the evidence of strange
things from the East, it was from a woman of quite another sort that
the predominating influence came. French styles were the vogue at
court, not because the Queen, poor dull woman, wished it, but because
Louise de Querouailles was the strong influence, and with her advent
came follies and fashions enough to please the light side of one of
the lightest of monarchs. France, in the person of Louis XIV, felt
that England would bear watching while a Stuart strutted and flirted,
oppressed and vacillated. And the French ways of those days being
directed by such craft as that of the astute Cardinal Mazarin, a woman
was sent from France to charm the King and stay closer beside the
throne than any man could bide.

Charles created the light and lovely Louise the Duchess of Portsmouth
and the mother of the little Duke of Richmond; and, that so much of
extravagant beauty might be royally housed, he spent much time and
more money in fitting her apartments at Whitehall. Three times were
they demolished at her whim, the extravagant fittings failing to suit
her insatiable caprice.

Such procedure was hotly stimulating to artists and artisans. In
the first attempt they sought to produce their best, but seeing it
displease, they were lashed on to more and yet more subtle effort until
at last the pretty lady of too much power had forced the production of
elegant new styles which smacked of her native France. Thus went by the
board the efforts of English styles to remain English, and thus began
that long habit of keeping an eye on French designs.

We think of Charles II as a figure-head of romance, because the rosy
mist of poetic fancy clings to the members of the Stuart family from
Mary of Scots down to--but not including--that Duke of York who minced
about the throne of Charles II with his soul concentrated on securing
from his brother his own personal advancement.

The horrors of Charles' reign, the Bloody Assizes, the Monmouth
incident, his neglect to recognise the seriousness of his
responsibilities, all these things are lost in the elegant frivolity of
the life led at his court. Cares, ennuis, tragedies, were flicked aside
by white hands thrust from brocades and lace, and a merry measure was
the antidote for soul-sickness.

Those who made music or danced to it, those who rhymed (the naughtier
the better) and sang their verses, those who led at toasts and
feasting, those who wore the richest dress, were the persons of
importance under the patronage of Charles II, in the time of the
Restoration.

Nell Gwynn, she of the quick smile and quick tear, and vulnerable
heart, was of the King's favour to the extent of honouring him with the
little Duke of St. Albans; and on her Charles lavished accessories of
elegant living similar to those he bestowed on Louise de Querouailles.
The bewitching actress lived her quickly changing moods among the
furniture that now graces our modern rooms here on this side of the
water.

We were not importing many of those elegances in 1664. That was the
date when Charles' brother James, Duke of York, left the luxurious
court at London and came to give royal dignity to the little American
town of New Amsterdam on the day when its Dutch dominion ended and the
city was re-christened New York.

While considering the fascinating women of the court, Hortensia
Mancini, for whom beautiful furnishings were made, must stand as
the most alluring of them all because she ever eludes the critic or
dissector. Somewhat of her uncle Cardinal Mazarin was in her astute
secretiveness, but a baffling quality all her own made her proof
against surrendering her soul to any man's probing or to any man's
charm. So rich she was that money could not tempt; so clever, with
Italian wit added to Italian culture, that none could surpass her in
repartee or discourse; so full of mystery was her dark and piquant
beauty that all might envy her--yet so passionately unhappy, that none
would wish to exchange with her.

Add to the list of women Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland, who
represented a heavy voluptuousness and a prolific motherhood for the
King, and we see the women favoured by the King's artisans, and for
whom the beautiful furnishings of the time were produced.

Though Charles II had no royal factories such as Louis XIV was
conducting in France, plenty of rich objects of art were yielded by the
workers. That astonishing aberration of taste, silver furniture, had a
vogue at this time, the King considering his favourite worthy of such
extravagance. It must have been ugly by its inappropriateness, however
pretty was the woman it served.

Louise de Querouailles had hers set in a room lined all with mirror
glass, which at that time was an expensive novelty. But it pleased the
King to wander into the apartment of his favourite satellite and see
the lovely image of the Duchess of Portsmouth sitting among her silver
movables, reflected so many times in the walls that the world seemed
peopled only with adorable women. Nell Gwynn also had her mirror room.

It was the Duke of Buckingham who made the mirror-lined room possible
by establishing a factory for mirrors. Previous to this time they were
exceeding rare in England. Now a leaf was taken from Italy's books and
mirrors were made at home, with bevelled edges, and also with bright
blue glass framing, inside the wooden frame.

Grinling Gibbons was at work on his carvings and inventions, and we
have record of him as a decorator in a letter in which he tells his
lady client: "I holp all things will please you." It was the year
after the Great Fire, 1667, that Gibbons began to make a feature of
the garlands and swags of flowers and fruit, carved with excessive
exuberance, that are associated with his name and that of Queen Anne
in decoration. To gain his effects he used the fine soft limewood as
yielding to his tool almost like a plastic stuff.

In social England Bath played an important part, and thither went for
new scenes the merry gossiping crowd for their routs and aristocratic
carousing. This was the time of the sedan-chair, of the dropped note,
the flirted handkerchief, the raised eyebrow and the quick eye-flash,
all full of poignant meanings of their own. Life was a pretty game,
insistently a pretty one, and following the mode, its accessories
were pretty. At Bath the same elegant crowd played as in London,
transferred by shockingly primitive coaches over outrageously rutted
roads. The wonder is they ever cared to undertake such hardships as
those imposed on travellers in England in the seventeenth century. But
at Bath we see them, at the famous spas, with Nell Gwynn, way-ward and
ardent, charming the men, slighted by the women.

To be specific about the furniture styles of the times is satisfactory
to the student, to the desired end that old pieces may be known from
imitation, and that good adaptations may be distinguished from bad.
In general it may be said that lightness continued to be the ideal in
construction, particularly in chairs and tables, and that carvings
grew ever finer in workmanship. Chair backs also grew narrower and
higher. Caning was retained, but seats were covered with a squab
cushion, or upholstered. A minute examination of the chairs on Plate 21
leads to the detection of certain characteristics. This Plate shows a
particularly good example of the chairs as they depart from the fashion
which prevailed immediately before the Fire, and as they merged into
the style of William and Mary.

These chairs have details in common with chairs that preceded them,
but as a whole, they are entirely different. They do not tell the
same story, convey the same message, as the chairs of Charles I, for
example. And that shows the subtle power of furniture to express
the spirit of the times in which it was made. "Feeling" is a word
for the serious collector. Ability to read feeling amounts almost to
a talent, and is certainly an instinct. Those who possess it know
without recourse to detail where to place a piece of furniture never
encountered before, and this even though it be one of those erratic
pieces that appear in all periods. The feeling, then, of these chairs
is French, but a transplanted French, growing under alien influence.

[Illustration: Plate XX--STUART SETTEE WITH CARVING. SECOND HALF
               OF XVII CENTURY]

[Illustration: Plate XXI--CHARLES II CHAIRS OF VARYING STYLES IN
               CARVING]

Descending upon details, the shape of the legs is so much at variance
with those of the preceding fashion that they seem to alter the scheme
of construction. By means of the change from a straight line to a curve
the chair loses in honesty and in balance while growing in elegance.

Another point to notice is the change in the arrangement of stretchers,
also the lifting from the floor of the elaborate front stretcher which
is made to match the ornamental top of the chair back. The seat-frame
retains the incising of the former fashion, and the square blocks at
points of intersection carry the familiar carved rosette. The backs
have strong points of interest. The radical change is in the uprights,
which, instead of being wide, flat carvings of leafage, are gracefully
designed posts. A long step in the way of beauty was made when this
style of back was adopted, a treatment which developed later in the
century into the exquisite carved backs, which even exceeded the
French in graceful invention. An examination of the chairs of 1685 will
show the perfection of the style which was begun by Charles II, adopted
by James II and further developed under William and Mary.

To continue the lesson of the chairs, it was here that the old flat
S curve began to alter into the richer, more robust C curve. The leg
of chairs carved in C scrolls follows the shape of the curves, and
furniture of this pattern has exceeding charm, especially when the
front stretcher has been treated by an inspired hand. Much sought are
the chairs and sofas of this period, and when covered with needle-point
are keenly valued for use in the superb living-room which in modern
homes often takes place of the drawing-room.

Happy indeed is the collector who can find such an old English sofa
as that in the Metropolitan Museum on Plate 22. It is entirely
characteristic, and shows not only the interesting fashion in carving,
but the large advance in upholstering. Such comfortable work was
unknown before the reign of Charles II. If we have curiosity as to the
appearance of the gentlefolk who used such furniture, the embroidered
cover of this piece shows lovely woman in her hours of ease, and
mankind hovering near with a wish to please. But this very embroidery
shows how difficult a matter it was for the English to draw with true
hand and free, a purely decorative motive; for outside the figures of
the medallions, the whole thing is meaningless and without consistency.

[Illustration: Plate XXII--WALNUT SOFA

  Carved in C curves, time of James II covered with petit point
  embroidery]

[Illustration: Plate XXIII--GILT MIRROR. TIME OF CHARLES II

  When mirrors were freely made in England]

For a clue to the inspiration of English work in the last quarter of
the century, which embraces that of Charles' reign, that of James II
and of William and Mary, it is advisable to turn a keen eye on the
artistic and political actions of France. The Great Louis was on the
throne, and the great Le Brun was the leader in the decorative art of
the day.

One of the political mistakes of Louis XIV was the Revocation of the
Edict of Nantes, that edict which had protected from persecution
so large a number of Protestant workers in the liberal arts. Among
these people were tapestry weavers, silk weavers, glass workers, wood
carvers, members of all the crafts that contribute to the beauty of the
home. Eventually they came to England for safe haven.

It is impossible to over-estimate the benefit to England in an æsthetic
way of the advent of all these skilled workers, men whose equal were
to be found in no other country. Louis XIV had made a royal hobby of
exquisite furnishings. He had placed their manufacture among the royal
pleasures and also among the state duties. He had glorified the art
of furnishing as it had never before been done, by the magnificent
institution of the Gobelins factory. Here men learned their craft--an
infinite variety of crafts--and achieved perfection. All at once many
of these workers were forced to flee or meet death under the new
dictum of the King. And thus England received the outcasts to her own
enrichment.

One of the industries in which England was behind the Continent was
the manufacture of silk. The French refugees were soon established in
London at Spitalfields, reproducing the magic weaves they had formerly
made for the imperious pleasure of the royal favourites in France.
Satins, brocades, taffetas of wondrous dye and lustre, flowed from the
looms of the able weavers who thus drowned their nostalgia in excess of
a loved and familiar occupation.

One result of this mass of beautiful material being thrown to a
delighted public, was the change made in the fashion of interior
wall-treatment. The beautiful oak panelling of other days oppressed
with its seriousness the light mood of Charles II and his light
companions. The gay sheen of silk was more sympathetic and enlivening.
On the walls, then, went the silk. In Anne's time the panels grew
larger, then became a wainscot and sank to the height of a man's
bewigged and capricious head; then lowered to a chair's height for the
Georgian era. And above flowed the gracious lines of silken fabrics
concealing all the walls, made in Spitalfields by the French refugees
and their followers.

The pretty Duchess of Portsmouth had her rooms hung with silk and
with wondrous tapestries from France, though England made both silks
and tapestries. Beds of the day retained the high posts and tester or
canopy, heavily draped, and the bed was similarly covered. The bed was
carved, even to the tester, in French inspiration, and was elegant
indeed. In such a bed came the King at last to lie in mortal illness in
the palace at Whitehall, where the lovely Louise had first place by the
royal invalid, while the Queen was treated as a negligible quantity.
The Duchess of Cleveland, that other favourite, was not far in the
background, and the King in his last hours remembered still another
when he implored: "Don't let poor Nell starve."



CHAPTER V

THE END OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

WILLIAM AND MARY. 1689-1702


THE style named for William and Mary embraces all the changes that
occurred from late Carolean days until the time of Anne, and even
includes some of the models and details that are given the name of that
queen. Dutch influence comes largely into both, but was stronger in the
style known as Queen Anne's. Mixed up with other influences were those
not only of Holland but of the countries with which her political life
was concerned. Spain contributed certain details, and as for the Dutch
connections with the Near and the Far East, they supplied an infinity
of inspiration.

Nothing more piquant to the decorative spirit could be imagined
than the fantastic motifs of Indian and Chinese importation. To us,
surfeited as we are from babyhood with Chinese toys and Indian stuffs,
it is hard to look upon these things as startling novelties. But in
those days of less travel they were delicious exotics. Among persons of
fashion, there was a rage for the living evidences of the strange East,
and more than popular as pets in the drawing-room became the exotic
monkey and the vivid parrot. If these creatures, leashed to a standard,
could be tended by a tiny black human, then fashion was pleased to an
infantine joyousness.

[Illustration: Plate XXIV--INTERESTING CHAIR TRANSITIONAL BETWEEN
               STUART STYLES AND WILLIAM AND MARY]

[Illustration: CHAIRS IN VARIANTS OF WILLIAM AND MARY

               Covered with petit point of the time]

[Illustration: WILLIAM AND MARY CANED CHAIRS, ONE WITH FLUTED SPANISH
               FOOT

               Plate XXV]

Every ship that came in from far Eastern countries brought wise parrots
and tiny frisking monkeys, and these were valued by decorative artists
for models, as well as by my lady to pique gay conversation in her
drawing-room.

William and Mary styles, like all of the seventeenth century, are at
present in high vogue in America, and for this reason it interests us
to study them. They come in after the use of oak has passed its vogue,
and when walnut prevails, although woods of lighter colour, such as
pearwood and sycamore, are employed. In chairs and sofas, carving
prevails as decoration; but in cabinets and tables, the preference is
for veneer and for inlay.

At this time occurs a change in the style of cabinets. Hitherto they
had been closed cupboards; now, because of the fashion for collecting
Delft china from Holland, a need came for cabinets that would display
the collector's treasure. As furniture makers ever express the whims
and needs of the day, so they at once invented the cabinet with
shelf-top protected by glass. A feature of the design is the hooded
top, so characteristic of William and Mary.

Two types of carving prevailed in chairs in the last twenty years of
the seventeenth century, that of the broken C curve, originating under
Charles II, and that of great elaboration which in some respects caught
its details from the French. A study of the plates will show that the
post-like upright which flanks the back is retained in both cases.
Examples of fine carving under William and Mary show the free fancy of
the designer and the skill of the worker who was possibly the designer
as well. But the original chairs must be seen to gain any idea of the
beauty of colour and finish. The whole bears the look of bronze that
has been polished with caressing hands for centuries.

The shape of the leg in these finely carved chairs is to be noticed,
as it is fathered by the chair-leg in vogue under Louis XIV in France,
and in slight variations it prevails all through the William and Mary
period. It is noticeable by a pear-shaped enlargement near the top. The
Spanish foot is often seen on this style.

Petit point, gros point, or mere cross-stitch embroidery you may call
it, was a fashionable occupation for dame and damsel. In Charles II's
time the stuffed high-relief stump work pleased the court. Sorry stuff
it looks now, much like the court ladies of that time, in that its
colour and gilt are gone and its false art is pitifully exposed. But
the good honest embroidery in wool and silk still stands, and is again
tremendously in vogue.

[Illustration: Plate XXVI--CHEST OF DRAWERS IN BURR WALNUT VENEER

  Mounted on legs, used in the last quarter of the XVII century]

[Illustration: Plate XXVII--SMALL WALNUT TABLE

  With spiral legs and inlay. Here is seen the beginning of the flat
  serpentine stretcher]

It was Madame de Maintenon who gave such inspiration to the work in
France that England copied. Her school at St. Cyr, which she conducted
solely for the purpose of giving happiness and education to penniless
daughters of fallen aristocrats, at that school the young girls
executed work that ranks with objects of art. A well-known American
collector has a large sofa executed thus under the hand of Madame de
Maintenon which represents scenes from a play of Molière's, the piece
having also been given by these same young girls, then the cartoons
drawn by an artist of high talent.

So petit point was almost a high art in France in the time of William
and Mary, and England did her best to follow the fine pattern set
her. If, in judging whether this work be French or English, the mind
hesitates, it is well to take the eye from the medallions and study
how the designer filled the big field outside. In French drawing
the whole is a harmonious composition; in the English, the hand is
crude and uncertain, and the motifs meaningless, though bold, without
coherence or co-ordination. Nowadays the lady who wishes to embroider
a chair gets from Paris a medallion already complete and fills in the
surrounding territory at her pleasure. It would seem that the ladies in
England did the same in the seventeenth century, but with less taste.

Among minor points of interest, those little points used by the amateur
in identifying, is the marked change in the stretcher. Away back in the
beginning of the century, as seen on chairs and tables, it was heavy,
made of square three-or four-inch oak, and placed almost on the ground.
The first change was in using thinner wood; the next was in giving the
stretcher a look of ornamental lightness by turning. When this happened
the front stretcher of chairs was lifted from the ground to spare it
the heavy wear apparent in older pieces. When carving attacked the
stretcher, then it was placed well out of the way of harm, and it took
on the ornamental effect of the chair's back. The Portuguese style of
stretcher copied closely the carving on the top of the back in graceful
curves.

It was when the larger pieces of furniture took on a certain lightness
of effect that a change in their stretchers occurred, and this was in
the period of William and Mary. The stretcher became wide, flat and
serpentine. In chairs it wandered diagonally from the legs, meeting in
the centre. In tables its shape was regulated by the size of the table
top. In chests of drawers it wavered from leg to leg of the six which
like short posts supported the weight. If the piece of furniture was
inlaid these flat stretchers offered fine opportunity for continuing
the work.

Strangely enough the stretcher, in chairs at least, disappeared at just
the time it was most needed. That was at the introduction of the curved
or cabriole leg, in the early days of Queen Anne. Those who know by
experience how frail the curve makes this sort of construction, sigh
with regret that the fine old Queen Anne pieces of their collection
cannot be consistently stayed according to the older method.

[Illustration: Plate XXVIII--CARVED CHAIRS. PERIOD OF WILLIAM AND MARY

  With all the fine characteristics of the carved designs of the time]

[Illustration: Plate XXIX--WALNUT CHAIRS, WILLIAM AND MARY

  With the exquisitely carved backs, stretchers and legs characteristic
  of the time]

It was in the interesting time of William and Mary that the kneehole
desk made its appearance. A certain enchanting clumsiness marks these
desks from later products on the same line, and a decided flavour of
Chinese construction. Such a desk was recently rooted out of the dark
in an obscure Connecticut town, it having been brought over in the
early days, and, not being mahogany, has lain despised by local dealers
until one more "knowledgeable" than his fellows discovered that it was
Elizabethan!

A contribution made by China was the art of lacquering. Although it
was not in the fulness of its vogue until the century had turned the
corner in Queen Anne's reign, it had its beginnings in the earlier
importations of lacquer and the desire of the cabinet-makers to imitate
the imported art.

Varnish as we know it had never been in use, else had we missed the
wonderful hand polish on old oak and walnut that cannot be imitated.
And when it appeared it was only to use it in the Chinese manner, as a
thick lacquer over painted or relief ornament. As the art of lacquering
grew, cabinets of great elaboration became fashionable, and these
were in many cases imported from China as the cunning handicraft of
the Chinese exceeded that of the English in making tiny drawers and
tea-box effects. Then these pieces were sent to England where they
were painted and lacquered by ladies as a fashionable pastime, and were
set on elaborate carved stands of gilt in a style savouring more of
Grinling Gibbons than of China,--which is the true accounting of the
puzzling combination of lacquer and gold carving.

The metal mounts or hardware of furniture throughout the seventeenth
century was simple beyond necessity, yet this simplicity has its charm.
In earliest days, iron locks and hinges of a Gothic prudence as to size
and invulnerability, ushered in the century, but it was still the time
of Shakespeare, and that time threw a glance back to the Gothic just
left behind.

Knobs were needed as drawers appeared, and these were conveniently and
logically made of wood, and were cut in facets like a diamond. But
the prevailing metal mount for the rest of the century was the little
drop handle that resembles nothing so much as a lady's long earring.
It is found on old Jacobean cabinets, side-tables, and all pieces
having drawers and cupboards. Its origin is old Spanish, and that
smacks always of Moorish. With unusual fidelity this little drop handle
clung until under Queen Anne (1703) the fashion changed to the wide
ornamental plate with looplike handle, and _that_ in turn served, with
but slight variations, throughout the century.

[Illustration: QUEEN ANNE SINGLE CHAIR

  Made of walnut with carved motives gilded.
  This type of chair shows the strong effect of Chinese motifs,
  especially on the legs.]

[Illustration: QUEEN ANNE ARM CHAIR

  Upholstered in gros point with splat black and Dutch shell on
  curved legs.
    _Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York_]

[Illustration: WALNUT QUEEN ANNE CHAIRS

  With cabriole leg and claw and ball foot adapted from Chinese Spanish
  leather set on with innumerable nails elegantly covers the taller.
  These chairs foreshadow the Georgian styles.

  Plate XXX]

[Illustration: Plate XXXI--QUEEN ANNE CHAIR

  With marquetry back and carved cabriole leg with hoof and serpentine
  stretcher _Courtesy of P. W. French_]

In summing up the seventeenth century as a whole, it seems to show a
British and insular attempt to form its own styles, to dress its homes
and palaces in a British way, regardless of what the world else-where
was doing. Bits of outside product came drifting across the Channel,
but these were not treated with too great seriousness. They were never
adopted intact with all the feeling of foreign thought shining from
their elegant surfaces, but rather were cut apart and certain bits were
used to tack onto the more British work. And it is just here that is
found the secret of the charm which lies in old English furniture. It
is the endeavour of England to tell her own story, and her story is
necessarily different from that of France, Portugal, Spain, Holland,
the East. So, although she borrows motifs from foreign lands, it is
only to indicate her historical connection with them and not to make a
witless copy of their wares.

This holds true even at the time when two great artists dominated the
decorative arts in Europe, Rubens and Le Brun, and that decorative
monarch, Louis XIV, ruled art as well as politics. Yet the insularity
of England kept her, happily, from realising the fine flowering of
French art to imitate it, and, instead, she expressed her own sturdy
characteristic development.

And so we love the evidences of sincerity and the pursuit of beauty
that our English ancestors made for us, and in our homes of ease,
with these things about us, we like to dream of the men and women
who created and used these dignified time-kissed old pieces. And in
dreaming we forget the frailty and cruelty of courts and rulers and
think on the nobility and courage of the lesser yet greater folk who
laid the foundation of our country.

THE END



TABLE OF INTERESTING DATES


+James I. 1603 to 1625+


    Shakespeare died 1616
    First American Colonies, Yorktown, 1607
    First American Colonies, Plymouth, 1620


+Charles I. 1625 to 1649+


    Inigo Jones, Architect, died 1651
    Van Dyck, court painter
    Sir Francis Crane


+Commonwealth Under Cromwell, 1649 to 1660+

+Charles II. 1660 to 1685+


    The Restoration Queen Catherine of Braganza, 1660
    Bombay Influence and East India Company, 1660
    Great Fire of London, 1666
    Sir Christopher Wren, 1632-1723
    St. Paul's commenced, 1675
    Grinling Gibbons, 1648-1726
    Mirror Factory, 1673
    Chatsworth Built, 1670


+James II. 1685 to 1688+


    Revocation of Edict of Nantes, 1685
    Spitalfields Silk Factories, 1685


+William and Mary. 1689 to 1702+


    Daniel Morot
    Hampton Court, principal parts built


+Queen Anne. 1702 to 1714+





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