Fred. W. (Frederick William) Burgess.

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the palace was to be upholstered.

At Hampton Court Palace there are indeed many
examples of upholstered chairs, including some very
beautiful armchairs, which were probably made within
the first few years of William III.'s reign. The upholstery
at the present time is that of the days of Queen Anne,
when the chairs were probably re-covered with the large
patterned velvet corresponding with the bed hangings
which Queen Anne ordered for her bed-chamber and for
other apartments of the palace. It has been pointed
out in connection with these chairs that there is a great
similarity between the stretchers and those appertaining
to the later Restoration days. That indicates that they
were made early in William's reign, before any striking
alteration had been made by the Dutch influence which
gradually altered the characteristics of the walnut furni-
ture of the reign of William and Mary.

The upholstery of much of this early furniture (see
chapter xxxi.), is of English-made velvet, such as came
into vogue soon after the commencement of the eighteenth
century. There was a strong attempt then to prevent
the importation of foreign silks and velvets, and English
makers began to do a large trade in so-called Genoa and



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102 ANTIQUE FURNITURE

Venetian velvets. Although these were made in this
country, like many other goods they retained the name
of the place of origin. Thus English textiles were often
sold under the name of foreign localities, just the same
as English makers to-day produce English counterparts
of foreign goods.

As it has been stated, William III. was much occupied
in building operations. He had also the affairs of State
to deal with. Queen Mary, therefore, had to bear the
responsibility of setting the fashion. This she certainly did,
both in furniture, the manner in which it was displayed in
her home, and in her handiwork. It is said that Queen
Mary was specially fond of china, and that she covered
the tops of her marqueterie cabinets and chimney-pieces
with blue and white Kang-He china and Dutch delft
ware and other ornaments. At Hampton Court she had
set apart for her own use, where she could retreat from
the affairs of State, "a set of lodgings," and Defoe,
writing about those lodgings, says they were exquisitely
furnished, and 'Hhere was a fine chintz bed, a great
curiosity." "There, too, she had fine china ware, the
like whereof was not to be seen in England." Bishop
Burnet, referring to her handiwork, tells how the Queen
wrought with her own hands, "with a diligence as if
she had been compelled to earn her own bread with it."
It was thus that she set the fashion to the beautiful
petit point needlework, so much of which is to be seen
on old walnut furniture of her day. The Queen died in
1694, and it seems as if in sympathy a change passed
over the ornamental marqueterie, for the white jasmine
flowers and green leaves gave place to the endive-leaved
acanthus and the so-called seaweed marqueterie of the
later years when William reigned alone. Although the
Age of Walnut still lingered on, and in later years was
revived in another form, the (leorgian era is to be



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THE AGE OF WALNUT 108

distinguished by the advent and fuUer treatment of
mahogany rather than of walnut.



Furniture of the Period.

In previous chapters the chairs of Jacobean days
have been described, also those of the later Restoration
days, which with their glorious carving contrasted with
the more substantial and plainer chairs fashioned imder
Cromwellian influence. Walnut had already come to
the front, and many of the finer examples of walnut-
carved furniture were made before the Restoration period
The smooth-surfaced cabriole-legged Dutch chair is, how-
ever, essentially a feature of the Age of Walnut as under-
stood during the reigns of William and Mary, and Anne.
The Flemish chair, it is true, although generally of walnut,
is sometimes of maple or beech, but when walnut once
became the popular wood it retained its hold on the
furniture trade imtil the days of mahogany. It is said
that when Wifliam came he brought with him the latest
Dutch fashions, which included the scrolled Flemish legs
and the cabriole knee accompanied by the hoof, which
eventually became a Dutch pad or club foot.

We can understand what an impetus was given to
trade, especially import trade, when the nobility and the
leading politicians and country gentry discovered the
style which was acceptable to the new King, and they
quickly refurnished, put on one side Carolean chairs,
and superseded them with chairs made after Flemish
and Dutch patterns.

It is noteworthy that although the Dutch chairs of
WiUiam were Flemish in design they were introduced into
this country at a time when Flemish design had re-
ceived much of its inspiration from Spanish sources. Thus
the Flemish chair, which came in the reign of Charles II.



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104 ANTIQUE FURNITURE

out of Italy, through France, and out of Spam, was
more decorative, and had more exaggerated mouldings
than the Flemish Dutch chair which had received Dutch
influence on the way. Now we have to remember that
however Dutch the chairs of William and Mary were,
those which were made in this coimtry received an
English interpretation. At that time Englishmen were
making square oaken wainscot chairs. When the English
workman made a Flemish chair he gave a squareness to
the frames which were to be caned; otherwise he
modulated the pattern he had before him.

The examples of walnut furniture of this period are
very numerous, and fine examples are to be found in
many old English homes besides those on view at
Hampton Court. The treasures of Boughton House, in
Northamptonshire, in the possession of the Earl of
Dalkeith, have recently been brought imder the notice
of the public, in consequence of the splendid exhibition
of these antiques, which by the kindness of the Earl
were on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum at
South Kensington quite recently. These well-authenticated
pieces of furniture, and tapestries and embroideries shown
with them {see chapter xxix.), were got together by Lord
Montagu, the Master of the Great Wardrobe to William III.,
who was created Duke of Montagu by Anne in 1705.
He enlarged Boughton House, which had been purchased
by his ancestor Sir Edward Montagu in 1528. The Castle
is rich in many early Stuart and Jacobean pieces of
carved furniture, as well as those made in the reign of
WiDiam. There is a fine carved walnut stool covered
with flame embroidery in floss silks and ornamental
edging; one of carved walnut covered with pale blue
damask; and one in velvet which has a large floral
pattern in colours on a cream-coloured groimd. There
are several curious armchairs of walnut with seats and



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THE AGE OF WALNXJT 105

backs covered with flame embroidery in floss silk and
trimmed with decorated silk edging ; one very remarkable
armchair is upholstered with brocade showing a rococo
design of canopies, trees, vases, and other objects in
silver on a cream-white growid; and another evidently
of the closing days of the seventeenth century is covered
with a brocade of floral pattern in silver on a pale blue
ground. Of the same period there are marqueterie tables
and some gate-legged tables veneered with walnut.

During the last few years dealers and connoisseurs
have been amazed at the money value of old furniture
stiU remaining in private houses. On several occasions
pieces of furniture which have been in the possession of
the families, for whom they were originally made, in an
imbroken line of succession, have been brought imder the
hammer and dispersed. There is always greater interest
in a sale of such family relics than in the dispersion of
even more valuable pieces which have been collected and
got together from a coDector's view point rather than
that of actual utility, which was, of course, the purpose
of the buyers in olden time. Many wiD recall the famous
dispersal of the Holme Lacy treasures, so many of which
were rare and were snapped up by wealthy collectors ; in
not a few instances the coveted treasures passed over from
this coimtry to the New World, where any genuine antique
of the period when their forefathers were crossing the
Atlantic and foimding that great nation which was to
grow up on American soil, is greatly appreciated by the
millionaires of the States.

Some of our readers will recall the important sale of
old furniture at Madr3m Castle, Carnarvonshire, a few
years ago. Among the old furniture then dispersed were
a number of pieces made during the Age of Walnut.
There was a pair of WiUiam and Mary high-backed chairs,
with elaborately carved backs in leaf and scroll ornament



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106 ANTIQUE FURNITURE

and graceful spiral columns. The seats and backs were
upholstered in needlework of a contemporary date. The
beautiful cabriole legs terminated in claw-and-ball feet.
There was a set of six William and Mary marqueterie
walnut chairs with broad splats inlaid with vases of
flowers and birds. The cabriole legs were ornamented
with marqueterie, too, and these handsome chairs, which
had been in use in Madryn Castle since the time when
Dutch marqueterie was in vogue, were in excellent con-
dition, the old crimson figured velvet upholstery being
well preserved. Corresponding with this beautiful suite
was a marqueterie-topped walnut table, further enriched
by inlays of ivory and mother-of-pearl. There was
another fine example of Dutch marqueterie of the WiDiam
and Mary period, a magnificent bureau chest with three
long drawers, the fall-front enclosing a beautifully fitted
secretaire. This also was decorated in marqueterie with
vases of flowers. It was supported by claw-and-ball feet,
and there was a profuse use of chased ormolu mounts.

In conjunction with these beautiful examples of
marqueterie there was a table on shaped tapered legs,
fitted with a drawer to which was attached chased ring
drop handles. The marqueterie ornamentation was
exceedingly good.

The illustrations given here represent several distinct
types. In Fig. 88 is seen one of a pair of exceptionally
fine walnut stools of the period 1690-1695. The needle-
work and the way in which it is nailed on can be seen
very clearly. The table illustrated in Fig. 85 is a
pleasing example of a walnut table with twisted legs
strongly braced together.

We have already referred to the early introduction of
walnut, and to its frequent presence in Restoration days.
The high -back French chair of James II.'s reign was
strongly Flemish in its characteristics. The cresting was



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Fio. 36. Fig. 37.

CARVED BACK WALNUT CHAIRS.

I'EUIOD 1689-1690. PEKIOO 1685-1689.

(In the collection of Mawcrs, Ltd.. South Kettsington.)



I'o face page 106,



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I I... iH. WALNL i KASV CHAIR.

Circa 1 7 10.

(Gill <S- Reigate. Ltd.).



1 o face page \oj.



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THE AGE OF WALNUT 107

usually hooped and carved, and was dowelled on to the
side uprights or balusters, whereas at an earlier period
the top rail had been tenoned. The legs were not mortised
to the seat rail as they had been in earlier Restoration
days. They were simply let in to the seat framing.

In chairs made in provincial towns there are often
slight discrepancies and indications that local workmen
were prejudiced in favour of former methods. Hence
there is much composite workmanship in some of the
chairs which have come from old country houses. It was
at the commencement of James II.'s reign that the
cabriole leg became a feature, and right through the
Age of Walnut it was a distinctive mark.

In William III.'s reign the older Flemish styles changed,
and the back instead of being separated by balusters was
caned right across to the outer framing. Upholstered
chairs were in a similar way upholstered across the
back with cut-pile velvet trimmed with narrow braid or
tasselled fringes, and sometimes the material was fastened
with brass nails.

Fig. 86 and Fig. 87 are carved walnut chairs typical
of the early use of walnut. Fig. 86, of late Jacobean
type, 1689-1690, has a well-carved back, the seat being
upholstered. Fig. 87 is one of the carved back chairs
of the period 1685-1689, the cross braces being absent;
the feet, too, are somewhat unusual.

One important feature during the Age of Walnut was
the introduction of marqueterie, which is fuUy dealt with
in chapter xx. The marqueterie of English furniture and
of furniture imported into this country forms such a
distinctive class of cabinet work that it cannot with any
degree of fairness be treated upon exhaustively in the
different periods when it was in use concurrently with
other styles. Right through the Age of Walnut
marqueterie crops up. In the Tudor it is met with, to



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108 ANTIQUE FURNITURE

be seen again during the Restoration period, and at a
later date, when Dutch influence predominated in this
country during the reigns of William and Mary, and
Anne. It changed in its characteristics as different
materials were available. It was applied to English
walnut and to French and Italian walnut, and many of
the beautiful cabinets made of English straight-grained
walnut were inlaid with marqueterie. The processes
changed when the hot caul and press were used. Veneer-
ing with the hammer was another process, and as the
English and foreign cabinet-makers acquired different
experience we find the marqueterie of the Walnut Age
imdergoing many changes, enriching cabinets, tables,
bureaus, and chests of drawers with decorated inlays.
For examples of these various pieces of marqueterie
work see chapter xx. ; also Fig. 88, which is a fine
walnut easy chair of the Queen Anne period, circa 1710,
with marqueterie legs, upholstered in petit point needle-
work. It was lately in the galleries of Messrs Gill &
Reigate, Limited.

Referring to the technique of the construction ot
furniture made shortly after 1690 an expert says :
"Several improvements with regard to construction of
furniture are noticeable after 1690, being in all probability
introductions from Holland. Drawer sides are nearly
always dovetailed to the fronts, the 'pins' being usually
coarse — seldom less* than a quarter of an inch in the
thickest part. The Stuart mortise is nearly always
carried through the stile with the tenon wedged on the
end and pinned through the front ; the joint being made
without glue. In Queen Anne furniture the mortise is
stopped, the tenon ' shouldered,* and the framing secured
with an adhesive, probably * cheese - glue ' made from
milk curds. Shelves and partitions are frequently slot-
dovetailed after 1700. Flush-panelled frames for doors



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THE AGE OF WALNUT 109

and the writing flaps of fall-front escritoires and bureaux
— ^that is, with the panel rebated on the front to bring
it level with the surface of the framing — ^are also usual
features at this period, and it bears good testimony to
the care with which the wood was seasoned, that the
panels, although often very wide, are rarely found shrunken
or cracked."

The Characteristics of the Chair.

Before proceeding to examine some of the best known
examples in which the chief characteristics of the Age of
Walnut in chairs are seen, it would be well to point out
the new features introduced under Dutch influence, and
to call attention to the marks of identity by which genuine
specimens of walnut chairs of that period may be known.
Dutch chair-makers and English makers who were taught
the necessity of conforming to the new style soon realised
that the frames of the Stuart period were imsuited to the
backs they were required to fashion, and that they must
accept Dutch ideals in their entirety. To begin with, the
chair leg became cabriole in form, frequently terminating
with a hoof. There was a stretcher of scroll-like form
between the front legs, with serpentine stretchers between
the front and the back legs.

The cabriole has been likened unto a leg with a bended
knee, that is a shaped curve terminating with a narrow
ankle and a foot, the graceful hoof-foot in time becoming
a club foot, and losing much of its characteristic beauty.
The back of the chair was comfortable in that it was fitted
to the shape of the human back, a great improvement on
the old flat upright which, however, had been upholstered
or caned in the days of the Stuarts.

Another important feature to take note of is that the
ornamental carved and cut through splat did not come
down to the chair frame, but was supported by a stretcher



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110 ANTIQUE FURNITURE

connecting with the curved uprights of the back. In
course of development this stretcher was done away with,
and when the dub foot, which came in at the commence-
ment of the eighteenth century during the reign of Queen
Anne, appeared, the stretcher disappeared and the splat was
connected with the frame. Another import£tnt departure
in the chairs of the Age of Walnut iniBuenced by Dutch
art is that the front stretcher is recessed back, that is to
say, it is not in line with the front legs which themselves
are curved inwards. The back legs with square bases
were at first scrolled in the Restoration fashion. As the
period advanced the carving on the top of the leg was
cut back into the frame, doing away with the square
comers of the earlier period.

The first point to observe is the cabriole leg, which
commands so much attention in that its introduction
marked a distinct departure from traditional lines. The
inspiration is said to have come from the East, just as
the daw-and-ball foot was Eastern (said to have been an
adaptation of the Chinese legendary dragon, which was
reputed to hold in its claw a pearl).

The ancient cabriole was used by the Greeks who got
it from the Egyptians, and it can be traced further back
to the Assyrian nation. The cabriole came into modem
cabinet-making in the days of Queen Anne, or perhaps
a little earlier. In conjimction with it there were many
beautiful innovations in the foot. There were lions' feet,
eagles' daws and talons, rams' hoofs, and heads of animals
used as terminals of legs and arms. Another important
characteristic is the Flemish ornament on the curved knee,
usually indicating an early date, as the ornament gradually
disappeared. The imdecorated splats accompanied by
the imdecorated cabriole date from 1710 to 1780. The
legs were at first joined by stretchers or under-braces, but
the stretchers disappeared altogether about 1780, so that



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THE AGE OF WALNUT 111

those chairs in which the stretchers are absent may be
placed between 1780 and 1750.

In the days of Queen Anne the so-called Hogarth chair
became popular. Although severe in form it is by no
means without beauty, and was certainly comfortable.
There are authentic examples of this chair at Hampton
Court, and in many collections of walnut furniture, for as
King William's reign advanced the houses of the nobility
had been refurnished, and in the days of Queen Anne
Dutch furniture had almost entirely superseded the
Restoration furniture. The Hogarth chair was then
popular. The sweeping away of the square comers of
the seat toward the end of William's reign had for a time
been popular, but the comers became square again when
the Hogarth chair was made. In some of these chairs is
seen the development from the hoof to the dub foot.

In pronouncing the accomplishment of the evolution of
the chair resulting in the Queen Anne or Hogarth chair of
the commencement of the eighteenth century, we may
reiterate the process of development which so rapidly
conformed the new accepted style to English ideas or
interpretations of the Dutch, and which as the outcome of
Dutch influence modified the Hogarth chair which evolved.
When Queen Anne came to the throne the smooth fiddle-
shaped splat with a plain top to the back predominated.
The cabriole leg was chiefly made with a club foot, the more
omate hoof foot having been passed over or seldom used.

To the cabriole leg is due the gradual abolition of
cross stretchers. More refined conditions made it possible
for the occupants of the chair to place their feet under-
neath. Cleanliness was coming to the floor, and there was
no longer any need for the deep and low cross stretcher.
The turned rails disappeared along with the carving of
the Restoration. No doubt there were several influences
at work, one of the most importfitnt being that Dutch



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112 ANTIQUE FURNITURE

predilection for inlaying, which suggested the beautiful
marqueterie which was to follow. The Hogarth chair in
its fulness was smooth, light, and graceful. The back
had outer upright supports, and there was a splat to
support the back of the sitting person. Above the splat
there was a convex curve, said to have been fashioned to
fit the nape of the neck, so that any one reclining against
the tall upright back could rest the head, the shoulders
falling naturally into hollow curves. The decorativeness
of the Restoration chairs had gone, and with it dis-
comfort. The stages in the evolution have been passed,
and the Queen Anne chairs of the Age of Walnut became
an acceptable feature in English house furnishing. It is
said that this chair of the so-called Hogarth or Queen
Anne style was the first in which the fumitxure maker
had carefully considered human anatomy.

Another feature in connection with thcDutch chair is that
the seat was very broad, the front being wider than the back.

Coming to the question of ornament, one of the char-
acteristics of the chairs of this period is the carved escallop
shell on the knee of the cabriole leg. The acanthus leaf
continued to be used in some of the more decorative chairs.
The splat was seldom pierced, but there was a change
going on in its form which gradually developed a spoon-
like shape and eventually a fiddle back.

Fig. 89 is a fine upholstered William and Mary chair,
with claw-and-ball feet to the handsomely carved legs.

Fig. 40 is one of the winged sleeping chairs of the same
period, the cabriole legs terminating in claw-and-ball feet.

The days of Queen Anne are noted for the introduction
of the cosy or grandfather chair, also for the rush bottom
Dutch chair and the Windsor chairs. Upholstery became
the vogue, and in the course of development the founda-
tion was being laid to the settees and couches of later days
with which the names of love-seats and grandfather chairs



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I'k;. 30 IPHOLslKRED CHAIR.

WILLIAM AND MAKY I'EKIOD.

(The Hiilfichl CutUcry of Antiques.)



Fig. 40. -WINGED SLEEPING CHAIR.

WILLIAM AND MAKY PERIOD.

(The Hatfield Gallery of Antiques.)



To face page 112.



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I-i... 43.-IU RK.\r liOOKCASK.

OIKEN ANNK I'KKIOD.

(The llalficU (lollcry of .l»»//./»ir5.;
To face p.ige 113.



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THE AGE OF WALNUT 118

are generally associated. The connoisseur of furniture,
however, must disassociate these from his mind when
studying the Age of Walnut as seen in the furniture of
Queen Anne's reign, and the years which immediately
preceded it.

The love-seat or double chair of those days is some-
thing quite different to the light and attractive double
chair or settee formed of two or more chair backs of the
light and decorative Chippendale and Hepplewhite periods.
The cabriole-legged love-seats, with plain stretchers with
smooth surface upholstery, with arms and back, were long
enough to accommodate two persons. The convenience
of these chairs caused their development into longer seats,
the term love-seat only being applied to the smaller sizes,
for when they would seat three or more persons they became
sofas or couches. These upholstered seats were covered with
needlework, the fashion for which was set by Queen Mary.

Side by side with the double love-seat the upholstered
chair with the higher back, the so-called "grandfather,**
developed. Many of the old chairs are foimd, when the
needlework is removed, to have been first covered with
a silk case or slip. When a new chair was made it
was probably covered with a temporary covering, during
the time the owner would be occupied in working the
needlework cover.

It is not often that sentiment has been introduced
into the furniture trade. We can, however, discover in
the Age of Walnut more than one influence which can
be traced to sentimental objects, and episodes in which



Online LibraryFred. W. (Frederick William) BurgessAntique furniture → online text (page 9 of 38)