Lucy Abbot Throop.

Furnishing the Home of Good Taste A Brief Sketch of the Period Styles in Interior Decoration with Suggestions as to Their Employment in the Homes of Today online

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beautiful - a ladder raised to the _n_th power.

Slowly the Gothic period died in England and slowly the Renaissance took
its place. There was never the gayety of decorative treatment that we
find in France, but the English workmen, while keeping their own
individuality, learned a tremendous amount from the Italians who came to
the country. Their influence is shown in the Henry VIIth Chapel in
Westminster Abbey, and in the old part of Hampton Court Palace, built by
Cardinal Wolsey.

The religious troubles between Henry VIII and the Pope and the change of
religion helped to drive the Italians from the country, so the
Renaissance did not get such a firm foothold in England as it did in
France. The mingling of Gothic and Renaissance forms what we call the
Tudor period. During the time of Elizabeth all trace of Gothic
disappeared, and the influence of the Germans and Flemings who came to
the country in great numbers, helped to shorten the influence of the
Renaissance. The over-elaboration of the late Tudor time corresponded
with the deterioration shown in France in the time of Henry IV. The Hall
of Gray's Inn, the Halls of Oxford, the Charterhouse and the Hall of the
Middle Temple are all fine examples of the Tudor period.

We find very few names of furniture makers of those days; in fact, there
are very few names known in connection with the buildings themselves.
The word architect was little used until after the Renaissance. The
owner and the "surveyor" were the people responsible, and the plans,
directions and details given to the workmen were astonishingly meager.

The great charm that we all feel in the Tudor and Jacobean periods is
largely due to the beautiful paneled walls. Their woodwork has a color
that only age can give and that no stain can copy. The first panels were
longer than the later ones. Wide use was made of the beautiful
"linen-fold" design in the wainscoting, and there was also much
elaborate carving and strapwork. Scenes like the temptation of Adam and
Eve were represented, heads in circular medallions, and simply
decorative designs were used. In the days of Elizabeth it became the
fashion to have the carving at the top of the paneling with plain panels
below. Tudor and Jacobean mantelpieces were most elaborate and were of
wood, stone, or marble richly carved, to say nothing of the beautiful
plaster ones, and there are many fine examples in existence. They were
fond of figure decoration, and many subjects were taken from the Bible.
The overmantels were decorated with coats-of-arms and other carving, and
the entablature over the fireplace often had Latin mottoes. The earliest
firebacks date from the fifteenth century. Coats-of-arms and many
curious designs were used upon them.

The furniture of the Tudor period was much carved, and was made chiefly
of oak. Cornices of beds and cabinets often had the egg-and-dart molding
used on them, and the S-curve is often seen opposed on the backs of
settees and chairs. It has a suggestion of a dolphin and is reminiscent
of the dolphins of the Renaissance. The beds were very large, the
"great bed of Ware" being twelve feet square. The cornice, the bed-head,
the pedestals and pillars supporting the cornice were all richly carved.
Frequently the pillars at the foot of the bed were not connected with
it, but supported the cornice which was longer than the bed. The
"Courtney bedstead," dated 1593, showing many of the characteristics of
the ornament of the time, is 103-1/2 inches high, 94 inches long, 68
inches wide. The majority of the beds were smaller and lower, however,
and the pillars usually rose out of drum-like members, huge acorn-like
bulbs that were often so large as to be ugly. They appeared also on
other articles of furniture. When in good proportion, with pillars
tapering from them, they were very effective, and gradually they grew
smaller. Some of the beds had the four apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke and
John, carved on the posts. They were probably the origin of the nursery

"Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head,
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on."

[Illustration: In this living-room, Italian, Jacobean, and modern
stuffed furniture, give a satisfactory effect because each piece is good
of its kind and is in a certain relationship to each other. The huge
clock with chimes and the animal casts are out of keeping.]

Bed hanging were of silk, velvet, damask, wool damask, tapestry, etc.,
and there were fine linen sheets and blankets and counterpanes of wool
work. The chairs were high-backed of solid oak with cushions. There
were also jointed stools, folding screens, chests, cabinets, tables with
carpets (table covers) tapestry hangings, curtains, cushions, silver
sconces, etc.

[Illustration: Original Jacobean settle with tapestry covering. These
pieces of furniture range in price between $900 and $1,400.]

[Illustration: Fine reproductions of Jacobean chairs of the time of
Charles II. The carved front rail balances the carving on the back

The Jacobean period began with James I, and lasted until the time of
William and Mary, or from 1603 to about 1689. In the early part there
was still a strong Tudor feeling, and toward the end foreign influence
made itself felt until the Dutch under William became paramount. Inigo
Jones did his great work at this time in the Palladian style of
architecture. His simpler taste did much to reduce the exaggeration of
the late Tudor days.

Chests of various kinds still remained of importance. Their growth is
interesting: first the plain ones of very early days, then panels
appeared, then the pointed arch with its architectural effect, then the
low-pointed arch of Tudor and early Jacobian times, and the geometrical
ornament. Then came a change in the general shape, a drawer being added
at the bottom, and at last it turned into a complete chest of drawers.

Cabinets or cupboards were also used a great deal, and the most
interesting are the court-and livery-cupboards. The derivation of the
names is a bit obscure, but the court cupboard probably comes from the
French _court_, short. The first ones were high and unwieldy and the
later ones were lower with some enclosed shelves. They were used for a
display of plate, much as the modern sideboard is used. The number of
shelves was limited by rank; the wife of a baronet could have two, a
countess three, a princess four, a queen five. They were beautifully
carved, very often, the doors to the enclosed portions having heads,
Tudor roses, arches, spindle ornaments and many other designs common to
the Tudor and Jacobean periods. They had a silk "carpet" put on the
shelves with the fringe hanging over the ends, but not the front, and on
this was placed the silver.

The livery-cupboard was used for food, and the word probably comes from
the French _livrer_, to deliver. It had several shelves enclosed by
rails, not panels, so the air could circulate, and some of them had open
shelves and a drawer for linen. They were used much as we use a
serving-table, or as the kitchen dresser was used in old New England
days. In them were kept food and drink for people to take to their
bedrooms to keep starvation at bay until breakfast.

Drawing-tables were very popular during Jacobean times. They were
described as having two ends that were drawn out and supported by
sliders, while the center, previously held by them, fell into place by
its own weight. Another characteristic table was the gate-legged or
thousand-legged table, that was used so much in our own Colonial times.
There were also round, oval and square tables which had flaps supported
by legs that were drawn out. Tables were almost invariably covered with
a table cloth.

Some of the chairs of the time of James I were much like those of Louis
XIII, having the short back covered with leather, damask, or tapestry,
put on with brass or silver nails and fringe around the edge of the
seat. The chief characteristic of the chairs of this time was solidity,
with the ornament chiefly on the upper parts, which were molded oftener
than carved, with the backs usually high. A plain leather chair called
the "Cromwell chair," was imported from Holland. The solid oak back gave
way at last to the half solid back, then came the open back with rails,
and then the Charles II chair, with its carved or turned uprights, its
high back of cane, and an ornamental stretcher like the top of the chair
back, between the front legs. This is a very attractive feature, as it
serves to give balance of decoration and also partly hides the plain
stretcher from sight. A typical detail of Charles II furniture is the
crown supported by cherubs or opposed S-curves. James II used a crown
and palm leaves.

Grinling Gibbons did his wonderful work in carving at this time, using
chiefly pear and lime wood. The greater part of his work was wall
decoration, but he made tables, mirrors and other furniture as well. The
carving was often in lighter wood than the background, and was in such
high relief that portions of it had often to be "pinned" together, for
it seemed almost in the round. Evelyn discovered Gibbons in a little
shop working away at such a wonderful piece of carving that he could
not rest until he had taken him to Sir Christopher Wrenn. From this
introduction came the great amount of work they did together. The
influence of his work was still seen in the early eighteenth century.

The room at Knole House that was furnished for James I is of great
interest, as it is the same to-day as when first furnished. The bed is
said to have cost £8,000. As it is one of the show places of England one
should not miss a chance of seeing it.

Until the time of the Restoration the furniture of England could not
compare in sumptuousness with that of the Continental countries.
England, besides having a simpler point of view, was in a perpetual
state of unrest. The honest and hard-working English joiners and
carpenters adapted in a plain and often clumsy way the styles of the
different foreigners who came to the country. Through it all, however,
they kept the touch of national character that makes the furniture so
interesting, and they often did work of great beauty and worth. When
Charles II came to the throne he brought with him the ideas of France,
where he had spent so many years, and the change became very marked. The
natural Stuart extravagance also helped to form his taste, and soon we
hear of much more elaborate decoration throughout the land.

Many of the country towns were far behind London in the style of
furniture, and this explains why some furniture that is dated 1670, for
instance, seems to belong to an earlier time. The famous silver
furniture of Knole House, Seven-oaks, belongs to this time. Evelyn
mentions in his diary that the rooms of the Duchess of Portsmouth were
full of "Japan cabinets and screens, pendule clocks, greate vases of
wrought plate, tables, stands, chimney furniture, sconces, branches,
baseras, etc., all of massive silver," and later he mentions again her
"massy pieces of plate, whole tables and stands of incredible value."

In the reign of William and Mary, Dutch influence was naturally very
pronounced, as William disliked everything English. The English, being
now well grounded in the knowledge of construction, took the Dutch ideas
as a foundation and developed them along their own lines, until we have
the late Queen Anne type made by Chippendale.

The change in the style of chairs was most marked and noticeable. They
were more open backed than in Charles's time and had two uprights and a
spoon-or fiddle-shaped splat to support the sitter's back. The chair
backs took more the curve of the human figure, and the seats were
broader in front than in the back; the cabriole legs were broad at the
top and ended in claw or pad feet, and there were no straining-rails.
The shell was a common form of ornament, and all crowns and cherubs had
disappeared. Inlay and marquetry came to be generously used, but there
had been many cabinets of Dutch marquetry brought to England even
before the time of William and Mary. Flower designs in dyed woods,
shell, mother-of-pearl, and ivory were used.

The marquetry clocks made at this time are wonderful and characteristic
examples of the work, and are among the finest clocks ever made for
beauty of line and finish, and proportion.

Although marquetry and inlay have much in common there is one great
difference between them, and they should not be used as synonymous
terms. In marquetry the entire surface of the article is covered with
pieces of different colored woods cut very thin and glued on. It is like
a modern picture puzzle done with regard to the design. In inlay, the
design only is inlaid in the wood, leaving a much larger plain
background. Veneering is a thin layer of beautiful and often rare wood
glued to a foundation of some cheaper kind. The tall clocks and cabinets
of William and Mary's time and the wonderful work of Boulle in France
are examples of marquetry, the fine furniture of Hepplewhite and
Sheraton are masterly examples of inlay.

[Illustration: Examples of line reproductions. The lacquer chairs carry
out the true feeling of the old with great skill.]

[Illustration: A reproduction of a walnut chair with cane seat and
back, of the William and Mary period.]

[Illustration: Reproduction of chair showing the transition between the
time of Charles II and William and Mary. The carved strut remains but
the back is lower and simpler.]

_Queen Anne_

"Queen Anne" furniture is a very elastic term, for it is often used to
cover the reigns of William and Mary, Queen Anne, George I, and a part
of the reign of George II, or, in other words, all the time of Dutch
influence. The more usual method is to leave out William and Mary, but
at best the classification of furniture is more or less arbitrary, for
in England, as well as other countries, the different styles overlap
each other. Chippendale's early work was distinctly influenced by the

Walnut superseded oak in popularity, and after 1720 mahogany gradually
became the favorite. There was a good deal of walnut veneering done, and
the best logs were saved for the purpose. Marquetry died out and gave
place to carving, and the cabriole leg, one of the chief marks of Dutch
influence, became a firmly fixed style. The carving was put on the knees
and the legs ended in claw and ball and pad feet. Some chairs were
simply carved with a shell or leaf or scroll on top rail and knees of
the legs. In the more elaborately carved chairs the arms, legs, splat,
and top rail were all carved with acanthus leaves, or designs from
Gibbons's decoration. Chairs were broad in the seat and high of back
with wide splats, often decorated with inlay, in the early part of the
period. The top rail curved into the side uprights, and the seat was set
into a rebate or box-seat. The chair backs slowly changed in shape,
becoming broader and lower, the splat ceased to be inlaid and was
pierced and carved, and the whole chair assumed the shape made so
familiar to us by Chippendale.

Tables usually had cabriole legs, although there were some gate-or
thousand-legged, tables, and card tables, writing-tables, and
flap-tables, were all used. It was in the Queen Anne period that
highboys and lowboys made their first appearance.

In the short reign of Anne it also became the fashion to have great
displays of Chinese porcelain, and over-mantels, cupboards, shelves and
tables were covered with wonderful pieces of it. Addison, in Sir Roger
de Coverley, humorously describes a lady's library of the time.

"... And as it was some time before the lady came to me I had an
opportunity of turning over a great many of her books, which were ranged
in a very beautiful order. At the end of the folios (which were finely
bound and gilt) were great jars of china placed one above another in a
very noble piece of architecture. The quartos were separated from the
octavos by a pile of smaller vessels, which rose in a delightful
pyramid. The octavos were bounded by tea-dishes of all shapes, colors,
and sizes, which were so disposed on a wooden frame that they looked
like one continued pillar indented with the finest strokes of sculpture
and stained with the greatest variety of dyes. Part of the library was
enclosed in a kind of square, consisting of one of the prettiest
grotesque works that ever I saw, and made up of scaramouches, lions,
monkeys, mandarins, trees, shells, and a thousand other odd figures in
china ware. In the midst of the room was a little Japan table."

Between 1710 and 1730 lacquer ware became very fashionable, and many
experiments were made to imitate the beautiful Oriental articles brought
home by Dutch traders. In Holland a fair amount of success was attained
and a good deal of lacquered furniture was sent from there to England
where the brass and silver mounts were added. English and French were
experimenting, the French with the greatest success in their Vernis
Martin, mentioned elsewhere, which really stood quite in a class by
itself, but the imitations of Chinese and Japanese lacquer were inferior
to the originals. Pine, oak, lime, and many other woods, were used as a
base, and the fashion was so decided that nearly all kinds of furniture
were covered with it. This lacquer ware of William and Mary's and Queen
Anne's time must not be confounded with the Japanned furniture of
Hepplewhite's and Sheraton's time, which was quite different and of much
lower grade.

It was in the reign of Queen Anne that the sun began to rise on English
cabinet work; it shone gloriously through the eighteenth century, and
sank in early Victorian clouds.

[Illustration: Two important phases of Chippendale's work - an elaborate
ribbon-back chair, and one of the more staid Gothic type.]

[Illustration: An elaborately carved and gilded Chippendale mantel
mirror, showing French influence.]

[Illustration: One of the most beautiful examples of Chippendale's
fretwork tea-tables in existence.]

_Chippendale and the Eighteenth Century in England._

The classification of furniture in England is on a different basis from
that of France, as the rulers of England were not such patrons of art as
were the French kings. Flemish, Dutch and French influences all helped
to form the taste of the people. The Jacobean period lasted from the
time of James I to the time of William and Mary. William brought with
him from Holland the strong Dutch feeling that had a tremendous
influence on the history of English furniture, and during Anne's short
reign the Dutch feeling still lasted.

It was not until the early years of the reign of George II that the
Georgian period came into its own with Chippendale at its head. Some
authorities include William and Mary and Queen Anne in the Georgian
period, but the more usual idea is to divide it into several parts,
better known as the times of Chippendale, Adam, Hepplewhite and
Sheraton. French influence is marked throughout and is divided into
parts. The period of Chippendale was contemporaneous with that of Louis
XV, and the second part included the other three men and corresponded
with the last years of Louis XV, when the transition to Louis XVI was
beginning, and the time of Louis XVI.

It was not until the latter part of Chippendale's life that he gave up
his love of rococo curves and scrolls, dripping water effects, and his
Chinese and Gothic styles. His early chairs had a Dutch feeling, and it
is often only by ornamentation that one can date them.

The top of the Dutch chair had a flowing curve, the splat was first
solid and plain, then carved, and later pierced in geometrical designs;
then came the curves that were used so much by Chippendale. The carving
consisted of swags and pendants of fruit and flowers, shells, acanthus
leaves, scrolls, eagle's heads, carved in relief on the surface.

Dutch chairs were usually of walnut and some of the late ones were of
mahogany. Mahogany was not used to any extent before 1720, but at that
time it began to be imported in large quantities, and its lightness and
the ease with which it could be worked made it appropriate for the
lighter style of furniture then coming into vogue.

Chippendale began to make chairs with the curved top that is so
characteristic of his work. The splat back was always used, in spite of
the French, and its treatment is one of the most interesting things in
the history of English furniture. It gave scope for great originality.
Although, as I have said before, foreign influence was strong, the ideas
were adapted and worked out by the great cabinet-makers of the Georgian
period with a vigor and beauty that made a distinct English style, and
often went far, far ahead of the originals.

There were, so far as we know, three Thomas Chippendales: the second was
the great one. He was born in Worcester, England, about 1710, and died
in 1779. He and his father, who was also a carver, came to London before
1727. Very little is known about his life, but we may feel sure he was
that rare combination: a man of genius with decided business ability. He
not only designed the furniture which was made in his shop, but executed
a large part of it also, and superintended all the work done there by
others. That he was a man of originality shows distinctly through his
work, for although he adapted and copied freely and was strongly
influenced by the Dutch, French, and "Chinese taste," there is always
his own distinctive touch. The furniture of his best period, and those
belonging to his school, has great beauty of line and proportion, and
the exquisite carving shows a true feeling for ornament in relation to
plain surfaces. There are a few examples in existence of carving in
almost as high relief as that of Grinling Gibbons, swags, etc., and in
his most rococo period his carving was very elaborate. It always had
great clearness of edge and cut, and a wonderful feeling for light and
shade. In what is called "Irish Chippendale," which was furniture made
in Ireland after the style of Chippendale, the carving was in low relief
and the edges fairly smoothed off, which made it much less interesting.

Chippendale looked upon his work as one of the arts and placed his ideal
of achievement very high, and that he received the recognition of the
best people of the time as an artist of merit is proved by his election
to the Society of Arts with such men as Sir Joshua Reynolds, Horace
Walpole, Samuel Johnson, David Garrick, and others.

The genius of Chippendale justly puts him in the front rank of
cabinet-makers and his influence was the foundation of much of the fine
work done by many others during the eighteenth century. He is often
criticized for his excessive rococo taste as displayed in the plates of
the "Gentleman's and Cabinet-maker's Director," and in some of his
finished work. Many of the designs in the "Director" were probably never
carried out, and some of them were probably added to by the soaring
imaginations of the engraver. This is true of all the books published by
the great cabinet-makers, and it always seems more fair to have their
reputations rest on their finished work which has come down to us.

[Illustration: The dripping-water effect, of which Chippendale was so
fond at one time, is plainly shown on the doors of this particularly
fine example of his work.]

Chippendale, of course, must bear the chief part of the charge of
over-elaboration, and he frankly says that he thinks "much enrichment is
necessary." He copied Meissonier's designs and had a great love for
gilding, but the display of rococo taste is not in all his work by any
means, nor was it so excessive as that of the French. The more
self-restrained temperament of the Anglo-Saxon race makes a deal of
difference. He early used the ogee curve and cabriole leg, the knees of
which he carved with cartouches and leaves or other designs. The front
rail of the chair also was often carved. There were several styles of
curved leg, the cabriole leg of Dutch influence, and the curved style of
Louis XV. There were also several variations on the claw and ball foot.
Many Chippendale chairs were without stretchers, but the straight legged
style usually had four. The seats were sometimes in a box frame or
rebate, and sometimes the covering was drawn over the frame and fastened
with brass headed nails. Chippendale in the "Director" speaks of red
morocco, Spanish leather, damask, tapestry and other needlework as being
appropriate for the covering of his chairs.

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Online LibraryLucy Abbot ThroopFurnishing the Home of Good Taste A Brief Sketch of the Period Styles in Interior Decoration with Suggestions as to Their Employment in the Homes of Today → online text (page 4 of 12)