Both by Courtesy of Howard Reifsrtyder, Esq. Photographs by Dillon primitive. As the various nations of Europe emerged from the semi-barbarism of the Middle Ages—so far as furniture is concerned—the cheSt was firSt to appear. Primarily it is but a packing-case and hold-all, and if anything is removed from its lower portion its contents are in confusion. The inStinct of man has always been both to decorate the cheSt and to improve it out of its inconvenient identity into other more desirable forms of furniture. FirSt employed for travelling as well as Stationary use, in Italy the cheSt speedily became the wonderful cassone of the Renaissance.
In America evolution had reached its firSt Stage in the popular Hadley cheSt (found in the Massachusetts town of that name or its neighbourhood) where one to three drawers were added beneath the cheSt. The next Step was the abandonment of the cheSt portion, as shown in Plate 1 A, where we have a veritable cheSt-of-drawers. Though there are here but two of them, three or four drawers were not uncommon.
These three forms overlapped in date—from about 1675 to 1710—but it was the cheSt-of-drawers that survived: and, then, for further convenience of access, this was lifted upon a frame or legs and became the highboy.
: The Hadley cheSts resembled Plate 1 A in general appearance, though the design of conventionalised leaves and flowers was different and characteristic, and they were Stained in black and colours.
Carving in England in Elizabethan and Jacobean days was bold rather than fine, and that of raised surfaces was usually the scratch-carving: these qualities persisted in our own product. Patterns were not carefully worked out, having the irregularities so familiar to us in the oriental rug. The oak cheSt illustrated is much better than many others in this respect, but the differences in the completion of the designs at the two ends of the drawers will be noted. The decoration of these cheats and cheSts-with-drawers was sufficiently various, many of them having the spindle or other Jacobean ornament, and others being panelled or in bold inlay. The handles were either metal drops or wooden knobs.
Plate i B shows a desk of shortly after the beginning of the new century, with typical Jacobean turned framework and recessed ring-turned Stretcher. These desks were made either in two parts, as in the present instance, or in one. When in two pieces the base naturally projected to allow the setting in of the top. These handles are of the early willow type. More usually the desk-frames were constructed with continuous outside bracing as in the Butterfly table shown in Plate 2 A.
These "Butterfly" tables are great favourites with collectors. The illustrated fine original example is of about 1700. In general conStru&ion they are like the "joynt" (joined) stool of the period, with the wings added.
The gate-leg table has proved its universal usefulness. It made its firSt appearance in England during the years of Cromwell (1649-1660) and was later adopted here. In the well-preserved original specimen illustrated in Plate 2 B the handle has been supplied. They were usually wooden knobs, though drop handles also appeared.
In addition to the gate-leg a number of small tables of varying forms were used: these all have the Stuart turning and are therefore immediately recognisable.
The curious form of table illustrated in Plate 8 A, with projedting ends supported by a brace, and found in various sizes, made its appearance in the Stuart period, and of course with Stuart framework. It persisted into later years, taking on the characteristics of the period when made.
No bedsteads of our earlier periods have been preserved. When of American make they were evidently merely of framework to be draped, or built in, or to be folded up into a closed wall-recess. Probably some were imported for the handsomer houses, but they have disappeared.
With the next period we enter upon a more advanced condition of living in our colonies, and consequently upon a development of the furniture in use.
[/THOUGH we are so thoroughly conversant with the fad it is not always easy for us to realise to-day that until the Revolution we were all Englishmen. Indeed the whole content with Great Britain, culminating in that war, was upon the basis that we were entitled to representation because we were Englishmen in America, and were not subjects.
Save in the colony of New Amsterdam, under Dutch ownership, our settlers were overwhelmingly of British birth, and except for the modifying influences of our new environment our people remained English in character and temperament. Even for a surprising length of time after our separation London continued to be for us the seat of fashion in architecture, decoration, furniture, and attire.
It is interesting to remember that till this day Englishmen have never regarded us as foreigners. Before me is an announcement on a rare-book catalogue, which reads:
This is an early copy of our Catalogue sent to American and Foreign Customers in advance of its circulation in Great Britain.
In a publication that might almost be regarded as a British institution^ "Whitaker's Almanac," immediately following the affairs of the British Empire are those of the United States of America, and then those of "Foreign Nations."
JuSt as, therefore, the chair- and cabinet-makers of York or Birmingham looked to London for their
Styles in furniture, so likewise did the craftsmen of BoSton and Philadelphia; and just as the workman of York might use his individuality and make certain local variations in the parent mode, so might the New England cabinet-maker vary from his prototype— and to a greater degree, because of greater isolation and divergent local conditions. Notwithstanding these minor changes, our furniture Styles, until about the close of the eighteenth century, are the furniture Styles of England, and should bear their names in references thereto. In the earlier periods this is commonly neglected, and consequently the reader not only gets little idea of the association and (notwithstanding all variations) practical identity of our furniture with the English Styles, but—what is of the greatest moment to him—he secures no clear picture of the Styles themselves, what furniture belongs to each, the differences between the various modes, or the order in which these modes appeared. These difficulties are all cleared away by the present systematic method of treatment;
In many cases the inspiration and the elements composing those English Styles came from elsewhere, and those features will be indicated in this volume; for, as has already been intimated in the foreword, furniture, to be understood, muSt be broadly considered in its relation to other furniture—the mobiliary product of no nation was ever an entity that stood alone.
Briefly, then, we may consider the sources of the William and Mary Style, and the conditions under which it originated and was adopted in America.
Late in 1688 James II fled from England and men of all parties united upon William, Prince of Orange, as King. On February 13, 1689, he and his wife Mary were proclaimed King and Queen. Constitutional government had been established in England: William was its first parliamentary King. Nevertheless he showed the Strength of his own hand. Government was Still essentially aristocratic, but wealth had been accumulated through trade by many of those of the middle classes and these were also now beginning to give attention to the adornment of their homes. The fad that the Bank of England was established and the modern syStem of finance introduced during this reign evidences the consideration given to commercial interests. And England was now a power of the firSt rank.
Though their rule was disturbed by conspiracies and political intrigues, and though William devoted his life to the checking of the power of Louis XIV of France, both sovereigns were, through the providing of competent designers and workmen, encouragers of art. Thousands of French Huguenot craftsmen and weavers of the higheSt class had fled to England as the result of the Revocation of the Edidt of Nantes, in 1685, bringing with them a knowledge of the beautiful workmanship of France under its "Sun-King," Louis XIV. Among these was the eminent Daniel Marot, who accompanied William from Holland to England. Many fine establishments were erected, furniture was developed, and splendid fabrics were woven. In the realm of colour it was the moSt gorgeous period in English history—and doubtless some of its "harmonies" would displease the refinement of to-day. But these were vigorous times.
Now what were the furniture Styles of William and Mary? They were one manifestation of the great Baroque movement which, like the Renaissance movement before it, had originated in Italy and swept through all Europe. Its characteristics were weight, boldness, exuberance, and a large use of the curvilinear element, particularly the broken or "Flemish" curve.
William was a Dutchman: Mary was a Stuart, a daughter of James II, but, through years spent in Holland, thoroughly imbued with the Dutch tradition. Bearing in mind also that many Dutch courtiers and craftsmen had come with them and that much furniture was imported, we may naturally expedt the Dutch miiuence to be predominant; and so it was, not only in tfeis reign but in the succeeding one of Anne.
But we shall find a very absorbing interest in the manner in which this furniture came into exigence.
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