The Classic Revival

The Classic Revival may be treated briefly here, for, though its inception was much earlier, the Greek phase did not get into full swing in domestic architecture till about 1825. It would seem that ripening circumstances had occurred some years before this and the delay in fruition is somewhat puzzling. As America was the firSt great republic to be established in modern times it was rather natural for us to look back to and in a measure identify ourselves with the Republic of Rome. France took the same attitude in the seventeen-nineties. The "back to antiquity" movement was everywhere in the air. Jefferson was the American pioneer, in his sketch for remodelling the Governor's house at Williamsburg, about 1779. He adhered to Roman forms but others travelled back Still further and adopted the Greek order. The Thaddeus Burr house at Fairfield, Connecticut, the firSt known example of its employment in domestic architecture, was built as early as 1790. But there, for a time, the Greek movement hesitated.

To review, then, the Classic Revival began with Adam, continued through the Regency or Greco-Roman phase till about 1815, at which time it began to be supplanted by the heaviness of the Greek forms.

From 1800 onward this influence had had effect, and especially in public buildings, but some years elapsed before its widespread adoption in dwellings occurred. Our sympathies with the Greek Struggle for independence (1821-27) turned this incipient movement into a craze, and till 1850 Greek Revival architecture swept the then-exifting country.

No other such complete Statement of an interior of this Style is known as the architect's own water-colour drawing of the drawing-rooms of the John C. Stevens house, New York City, of about 1830, preserved in the New York Historical Society and here reproduced in Plate 134. The entire wall surface is plain and painted grey. The entablature is carried around the rooms, the notable architectural feature being the double screen between, with its Ionic columns from the floor. The mantel is of Direfioire Style and of white marble with bronze mounts. The console-table is likewise of marble and of Roman design, with tripod and urn of bronze and gold surmounting it.

The accessories of this interior will be described, with those of the earlier periods, in the next and final section of this volume.

IN CONSIDERING the decoration of the American interior the use of our knowledge of conditions will go far toward sparing us a vaSt amount of detail and what might afford us a number of uncomfortable, because puzzling, surprises. Indeed how otherwise would it be possible to treat within reasonable limits of the decoration of two centuries with all their varieties of circumstance!

On the one hand we have already seen that our settlement was accomplished often with the greatest hardship. To the pioneers who pushed out into the wilderness life remained difficult and isolation from the centres was almoSt complete. With such families, and frequently with those of small means in the settlements themselves, decoration would depend almoSt entirely upon home industry—the loving handiwork of wife and daughters in weaving,, dyeing, and many other household arts.

But then how is it that as early as the sixteen-fifties we read in inventories of damasks, velvets, needlework, turkey-work, cushions, India fabrics, elaborate bed-draperies, fine silverware and chinaware!

The fadt of course is that in 4 the larger seaboard centres very early were to be found a few families of means and taSte who insisted upon having in the new land that to which they had been accustomed in the old; and, with these, others who speedily prospered and so were able to indulge in the amenities or even the luxuries of life.

And, naturally, there were several grades of comfort between these two classes.

If we remember that decoration is always and everywhere governed by degree of means, knowledge, taSte, and the then exiting supply we can quite approximately say in what any special decoration consists.

Though intercourse with England was slow it was constant, and it was perfectly possible to bring over any decorative materials that might be ordered by the householder or by the dealer. And advertisements show the energy of the merchant and his pride in keeping up with London fashion.

The goods current in each English period are, then, the index of what a little later might be found in prosperous households here. So we muSt bear in mind certain developments from time to time. The tall clock-case, for example, was firSt constructed in the eighteenth century as a protection to the swinging pendulum then firSt introduced.

Silversmiths arrived here almoSt as early as cabinetmakers, and so moSt of our silver was American; but makers of chinaware and glassware were few and late, and therefore our supply was in the early periods entirely derived from abroad and in the later years largely so.

The EaSt India painted cotton fabrics, bright with birds and flowers, and often imitated by European manufacturers, were very popular here as well as abroad during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These, with other textiles previously referred to, the floor-coverings to be mentioned, and embroidered pictures and samplers added Strong notes of colour to our early interiors.

The decorative situation in general is very well indicated by the matter of floor-coverings. Those earlieSl in use were, naturally, of home manufacture. Rag woven and braided rugs were the more popular in the middle colonies and hooked-rugs in New England, but none of these was exclusive to one section. The art of making hooked-rugs was brought from England by the colonists: these are one of the moSt interesting of our home productions and good specimens are muich appreciated to-day.

We might be sure, however, that with prosperity and the emulation of English modes, especially in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the floor-coverings of the better houses would be European carpets—and so the records tell us. In the familiar account by'Henry Wansey of the drawing-room of the Bingham house in Philadelphia in 1794, as but one instance, he writes: "the carpet one of Moore's moSt expensive patterns."

Nevertheless, the making and the use of the handmade rug continued. They were decorative and durable, and our ancestors took pride in their handiwork. The foreign product appeared in the important rooms of fashionable houses, but even there some of the simpler bedrooms would very likely contain home-made rugs: and in the greater number of abodes they would remain the principal floor-coverings.

But there were changes and developments. The earlier designs of hooked-rugs were of geometrical pattern; later, flower or leaf designs were added to these; and by the middle of the eighteenth century very attractive flower-designs were usual. In the nineteenth century birds and beaSts, appeared. Naturally the designs and colourings vary greatly in merit, being entirely dependent upon the taSte of the maker.

From the result itself we cannot doubt that some of the finer specimens of later periods owe their inspiration to imported textiles and Aubusson or other foreign carpets,

A few needlework carpets, in woolen yarn on canvas ground, were also made here.

As , wealth and facilities increased the scale of living developed accordingly, and so we see that the decoration prevailing in the better houses from the beginning of the Chippendale period to 1825 was anticipated, save as regards StyliStic changes, by the wealthy in earlier days and emulated at all times by those of lesser means. We cannot then do better than review, a little later, what then obtained— always bearing in mind, however, these changes in circumstances and Style.

As to the former we should remember that mirror-glass, for instance, was not made in England itself till 1673, though there had been importations from Italy before that time. Mirrors in the colonies were therefore exceedingly scarce in early days.

As to their Style, mirrors are of such importance in decoration that we may here run over their principal varieties. The typical contours of those of the firSt periods are shown in the line drawings herewith.

The earliest examples of Stuart Style—the laSt quarter of the seventeenth century here—were doubtless imported from England. The frames were wide, and nearing the square in shape, with a top extension of varying design but virtually always of semi-circular form. These persisted into the William and Mary period and in that reign in England were largely of marqueterie.

Those of Anne (firSt quarter of the eighteenth century) were of very different proportion, being tall and narrow. Though there was much variation in the heading it was so characteristic as always to be recognisable from the typical outline given here.

A particularly fine walnut and gilt mirror appears in Plate 135 A. Of generally Georgian type its upper and lower decoration is Rococo, and the basket of flowers is close in Style to the acroterium ornament of the Chippendale case-pieces we have seen. This mirror belonged to Noah Webster of Dictionary fame and was purchased from his descendants near Middle-town, Conneiticut.

The silhouette or cut-out type illustrated in Plate 135 B was current throughout the Chippendale period in America.

Its Philadelphia maker landed in 1753, and his firSt advertisement appeared in 1756. His earliest productions were quite decidedly Anne in contour. He then took up simpler versions of the mirror illustrated and, as will be seen by the date of the present


By Courtesy of Charles Woolsey Lyon, Inc., New York By Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Museum



By Courtesy of Howard Reifsnyder, Esq. Photographs by Dillon


example, the firm continued the general Style till the Chippendale mode was almoSt, temporarily, forgotten. But in England itself the elaborately Rococo Chippendale mirror (not made here) continued in use through the classic years almoSt to the end of the eighteenth century. It will then be seen that it is well not to be too puriStic, though it is better that accessories should generally accord.

Both of the mirrors appearing in the frontispiece are of the Georgian Style but current from 1750 to 1775 or even later.

That in Plate 136 has a rounded pediment and shows a rather more classic tendency. It belonged to Joshua Humphreys who built six frigates for the American goverment.

The mirror occurring in Plate 43 (1790-1800) preserves many of the former characteristics but in its upper portion takes on features next to be mentioned.

The Captain Cook room (Plate 130) contains an English Adam mirror with accompanying sconces. Many American derivations were made through the Hepplewhite-Sheraton régime and one of them appears in Plate 137 A. The ornament of all these Adam mirrors was delicate and of gilded composition, on wire, and hence they are often called "Filagree mirrors."

From about 1800 on we find the girandole or circular mirror with lights, to which are often added glass pendents. These are exceedingly decorative. The dolphin or else the sea-horse, as in the example illustrated in Plate 137 B, seem to have been favourite ornaments.

Plate 138 shows not only the very familiar long gilded mantel-mirror so often miscalled "Colonial" and really of the late Empire Style, but also a lovely example of the earlier classic mirror of our Direftoire period. In light tint or white, painted on the reverse of the glass frame-insets, and gold, with delicately-painted headings and great refinement of form and detail, this is one of the moSt beautiful of Styles. Another excellent mirror, with painted heading, and of the Direftoire and early Empire years, occurs in Plate 46.

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