Ii

Hanging Cabinets of Chippendale's Design 156

Queen Anne Cabiuet 158

Another Queen Anne Cabiuet 159

Chair of the Time of Charles II., owued later by Horace Walpole 169

Chair of the Time of William III 170

Chair iu Pepys's Library 170

Portière in Modern Gothic Dm wing-

room 179

Queen Anne Clock 186

Modern Gothic Hall 188

Old Jacobean Hall 189

Modern Gothic Dining-room 193

Settee in Modern Gothic 201

A Mediaeval Washing-stand 203

Oxford Washiug-stand 204

Modern Gothic Bedstead 205

Modern Gothic Dressing-table 206

Modern Gothic Deal Chest of Drawers.. 207

Modern Gothic Wardrobe 208

Library, Louis XIII 211

Modern Gothic Bookcase 212

Modern Gothic Library 213

Library, with low Shelves 214

Walnut Cabinet, Henry II. ; Alabaster Medallion, Head of Amazon (Italian ), Sixteenth Century; Carved Oak Chair, Henri Quatre; Faience Vase,Moustier. 216

Screen designed by Princess Helena 218

Modern Gothic Drawing-room Table and

Stool 220

Modern Gothic Drawing-room Screen and Stool 221

Modern Gothic Drawing-room 222

Walnut Armoire, on Italian Pedestal, Sixteenth Century ; Screen in Tapestry, Louis XIV., Subject " The King and Mademoiselle de la Vallièro " 223

BEGINNING, thy furniture, ami T will toll thee what an assertion which I ins in it much more than meets the eye. If we will look into the matter, we aliall t^ec- thiit there is Hut jl single piet-e of fiuui-ture of the slightest description that is not emblazoned, as one might say, with the customs of a people and the manners of a time, for one who knows how to seek for it.

Indeed, as Mr. Dresser informs us, the customs of two different peoples may be read in the mere shape of their water jars; the long Egyptian jar, for instance, with its rounded larger lower end and its single metal handle, telling that it was let down by a cord into deep water, where its form allowed it to turn and fill itself, and keep the centre of gravity right, as it was drawn up—telling of the presence of plains, of artificial irrigation, and the resulting life; while the wide-mouthed, high-shouldered Greek jar, with flat bottom and two handles, declares that it was set to catch falling water, was carried on the head without splashing, and hints at the gossip round the spring while the jar filled, and other incidents of daily life in a land of mountain streams. If so much can be learned from the suggestions of two pieces of the commonest pottery, how much more can be gained from articles upon which a much larger share of art and thought has been expended, as the designer sought to surround daily life with comfort and beauty, with charm for the body and the mind!

The story of our furniture, of our mere chairs and tables, is the story of art itself; is not only that, but the story of the race from the day of the troglodyte to the day of the sumptuous Egyptian—the story of Greek arid Roman, and Arab and Goth, and the universal modern.

To say nothing of its state with the Indian and other Oriental races, with their strange sculptures and colors, their mats, divans, coffers, and tissues, art had already received great development when the Egyptian led the world; ornamentation was handled in a faithful spirit, and the intellect struggled with the senses there; science, too, held up a brilliant light, and comfort was a thing of price: thus it is not surprising that the garniture of his dwelling should have possessed some points beyond which luxury cannot aspire to-day. The Egyptian had his beds of cedar, supported on feet, carved, painted, covered with the richest draperies; he had chairs of turned wood, where the red lotus shone on a black ground; his princes and priests used tables of wood, of marble, and of precious metals; and vases, mirrors of polished metal, tripods, and other small articles of convenience, were in abundance.

The Greek, taking his civilization from the Egyptian, took from him also his art, and raised it to the pitch of the pure ideal. The Greeks, however, living so largely in public, in temples, theatres, groves, and porticoes, and holding their women and their dwellings in small esteem, had but little home life; they expended themselves 011 their public sculpture and painting and architecture, and cared but slightly for the decoration of their houses and the arts and comforts there. What articles of domestic furniture the Greeks had were, of course, with their subtle taste, perfect in outline, if not in idea; but they were very few, and they seem to have produced nothing new: all they did was to modify and perfect Egyptian suggestion, and drop its sym-

Pompeian Table. bolisai from ornament.

The Roman, although inheriting from the Greek, paid much more attention to household art. Poor as the position of woman was at the best, it was with the Roman an advance upon what it had been with the Greek. Having a home that he valued, the Roman made it a part of his business to render it delightful; and at

his summer luxury in Pompeii and elsewhere, he was prodigal of beauty in grafting all manner of Egyptian ornament upon Greek form till fancy could go no further.

But when Home went to pieces, such household art as had already been accomplished went with it. The barbarians, in their course of destruction throughout the Western Empire, destroyed nearly everything but reminiscence. The industrial arts no longer existed; the artisan, with no models to copy, and with the tradition of his trade broken by the absence of instruction, reverted to the rude, and nothing whatever of any moment was produced in the West of Europe for centuries. All that there was of comfort or convenience or splendor came from the East. Silks, perfumes, spices, gems, ivory, gold-wrought fabrics, and the smaller articles of furniture reached the West and the middle of Europe at first through Egypt, and afterward through a commerce established between the devout pilgrim who visited Jerusalem and the devout Arab who visited Mecca, commerce having as much to do with the double pilgrimage as religion; and as previously the barbarian had descended on a land that he knew to be lapped in luxury, so then the palmer, after another fashion, enriched his barren home from the East.

Thus it was not till the time of Charlemagne that the arts began to revive and look about them. On the rude old foundation that had been left them, a sense of Eastern richness began to work; Byzantine glories kindled the imagination and created rivalry; thought awoke, conscience came upon the scene, and slowly the interior of castle and palace began to change character and to surround the occupants with beauty—beauty that demanded preservation, preservation that demanded peace.

In all the years that had intervened—years of the Dark Ages—the troubled state of affairs, it will be seen, could lend no countenance to art or artisan. Every lord of a territory was a sovereign surrounded by foes, liable to attack. If he dwelt at home, his halls were only a military depot, where all his fiefs had entrance in the feudal family; if he went abroad, uncertain of his ability ever to return, he took his valuables with him, and they might not be too many or too unmanageable. His furniture then consisted of little but the chests that he could carry with him in his train, and which in the castle served for seat, table, bed, and treasury. .

But as the times became more gentle, the suzerain could afford to increase the evidence of his wealth. No longer in perpetual danger, he did not need that everything should be either easily portable or else fixed to the castle in stone. The chest grew into the armory and the cabinet, and was enriched with carving; the bench into the chair; the bed, with its trappings, took its great corner; the hearth received its decoration; man-

uscripte came from the Ea6t; travelled guests were entertained, who talked late o' nights concerning foreign marvels; chivalry demanded that the women should be better cared for, with tapestries and cushions and folding screens in the great halls where the winds blew; journeys were taken ; the lord came home from one of the Crusades, and brought memories of the East with him—stories of Istamboul, wonders that he had seen at Venice; and then at last the taste of the owner began to direct the skill of the maker, and the romance of the Middle Ages turned a gilded leaf. Splendor had come, and come to stay, shining more brilliantly year by year—a barbaric splendor, lacking the elements of comfort yet, but making, as its proportions spread, an attractive picture.

Chamber of Castle in Twelfth Century.

" Instead of fancying with the mind's eye," says Sir Samuel Myrick, " that we behold the stately knights and dames of old sitting within bare walls and resting their feet on rushes, instead of imagining that we imitate their greatest splendor when we confine the decorations of rooms in modern Gothic buildings to oak and stone colore relieved with a little gilding, we must now do them the justice to allow that while their tables glittered- with plate and jewels, their beds dazzled with the richness of their hangings, and their seats were decorated with refulgent draperies, the Gothic carving of their furniture became brilliant by scarlet, blue, and gold, and the walls of their apartments had the most interesting as well as most effective appearance from the grand paintings or the rich tapestry that were placed among them."

0 0

Post a comment