IX those sad old days which wear so much romance through the misty veil of time, it was not easy to replace an old furnishing. " It was necessary," says M. Viollet-le-Dnc, "to have the wood sculptured, which took long; then to address one's self to the coffer-maker, to the locksmith ; to buy stuffs iu the city—and often the chateau was far off—to address one's self to the silk merchant, to the nail-maker, to the fringe-maker, the canvas-maker, the tapestry-maker, the carder. All that took time, care, much money—and money the feudal lords living on their demesnes wanted most, the greater part of the dues being paid in stock and service. Until the end of the fifteenth century the interior service of the chateau was done by forced labor. The difficulties were no less when it was thought best to transport to the residence of the castellan furnitures made at a distance. It was necessary then to claim the service of the vavasors, or of the villages and hamlets. Such a canton had a chariot dragged by several pairs of oxen; such a village or such a vavasor had only a horse and a car, or a beast of burden. The expense, the difficulty of obtaining credit, the embarrassment of having to do with all sorts of furnishers, made one take care of the old furniture, and replace or augment it only on solemn occasions."
Besides the seat, the bed, the table, the dresser, and their variations, there were, of course, many minor articles that contributed to the makeup of rooms in the Middle Ages and afterward, to some of which we have had occasion to refer, which came slowly, one by one, after long intervals of want made their requirement felt. Among these were the screens, braziers, sconces, chimney furniture, lecturns, scriptionales, and the like. The Bcreen, insignificant as it is now, although still valued to a certain extent as an aid to beautiful «ensemble, filled, as we have said, an absolute need in the old days. It was vitally important to all comfort, beauty was lavished upon it, and down to the time of the division of the great hall into several rooms it retained its supremacy, and even later, indeed. Its first form may have been in that of a hanging curtain of skins or of rudely dressed leather; its latter estate decked with the handiwork of the ladies in kings' palaces was splendid enough to make its poor beginnings forgotten. In those immense rooms of the early periods the draughts were great and perpetual ; chimneys, after their introduction, were made of such size that the air was always moving toward the vent, and the screens were a necessary of life. Screens called portières were hung across the doors, and often took the place of doors ; above them were lambrequins boxed in so as to exclude the lesser draught that would find entrance at the top above the curtain and its rod, and beyond all that there was frequently a sort of drum built around the door-way, with ceiling and sides and a draped opening. But besides such fixtures, there were the light movable ones whose frames were made of bronze, of brass filigree, and of wonderful carved work ; and at an earlier period there were simpler ones woven of osier, some mounted on feet before the huge fire where the whole trunks of trees were burning—the fire that our ancestors so keenly appreciated. Sometimes these fire-screens were draperies suspended from the front of the chimney-piece that had a great open bay projecting round the chimney and over the hearth, and under which one could sit and warm one's feet without scorching the face. " Under the manteau " was an old phrase standing for confidential matters, and many a conspiracy was hatched and many a family compact sealed beneath the great chimney hood where a score could sit. The movable screens were single sheets stretched on a frame and standing on feet, or they were folding leaves, the valves more or less in number; and we have them so to-day. On these the gigantic figures of the arras were to be seen, or, later in the embroidery of court ladies' fingers, the king and his mistress looked history unblushingly in the face. As beautiful ones as any are to-day of Eastern manufacture—teak frames carved in involutions of dragons' tails and vast liliaceous and rose forms, enclosing segments of creamy silk on which are wrought peacocks with their spread tails, with wonderful brilliancy of color; cranes, flowers, fans, or the great folding leaves of Japanese work, where on the stout silk leaf after leaf is adorned with purple and crimson and azure in those marvellously simple yet effective designs where so few strokes of outline do such telling work. One of the seventeenth-century diarists speaks of those of his own time which he saw when on a visit to a great house in his neighborhood, describing a room with a " cabinet of all elegancies, especially Indian ; in the hall are contrivances of Japan screens instead of wainscot, and there is an excellent pendule clock enclosed in the curious flower-work of Mr. Gibbon in the middle of the vestibule. The landscapes of the screens represent the manner of living and courtesy of the Chinese."
An earlier piece of furniture, though, than the screen—perhaps the very earliest of all, at any rate in the usage of the Dark Ages—was the chest. Rude enough at first, although holding all the valuables, these chests afterward were elaborated with great care — were covered with
carved figures, apostles in their shrines and warriors in their stalls; a continual interlacing of leaf and bough, with symbolical carvings, much like that in the cathedrals in miniature; the man enticed by a lovely female form playing on a musical instrument, the lower part of whose body is that of a harpy; wild beasts and birds picking at the flesh of another, and representing conscience and sins; while other carvings would be merely conventional representations of leafy forms. The Venetian coffers were famous for their beauty and exquisite grace; others were vast bulky repositories, like the English " standards," sufficient, indeed, to be the hiding-place of half a dozen Ginevras. These were used in England to hold the great arras and leather hangings when the family, having exhausted the fat of the land in one grant, moved with all their possessions to another. They constituted the chief furniture of the Italians, and were made with exhaustless richness. Many of them were supported on feet, and upheld figures sculptured from the wood of the frame-work at all the angles. They also were ornamented with carving representing the story of various legends in the panels, and carried a great deal of gilding on the carving. Sometimes for certain vast rooms these chests were in sets. We fre quently read of bridal coffers. These, commonly, were huge affairs, and held small drawers, chests within chests, and countless odd places for the disposal of the customary paraphernalia of the occasion. Our immediate ancestors were almost invariably provided with rude chests, which, so late as the settlement of this country, had not gone out of use. They were elevated on short supports answering for feet and legs, adorned with some very simple carving and turning, usually with a series of plinths and pilasters in wood of another color, the chest being itself of birch or of unstained oak, the date frequently cut in the front, and on lifting the lid a little till was seen. Gradually these chests, somewhat cumbersome as they were, were superseded by other articles, and abandoned to base U6es, holding the tools, or given up to the corn in the barn or the meal in the storeroom. But now everybody who has had an ancestor is on the lookout for that ancestor's old chest, to be furbished and made presentable in the hall.
There are many conveniences for the library that date back to very early days, strange as it may seem; but the manuscripts of that period were jealously guarded, after their worth, or that of their originals, had once been recognized. Before the art of printing, a hundred volumes, so called, of these manuscripts were a luxury enjoyed only by prelates and sovereigns. Twenty volumes were a goodly number for the learned, and there was made of them the most that could be made. Enclosed in precious covers, frequently of golden plates enriched with gems, or of intricately carved ivory, they were kept under lock in private receptacles; when less rich, bound in vellum or in boards, they were fastened in their places by long chains, and one might read them, but could not take them away. For the use of the scholar there was a lectura, disposed so as to hold the book and keep it open. In the churches these lecturas were often a mere rest laid upon the back of a bird with outspread wings, most commonly the eagle, because it was considered that his flight, being the highest, symbolized a loftier ascent for the sacred song. In private use the lectura had many shapes, pyramidal or circular, with a little ledge at the rim, around an upright support, sometimes with compartments beneath for books not in instant use. This is to-day a convenient form for the student, as the book he studies is held in place on top, and the other books to which he may constantly have need to refer, but with which he does not wish to lumber his table, are just at hand around the foot. Sometimes the lectura is merely a double tablet sloping in both directions and meeting at the top above its pedestal. Ribbons frequently hold the book open, being laid flatly across the leaf, and having weights attached to the end swinging over on the other side. There are yet others of many sides, carrying a book on each, that wheel about ; there are some made with a rack, which is hinged, having a little three-lobed hook to alter at will the inclination of the tablet ; and there are others, yet simpler, to stand upon the table or desk, with a swinging shelf to be advanced or pushed away at need ; while the remainder are, indeed, much richer, made of wrought metal covered with costly stuff and elaborately ornamented. Besides these, there were 6criptionales—a sort of half desk to place on the table or bench where one wrote, or upon one's knee, with the inkhorn, a veritable ram's horn, suspended beside it. One of these lecturns, made of brass, with lions' feet on the supports, was taken from the lake at Newstead Abbey ; and on being sent to a clock-maker for repairs, there were found, in a secret receptacle made by the hollows of the brass rods, the parchments, pardons, grants, maps, and other documents, which probably had been thrust there, and then thrown into the pond for future recovery, at the breaking-up of the monasteries.
Among other minor articles is a little seat coming again into use—a square cushion, not very different from the tabouret, which was once a seat of distinction at court. This seat, the quarrel, is usually made not merely as a cushion, but slightly lifted on a frame with casters. Covered with handsome material, the handiwork of home, or some bit of foreign stuff, it can be used effectively in the modern drawing-room. It is frequently made of what seems like two cushions piled one upon another. The use of it may be a remnant of that fashion of sitting on carpets and cushions which obtained briefly in the time of St. Louis, borrowed from the Oriental fashion. The king is represented in some of the manuscripts thus seated. But this was merely a temporary fancy, for on all formal occasions a more formal seat was chosen.
There is a great deal of chimney furniture in brass-work, and in silver also, still left to us from the days before comfort became so universal that splendor suffered decrease. The réchauds, braziers, the sconces, the bellows, and andirons are often such as no work of to-day equals, although a portion of the bellows is usually of carved wood. The shape of the bellows, by-the-way, is something that has not changed certainly in two thousand years. In the time of the Renaissance, it being part of the appanage of the never-to-be-too-highly-valued chimney, the best work was expended upon it. It was usually of walnut wood, with masks, sirens, shields, dolphins, griffins, and all the carved ornament of the period and style ; and such a one is worth its weight in gold to-day. On the andirons, too, the artist and the artisan wrought with love, the work as tender and careful when in iron as when in silver. At Knole, in England, the variety of the andirons is innumerable. They are of silver, bronze, and brass. One
very quaint and unique design is that of a sunflower hanging flat to the light. It has lately been revived; and in one of the new styles of furnishing its form is often seen ; and it has even been adopted into iron fences. There are beautiful specimens of brass repoussé in other things — the cover, tray, sconce, fender, couvre-feu — the design being drawn and beaten out from the back and in from the front, and touched up afterward by the graver. The sconces consist usually of a reflector of the metal, with branches for candles beneath. Some of them of the time of Louis Tréize are painted with a fine imperceptible varnish, which, although it interferes with the beauty of the metal in its natural state, and is on the wrong side of art, yet has its advantages in Sparing the couvre.feni Seventeenth Century; Italian Bellow?, Sixteenth Cen-house-maid'8 muscle. In tnry; Italian Bronze Andirous, same Date; Gobelins Tapestry, , • - , ! . Time of Louis XIV.
others of them porcelain plaques are inserted, showing finely by the light of the tiny flames that burn below them.
Besides all the multitude of articles thus brought into use, there are some others introduced in.the time of Chippendale and Sheraton, Chambers, and the Adam brothers, when the Chinese Empire seemed to strike people as a new world. - There are mahogany tea-trays,- sometimes perfectly plain, sometimes as richly carved as the Renaissance bellows; there are curious little tables for turning out tea, with a rim standing up around them; there are embroidery frames and easels; and there are the hanging cabinets. ^Before that time, in the Jacobean style, there had been a fashion of building in little ornamental open shelves above the mantle on .either side, bracketed together in the centre above, and on these stood the various objet8 de vertu of the house. This, also, is a fashion lately rerived,' even by those who do not care to use the Jacobean exclusively, and,- if it were to be seen only here and there, might be a blessing; but bidding fair to be seen at every step, it is not unlikely that the eye may tire of it. But the eye will hardly tire of the hanging cabinets of Chippendale design, with the shelves unenclosed save by a margin of exquisite open-work, sometimes in arabesque, sometimes in Chinese and Japanese designs, and
especially not of those with an open under and upper shelf, and the middle one enclosed behind two tiny doors, the doors carved, or else wTith a tile or plaque inserted for brightening. Sometimes, instead of tiles, plates of bevelled crystal, or even of looking-glass, are used ; sometimes the whole is of ebonized wood and brass. Objects too easily soiled are here shut away behind these doors, and others are exposed upon the open shelves—little bronzes, bits of old china, antiques, curios — to balance the platter that has been drilled and hung elsewhere on its hooks in the wall, costly as any sketch of an old master. Among all the revivals, none have exceeded the usefulness and beauty of this charming little hanging cabinet.
There are other minor articles that might deserve notice, but perhaps we have spoken of such trifles at sufficient length. It should, however, be remembered that as trifles make the sum of life, so it is trifles that make much of the general effect of furnishing, and we will only add that many valuable ones may be found among the light comfortable pieces of rattan piazza furniture which have proved a blessing to our hot summers.
THE material of which most of the primitive furniture was made, after the decadence of Roman splendor, was the prevailing wood of the country, whatever that chanced to be, usually oak, but varying through a number of the common woods — chestnut, maple, ash, pear, and cherry.
Sometimes the oak was embrowned, sometimes blackened, sometimes left to its natural tint. So left, except for mellowing through seasoning and absorption of dust, it never changed tint; and those who speak of a piece of oak black with age use the term incorrectly, as oak is never black with age, but becomes black only through the application of dyes. In the absence of choice woods, recourse was had to the metals for rare work, and the most sumptuous furniture. After voyages of any length were made, and the products of other regions brought to market, new woods from a distance entered into the manufactures; many, also, which had been known to the ancients, were discovered, such as fragrant
Chair made from the Ship of Sir Francis Drake. i jixv -uu cedar and sandal, tulip, bamboo, citron—the Romans' wood of luxury—and ebony, an important article of the commerce of Tyre, and of which certain of the ancients, indeed, were used to make statues of their gods.
The use of ebony, again, changed the whole character of the manufacture of furniture. From the moment that it re-entered the list of commodities of luxury it required special workmen, equipped, 011 account of its hardness, with peculiar tools; and it had to be wrought with such extreme care, and it commanded such great prices, that the term used in France for its work, ebenisterie, was presently transferred to all delicate and costly cabinet-making. Its blackness allowed it to set off any dressing which the fancy of the artist supplied, either of hammered brass, of ivory inlay, or of painted panels, and the mutual contrast made the article, of course, very striking. Sometimes the ebony, which came from the vast forests of Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Ceylon, was of a jet black; sometimes of a dark green streaked with dull-red veins, not unlike the heliotrope stone used for seals; sometimes—and this was as beautiful as any—of a deep violet, just escaping black. Its fine and close grain, when once well wrought, maintained the brilliant profile of its carving keen and fine forever. So very hard was it, indeed, that its mere dust, incorporated with glue, polished like the wood itself. The costliness of the wood soon occasioned its imitation; and Jean de Yerona, in the fifteenth century, found out how to imitate its color so exactly—by steeping more porous wood, sometimes oak, but preferably pear, in an infusion of nut-galls and alum, or sulphate of iron, polishing it afterward with warm wax—that but for its inferior hardness it would be impossible to detect the difference. Articles thus made are sold to-day in Italy and Holland for manufactures hundreds of years old.
Teak, coming originally from Malabar, is a wood resembling ebony, although on close inspection a ruddy tint will be observed in its blackness. It is hard and heavy, and in the articles brought from the East Indies is usually seen carved in demonic shapes, dragon-like involutions, and the outlines of the elephantine gods, but sometimes in vast black roses and liliaceous forms.
There are several other woods that take a stain looking like a choice color in the original grain. One of these is maple, which, exquisite in its native polish, is perhaps even more 60 when stained a delicate gray, with all its eyes and veins and cellular marks glistening under a fine varnish. It presents then an appearance of smoked pearl, lucid and full of a veiled lustre. Offset with fine specimens of rosewood, nothing can be pleasanter than its effect.
In the early part of the eighteenth century mahogany was seen for the first time in Europe. If any one too proudly displays enviable Mayflower or Jamestown furniture in mahogany, the reader may have the satisfaction of knowing that the prize is not genuine. A brilliant red wood used for dye, monopolized by the crown, and called in Portugal queen's-wood, had long been known, but nothing was in use of so rich a tint as the mahogany. The first logs were sent from the West Indies, as an accidental portion of cargo, to one Dr. Gibson, of London. When workmen busied themselves with them, the knots broke their tools and discouraged them, and the logs lay untouched in a garden for a long time, acquiring every day a richer depth of color. At length Dr. Gibson called a cabinet-maker by the name of Wollaston, and told him to take the logs and do something with them, no matter what. Wollaston at first refused; but the doctor, convinced of the possibilities of the material, urged him so strongly that finally, supplying himself with the fit tools, he Constructed a bureau, which, made of wood already well seasoned and deepened in tone, so pleased the doctor that he displayed it to a host of admiring friends, among whom was the Duchess of Buckingham; and the latter, declaring she must have the counterpart, brought Wollaston and mahogany into fashion together. Although mahogany when new is not attractive, it becomes more attractive with every year's exposure to the subtle action of the atmosphere, acquiring before a great while the warmest hues of wine. The handsomest pieces are those of the roots, where the coloring matter is most strongly concentrated, that brought from the American coasts having at first been called amaranth-wood from its superb strength of tone. It is no wonder that so charming a material came into vogue, after the Duchess of Buckingham's bureau had been seen. It was something to feed the love of color inherent in most of us, to supply shadow in the pictorial effect of the room even while relieving the shadow with lustre and warmth, the inner fire in its dark depths shining like the glow of the carbuncle or the smouldering embers on the hearth. Everybody wanted mahogany. But mahogany was not only considered too brittle for the entire construction of solid articles, but, procured with difficulty and after a long sea-passage, it was too expensive; and thus the habit of veneering, with a thin strip of it, supplied its more massive use.
Veneering had been used by the ancients long before, for we know of sheets of ivory glued and riveted upon surfaces beneath; but veneering never ran mad as it did with mahogany at this time, and has done ever since, as many garrets full of dilapidated stuff can demonstrate.
Another very fine wood, a delightful substance when one has a good specimen of it, is the rosewood, its rose tints variegating its dark winy tints, and making a beautiful substance capable of being wrought artistically. The rosewood commonly used on our sofas and pianos is of inferior veining. The choicer pieces are reserved for delicate work, and are fuller of beauty, as bare material, than anything but the half-revealed wealth of mahogany.
There are a few other woods, such as the black walnut, for instance, in constant use. The black walnut, although offering a good base to the carver, affords no variety of tint, or suggestion of inner color, as the ma-
pie, the rosewood, and mahogany do, except in the mottled polished surfaces of the kind called French walnut. During the reign of the Rococo, furniture was made of any wood that came to hand, and overlaid with gilding and with ornament. Tables of alabaster, consoles of mother-of-pearl, and cabinets of tortoise-shell put honest but meaner substance out-of-doors, although plain deal stuck together, and, covered with gold-leaf, could al-
way8 impose itself upon this princely company. It is only within the last score of years that attention has been once more directed to solidity, and we have begun again to furnish our bedrooms in the sweet and cleanly light oak, and have learned that the once undreamed-of yellow pine, when well dressed, is not only one of the cheapest, but one of the most durable and attractive woods in existence, its soft creamy body varied with stains of deeper hue darkening into rusty red.
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