Vi

THE TABLE.

fTMIE Greeks who, before the Macedonian glory, sat at their tables, af-terward reclined on couches there. But they considered it indelicate for women to take that position, or for boys to do so; and the women were obliged to sit at the circular and half-circular tables, although their lords lay on the long couches without backs, their elbows buried in the cushions, sipping the wine poured from the Massic jars, and crowned wTith roses.

The Romans also sat at table until after the Second Punic War, when Scipio Africanus brought in the custom of reclining; the dining-room was then named the "triclinium," with Elevation of Drawing-room Table, reference to the three long couches about the table; and one said, " Make the beds," not, " Lay the table."

These tables, although of various shapes, were preferably round wheu used for repasts, as the old Egyptian dining-table was — a circular top-piece upon a pedestal. In handsome specimens the pedestal was a piece of carved work, a caryatid or the figure of a slave upholding the slab. When they were of greater size, they had several legs, but the most customary number was three, usually bending inward; sometimes plain supports, sometimes representing the various sphinxes, or else a satyr, or the beasts of whose sports and struggles the Romans were so fond—the lion, the panther, the tiger; sometimes the legs and haunches of leopards upholding sphinxes with outstretched wings; sometimes a group of centaurs. Frequently these articles were pieces of great extravagance, made of the precious metals richly damasked, of ivory, of the costly woods of luxury whose growth had been dwarfed and knotted and twisted so as to produce wonderful variegations of grain and surface, and veins of brilliant coloring. Cicero is said to have paid the equivalent of nearly fifty thousand dollars for one of these tables.

Besides these superb things, there were smaller and daintier tables both

with Romans and Greeks, tripods and gueridons, and little ronnd pieces on a column for work and flowers; and it is at such a table as one of those that ladies are represented in a picture of the fifteenth century standing and playing cards with a courtier.

But before that little evidence of luxury had been revived in the Middle Ages there were long centuries when the bench and the chest were all the table there was, save where, among the exceptionally rich and stately, the horseshoe form had been preserved from the use of the conquered Southern race, and was spread upon occasion of banquets of ceremony. The table which succeeded the bench appears to have been a broad board, or a number of boards bound together and laid upon folding trestles. It is perhaps from this that the use of the word " board " arises as synonymous with "table." The rapidity with which in the great halls of the chateaux, says Viollet-le-Duc," one erected and took away the tables either for dining or for playing indicates that they were only made of broad panels placed upon folding trestles." The form used, whatever it was, was generally derived from the form that happened to be employed in the next abbey or monastery, for it was to the Church that was due the preservation of most of such decencies of life as had previously been wrought out. Protected from raid and rapine, growing rich on the dues paid by a superstitious horde, loving comfort and luxury and beauty, this preservation that was impossible to others was unavoidable with the beneficiaries of the Church.

In the thirteenth century, both cloths and napkins were in use. At first the cloths hung only to hide the trestles, afterward covering the whole arrangement, and the napkins coming into the receipt of great distinction, being finally often made of silk and often fringed with gold—all of which did not, perhaps, tend to their cleanliness. Certain of the ancients, by-the-way, had napkins which, after using, they always threw in the fire, they being woven of the asbestos or of some other incombustible fibre. The fire simply cleansed them by burning off the soil, and they came out white and purified.

In the pictures taken from the old illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, we frequently see the table of honor laid across the platform at the upper end of the hall. The principal personage, guest or master, sat in the middle of this table, with a canopy that usually stretched over his head alone of all present, although this was not arbitrary. Nobody sat on the other side, as there the servants waited. If there were a greater number of guests than could here be seated comfortably, they were ranged on one side of each of the two tables that ran down the hall at right angles with the first one. Yery grand personages at their entertainments were wont to sit at their own table alone, a long and narrow table beneath a daifl, on a floor elevated some inches above the rest, with bench and footstool ; and from there they sent choice morsels off their own dishes to some of the favored guests at the other tables. In more private life, when the repast was finished, the servitors cleared it away, and the family or the guests played dice and checkers on the board —the favorite domestic amusements of the Middle Ages. Some great halls had fixed tables of stone, and a certain famous one wras so large that the clerks used it as a stage for their farces and mummeries, and it was always dressed for royal feasts or public dinners of state. This, however, was no isolated circumstance, as in the time between the mighty courses—which at those vast royal feasts were sometimes served by knights on horseback—it was not at all uncommon for those who had the amusement of the festival in hand to present plays and fencing matches, and recite

Medianral Table of Great Personage*. íií, . i ,, , ,, ballads, mounted upon these tables.

The meats and wines were on buffets and credences, the servitors carrying to the table only the plate on which the carver had laid the slice as he cut it, and the hanap containing the wine which the taster had already tried. When the number of guests was very large, the great dibhes and pieces montees were put on the board to be looked over, and then taken away to the carving-table. As one side was left " free for service," the guests were excellently waited on, and had every opportunity of taking their choice while being served; but conversation and convivial interchange of gayety must have suffered by the method of seating.

There was a great deal of splendor about these medioeval tables, and on the buffets and dressers where the draperies and the golden and jewelled cups made superb show; there were pitchers and cups and vases and bowls of gold and silver, baskets of silver, enamelled knives, forks like pincers, afid the grand surtout. Goldsmithery was far in advance of the other arts, and in England the goldsmiths already stood at the head of their trade, and wonderful work was lavished on this surtout, which represented monuments, fountains, sculptures, and huge vases or craters up

holding a series of smaller ones. This also was derived from the usage of antiquity, where there was a glittering centre-piece, renewed at every course, one of which is described as an ass in bronze carrying panniers of silver, from which slowly dripped some delicious sauce upon the dish below.

In the Renaissance more attention was paid to the beauty of the table than ever before, and such artists as Jean Goujon, Baclielier, Philibert de l'Orme, Crispin de Sasse, and Ducerceau expended their taste and skill upon its designs and sculptures. Some idea of the magnificence of the

French Renaissance Table.

tables then, and of that of their equipment when used for dining, may be gathered from the description which Benvenuto Cellini gives of a saltcellar that he made for King Francis, since, where minor articles are so splendid, the rest must have corresponded with them. " The manner in which I designed them," he says, " was as follows: I put a trident into the right hand of the figure that represented the sea, and in the left a bark of exquisite workmanship, which was to hold the salt; under this figure were its four sea-horses, the form of which in the breast and forefeet resembled that of a horse, and all the hind part from the middle that of a fish; the fishes' tails were entwined with each other in a manner very pleasing to the eye, and the whole group was placed in a striking attitude. This figure was surrounded by a variety of fishes of different species, and other sea animals. The undulation of the water was properly exhibited, and likewise enamelled with its true colors. The earth I represented by a beautiful female figure holding a cornucopia in her hand, entirely naked, like the male figure. In her left hand she held a little temple, the architecture of the Ionic order, and the workmanship very nice; this was intended to put the pepper in. Under this female figure I exhibited most of the finest animals which the earth produces, and the rock I partly en amelled and partly left in gold. I then fixed the work in a base of black ebony of a proper thickness, and there I placed four golden figures in more than mezzo-relievo. These were intended to represent Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night. There were also four other figures of the four principal winds, of the same size, the workmanship and enamel of which were elegant to the last degree."

Marquetry was now profusely used to ornament the tables, and the Martin lacquer, more especially the tables of display and accommodation than the dining-tables, and they were made, again, of the exquisite old woods, and of newer and yet more beautiful ones. In the Tudor period they expanded their supports into something elephantine, developing huge globular masses of foliage, although wTith an ill-conceived classical intention in the custom; and so heavy were they, even those meant to pull apart and extend, that they were almost immovable by means of their owrn weight; while in the Quatorze period the boule-work dissipated all its power upon their ornamentation, and made them, if not so purely beautiful, yet glittering past knowledge of all that had gone before. At a later date satinwood and mahogany made the simplest structure lovely, and table -tops, as well as other articles of furniture, were decorated with the painted medallions of Cipriani and Angelica Kauff-mann.

At this time tables as well as everything else had become a base for unnecessary and ill-adapted ornament. The drawing-room tables were frequently 6et upon a series of aqueduct-like arches far too strong for the light weight above them, pendants were dropped from the top expressive of nothing, veneering heightened their brilliancy and added to their instability, and pieces of turned and carved wood were glued upon them, instead of the same ornament being carved out of them. In the time of Queen Anne and the earlier Georges, the Classic, having conquered the Gothic, was constantly struggling with the Rococo, and even with the Chinese; but Chippendale and Sheraton, in spite of some sacrifices to the Moloch of the hour, made a few excellent designs for furniture, among them some for tables. Several of Chippendale's that are exceedingly pretty have a little open-work gallery, something like that of the abacus — a small table with a standing rim to keep things from falling off, used by the Romans — running round the edge, prob

Fleuiitth Table«.

ably oat of deference to the love of tea and china that was just then epidemic.

To-day we employ freely whatever beautiful forms have been invented when not altogether beyond our reach; but we discard the barbarous splendor of our ancestors, and consider our plain dining-tables beautiful enough when their china and silver and glass and snowy damask are relieved by a plenty of brilliant exotics. The dinner-table at the Executive Mansion of our country, on the occasion of a dinner of ceremony, is laid with fine linen, exquisite china and glass, gold-washed knives and forks. A small bouquet and a cluster of colored wineglasses adorn each plate, and the central ornament is a great vase, running over with flowers, that stands in a long flat mirror laid down the middle of the table, and edged with smaller flowers. But what sort of a comparison does it bear, what sort of a comparison do any of the tables of our gorging, guzzling ancestry bear to the description of a Roman dinner-table two thousand years ago, as the author of "Salathiel" gives it to us? "The guests before me were fifty or sixty splendidly dressed men, attended by a crowd of domestics attired with scarcely less splendor, for no man thought of coming to the banquet in the robes of ordinary life. The embroidered couches, themselves striking objects, allowed the ease of position at once delightful in the relaxing climates of the South, and capable of combining with every grace of the human figure. At a slight distance the table, loaded with plate glittering under a profusion of lamps, and surrounded by couches thus covered by rich draperies, was like a central source of light radiating in broad shafts of every brilliant hue. The wealth of the patricians and their intercouree with the Greeks made them masters of the first performances of the arts. Copies of the most famous statues, and groups of sculpture in the precious metals, trophies of victories, models of temples, were mingled with vases of flowers and lighted perfumes. Finally, covering and closing all, was a vast scarlet canopy, which combined the groups beneath to the eye, and threw the whole into the form that a painter would love."

VII.

THE SIDEBOARD.

FROM a little article that stood beside the altar in the churches, something which was neither a bench nor a table, being too high for the first and too small for the second, but on which were deposited the cup and bell and other articles used by the priest in offering the mass, originated several of our most important household articles. It soon became apparent that this was altogether too handy a piece of furniture to be surrendered to a single usage. It was presently transferred, or rather adopted, into the dwelling, and from this little credence, as it is called, sprung the étagère of our drawing-rooms, the sideboard of our dining-rooms, the dresser of our kitchens, and even the wash-stand of our bedrooms.

This article, up to the thirteenth century, was circular in its form, somewhat like a little tripod with a shelf between its legs near the floor ; but later it became square and oblong, the top serving for a 6helf additional to that between the legs, and under the top a small locked cup-Modem Gothic Sideboard. board, opening with two doors, like that of a cabinet. This is the form in which we know the credence to-day.

At first it was put near the dining-table, and was used for the tasting-cups that in those wicked times the servants of every lord were obliged to use before waiting on their masters, as a security against the fine art of poisoning.

A piece of furniture in the direct descent from this is the dumb-waiter, and not only the one which to-day slides up and down between the floors, but also the little servante which was the original credence on rollers pushed round the table from guest to guest, and carrying such things as were needed, so that one might enjoy the repast without a bevy of servants at the back, or without rising to wait on one's self. "It was at the end of the reign of Louis XIV.," says M. Viollet-le-Duc, "when a general reaction set in against the tiresome etiquette of the grand reign, that the credence became the servante. The gentleman who had a score of servants in his house found it insupportable to eat with three or four varlets standing by, ready with the fresh plate and pouring out the wine. He had the credence drawn up to the table, closed the door upon his lackeys, and then could chat at his ease with the two, three, or four guests at his table. Casters were put on the feet of the credence, and it took a name indicating its use. To-day the least shopkeeper who hires a man would feel dishonored if he were not waited on by him personally, and if he invites a friend, free to render the repast wearisome as at a hotel table, the lackey is sure to stand beside his chair."

But this modest demeanor was one very foreign to the nature of the credence, which was really that of display, and such was by no means the use made of the early credence. It stood behind the master, carrying the most costly of his cups and vases, and such pieces of goldsmith's work as he possessed; and from being at first very simple and unornamented, with the growth of splendor it became a sumptuous thing itself. It was doubled and quadrupled in size, enriched with carving and with the most exquisite iron-work in the locks and hinges to its little doors, given a back on which was carved the family escutcheon, and at last over the back a dais was raised; and with that we have the complete sideboard of the present day in its stateliest guise, although we oftenest see it without the crowning dais.

There were, however, various modifications of this shape on the way. When used merely for the display of splendid possessions in plate and jewellery, it was unprovided with the little locked cupboard beneath, those being kept in another article of furniture called the buffet, and brought out for show upon the credence, which was presently built up with two,

Early Credeuce.

three, or more shelves, and was exactly like the étagère of the modern drawing-room. This was toward the end of the fourteenth century, when the Dukes of Burgundy dazzled all France by their splendor, and every lord tried to rival his neighbor in fetes and exhibitions of treasure. Meantime the buffet was really quite another thing from the article which we now call by that name. Now, it is not only the place to deposit the treas-

Modcrii Gothic Bric-i-brnc Cnbiuet.

ure, but to exhibit it permanently also, as the glazed buffets fixed in the corner of the dining-room of many an old mansion testify. But the real buffet five hundred years ago was a temporary affair, and the name having been at first given to the closet where were shut up the precious articles, was afterward given to the temporary erection dressed to assist in the display of a great feast. The credence, that primarily had stood behind the master's seat, after it put on several shelves and a back and top, was placed against the wall; but the buffet was placed in the central space inside of the table shaped like a horseshoe and frequently used at state banquets, covered with rich stuffs, usually gold-wrought, and piled step above step with gold and silver plate, cups, vases, and glasses, when by good fortune those were owned. It used to be the custom to " offer a buffet" to sovereigns and ambassadors upon their entrance of city or fortress—that is, to present refreshments thus magnificently set out—the buffet itself and all that it contained, either of viands or plate, belonging then to the person thus honored. It was from the buffet of state banquets that the squires, waiting on their masters and mistresses, took the various plates and cups for distribution, and it was there that they found the dainties and the meats and wines, and it seems also to have served as carving-table, the dishes not being placed before the guests, but after our modern custom a la Itusse. The buffet, on the whole, would seem to have been a contingent of state display, and we have proudly transferred the name to the exhibition of whatever display we can make ourselves.

But in the rooms of the ladies, and in the halls of ceremony corresponding to the drawing-rooms of to-day, the credence, with its shelves and back, that had become the thing similar to the etagere, and now called the dressoir, was no less an object of glitter and parade. Etiquette severely prescribed the number of shelves and the shape of the back and of the dais suitable to the degree of the owner, and nobody thought of transgressing — the original credence, somewhat increased in size, answering for any one beneath the rank of a countess.

The sense of grace and color and the general aptitude for decoration in those old generations, beyond anything common with us, were never more apparent than in the decoration of this piece of furniture. In our day we are usually content to display our old china and our curiosities, without drapery, on the bare shelf or against the bare wall; but the medifeval taste knew the potency of light and shade Dutch Keuai88ttuce CubilieU

in falling folds of splendid stuff, and never failed to make use of them where possible. Thus they hung across the back of the credence richly colored and figured cloth, when it was not

Italian Cabinet, Ebouy inlaid with Ivory; Carvings illustrating Jerusalem Delivered, Sixteenth Century;

Veuetian Chair.

made more attractive by carving, and laid on every slielf a drapery falling over the front and down the ends, bordered and fringed and exquisitely wrought, making a "sunshine in shady place;" and, being thus dressed, the shelves were ornamented with the richest results of the golds! 11 itli's jirt, with antiques, with cups from Murano, with the

Italian Cabinet, Ebouy inlaid with Ivory; Carvings illustrating Jerusalem Delivered, Sixteenth Century;

Veuetian Chair.

spice boxes, the comfit pots, the perfume cases of the day, and must have been picturesque and splendid past imagination. Some reminiscence of this drapery is found in the tiny ornamental curtain occasionally hung before some recess of the modern reproduction of the sideboard. When at length the Italian took hold of this affair, he made of it a charming nondescript, full of grace and dazzle, and almost original in character, being neither closed cabinet nor open etagere. He made it of ebony, and inlaid it with turquoise, carnelian, and rock-crystal, and nothing was more striking, except it were the real cabinets sprnng from the locked and closed armory, one of which a Florentine traveller describes to us," which had about it eight Oriental columns of alabaster, on each whereof was placed a head of Caesar, covered with a canopy so richly set with precious stones that they resembled a firmament of stars. Within it was our Saviour's Passion, and the Twelve Apostles in amber. This cabinet was valued at two hundred thousand crowns."

VIII.

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