LTHOUGH very few have had the audacity to attempt a whole house in a fantastic style, it has not been uncommon to see a conservatory and its anteroom in the Moorish, or a parlor in the Pompeian, or a cabinet—as certain small and more private rooms used to be called—in the Chinese; while the remaining rooms of the dwelling are merely in the prevailing fancy of the day, whatever that fancy happens to be.
It is a singular thing that two styles, originally the expression of two so very opposite religions and lives as the Saracenic or Moorish and the Gothic, should really have sprung from one and the same source, the Byzantine.
The art that arose in Byzance is called peculiarly the Christian art. Spurning all the elements of beauty in ancient art, it adopted only symbols that reminded the worshipper of his faith, just as the Egyptian had done. The Greek took the Egyptian symbols and used them, irrespective of their signification, for the sake of whatever loveliness was to be found in them; the Saracen took the Byzantine symbols and used them in precisely the same way. Some modification took place on the part of the Saracen, of course, as his religion expressly forbade the use of any imitation of a thing of life, and it required some art and artifice to evade the prescription. In the Byzantine all the beautiful old ornamental forms of Greek and Boman were rejected on account of their paganism; and the serpent, the cross, the fish, the vesica, with a few crude details, constituted the decoration of the primitive style—among these details the fleur-de-lis, or lily, emblem of purity, appearing long before it became the lily of France. The style was made all the easier for the Saracen by the fact that all its representations were conventional, the saint being known by his emblems and colors. The Saracen might have been safe in repeating them, for they certainly at first resembled nothing actually in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. In color, however, the Byzantine artist had free play, and here the Saracenic took advantage of its archeus, and used the richest tints with the most intricate variations.
As Byzantine art progressed, its symbolism became less oppressive, ¿nd its artists, who worked in a faithful spirit, exceedingly skilful. Little by little old forms crept in: the scroll was countenanced, rude and sharp, and feathering off its foliations into the sacred lily or fleur-de-lis; and after about five centuries of the old life it gave up the effort to separate itself, and adopted the greater part of the ancient forms to its own use and interpretation, handling them, of course, with less grace and freedom and less knowledge of appropriateness and purity than in the original, but yet making a much wider, and in many respects nobler, variation of itself than when, as before, the only notable ornaments were the tracery of serpents, the circles, and the cross crushing the serpent again. It is interesting to observe the departure of features of the style into the North, on the one hand, as germs of another and grander, carried there by means of the priesthood, and by the Northern soldiers who served in the empire, a very noteworthy vestige of which, the author of the "Analysis of Ornament" tells us, is to be seen in the "cross surrounded by the so-called Runic knot, which is only a Scandinavian version of the original Byzantine image — the crushed snake curling round the stem of the avenging cross;" and the departure into the South, on the other hand, as germs of a richer, gayer style, the companion of splendor and luxury, in its use by Greek artists compelled to obey Mohammedan direction and evolve the Saracenic, which insisted upon beauty, but insisted also upon obedience in some form to the commandment of making no " graven image."
When in the seventh century the Arabs captured Damascus, they got a fair share of the Byzantine beauty with it. They were a wandering, tenting race, suddenly launched into power and glory and the possession of walled cities, loving color and brilliancy, and dazzled by the splendor of the architecture and ornament of which they had just become the masters. They, too, must go to building; and palaces and tombs and mosques must be had; and as they had no artists of their own, of course the captive workmen, or, at any rate, those belonging to the conquered cities, must build for them, and build and work according to their requirements. There was no way of positively disobeying the Mohammedan will that chose to have the most elaborate ornament, but refused to have any actual form or imagery repeated; painting and gilding, stone and stucco, marquetry and mosaic, must be employed, and with designs of interest and beauty, but not an animal or vegetable shape must appear in those designs. But the Greek artists were a cunning folk. They were already by this time sufficiently skilful and ingenious to evade the law without precise disobedience. In all the Moorish cities examples of the way they did it are to be seen. The necessity under which they labored stimulated the fancy, and out of their old material they actually created a new style, as beautiful in its way as anything since styles began. It was a style of pure ornament; one had only to enjoy it, and no longer, as in the Byzantine or as in the Egyptian, to pause in the Aesthetic emotion for the sake of interpreting to and exhorting the religious one. It was a style, thus it may be seen, of beauty of line, not of object. A curve was saved from weakness by an accompanying angle; an angle was softened by a curve; the whole was interlaced and woven with bands in arches and ogees and with little petal-like shapes arranged with symmetry in every space and interstice. There were horns of plenty that paused just on the verge of being horns of plenty pouring out their fruits and flowers; there were anthemions that the Arab never knew for an anthemion; there were pastoral crooks turning into scrolls, questioning whether they were not stems of blossoms; there were flower and leaf shapes that caught themselves back just declaring their identity. They suggest, but they do not complete, the parallel; in all cases the precise resemblance is avoided the moment before it is too late. Besides all this, there was a world of strap-work—a sacrifice perhaps to the trim and tackle of the gay Arab horsemanship; and there were introduced everywhere Arabic inscriptions, each character and stroke of which was treated as though it were itself a flower. The crescent, by-the-way, does not at all appear in any early or pure Saracenic work. It had been in use in Byzance from time immemorial as a type of the civic gratitude to Providence, a new moon having once revealed a threatened night attack upon the city, and Byzance itself, with its crescent, did not belong to the Mohammedan power till the middle of the fifteenth century.
Of course all this swarming multitudinous ornament could not be grouped without some reference to schemes of arrangement already existing in the artist's mind and memory; and probably to this are due its perfect symmetry and certain standard effects in the desigu which always governed and controlled the whole.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Moorish style, after the horseshoe arch, to the casual glance, are the beauty and variety of its patterns of diaper; and as it covers the surface of its walls with this diaper, it has always had a great field for their development. The colors are chiefly blue and crimson thrown up with silver and gold in profuseness, the pattern of the tracery exceedingly intricate, although recurrent, and the suggested floral shapes of the gilding giving the whole wall, with its usual light colors and airy arches, a joyous and exquisite ensemble — a beauty constantly renewing itself with fresh complications of lines, and thus never palling upon the fancy, as sooner or later all other sorts of too luscious beauty will. These diaper patterns were originally in imitation of the rich stuffs that the Arabs treasured, and with which the East supplied them—stuffs that not only supplied designs to the Arabs, but were the source of almost all the European wall-decoration, as well as of much other ornament. " It is evident," says Mr. Hayes, in his charming article upon the precious stuffs of the Middle Ages, " that the arts of design and decoration came to Europe from the East with the stuffs of India, China, Persia, and Greece, which European artists imitated not only in the walls of religious and civil edifices, but in the smaller details of construction, in works of jewellery and enamels and illuminations. So closely were Oriental designs imitated, that the Arabian inscriptions, traced upon the tissues coming from Mussulman countries, became arabesques under the pencils of European artists and decorators." And Mr. Hayes further adds that " as the gold woven in the most ancient fabrics of the East still remains undimmed by rust or time, so do golden threads of Oriental taste survive not only in the ornamented tissues of the present day, but upon the hangings of our walls, the friezes of our apartments, the mouldings and scroll-work of our furniture, and the chasing and engraving of our plate and jewellery." Elsewhere we are told that the cloths of Genoa, the tapestries of Arras, all damasks, and even our modern wall-papers, were and are, when in good taste, obedient to the spirit of these Moorish diapers and their Oriental archetypes, which latter, indeed, are said first to have suggested painting to the Athenians.
This Moorish work is evidently something more in accord with the summer palaces of wealth than with the homes of people whose income is restricted, although we see no reason why every house, however small, where there are any means at all, should not cherish a little conservatory, and there some features of the style may always be indulged, such as arcades of the delicate columns upholding those lovely Moorish arches that are so light and buoyant and beautiful that, when the wall surface about them is decorated with gilding and colors, they seem just about to soar aloft like so many bubbles. Of course, wherever the Moresque may be adopted, nobody expects to see anything like the palaces of the Moorish nobles of Granada, their halls paved with the richest mosaics, their walls inlaid with cedar or decorated in azure and gold and vermilion, with fountains in all the courts, or like the Tower of the Princesses in the Alhambra, which Washington Irving describes as divided into "fairy apartments beautifully ornamented in the light Arabian style, surrounding a lofty hall the vaulted roof of which rose almost to the summit of the tower. The walls and the ceilings of the hall were adorned with arabesques and fretwork sparkling with gold and brilliant pencilling. In the centre of the marble pavement was an alabaster fountain set round with
aromatic slirnbs and flowers, and throwing up a jet of water that cooled the whole edifice, and had a lulling sound. Round the hall were suspended cages of gold and silver wire, containing singing-birds of the finest plumage or sweetest note." Nor 6hall we find anything exactly like the house to which one of the Three Girls carried the Porter, in the "Tales of the Thousand Nights and One Night:" "A fair court-yard, built by rule of geometry very excellently, the essence of composition and proportions; and there was a balcony and awnings to it, and minarets, and private rooms with curtains hung before them, and in the midst of the court-yard a large tank filled with water, and in it a fountain, and at the upper end of the courtyard a raised dais of cypress-wood set with gems, with a loose curtain hung about of red damask silk, the buttons of it pearls as large as nuts, and larger."
This, indeed, is all very picturesque and pretty in the past and 011 the poet's pages; but with our modern everyday life it is unnecessary to MoreaQue ^ Mirror< ^ Vaise say that it is not at all in unison, and its use to any great extent is contrary to the common-sense of the day. None but the very wealthy and those that can afford eccentric surprises in their dwellings can be advised to adopt a summer parlor, or a smaller cabinet, in the Morisco. Of course, wherever it is used, it is in connection with the richest tints and gilding, with the most sumptuous gold-threaded material for coverings of the various articles of furniture, which all follow the standard Saracenic outlines, and as a general rule are entirely covered with drapery and cushions, revealing no wood-work, after the fashion of the divans of the East. Neither pictures
nor statues can accompany it; but all sorts of summer-life suggestions are in keeping with it. There should be plate-glass windows, that give the sense of out-door enjoyment through their clear space, looking into a garden where a fountain plays, or else latticed with gilt and opening into conservatories; household pets are a part of it too, birds in gilt cages, parrots swinging in their hoops; and in a room furnished in the Moresque, after gilding, diaper paper, lattices, divans, the great vases familiar in the "Arabian Nights," and mats upon cool floors have done their best, the guitar and some great foreign-looking tropical plants must not be forgotten in producing the general effect.
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