The revival of classical thinking in Italian city-states combined with a new way of thinking about man's role in the world order, had begun to change the whole way of life by the sixteenth century. There was a search for a replacement to the all-pervading Gothic style and the Renaissance was the result. The Italian achievement soon permeated most of Europe and inspired men to master the sciences, engineering and literature as well as the arts. The invention of printing, around 1440, encouraged the dissemination of pattern books which ensured that the new ideas, patterns and designs would be available to a wide marketplace.
In England, the Wars of the Roses destroyed the old feudal system and encouraged the growth of a middle class. The economy improved, and the role of the monarch was secured by Henry VII and his Tudor dynasty. The new wealth encouraged house building using braced-timber methods of post and beam construction. There was subsequently a demand for furniture to equip them.
Voyages of discovery, linked to trade with the East and the eventual opening of markets in the colonies led to an increase in profits, but also became the route by which new ideas of decoration and construction, as well as a variety of exotic materials, could be introduced. For example, there is an interesting connection between Florentine pietre dure and the same sort of work being undertaken in India at the same time.
The Renaissance spirit was developed into Mannerism in Italy and France during the sixteenth century. This had the effect of introducing the Grotesque, the Moresque, strapwork and perspective into designs. It was during Elizabeth I's reign (1558-1603) that the Mannerist style manifested itself in England with a vigour appropriate to the times.
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