Oak Door From Buffet

iSi ins. high by 14J ins. wide.

Early sixteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.

to be distributed on certain occasions. It is significant that doles of this kind began to be general at the commencement of the sixteenth century ; they were unknown before, as up to 1470 living was so cheap that it was frequently included in the terms of hiring of the skilled worker in wood or stone, as we have seen in the earlier chapters of this book.

Fig. 38 is a standing cupboard of about 1550 ; an important piece for this date. The doors, which are central, the one above the other in the usual way, are pierced in crude Gothic tracer}', but the designs are of no period. In the upper door the crocketting is early fifteenth-century in character, whereas the door itself is sixteenth. The supposition that the design of the piercing of two lower side panels represents the feathers of the Prince of Wales and that the cupboard was made for Prince Arthur, the eldest brother of Henry VIII, Mr. Fred Roe, very rightly, rejects. The device is, more probably, a representation of a bill-hook, and Mr. Roe's contention that this device may represent a rebus on the name of its first owner may be correct. William Hook occurs as an easy solution, if one could establish the date when the Christian name was first known by

4 ft. 5 ins. wide by 2 ft. 2J ins. high by 1 ft. 7 ins. deep.

Late fifteenth Century. W. Smedley Aston, Esq.

its familiar diminutive. The cupboard came from Burwaston in Shropshire, and was presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Mr. Robert Mond, F.S.A., in 1912. Belonging to a type of furniture which has been extensively forged, there is no doubt as to its authenticity, although the apron-pieces uniting the front legs are certainly open to question.

The long oak panel, Fig. 39, carved in open piercing with stems of hop and oak may be introduced here to make a comparison between the fine work of the fifteenth century and that of the sixteenth. This panel, carved as it is with knowledge, skill and taste, is probably earlier than 1480, yet it shows a scholarly emancipation from much of the Gothic tradition which is truly remarkable for this period. There is, of course, enough of the Gothic in the forms of the openings, together w ith its fine execution, to establish an approximate date. It owes a good deal to the worker in iron.

Examples of chests of the thirteenth century are not plentiful, for obvious reasons, but those at Stoke d'Abernon in Surrey, Saltwood in Kent, York Cathedral and Felping, Midhurst, South Berstecl, Chichester Cathedral and Buxted, all in Sussex, and the very interesting chest at Bloxham in Oxfordshire may be cited as representative of their period.

4 ft. 6 ins. wide by 2 ft. 4! ins. liigh by 1 it. 7 ins. deep.

Late fifteenth Century. W. Smedley Aston, Esq.

4 ft. 6 ins. wide by 2 ft. 4! ins. liigh by 1 it. 7 ins. deep.

Late fifteenth Century. W. Smedley Aston, Esq.

Fourteenth-century chests are also rare ; only those of exceptional qualit}7, as a rule, appear to have been preserved. At South Acre, Hereford, (All Saints') Litcham, Wath, Huttoft, Brailes, Alnwick, Brancepeth, Hacconby, Oxford (St. Mary Magdalene), Derby (St. Peter's), Faversham, Chevington, Rainham and Canterbury (St. John's) very fine examples may be found. Others have already been illustrated in preceding pages. Coffers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are well represented here, and those of the seventeenth are legion.

The introduction of the Italian Renaissance ornament dates almost from the commencement of the sixteenth century, but its first important expression is in the tomb of Henry VII in "Westminster Abbey, the work of Pietro Torrigiano,- or Peter Torrisany as he is styled in the documents of the time,—who was commissioned for the work by the dead King's son, in 1509-17. That this was the first real expression of the Renaissance in England is doubtful ; the intercourse with France, although intermittent, had been too frequent for it to be necessary for a king to introduce the new style into this country. The Atherington screen, Fig. 132, Vol. I, for example, is an expression of the Renaissance ornament which is probably prior to Henry YII's tomb, certainly not long enough after to have been influenced by the new style from this source.

Figs. 40 to 43 show this early sixteenth-century Renaissance feeling at its best. A comparison of these with the panelling from St. Vincent at Rouen, illustrated in Fig. 274, Vol. I, will show the motive-inspiration. These panels were evidently

Late fifteenth century. Leonard G. Bolingbroke, Esq.

Late fifteenth century. Leonard G. Bolingbroke, Esq.

made for enclosing in grooved framing, as on the first two the sight markings are clearly visible.

A fine ruffle or lace-box, with carvings of similar character, but somewhat later type to the preceding, is illustrated in Fig. 44. The strap-work motif of the late sixteenth century, which aftenvards became such a paramount feature in the furniture of Elizabeth's reign, can be seen here in its early manner. The older solid form of construction is still adhered to, but the box is small, the front panel only 17 ins. by 5J ins., which probably dictated this method.

It must not be assumed because an improved form was not adopted that it was unknown at a particular date. It will be noticed in all the examples of chests and cupboards which have been illustrated, so far, that framing, whether of chest-fronts^or cupboard doors, is absent. The principle of tenoning and mortising st\les and rails together to form a frame, rebated on the back, or grooved, for the insertion of a panel, was well known as early as the fifteenth century, or even before, as much of the church work, screens and the like, demonstrate. The fifteenth-century chair from St. Mary's Hall, Coventry, shown in a later chapter, is an instance of framing, not at all in the manner of a novice, but showing that the principle was thoroughly understood and

3 ft. wide by i ft. 8i ins. high by l ft. 3 ins. deep.

Late fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.

practised. The method, once adopted, would prove so superior to the making of a door from a simple flat board (with its liability to warp and crack, especially when weakened by the piercing of tracery), that it would not be discarded readily. We must assume, therefore, that while framing was known, it was not adopted by the makers of these early chests, in spite of its manifest superiority. To say that framing was known to these men, and was ignored in favour of flat boards, is a hardy assumption ; it is more probable that they were not educated in the making of framing, which demands accurate mortising and tenoning if the frame is to be perfectly flat when put together. To the modern cabinetmaker this is a trifle, as he constructs framing almost every day, as a matter of course. Yet some may recollect their early efforts, where tenons were not cut perfectly parallel with the line of the rail itself, and where mortises were sunk not quite at the vertical right-angle, with the result that the frame would rock like a cradle when placed flat on the bench. It is one thing to know how a frame is constructed ; it is quite another to be able to make one.

We cannot assume an ability which was allowed to rust from disuse, however ; a facility, even when not practised, is not lost so easily. We must infer that the makers of chests were of another class to those who constructed panelling, pulpits or church screens, and researches prove this to be the fact. The Jutchcrs or ¡ntchicrs, or arkwrights

3 ft. 6} ins. wide by l ft. 5J ins. nigh by 1 ft. 6 ins. deep.

Late fifteenth cent jry. Victoria and Albert Museum

3 ft. 6} ins. wide by l ft. 5J ins. nigh by 1 ft. 6 ins. deep.

Late fifteenth cent jry. Victoria and Albert Museum as they are termed in documents of the time, were a class of furniture-makers held in much less esteem than the architectural woodworkers, or those who were responsible for panelling and screens. They appear to have separated themselves from the carpenters as early as the thirteenth century, and to have established a Guild of their own. That they were inferior, in constructive skill, to the carpenters, until the latter part of the sixteenth century, is proved by their work. The carpenter was nearly always church-directed ; the huchcr rarely so. Furniture of any description was small in variety and meagre in amount, and the trade of th<2 hucher could not have possessed the importance which it acquired at a later date.

Actually, up to the close of the fifteenth century, woodworkers were divided into three classes, all under the jurisdiction, in varying degrees, of the Guild of Master Carpenters. First in order of importance came the wood-sculptors or ymagers (Fr. iuiiieurs d'iiuagcs, Flemish bccldcvsnydcrs, modern German bildcvschneidcrs or bildhauers, literally hewers of pictures'* ; secondly the carpenters, and, lastly, the huchcrs, or makers of furniture. The latter only obeyed the stringent regulations of the Guild regarding the selection, cutting and seasoning of timber.1

Chests showing this Renaissance character are not exceptionally rare, and it is with them that we reach the period of framed construction, as adopted by the huchcr, as distinct from the carpenter, who had framed up panels nearly a century before. Fig. 45 is framed and panelled, with tenons secured in their mortises with wooden pins, in the manner which persisted throughout the seventeenth centun until its very close. The styles and rails are moulded 011 three sides, and chamfered below, in the manner of panelling. This fragment, however, is undoubtedly a part of a chest, but the absence of lock-plate, or provision for the lock itself, suggests that it is the back framing. The panels are curious and archaic, quite in the English manner of the period. On the left is represented Adam and Eve beneath the Tree of Knowledge. In the centre, two angels support a shield having on it the Passion Symbols, and on the right the decoration

1 How strict these regulations were, may be gathered from the following extracts from the records of the Carpenter's Company :—

Itiii paid to /geauntes for diuce tvines for restvng of stuffe Vjs

(Seizure of defective timber.)

It in paid to a /geaunte of the Mayes to areste stuffe and in expenc the same tyme ^ d

1503. 19 Henry 7.

Rec of a fcren carpen i to haue lycens to set vpp an howse w'in the

Serient in Chauncellor Lane XXd

(A ' foreign ' carpenter was one who had not been admitted to the Company.)

is one of stalked grotesque heads. The work is of the Midland type usually to be met with in Cheshire or Shropshire.

Fig. 46 is a complete chest of the same archaic character, but undoubtedly postReformation. Pieces of this type were frequently made by country hackers of little or no tradition, and were presented to churches. They were usually inscribed with the name of the donor or original owner. The carving is extremely crude. The framing is scratch-moulded and stop-chamfered, the inside muntins only being worked with a coarse ovolo section. The type appears to be Somerset of the mid-sixteenth century.

Chests of the so-called " Nonsuch " inlaid type, similar to Fig. 47, appear towards the end of the sixteenth century, but their nationality is questionable. The work is really parqueterie, rather than inlay or marqueterie,1 and although Tonbridge, at a later date, was the home of this industry,—hence the term " Tonbridge ware,"- it is more probable that it copied and adopted the method from chests of this type, rather than that the style originated in that part of Kent at this early period. The palace of Nonesuch, at Cheam, in Surrey, was built by Henry VIII in his later life, and was regarded as one of the wonders of England at that date. It was sold to the Earl of Arundel in 1555, but some fort}' years later it was repurchased by Elizabeth,, with whom it became a favourite residence. Presented by Charles II in 1670

1 The significance of the terms is explained in t hapter V of this Volume.

1 The significance of the terms is explained in t hapter V of this Volume.



to his mistress, Barbara, afterwards, Duchess of Cleveland, it was demolished by her. Hofnagle engraved a view of the Palace in 1582, which shows it possessing three towers capped with onion-shaped cupolas, such as are represented in the central panels of this chest. The peculiarity, in England, of cupolas of this kind that is, admitting the accuracy of Hofnagle's engraving, which there is no reason to doubt, —is some evidence for the English origin of these chests, especially as they are found in some numbers in this country.1

Fig. 48 is another example, which, from its strong similarity, in many of the details of the inlay, strongly suggests a common origin, for both, not only of country or locality, but even of actual maker. It must be remembered that inlay presupposes a master-pattern, or "pricking" (see Chapter V for a definition of this and other terms used

1 It has been suggested, with some plausibility, that the decoration •of these inlaid chests was copied from one of the buildings on old London Bridge.

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