Walnut Armchair

Showing combination of Flemish curves and Spanish hooped stretcher.

Fig. 327.

BEECH CHAIR, PAINTED AND GILT.

4 ft. 2 ins. floor to top of back; 2 ft. 3J ins. across front of seat. ; 1 ft. 5J ins. floor to top of seat.

Date 1670-5. R. Eden Dickson, Esq.

It may have been remarked, in the foregoing illustration, that a chair with arms permitted of a better form of construction than one without, by reason of the fact that the arm-balusters, prolonged above the seat to the arms, braced the seat-framing firmly together. The Stuart oak chair provided a stout framing between the legs at the top, into which the seat panel,- -nearly always solid,—was grooved. When constructional principles are sacrificed, it is nearly always an indication of a late and decadent fashion. Even after 16S0 some attempts appear to have been made to retain the maximum of strength which the new mode would allow7, as in the chair, Fig. 317, where the balusters and legs are effectively turned, and strongly tied with stretcher-rails, and the back-framing tenoned between the uprights in the early logical manner. A defined fashion appears to have existed for this revival of turning, as in the large arm-chair, Fig. 318, and the settee, Fig. 319. Both have the late detail of the flattened foot, in the first turned, but in the second square-moulded and carved, whereas in Fig. 317 the scrolled foot is of Spanish or Portuguese importation, often referred to as the " Braganza foot," a compliment to the Oueen Consort of Charles II. Other details of Portuguese origin were introduced at this period, which will be indicated in later illustrations. One of

Fig. 328. PERSIAN CARPET (ISPAHAN).

The type which was sparingly imported into England in the seventeenth century.

-Mid-sixteenth century.

Fig. 328. PERSIAN CARPET (ISPAHAN).

The type which was sparingly imported into England in the seventeenth century.

-Mid-sixteenth century.

A SECTION OF THE CARPET, FIG. 328, SHOWING THE DESIGN.

these, the Portuguese bulb, can be seen, in embryonic form, in the stretcher-railing of Fig. 31S.

The true James II chair, graceful in proportion, but with the weaknesses of construction which have been pointed out before, is shown in Fig. 320. The front legs have the strong Flemish double-curve, the back is tall, with side balusters fluted and reeded and the cresting rail of the back dowelled on them instead of being tenoned between. The open back has a central splat formed by a slender reeded muntin flanked by pendant husks, all finely carved. In spite of faulty construction, this is a finely proportioned and beautiful chair. The uneducated version of the same type can be seen in Fig. 321, which has the tradition of its time, but little designing ingenuity, being crude both in proportions and detail.

Faulty as these James II chairs are, indicating everywhere a decadent and debased fashion, the defects are less noticeable in the case of arm-chairs, for the reason just stated.

The social, and especially7 the aristocratic, life of England has always reacted upon the artistic craftsmanship of the nation. We have seen this, in a very striking manner, in the instance of the early7 furniture, and especially7 the woodwork, prior to the Reformation, as described and illustrated in the opening chapters of the previous volume. It is true that the fine productions of the joiner's craft in the fifteenth century were made for the Church, but this standard is not appreciably7 affected by the fact that this fine woodwork was made for clerical establishments. The absence of strife in those parts of England which were under the beneficent dominion of the Church, a state of rural peace coupled with practically7 no want nor privation, and an amount of leisure on the part of the artisans of England due to the easily procurable character of the subsistence of that period, all made for work of high artistic and technical skill. Time was neither reckoned, nor begrudged then, as it was during the latter part of the seventeenth century7, and scamped work is usually associated with depravity of artistic taste and a loss of fine constructional traditions.

A more or less settled state of affairs, such as during the reign of Charles II, did much to atone for the lack of the cultured and discriminating patronage of the Church of former ages. Architecture was fast becoming a distinct profession, well grounded in classical traditions by Inigo Jones in the first half, and his followers in the latter part of the seventeenth century7, and these architects had a direct influence on the interior decoration of their time, and, indirectly7, on much of the furniture which was produced. Furniture, other than chairs and their kindred pieces, does not lose its earlier sturdy

Fig. 330. WALNUT CHAIR

Tin- ornate back and hooped stretcher of c. 1685-90. Bond's Hospital, Coventry.

WALNUT CHAIR.

The Spanish-Flemish stretcher, c. 1685-90.

WALNUT CHAIR

likldenden Church, Kent.

On O

WALNUT CHAIR.

Height, .(ft. 3 ins. ; width, i ft. 7} ins. ; depth, 1 ft. 6 ins.

c. i6qo. Victoria and Albert ¡Museum.

Fig, 334. ' BEECH CHAIR, LACQUERED.

c. 1690. The Worcester Museum. Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Fig. 335. WALNUT CHAIR.

Messrs. Gill and Keigate.

Si o

character after the Restoration, and, although the fashion for chairs of lighter form and construction rapidly replaced the taste for the former cumbrous models, there is still a logical method pursued, and only departed from in the concluding years of the reign of Charles II.

With the accession of the Duke of York, under the title of James II, England was again in a turmoil for a space of about four years. The rebellion of Monmouth, the rise of the factions which favoured William of Orange, and the threat of strife and insurrection throughout England shook the Court and its satellites to their foundations. Neither life nor property was secure under the last of the Stuarts. A treacherous race,

Fig. 339. WALNUT SETTEE.

With original needlework covering on a morine ground.

Fig. 339. WALNUT SETTEE.

With original needlework covering on a morine ground.

they were known and^distrusted as such by all with whom they associated. True, Charles II had shown some gratitude to certain of those who had befriended him after Worcester, but his liberality, or rather his extravagant profusion, was that rather of sheer carelessless than of studied repayment for services rendered. It was soon realised that another libertine king was on the throne of England, and the period of profligacy which followed again impoverished the country, although it also fostered artistic productions in woodwork, furniture and fabrics, in the way in which an age of vice always has done and a sober and moral era has equally failed to do.

Considering the bigoted character of the last of the Stuarts, his short and unsettled reign before he fled, for safety, to the Court of St. Germains, it is not surprising that artistic craftsmanship in wood or silk declined from its former fine traditions ; it is surprising that anything was produced worthy of the name. The exiled French Huguenots were the saving factor, and show how the arts of a country are fostered and developed by the artisans, and not the aristocratic classes. There is little doubt that these French émigrés were largely, if not entirely responsible for many of the finer productions in the way of furniture, in the years from 1685 to 1689, as we know that their influence on the long-case clocks of the same period (from their signatures on the

Fig. 340. WALNUT ARM-CHAIR.

The Portuguese ball or bulb turning of 1G90 and the flat serpentine stretcher of 1695. c. 1695.

  1. The Hon. Richard Legh.
  2. 340. WALNUT ARM-CHAIR.

The Portuguese ball or bulb turning of 1G90 and the flat serpentine stretcher of 1695. c. 1695.

Capt. The Hon. Richard Legh.

  1. was immediate and manifest. Thus in chairs such as Figs. 322 and 323 there is a skill in designing, a capability of assimilating forms from France and the Low Countries, which only these cultured Frenchmen would have possessed. In Fig. 322 thflSpanish hooped front stretcher is used in a manner far more decorative than in Figs. 315 and 316, for example. The embryonic flat serpentine stretcher of Flanders can be seen here, a detail which became very general in the chairs of the next reign. The back is formed of eight curves, framing a caned panel flanked with pierced and well-carved scroll-work. There is an entire absence of the Flemish vigour and coarseness such as in Fig. 311, although the latter is a fine chair of its type.
  2. 323 is a beautiful chair of slightly earlier date, but of similar origin.

The designing "of

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