FURNITURE OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY OTHIC furniture reached its highest development in the fourteenth century.
The exaggerations that characterized the work of the late Gothic school, when grotesque heads and distorted animals were introduced into many forms of carving, were unknown at this time. The furniture of this period held to a few vital principles and these were embodied in the plainest as well as in the most elaborate pieces. The trefoil and the quartrefoil used in connectipn with the pointed arch, were the chief motifs in wood-carving. The tracery was simpler than in the designs of the succeeding century when furniture-makers followed the lead of the architects, and used ornament with a lavish hand.
Chests were still important items in household inventories, but their original supremacy was over. In their wake followed a host of pieces, the very names of which are now obsolete. Standards, bahuts, and hanapers were all a development of the chest, but each had its special significance and each its particular place. Standards held implements of the chase, bahuts belonged to the housewife and contained stores of linen, and in hanapers were concealed the family valuables.
Cupboards, literally meaning "boards containing cups," came into use during this period, and furniture was further supplemented by the credence which was of church origin. Like the dressoir it served the purpose of a buffet or serving table. Viollet-le-Duc illustrates a credence of the late Gothic period which contains four shelves, arranged like steps, each one filled with gold and silver vessels. The dressoir was of simpler form and a less costly article. The dresser as a piece of dining room furniture still retains its original significance. The use of the word to designate a dressing-table or a bureau is modern and quite incorrect.
The distinction between a press and a cupboard was in the beginning clearly defined. The cupboard was made without doors and was scarcely more than a shelf on a trestle. In the fifteenth century the cupboard, the press, and the armoire were more nearly alike. The significance of the word armoire is somewhat obscure, and one upon which, writers on furniture are not agreed. Frederick Roe, in his book, Ancient Coffers and Cabinets, suggests that the original purpose of the piece of furniture thus designated, was to hold armor.
During the fourteenth century the hall retained its feudal character. Life had grown more luxurious, but the general plan of the house was unchanged. In the manor house a "withdrawing-room" was added to the lower story, taking the place of the Norman parloir. The modern drawing-room is an evolution of this early apartment which was primarily for the use of the mistress of the house.
The bedroom was furnished with more comforts and showed a greater change than' any other portion of the home. The bed had become a bedstead in the usual acceptance of the term. The original meaning of the word "bedstead" was "place for a bed." During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, except among the opulent, sleeping arrangements were very primitive. Testers were introduced at the time of the Conquest, and "tester beds," or "tent beds," are mentioned by early historians. During the fourteenth century the bedstead assumed another character and was often the most ornamental piece of furniture in the house. Some of the Gothic beds suggest carved cages, others are fine examples of wood-carving, and show a beauty of construction unknown in the canopy beds of a later date. A fine example of a Gothic bed is seen in the bedchamber of the Castle Meran, located in the German Tyrol. A large portion of this stronghold dates from the twelfth century, but the room illustrated here is of a later period. The doors and windows show the pure Gothic arch and the furniture exhibits the simple tracery which was such a beautiful feature of wood carving of this period.
A new article of furniture in the shape of an elevated chest, the cabinet of a later day, came into vogue about the middle of the century and was of Italian origin. Chairs, with the exception of folding-stools, were of huge proportions, and were made more massive by the addition of wooden canopies. Tables, on the other hand, were exceedingly simple, and formed a striking contrast to the rest of household furniture. They were made solely for utility, and outside of Italy were overlooked by the decorator. In design they were long and narrow, but the trestle supports of the previous century had given place to more careful workmanship. One form of table was made with the "bolt and slot construction," a modern *term expressing mediaeval methods. This table is chiefly interesting inasmuch as it shows how closely arts and crafts workers have copied early designs.
While all handicraft of this period was marked by beauty of design and honest workmanship each country excelled in certain lines. The Italians led in the handling of low relief and in the application of color to ornament. Their work, particularly that of the Florentines, was characterized by great delicacy of feeling. The Germans were especially skilled in the execution of elaborate floral and heraldic motifs. The locks, hinges, and keys of cupboards and presses received as much attention as the carving of the wood, and often formed an important part of the decoration. The French, from the first, were a nation of furniture-makers, and although their handicraft lacked the exquisite finish of the Italians it fully equaled the work of the south in beauty of design.
The Swiss were adepts in wood-carving and the Tyrolese, in this century, de-
veloped a unique school of ornament. Their furniture was partly French, partly German in character, and yet with certain qualities peculiar to itself. The Scandinavians were masters of a rude style of carving, half religious, half mythological, in subject. The work of the Danes was patterned after that of the Germans, as was also that of the Austrians. The Russians, until the beginning of the Romanoff dynasty, followed Byzantine canons, and the Poles and the Hungarians followed the Russians. The Dutch and the Flemings lagged behind the other nations in the art of furniture-making. It was not until the sixteenth century that they equaled either the French or the Germans in this particular. But Flemish and Dutch furniture remained beautiful and individual long after that of the French had become exaggerated and absurd. The Spaniards never adopted the Gothic style pure and simple in either their home architecture or their furniture. Spain, at this time, was a power on the high seas, and Spanish woodwork combined the designs of many countries. The Portuguese, when not at war with the Spaniards, copied them slavishly. The English selected the best of all that Normandy and Flanders sent to their shores and made it their own.
The fourteenth century inaugurated a new era in domestic architecture. The religious enthusiasm of the people, inspired by the crusades, was over, and the zeal which was previously lavished on churches was now expended on dwellings. The origin of many famous castles in England and France may be traced to this activity.
FURNITURE OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY
german chest, late fourteenth century
The rapid progress of home architecture was not confined to the dwellings of the nobility. The improvement in the houses of the middle classes was no less remarkable. Hand in hand with the outward betterment went an inward transformation. The comforts which were known hitherto only in the homes of the opulent were now to be found in humbler circles. Class distinctions were more sharply drawn , but class privileges were extending. So prosperous did the trades-people of Paris become that an edict was passed by Charles the Fair limiting the household possessions of half the Parisians. No bourgeois could use wax candles or sleep under a canopy of gold Genoa cloth. A similar law in England, framed under Edward III, regulated the number of tapestries that a merchant might hang in his house and the number of yards of Flanders embroidery his wife might wear on her gown. In England the law was made in order to exclude French and Flemish merchandise and to compel the people to patronize home industries. In France it was passed to hold in check the growing ambitions of the trades-people and to prevent their encroaching on the rights of their superiors.
The fourteenth century was an important one in England's history. The cowardly Edward II was succeeded by the illustrious Edward III, and during the latter's long reign events took place at home and abroad that exerted a powerful influence on England's future. The victories of Crócy and Poitiers were not more memorable than certain acts of Parliament; less so, perhaps, than that measure passed in 13G2, which established the English language as the speech of the nation. The use of French was discontinued at court and Norman customs went out of fashion.
The long siege with France had brought about a reaction in favor of English productions. Edward's marriage to Philippa of Hainault had strengthened the tie between England and Flanders, but as the war across the channel progressed, and the Flemings were drawn into the conflict, this friendship cooled. Commerce ceased with Flanders tyrolean table and the king framed laws to prevent the sale of Flemish articles. These royal edicts fostered the home arts, and English houses were furnished with home-made articles.
Many of the finest baronial halls of England and Scotland were built in part during the reign of Edward III. Savoy Castle on the Thames, erected by the earl of Richmond, in 1245, was remodeled a century later by the first duke of Lancaster who spent a fortune on it. Here, after the battle of Poitiers, resided the captive ' king, John of France, here came on many occasions that idol of the people, the Black Prince, and here Chaucer lived for a year as the guest of John of Gaunt and his wife, the young duchess of Lancaster. Chaucer composed many of his most famous poems at Savoy, and met within its doors "the fair Lady Philippa, whom he afterward married. John of Gaunt maintained a style of living surpassed only by that of the royal family. The tapestries, furniture, paintings, and plate of Savoy were, according to an old writer, "as fine as anything in Christendom." Part of the architecture of Haddon Hall is late fourteenth century. The great banquet-room still retains its Gothic woodwork and its traceried windows, built by the Vernons, who owned the estate at that time. Lynes in Cheshire, erected on ground granted by the king to Sir Petryn Leigh, for valor displayed at Crécy, is a stately pile, and has preserved something of its first semblance. Cotehile in Cornwall, Glamis in Scotland, and Norworth Castle on the Border, the latter first occupied by Percy Hotspur, the hero of Chevy Chase; all trace their grim walls and grim histories to the time of the third Edward. Hardly less renowned is Sizergh Hall in Westmoreland, bearing on its crenelated tower a sculptured shield with the quarterings of the d'Aincourts and the Stricklands. This bit of English heraldry is unusual, as it is one of the earliest examples of the placing of the arms of the wife before those of her husband—a custom unknown before the fourteenth century. Sizergh Hall in Queen Elizabeth's reign was famous for its beautiful woodwork and furniture. The paneling of one room in this old castle is now in the Kensington
FURNITURE OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY
Museum, and ranks as one of the finest examples of its day.
In Penshurst, near Tunbridge Wells, the great entrance hall has not been altered since it was built by Sir John de Poulteney who was four times lord mayor of London, and who was noted "for his public charities, magnificent housekeeping, and splendid achievements.,, From Sir John it passed to the duke of Bedford, then to the duke of Gloucester, and later to Buckingham. In 1447 it became the property of the crown, was bestowed upon Sir William Sydney by Edward VI., after the battle of Flodden Field, and descended from him to Sir Philip Sydney, with whose name the fame of Penshurst is chiefly associated. Many descriptions of the ancient hall have been given. "The pointed timbered roof is supported by a series of grotesque corbels, each the size of life," says a writer of the early eighteenth century. " The screen of the gallery is richly carved and paneled. The minstrel's gallery fills the side opposite the dais. The Gothic windows are narrow and lofty. Every object calls to mind a feudal age. The oak tables on which retainers feasted still occupy the hall."
In striking contrast to this English interior of the fourteenth century is M. Sauval's description of an apartment in the Hotel de Boheme, erected by Charles V and occupied in 1388 by the duke of Orleans. "I shall not attempt," he writes, "to speak of the cellars and wine-cellars, the bakehouses, the fruiteries, the salt-stores, the fur-rooms, the porters' lodges, the guard-rooms, the woodyard, or the glass-stores; neither shall I describe the tapestry-room, the linen-room, nor indeed any of the various conveniences which were then to be found in the yards of this place, as well as in the abodes of other princes and nobles. I shall simply remark that, among the many suites of rooms which com-
tyrolean cupboard,late fourteenth century posed it, two occupied the first and second stories of the main building. The first was raised some few feet above the ground floor of the court, and was occupied by Violet of Milan and her husband, Louis of Orleans. Each of these two suites of rooms consisted of a great hall, a chamber of state, a large chamber, a wardrobe- room, and a chapel. The state chambers were eight toises, that is, about fifty and a half feet long. The duke's chambers were six toises and a half square, and lighted by long and narrow windows of wire work, with Gothic trellis work of iron. The wainscots and the ceilings were made of Irish wood, the same as in the Louvre. Among the ornamental furniture were a large vase of silver for holding sweetmeats and a fine wooden casket covered with vermilion cordovan, nailed and bordered with a narrow gold band and shutting with a key."
The ancient chronicle of M. Sauval would be incomplete without a reference to the gorgeous Spanish leathers in Boheme. "In this palace," he continues, "there was a room used by the duke, hung with cloth of gold bordered with vermilion velvet, embroidered with roses. The duchess had a room hung with vermilion leather decorated with cross-bows, which were her coat of arms. That of the duke of Burgundy was hung with cloth of gold, embroidered with windmills. There were, besides, eight carpets of glossy texture, with gold flowers, one representing the seven virtues and seven vices, another the history of Charlemagne, another that of Saint Louis. There were also cushions of gold, twenty-four pieces of vermilion leather of Aragon, and four carpets of Aragon leather."
Few descriptions of the homes of the people are on record. Litchfield, in writing of a French house of this period, states that chests, more or less carved and ornamented with iron work, settles of oak and chestnut, stools or benches with carved supports, a bedstead and a prie-dieu chair, and a table with a plain slab, supported on standards, would nearly complete the furniture of the chief room in the house of a well-to-do merchant.
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