Materials

Different sorts of wood1) were used in Italy at that time. Chestnut, elm and poplar were employed for ordinary

') Schiaparelli says (in the work cited above p. 23 and sequ). that till 1384 fixed measurements were prescribed by the Florence guild of cabinet-makers for the single types of furniture. The employment of different woods and the application of profiled mouldings which would have rendered difficult the presence of veneer being seen, were prohibited. Previous to being painted or mounted with woven stuffs or leather (only ass's leather was permitted) a guild foreman closely examined the pieces of furniture. Permission to make it otherwise than according to prescribed rules (called extralegal! or isfoggiati) was only granted against payment of a certain tax. This became more and more the fashion in elegant households for as early as 1418, veneered furniture, decorated with mouldings and intarsias are mentioned in one inventory. The plain pieces of furniture (called regolati) were removed into the top story, or the servants1 rooms, or sold to more humble citizens. In the country they probably were preserved longest, as we may infer from inventories of the XVth century in which they are designated "selvático". Decisive for this evolution was the discovery of the saw-mill in the XIVth century and consequent upon it a most important constructive innovation was introduced in the XVth century, namely the forming of furniture out of framework and fillings, a circumstance which Schiaparelli omitted to mention. Carpentry was now supplanted by cabinet-making, dove-tailing came also into use at that time (fig. 19) vide: Robert Schmidt, as cited above, pp. 38—40, 46 and 70—72); and J. Brinckmann, Hamburgisches Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, description of furniture and wood-carving, pp. 3—9.

2) No account is taken here of furniture made of other materials, such as iron bedsteads, lamp-brackets, washhand stands (figs. 51 and 58) or marble tables and marble wall-basins (figs. 536-7).

furniture, and also for the ground-work of intarsias. Pitch-pine, stone-pine, cypress, yew-tree and ash were 1 more highly valued, but the highest esteemed and most frequently chosen material for costly objects was the hard, dark-toned walnut« especially since the age

12. Rome about 1475. Marble Altar Balustrade

Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, Berlin

12. Rome about 1475. Marble Altar Balustrade

Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, Berlin of the High Renaissance when people had come to know that the noblest effects are obtained by the material 4 itself, and not merely by the employment of colours and inlays. It is true, even at that time, both wood and gilding of single parts of the furniture were painted ^ over with transparent colours, in order to bring about a complete harmony of the whole. But this transparent V colouring did not conceal the grain of the wood, which, in truth, is its soul; and well preserved pieces of this kind, with the lustreless polish of the wax-coating, possess most of the beauty of antique bronzes hoary with lovely patina1).

In the early part of the epoch panelling, chests, bedsteads, and other articles of furniture were decorated V^ith coloured paintings or intarsias, or the fronts of the coffers were ornamented with flat stucco-reliefs either ventirely gilded over, or partly painted in colours2). It may be that this technique was originally a substitute for more costly gilt-enamelled copper-plates of the Holy Shrines. Stuff and leather mountings seem also to have been of frequent use in earlier times; in later ones when employed at all, it was only for the facings of v the chests. But as a covering for upholstered seats

  1. In many cases this effect is barbarously spoiled either by injudicious restoration or by varnishing the objects over.
  2. This technique was longest preserved in Venice, where it was employed together with narrow arabesque ornaments on a blue ground, as late as the middle of the XVIth century. Casts were first made and the forms then only touched up where it seemed necessary, this is proved by the recurrence of the same design on different chests. (Vide: 77, also Schub-riag, Cassoni, p. 229, No. 44 and p. 232, No. 62.)

these materials have gained an always increasing importance since the XVIth century; previous to this epoch, chests, benches, and chairs were simply spread over with stuffs, or cushions. Ornamentation by means of intaifeia^ work, known as early as the XIVth century, which developed into richer forms after 1450, denotes a progress towards a right treatment of the material1). Originally the artists merely availed themselves of the contrast between the dark brown ground and the light inlay, employing geometrical forms only; afterwards heraldic forms, bands, festoons, chandeliers, cornucopiae and vases, arabesques with masks of animals, cherubs and fabulous beings became popular. The employment of dif-^ ferent kinds of wood, either in their natural colours or dyed, afforded a modest scale of colours between yellow, grey, green, brown and black; but it was just this limitation which stimulated the imagination of the artists; and when the striking effect obtained by simple perspective foreshortening, and the suitableness for intarsia motives of this kind was recognised, this art soon attained a quite peculiar florescence2). Figural representations now alternated with landscapes and pictures of open cupboards containing all sorts of objects; and it was precisely this still life, — the first since the classic period — which enjoyed a general favour on

o rari v

13. Rome about 1475. Marble Altar Balustrade

Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, Berlin account of its surprising realism (figs. 154—5). Most of such representations are to be found on church furni-

*) Vide: Demetrio Carlo Finocchetti: Delia scultura e tarsia in legno dagli antichi tempi ad oggi (Annali del Ministero di Agricoltura, Industria e Commercio). Firence 1873, with a detailed register of the best known wood-carvers and intarsia-makers. pp.289—306.

2) Benedetto Dei, in his chronicle (about 1474) mentions the existence of eighty-four wood-carvers' and intarsia-makers' workshops at that time in Florence (Schiaparelli, in the above cited book, p. 243).

apartment of the abbess in the Parma nunnery must have been a charming work of art when below Cor-reggio's frescoes the delicately carved furniture, part of which is now in the Parma Museum, was in its destined place (fig. 547).

There were, and are even to-day, far fewer pieces of j furniture in the rooms of the Italians than in those of a like size on the other side of the Alps. This stately spaciousness appears to us almost emptiness, and more especially the ceremonial apartments, which were furnished with carpets, cushions and hangings only on festival occasions, Mnust have seemed cold and bare at ordinary times. We gather from pictures that already in the middle ages stuffs played a great role in the interior decorations. /Often costly oriental ^ or Italian woven materials may have been used to cover roughly put together pieces of furniture, for only during the renaissance did they receive that perfection of form which allowed of their being exposed to the scrutiny of_ all comers.

• In the sleeping apartments the ampl§ bed often occupied the most prominent place. In reception and living-rooms the centre was sometimes emphasied by a table V which not infrequently was of monumental form. Chests, benches and sideboards were placed along the walls, especially the first mentioned, which, as late as the XVIth century were predominate everywhere1), lending to the whole of the wooden furniture the appearance of being a determinate part of the architecture, forming a kind of . base to the wall. It was no mere chance, but from: what has been said, it rather seems natural that the Gothic. cupboards with long slender columns never found way in Italy (figs. 235—6); just as coffers with a high substructure open in front are only of exceptional occurrence, and then only near the Alps (fig. 98). Neither did these substructures, or chests supported only by slender pillars, conform to the taste of the southerner. ^The big sideboard and most of the coffers were planted terra firma on the ground. Only the smaller cupboards ^ and the chests were provided with low feet, and in the high renaissance frequently finished off with an ornamental carved and painted stretcher to hide the otherwise empty space, (fig. 138).

The predilection for such a primitive object of furni-

') In inventories they are far more numerous than all other pieces of furniture, Vide Bode, p. 29 and sequ, figs. 4, 5 and 35.

ture as the coffer, which yet allowed of so manifold a use, was traditional since the middle ages and primitive forms as self-understood and purposeful as were the simplest form of architecture for tables and bedsteads, cupboards and chairs. But it was just this almost as- „ cetic plainness which constituted the postulate for its developmentFor here no traditional form of expression derived from a different feeling for style stood in the way, when motives of monumental architecture were taken over and changed in accordance with the new task and material. Moreover the custom of a plain but ^ solid performance was a preservative against the danger of a too rapid growth of rich or even overdone forms and flamboyant ornamentation, before the single types of furniture had developed into a shape best suitable to their respective purposes.

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