End Of The Pure Jacobean

TWO matters influenced greatly the furniture makers of the middle of the seventeenth century. And these had less to do with kings and courts than with humble folk. One was the invention of a saw, the kind of a saw that would divide a plank into as many thin sheets of wood as were desired. Naturally, those who looked upon these thin sheets imagined new ways of using them for the embellishment of furniture.

Heavy carving had been almost the only ornament when inch-thick planks were the usual material. Now, a wondrous field of possibilities lay before the ambitious in the way of inlay and veneer. Possibly André Boulle in France gave the inspiration, but even so the English inlay is a matter all by itself. From the invention of that saw arose a style of decoration that developed from such simplicity as the rare and occasional flower seen on early Jacobean panels, to the exquisite elaboration known as the seaweed pattern, and other masses of curving filaments, which found highest perfection in the last quarter of the century.

The cabinets on Plates 18 and 19 illustrate the almost unbelievable fineness of the work. In the larger cabinet the inlay is drawn with a free hand and is less characteristic of English design than the other, excepting the naïveté of the birds and trees, and the central panel wherein a gaily caparisoned youth strides a horse held by an infinitesimal blackamoor—a bit of the East's submission thus noted.

Wherever a plain surface was found, the new ornament seized it. Cabinets and chests of drawers offered the best opportunities, but next to them were tables. The tops gave a fine field—although there is always a lack of unity of feeling between a table maker and a table user. The one thinks the table should be left inviolably empty, the other regards it as a rest for books and bibelots. But there is also the drawer of the table and its apron, so upon these the inlay designs were put in all their dainty beauty of design.

This class of work must not be in any way confused with the Dutch inlay of a later epoch and which is imitated to-day ad nauseam. If you have naught else to guide you in knowing the old English from modern Dutch, there are the shapes of the pieces on which the inlay is put, besides the pattern of the work.

The second matter which made a change in the general aspect of furniture in the second half of the seventeenth century was the use of walnut wood in

English Jacobean Furniture

Plate XVIII—MARQUETRY CABINET ABOUT 1700 Showing Outch Indian influence in its design and ornament

Seaweed Marquetry Cabinet


With veneer and inlay of seaweed pattern showing the extreme skill of cabinet workers in the second half of the XVII century. Drop handles are noticeable place of oak. It is a pretty bit of history, that of the rich-toned walnut. As far back as Elizabeth's day furniture of that wood was imported from Italy in all its beauty of design, colour and finish. The wise queen ordered trees brought from Italy and forests planted, that England might have a supply of the admired wood. She did not live to see the trees of use, but in the century following hers, it came suddenly into vogue. Imagine the delight of those who had been working in the more obdurate oak, to feel this finer, softer wood under the tool.

Putting together the invention of the saw which could slice wood as thin as paper as well as fret it into sea-weed, and the adoption of walnut wood, still another type of beauty in furniture was produced, that of the plain large-panelled scheme. By cunning skill panels of walnut veneer were produced where the grain of the wood supplied the design. Add to this the wonderful finish of the cabinet-maker, and the piece had the beauty of bronze and the simplicity of classicism. But no picture can give adequate idea of the beauty of the old burr walnut. Its bronze surface of innumerable tones, all polished by generations of caressing hands and never by varnish, must be seen and touched to be appreciated. The patine of time is heightened by the patine of affection, and both together make of the plain walnut furniture a thing of appealing beauty to those who love restraint in ornament.

A word about this thing we call patine. It began in these old pieces with the original finish of the old maker, who, having done all of the work himself, was tenderly careful of results. This early necromancer played on the wood of his precious meuble with soothing oil,,with tonic of turpentine and with protective wax. With the oil he fed the open pores of the wood, until all were filled against the attack of less judicious nutriment, then with pungent turpentine and fragrant honest wax, he rubbed patiently the surfaces. No varnish, as he valued his art. Varnish as we know it now was not in his laboratory. It was not needed when every man was lavish of the labour of his hand.

Thus was begun the patine for which we collectors cry to-day. But the assistance of the housewife was a necessary adjunct, for never through all the centuries must she do other than rub with oil and wax the fine old oak and walnut. I have seen the work of centuries destroyed by a modern vandal with a can of varnish.

The lawns of England are made by centuries of unremitting care. The patine on old English furniture is brought about by the same virtue. If there be any who do not value the rare old finish, then for his household wares the manufacturers provide a vat of varnish into which whole sets of chairs are dipped to avoid even the labour of brushing on a coat of the shiny stuff.

Roundhead and Cavalier each had to be suited with furniture, so the varying styles, the elaborate and the plain, met all requirements. In the midst of it all reigned Charles, the second of the Stuart kings, fostering art with his wondrous assistant Van Dyck, and making a thousand mistakes in the art of government, yet ever standing a romantic figure. We feel an interest in all that concerned his life as a man, feeling more pity than indignation at his futile descent upon Parliament to pluck therefrom the five members who offended him. And who does not, when in London, glance at his high-bred marble effigy at Whitehall with a secret sympathy for his miserable end? We all love a gentleman, and time has nothing to do with effacing that. The elegance Charles I introduced into his time delights us now, and we thrill at the thought of owning any of the fine accessories with which he or his nobles surrounded themselves.

After Charles came the Commonwealth. Republican as we are, we feel an unaccountable revolt against any suggestion of Cromwell's taste in life's elegant accessories. He was the great Commoner, and as such has no skill at dictating fashions for aristocrats. So we accord to him a leather-covered chair with spiral turned frame, and a gate-leg table, feeling he should be grateful for the award, as even these things were not of his own invention.

Of the two great divisions, the Cavaliers and the

Roundheads, the aristocratic party fell into subjection. All that was austere came to the fore, and all that had the charm of gaiety and mirth, elegance and extravagance, was disapproved by those in power. Cromwell's personality did not inspire the makers of pretty kickshaws for my lady's boudoir, nor luxuries for my lord's hall. So nothing was to be done by the cabinet-makers but to repeat the previous styles.

The asceticism of the Puritan inspired no art in the few years of Roundhead rule, but there is no telling what might have happened had Cromwell stayed several decades in power. At the end he took most kindly to living in the royal palace of Hampton Court. The quick assumption of elegance of the beggar on horseback is proverbial. After Napoleon had forgotten his origin, no king was more acquisitive than he in the matter of thrones and palaces, nor more insistent in the matter of royal pomp. But "Old Noll" did not live to rule like a prince of the blood, nor to develop a style of luxurious living that left a mark on the liberal arts.

The development of walnut furniture went imperceptibly on, with oak still much in use, when all at once a new fact in history gave a new excuse for changes in the mode. The Cromwells passed and the people of England took back the House of Stuart, and did it with such enthusiasm that even the furniture reflected it at once. But it is just this reflection of events in the art of a period that gives undying interest to old styles, and especially to those ancient pieces that are left from the hands which made them and those who first used them in palace or cottage.

Back, then, came the old delight in royally born royalty, in being governed by a king and not by a commoner. With open arms the king was welcomed, and Cavalier families that had been in sad plight, blotted out by confiscation and disapproval, sprang lightly back to their former places. This was the time of the Restoration, that time when England adopted the rottenness of the Continent to stimulate whatever of vice lay in the Briton, forgetting to take with it the fundamental good. But the naughty game was one so prettily played that we never tire of its recounting. And as it produced so many changes in house furnishings, it must be considered.

It was in 1660 that Charles II was called to smile from the throne on a pleased public. It was about that time that a queen was chosen for him, Catherine of Braganza, who brought with her, very naturally, some goods of her own.

The styles in England at this time were especially England's, he native effort fred from copying Italy's Renaissance. But on this fell a sudden avalanche of new ideas greatly at variance with her methods, and from now on the styles of England took inspiration from the styles of the Continent, and have ever since continued the game.

But let this sink into the consciousness: each style adopted takes on the strong characteristics of the country adopting them. If to originate a decorative style was not the natural impulse of Britain, it was her talent to alter that style in a way that expressed her characteristics. In the time of Charles II she had a love for the light side of life, coupled with prodigality and elegance, and this can be read to-day in the relics of those times.

Catherine the Queen brought no children to inherit the throne—the Duke of York being accused of having selected purposefully a barren mate for his brother—but she brought Bombay as a dower. So, with her Portuguese furniture and her Eastern designs, her gifts turned the heads of artists and artisans. In England are found those chairs for which we go to Portugal, yet they were made in England in the seventeenth century, the high-back straight chair covered with carved leather in both back and seat, put on with a prodigality of big nails, and having bronze spikes as a finish to the uprights of the back. The fluted foot came then, a sort of compromise between a claw and scroll, and known in our land as a Spanish foot, and used until the end of the seventeenth century. It is found on much furniture of early Colonial times prior to Anne's day.

But perhaps the first change in Charles' reign was seen on the chairs of pierced carving of palm and S curve and cherub, with caned seats or backs. The carving on these chairs at once took as its popular device the crown, the crown which had been hidden out of sight in the years of the Commonwealth. As if to show the wealth of affection with which it was welcomed, it was repeated as many as five conspicuous times on one chair. With what complacence must Charles have looked upon this gentle flattery!

For the Queen's satisfaction there were matters from the Near East in the way of ivory and ebony inlay, carved ebony, introductions of small black beings into designs, always in obvious subjection to white masters. But these were exotics of a sort that English taste preferred to import rather than manufacture. Ladies who took to embroidering affected the Bombay designs and colours.

Charles II had been reigning but six years when the Great Fire swept away uncountable treasures in the way of furniture. To be sure, there was all the rest of England. But at that time London was practically all of elegant England. Country gentlemen had estates and big houses, but owing to the impos-*sibility of transportation on the always miry, rutted roads, they went without the luxuries of town life. So, with the Great Fire of London perished so much of old oak and walnut furniture as to make collectors weep who turn their thoughts thereon.

But as the phoenix rises unabashed from the flames, so rose the inspirations of Sir Christopher Wren, Grinling Gibbons, and of minor artists and artisans. Wren rebuilt the fallen monuments, giving to the world his great St. Paul's, and a pattern of church steeple that climbs high in American settlements as well as all through London; and the lesser workers gave men new patterns in beds and chairs for repose, and in tables for comforting viands, for games, or for the gossip which was a deep game of the day.


How To Sell Furniture

How To Sell Furniture

Types Of Furniture To Sell. There are many types of products you can sell. You just need to determine who your target market is and what specific item they want. Or you could sell a couple different ones in a package deal.

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