William And Mary

HE style named for William and Mary em braces all the changes that occurred from late Carolean days until the time of Anne, and even includes some of the models and details that are given the name of that queen. Dutch influence comes largely into both, but was stronger in the style known as Queen Anne's. Mixed up with other influences were those not only of Holland but of the countries with which her political life was concerned. Spain contributed certain details, and as for the Dutch connections with the Near and the Far East, they supplied an infinity of inspiration.

Nothing more piquant to the decorative spirit could be imagined than the fantastic motifs of Indian and Chinese importation. To us, surfeited as we are from babyhood with Chinese toys and Indian stuffs, it is hard to look upon these things as startling novelties. But in those days of less travel they were delicious exotics. Among persons of fashion, there was a rage for the living evidences of the strange East, and more than popular as pets in the drawing-


William And Mary Furniture

CHAIRS IN VARIANTS OF WILLIAM AND MARY Covered with petit point of the time

William And Mary Inspired Chair


Plate XXV

room became the exotic monkey and the vivid parrot. If these creatures, leashed to a standard, could be tended by a tiny black human, then fashion was pleased to an infantine joyousness.

Every ship that came in from far Eastern countries brought wise parrots and tiny frisking monkeys, and these were valued bv decorative artists for models, as well as by my lady to pique gay conversation in her drawing-room.

William and Mary styles, like all of the seventeenth century, are at present in high vogue in America, and for this reason it interests us to study them. They come in after the use of oak has passed its vogue, and when walnut prevails, although woods of lighter colour, such as pearwood and sycamore, are employed. In chairs and sofas, carving prevails as decoration; but in cabinets and tables, the preference is for veneer and for inlay.

At this time occurs a change in the style of cabinets. Hitherto they had been closed cupboards; now, because of the fashion for collecting Delft china from Holland, a need came for cabinets that would display the collector's treasure. As furniture makers ever express the whims and needs of the day, so they at once invented the cabinet with shelf-top protected by glass. A feature of the design 's the hooded top, so characteristic, of William and Mary.

Two types of carving prevailed Ln chairs in the last twenty years of the seventeenth century, that of the broken C curve, originating under Charles II, and that of great elaboration which in some respects caught its details from the French. A study of the plates will show that the post-like upright which flanks the back is retained in both cases. Examples of fine carving under William and Mary show the free fancy of the designer and the skill of the worker who was possibly the designer as well. But the original chairs must be seen to gain any idea of the beauty of colour and finish. The whole bears the look of bronze that has been polished with caressing hands for centuries.

The shape of the leg in these finely carved chairs is to be noticed, as it is fathered by the chair-leg in vogue under Louis XIV in France, and in slight variations it prevails all through the William and Mary period. It is noticeable by a pear-shaped enlargement near the top. The Spanish foot is often seen on this style.

Petit point, gros point, or mere cross-stitch embroidery you may call it, was a fashionable occupation for dame and damsel. In Charles IFs time the stuffed high-relief stump work pleased the court. Sorry stuff it looks now, much like the court ladies of that time, in that its colour and gilt are gone and its false art is pitifully exposed. But the good honest embroidery in wool and silk still stands, and is again tremendously in vogue.

It was Madame de Maintenon who gave such in-

Plate XXVI—CHEST OF DRAWERS IN BURR WALNUT VENEER Mounted on leg». u»ed in the laat quarter of the XVII century


With spiral leas and inlay. Here is seen the beginning of the flat terpentine stretcher spiration to the work in France that England copied. Her school at St. Cyr, which she conducted solely for the purpose of giving happiness and education to penniless daughters of fallen aristocrats, at that school the young girls executed work that ranks with objects of art. A well-known American collector has a large sofa executed thus under the hand of Madame de Maintenon which represents scenes from a play of Moliere's, the piece having also been given by these same young girls, then the cartoons drawn by an artist of high talent.

So petit point was almost a high art in France in the time of William and Mary, and England did her best to follow the fine pattern set her. If, in judging whether this work be French or English, the mind hesitates, it is well to take the eye from the medallions and study how the designer filled the big field outside. In French drawing the whole is a harmonious composition; in the English, the hand is crude and uncertain, and the motifs meaningless, though bold, without coherence or co-ordination. Nowadays the lady who wishes to embroider a chair gets from Paris a medallion already complete and fills in the surrounding territory at her pleasure. It would seem that the ladies in England did the same in the seventeenth century, but with less taste.

Among minor points of interest, those little points used by the amateur in identifying, is the marked change in the stretcher. Away back in the begin ning of the century, as seen on chairs and tables, it was heavy, made of square three- or four-inch oak, and placed almost on the ground. The first change was in using thinner wood; the next was in giving the stretcher a look of ornamental lightness by turning. When this happened the front stretcher of chairs was lifted from the ground to spare it the heavy wear apparent in older pieces. When carving attacked the stretcher, then it was placed well out of the way of harm, and it took on the ornamental effect of the chair's back. The Portuguese style of stretcher copied closely the carving on the top of the back in graceful curves.

It was when the larger pieces of furniture took on a certain lightness of effect that a change in their stretchers occurred, and this was in the period of William and Mary. The stretcher became wide, flat and serpentine. In chairs it wandered diagonally from the legs, meeting in the centre. In tables its shape was regulated by the size of the table top. In chests of drawers it wavered from leg to leg of the six which like short posts supported the weight. If the piece of furniture was inlaid these flat stretchers offered fine opportunity for continuing the work.

Strangely enough the stretcher, in chairs at least, disappeared at just the time it was most needed. That was at the introduction of the curved or cabriole leg, in the early days of Queen Anne. Those who know by experience how frail the curve makes f

William And Mary Furniture Design

Plate XXVIII—CARVED CHAIRS. PERIOD OF WILLIAM AND MARY With all the fine characteristic» of the carved designs of the time

William And Mary Furniture

Plate xxix—walnut chairs, william and mary With the exquisitely carved backs, stretches and legs characteristic of the time this sort of construction, sigh with regret that the fine old Queen Anne pieces of their collection cannot be consistently stayed according to the older method.

It was in the interesting time of William and Mary that the kneehole desk made its appearance. A certain enchanting clumsiness marks these desks from later products on the same line, and a decided flavour of Chinese construction. Such a desk was recently rooted out of the dark in an obscure Connecticut town, it having been brought over n the early days, and. not being mahogany, has lain despised by local dealers until one more ''knowledgeable" than his fellows discovered that it was Elizabethan!

A contribution made by China was the art of lacquering. Although it was not in the fulness of its vogue until the century had turned the corner in Queen Anne's reign, t had iff begintrngs ;n the earlier importations of lacquer and the desire of the cabinet makers to imitate the imported art.

Varnish as we know it had never been in use, else had we missed the wonderful hand polish on old oak and walnut that cannot he imitated. And when it appeared it was only to use it io the Chine* manner, as a thick lacquer over painted or relief ornament As the art of lacquering grew, cabinets of great elaboration became fashionable, and these were in many cases imported from China as the cunning handicraft of the Chinese exceeded that of the English ;n making tiny drawers and tea-box effects. Then these pieces were sent to England where they were painted and lacquered by ladies as a fashionable pastime, and were set on elaborate carved stands of gilt in a style savouring more of Grinling Gibbons than of China, —which is the true accounting of the puzzling combination of lacquer and gold carving.

The metal mounts or hardware of furniture throughout the seventeenth century was simple beyond necessity, yet this simplicity has its charm. In earliest days, iron locks and hinges of a Gothic prudence as to size and invulnerability, ushered in the century, but it was still the time of Shakespeare, and that time threw a glance back to the Gothic just left behind.

Knobs were needed as drawers appeared, and these were conveniently and logically made of wood, and were cut in facets like a diamond. But the prevailing metal mount for the rest of the century was the little drop handle that resembles nothing so much as a lady's long earring. It is found on old Jacobean cabinets, side-tables, and all pieces having drawers and cupboards. Its origin is old Spanish, and that smacks always of Moorish. With unusual fidelity this little drop handle clung until under Queen Anne (1703) the fashion changed to the wide ornamental plate with looplike handle, and that in turn served, with but slight variations, throughout the century.

In summing up the seventeenth century as a whole, it seems to show a British and insular attempt

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