ferred to let his own skilful use of the saw, plane, and moulding-iron tell its own tale without any elaboration. And a most delightful tale it often was.
The old carpenter-made "carcases," he argued, needed "dressing-up " with carving or something, in order that they might be rendered presentable; but his perfect panelling, close joints, and clean mouldings wanted nothing of the kind; they were beautiful in themselves, and so called for no extraneous embellishment. As a result of this reasoning, and it was reasoning based on a solid foundation of actual fact, furniture of the class represented by Fig. 4, Plate II.; Fig. 7, Plate III.; Fig. 4, Plate V.; Fig. 8, Plate VI., and the side-table on Plate VII. began to make its appearance. With it we advance well into the Cromwellian period, when the cabinet maker had already come to the conclusion that he was able to stand alone, and to dispense almost entirely with the services of his erstwhile predominant partner. Formerly he supplied the knights of the chisel and gouge with what was but little more than a foundation for the exercise of their craft; but the tables were turned, and in the end it came to pass that the carver had to come to him for orders for panels and other detail.
It is, of course, impossible to say with certainty that the rigid austerity which characterised the views of the Puritans concerning all mundane matters directly influenced the style and design of the domestic furnishings of England during the Protectorate, but it is indisputable that, at that period, simple and even severe forms came into vogue, suggestive rather of the sober garb and habits of the followers of Cromwell than of the feathers and furbelows of the adherents to the cause of "The Merry Monarch/'- It may have chanced that all this was merely an accidental coincidence, consequent upon the development in the craft of the cabinet maker to which I have referred having come about at a time when the views of the people were "sobering down," or d
perhaps it would be more correct to say, when the views of the more "sober" section of the community found a voice and made themselves heard. This is the unromantic and matter-of-fact explanation which will inevitably be advanced by many ; but I prefer rather to regard this change in the character of the furnishings of the homes of the people as a definite and most powerful demonstration of the reasonableness of my pet theory, that the political and social conditions
"Jacobean " Settle of the Cromwellian Period (See pages 49, 50, 51 for reference)
of the people of all ages are reflected, to a greater or less degree, in the domestic environments of the times. But that I must leave for the reader to decide for himself, lest the clatter of the hoofs and the jingle of my hobby-horse's bells get on his nerves.
Leaving undecided, therefore, the question of the underlying causes of the simplicity of Cromwellian cabinet work; we must accept the presence of that simplicity as an irre-
Reference is Text. See pages 66, 67
futable fact, and proceed to make ourselves acquainted with the character of the forms which it eventually assumed, and which remained popular even long after the Restoration. A better type than that presented in the chest Fig. 7, Plate III., could not be found for the purpose of illustrating this. In it we have cabinet work of the very best kind, as distinguished from carved carpentry; and here we see, too, that there can be positive beauty in comparative simplicity. The proportions are admirable, and what little enrichment there is is of the simplest, consisting only of inlaid lines of holly or boxwood —I am not sure which ; lines of bead-like carving, and mitred mouldings.
The mention of this last feature reminds me of the fact that it was at this period that the moulding itself commenced to play an important part as a decorative element in cabinet
Jacobean" Chair of the Crom-wellian Period
(See pages 49, 50, 51 for reference)
work. This, I think, may be accounted for by the spirit of emulation created by the striking examples which came from the cabinet makers of the Netherlands. It cannot be regarded as surprising that we should have adopted some Dutch and Flemish ideas at this time, if we recall the intimate connection between our own country and Holland; the sojourn of the exiled king at Bruges, Brussels, and the Hague; the events which led up to the declaration of war
Was this article helpful?