Jacobean

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In studying, and attempting to arrange according to exact period, English furniture of times prior to the end of the seventeenth century, we have to encounter, and overcome as well as we can, difficulties that are not to be met with in the work of later times. In the century following, for example, and for the first time in the history of our craft, certain designers and manufacturers of cabinet work rose, by force of their own originality and genius, from the ranks of their fellow-artists and craftsmen, and became known and distinguished individually by name. They created distinct styles on lines selected by themselves, and those styles won the approval of the cultured public to so extraordinary an extent that nearly every other designer and maker of the time was content to copy them; indeed they became the order of the day, to the almost total exclusion of every other mode which was not in accord with them.

This being the case, and knowing as we do, almost to a year, the periods during which these notable men worked, the dates of the publication of their design books, and the names of many of their noble patrons, it is the simplest thing imaginable to classify their productions correctly, and place them in chronological rotation. All that we need trouble ourselves about with regard to them is to acquire a knowledge of the different characteristics by which one may be distinguished from another.

A century earlier we have no such assistance; there is no Chippendale, Heppelwhite, or Sheraton, to serve as a landmark ; the names of individual workers and creators of style were not then held in popular esteem, and, indeed, so

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small was the notice taken of them that they were never placed on record. So, in the course of time, they have been lost to us for ever. It is interesting to note, moreover, that it was only during the second half of the eighteenth century

Seventeenth-Century Bedstead

(Illustrating the employment of 14 Gothic," 41 Elizabethan," and "Jacobean" detail in one and the same article. Probably "restored," or "made-up ")

Seventeenth-Century Bedstead

(Illustrating the employment of 14 Gothic," 41 Elizabethan," and "Jacobean" detail in one and the same article. Probably "restored," or "made-up ")

that leaders in this craft were distinguished from their fellows; for the desirable practice of giving them "a local habitation and a name," which soon fell into disrepute, disappeared altogether at the commencement of the century following — the nineteenth — and has never since been revived.

Even to-day we are aware, it is true, that our household gods were supplied by such-and-such a firm, whose title may possibly be known the world over ; but we are equally well aware that the individual, or individuals, whose title, or names, that particular firm bears, though they may be eminent politicians, winners of the Derby, men of letters, or perfect boon companions, are certainly not designers, nor even manufacturers, of furniture ; and the chances are that they could not draw a chair leg decently if they tried, much less design or make one. It is to these firms that the Chippendales, Heppelwhites, and Sheratons of our day look for a living, though not for fame, for they know full well that their names will be left carefully in the background — as securely hidden as possible. It must be noted that I am not now discussing the question whether the existence of such a state of things as that I have pictured be desirable or not, but am simply recording it, as showing how conditions change in the course of centuries. I may, however, mention in passing that a brave and determined attempt was made some years ago by a number of the disciples of William Morris to bring the artist and craftsmen to the front again; to rescue them from the obscurity in which they have been overshadowed by purely commercial considerations for so long, and distinguish them from the mere " middleman " or " tradesman." The story of that attempt must be dealt with at some length in another chapter. Suffice it to say now, that il the trade99 was far too strong for these would-be reformers—the greater the pity. But of that more anon.

In our study of the "Jacobean," then, it is useless for us to look for names of individual artists or craftsmen ; and even if a few isolated examples could be brought to light, as doubtless some might by dint of much patient research in ancient archives, they would convey but little to our minds, and their

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discovery would prove of but small practical value in the pursuit of the inquiries we have in view.

Failing such aid, we must make it our aim to note the characteristics instead of the names of designers and craftsmen, and classify these as well as we can. It will be well for me to make clear here that, in the selection of examples by the examination of which I hope to convey a complete and correct impression of "Jacobean" furniture, I have been as careful as possible to confine myself to pieces actually made during the earlier part of the Stuart times—that is to say, during the period that elapsed between the years 1603 and 1688, a period which, I need not point out, includes the Commonwealth. What happened in the domain of furnishing under William and Mary and Anne, Stuarts though they were, does not come under the present heading, and must be considered quite separately.

In my introductory comments upon early seventeenth-century English furniture, I have stated that, broadly speaking, the cabinet work of that age was characterised throughout by extreme simplicity of construction and severity of form, and it is now time for me to fulfil my promise to justify that remark by actual demonstration, which is easily done.

Even the ordinary casual observer, who knows as much about the technicalities of cabinet making as he does about differential calculus, will be able to see at a glance that, practically without exception, the whole of the cabinet work —that is to say, chests, cupboards, and the like—shown on the plates in this chapter, is, so far as construction is concerned, of so straightforward and elementary a type that it would present but small difficulty in execution even to the least experienced of professional cabinet makers. Indeed, there are not a few amateurs rejoicing in the possession of a bench and tools at home who might be trusted to accomplish creditably such simple tasks.

The most elaborate of all the pieces are the cupboard, cabinet, or press, Fig. 4, Plate I.; the " Bread-and-Cheese" cupboard, Fig. 4, Plate II.; and one or two other similar types; and even they are free from all constructional difficulties, save such as are mastered in the A B C of the craft. It will be clear, then, that but very little study will enable anybody possessed of average intelligence to master quickly the general forms of the Jacobean " carcase." The next step is to acquire an equally complete knowledge of the ornamental detail, carved and inlaid, by the addition of which it was determined, in the old days, that those forms should be rendered pleasing to the eye. Here our task becomes somewhat more varied, and calls for more extensive study, though it cannot even then be regarded in any sense as difficult.

The importance of the part played by the oaken chest in the sixteenth and seventeenth - century home has been so strongly insisted upon in my introductory review that, in considering which of these household gods to deal with first, we cannot do better than fix upon this honourable and honoured ancestor of so many modern articles. I have been exceptionally fortunate in securing a goodly variety for examination, so that every type that can be regarded as in any degree characteristic is represented in one or other illustration. Of these I may say at once that they are, without exception, made of oak, and that the enrichment is almost invariably carved, though it is, in rare instances, relieved by a touch of inlay here and there.

With regard to this carving, a word or two as to classification may be given at this stage. Much of it is of the description technically known as "flat"; that is to say flat surfaces predominate in the design, being thrown into relief by the spaces round and between them having been gouged-out, or ' " sunk," by means of the gouge or chisel—as, for example, in the chest portrayed in Fig. 3, Plate I. Much more is of the " modelled " type of carving, as in the chest, Fig. 5, Plate I.; but none ever projects beyond the general surface of the

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article so decorated, or, rather, it is very rare indeed for it to do so. In order to keep to this rule, the carving, whenever employed in very high relief, was almost invariably sunk deep into the panels, so that even those details which stood out most prominently from the ground were still on, or belowT, the plane of the surface.

Over and above these two classes of carving, the chisel and gouge, more particularly the latter, were employed in yet another way, producing a result fairly effective, it is true, but one which the skilled manipulator of the tools will hardly dignify by the appellation " carving." The method adopted may be described as follows : The design to be executed, consisting usually of simple leaves and stems, was roughly sketched in upon the wood to be ornamented, and, that having been done, the lines of it were merely cut in, or incised, with a vigorous hand, so that, instead of standing out in relief, as in ordinary carving, they did just the reverse. This produced what is now styled "scratch carving"; and as it was very easy to execute, and cost but little, its employment was most extensive. It really belongs, in a measure, to the same school, technically speaking, as the monotonous " chip carving " over which so many ladies at the present day spend time which might be much more profitably employed, and with such painfully feeble and uninteresting results. But the old work is far more vigorous and pleasing than its modern descendant.

Having made a note of the foregoing explanation, let us observe now how these various kinds of carving actually look in situ; and we will study them first in the dated example which appears in Fig. 5, Plate I. This chest, as indicated by the date, " 1611"—and the indication is true this time—is very early (i Jacobean," having been made but eight years after the accession of the first of the Stuarts ; yet it is quite distinctive in character, and has little of the "Elizabethan" feeling about it. In the five smaller panels we have carving of the

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