Style in furniture

character of the two earlier styles; of the grandeur of the " Louis-Quatorze," instinct with the spirit of majesty, and of the sinuous beauty of the " Louis-Quinze," with its almost total evasion of the straight line, both as regards conduct and contour. It is now incumbent upon us to pursue our studies still further and see what followed the apotheosis of luxury and licentiousness which we have just reviewed.

It need not be pointed out, of course, that many of the artists and craftsmen who did their best to please the tastes of the Comtesse du Barry were endeavouring, towards the end of her supremacy, also to win the favour of the dauphin and dauphiness, whose predilections were as remote in every respect from those of the royal favourite as the two poles. These artists and craftsmen, of course, recognised this; they saw that the extravagances of the reign then rapidly drawing to its close would meet with but small favour in that which was to follow ; so they set themselves the task of exploring fresh woods and pastures new, determining at all costs to strike out for themselves, so far as lay within their power, an entirely novel line. What was the outcome ?

From ostentatious, and to a certain extent vulgar, display, the pendulum swung back to the other extreme, and a more severe spirit of chaste refinement made itself apparent, for the sudden and unexpected development of which it is difficult to account if we leave the tastes and influence of the young dauphin and dauphiness out of our calculations—as some would have us do. It is practically impossible to trace with any degree of thoroughness the origin and operation of all the agencies which had been silently at work to bring this change about, and we can only speak with certainty of the tangible results that are to be credited to their account. Those results, which it will now be our task to consider, made the reign of Louis the Sixteenth and Marie-Antoinette, brief as it was, rank among the brightest in the history of French art.


Plate 76

Reference in Text

261, 262


Mantelpiece. 262

The reader is already aware that my sole object in touching on French styles at all is simply to bring to light the original source from which the eighteenth-century English cabinet maker drew the greater part of his inspiration ; to show the extent to which Chippendale, his contemporaries, and successors, appropriated ideas from the other side of the Channel. This has, in a certain measure, been indicated in the chapters devoted to our own eighteenth-century work, as also in our study of the "Louis-Quatorze" and " Louis-Quinze " ; but we shall now be able to note more fully how far the productions of the designers referred to were the creations of their own brains, and to see how much was "inspired."

The more deeply we study the history of past ages the more firmly convinced we become of the fact that, in art as in other walks of life, it is inherent in human nature to go sometimes to extremes; but we generally find that matters readjust themselves sooner or later; at all events it has almost invariably so happened. From the very earliest times of which we possess any authentic record it has been so. The severity of the "Egyptian," "Assyrian," and "Greek," was supplanted by the heavy and redundant splendour of the " Roman," the very gorgeousness of which was almost too much for the eye to support. After that, reaction soon set in, and the " Roman " in its turn was superseded by the simpler and symbolic " Byzantine," which again was itself destined to have as a successor its very antithesis, the " Renascimento," " Cinque-cento," or " Renaissance."

In a similar manner, in English furniture, the rich carving —"François-Premier" to all intents and purposes—of the time of Henry the Eighth was supplanted by the simpler "strap-work" of the "Elizabethan"; then came the somewhat crude productions of the "Jacobean," the severe " Cromwellian," with its straight lines, refined mouldings, and dearth of ornamentation ; the " Queen-Anne," born of French

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