The task of tracing, identifying, arranging in chronological order, and placing on record the scattered fragments now available of the history of such English furniture and woodwork as was designed and manufactured prior to the commencement of the seventeenth century, is, for many reasons, beset with difficulties; indeed, it is greatly to be feared that the story, in absolute entirety, will never be told, for the requisite material upon which to base it is no longer available. In the first place, the cabinet makers of the earlier times did not cultivate the practice of publishing design books, or illustrated sheets; if they did, none has survived to tell the tale. Later on, when we arrive at the "Chippendale" period, all is delightfully plain sailing for the historian, but when dealing with work of an earlier date we have to grope about, so to speak, in greater or less obscurity; piecing together as well as may be fragments of the story gathered here and there, so far as circum-I stances will permit, in order to arrive at an approach to the truth, and be in a position to form a fairly just estimate of the whole. These fragments are comparatively few and far between, particularly when we get back to the reign of Elizabeth —as is, of course, only natural; for it needs good craftsmanship indeed to survive the wear and tear of over three centuries, Yet, to the lasting credit of the old woodworkers be it a said, much not only has remained even to the present day, but still appears to be "good" for a few centuries more. Only the ''fittest/' of course, has survived. This aspect of the question must be emphasised, as not a few people seem to lose sight of the fact altogether, and draw erroneous conclusions, which they express loudly, in consequence. Critics from whom better things might reasonably be expected are frequently heard comparing the work of the so-called " good old days " with that of the modern craftsman, greatly to the disparagement of the latter.
The favourite plan adopted by these u superior" people is, in the first place, to take some of the masterpieces of days gone by, upon the execution of which neither loving labour nor expense was spared, and place them side by side with commercial productions of the present day, designed and made under modern conditions, and for a totally inadequate rate of remuneration. Having done this, they wag their heads, and enquire :—° Where is your modern craftsman now ? " Personally I think that he comes out of the comparison very brilliantly indeed. If the greatly-belauded cabinet maker of the sixteenth, seventeenth, or even eighteenth century were placed in the position of his twentieth-century successor, compelled to "cut prices," as the trade term it, and to hold his own against the keenest competition on every hand, which will allow him but the barest living; what would be the result ?
In the name of all that is just and fair, let us be honest enough to look the situation squarely in the face. As a matter of fact, I have no hesitation in contending that many a piece of furniture which may be purchased nowadays for a few sovereigns in the showrooms of, shall I say, the much-abused and extensively patronised Tottenham Court Road, is in very truth, considering the money expended, of far greater value than some of the most beautiful and costly creations of earlier times. And let it be recognised and remembered that we have in our midst now designers and craftsmen as gifted in all respects as any the world has ever seen. Given the opportunity, these men are fully capable of designing and executing work which would rival, and probably surpass, the finest productions of any age or country, but—and there is that awful "but"—it is the opportunity, and not the genius, which is wanting. The days when artists—I am speaking now of those who devote themselves to the applied arts—enjoyed the generous, indeed lavish, patronage of such men as Lorenzo di Medici, or the recognition and support of the State, as in France during the reign of Louis the Fourteenth, are past and gone—it would almost seem for ever; and both artist and craftsman, as well as art and craftsmanship, suffer as a natural consequence.
It will be well for us, then, always to bear in mind the fact that, with very few and unimportant exceptions, it is only the best and therefore most expensive work of the past which has survived for so long a time; and that such furniture as adorned the homes of the poorer, and a considerable percentage of the middle, classes has gone to the wall long ago.
With regard to the sixteenth and seventeenth century furniture of our own land especially, it must not be forgotten thdt the history of the times during which it was designed and manufactured literally teems with records of wars and rumours of wars. This makes it perfectly clear to the thoughtful student that the condition of affairs then generally obtaining was not conducive to the cultivation of the arts of peace. Indeed it is astonishing that so much has survived as is now to be found in our national museums and private collections. How far the existence of this state of continual political and social unrest is reflected in the forms and general character of the furniture and woodwork of the period concerned we shall discover later, when we come to consider individually the pieces illustrated by way of example.
Of furniture proper, that is to say portable articles such as tables and chairs, dating from the reign of Henry the
Eighth, actual and authentic specimens are all but nonexistent ; our knowledge, therefore, of the household gods of that time must, for the most part, be acquired from ancient books and prints. But I am fortunate in being able to illustrate one piece, the authenticity of which is not open to question—a Henry-the-Eighth armoire, now in the possession of Mr. J. Seymour Lucas, R.A. This is thoroughly " François-Premier " in character, and it is most probable that the carving was actually designed and executed by French artists and craftsmen, but the construction is undoubtedly English. Mr. Lucas discovered this example in an old farmhouse, where it was used for the storage of cheeses, and fifteen years elapsed before he could induce the owner to part with it. Yet he persisted, and in the end secured the treasure. It is true that, in spite of determined purification and fumigation, the cupboards are still redolent of cheese, but that is a small matter under the circumstances.
It is not, however, my present intention to go back to so early a date. Our study will seriously commence with the style prevailing at the end of the reign of Elizabeth, with the period when what has become known as the " Elizabethan " was at its zenith, and almost on the eve of that transition which finally resulted in the evolution of the "Jacobean."
It is hardly necessary for me to say that the " Elizabethan " in architecture did not actually attain its highest development until about the year 1607, when King James the First was on the throne. It is, therefore, in the stately homes erected or completed at the time when the rule of the Stuarts was commencing that we find the style at its best, and interpreted by men of the calibre of John Thorpe and other eminent contemporary architects. Of these old residences but few remain in their entirety : those which have successfully withstood the ravages of time and escaped the tender mercies of the destroyer are, however, sufficient to enable us to gain a glimpse of the dignity and splendour of the internal architectural woodwork of the houses in which the " Upper Ten " of the days of " Good Queen Bess " were wont to live. On the other hand, examples of genuine Elizabethan movable furniture are extremely rare and difficult to find. Those who possess any
1 j may deem themselves fortunate indeed, and are entitled to crow—to use a colloquialism—over the vast majority of their fellow-collectors.
The growth of the "Jacobean" out of the style which immediately preceded it was very gradual, and commenced with small beginnings; hence, in its earlier forms, it is* sometimes not easy to distinguish the offspring from the parent, so closely do they resemble one another. Not a few important characteristics remained for a lengthy period common to both styles, with the inevitable result that, when studying the two, much confusion may arise, and considerable knowledge of minuter details is required to enable us successfully to get over the difficulty. In apportioning the various phases of these styles to their proper periods, we are guided, however, to a certain extent, by the commendable practice of some of the old wood carvers of dating their works. The figures, as we shall see presently in our illustrated examples, frequently are cleverly interwoven with, and so made to constitute a part of, the carved and inlaid enrichment. A similar course, I need hardly say, was followed by the old Moorish decorators, as exemplified in the incomparable Alhambra, and elsewhere in Spain and Morocco. Genuine examples of English sixteenth and seventeenth century furniture in which this occurs, it is true, are not very numerous, but a few are extant, and they aid us considerably in arriving at a decision as to the approximate dates of other pieces similar in character but not so distinguished.
Speaking generally, most of the seventeenth-century British furniture which now remains to guide us in our studies is of oak; but it by no means follows that oak was the only wood used by the cabinet and chair makers of those days in the pursuance of their crafts; walnut, ash, elm, beech, chestnut, and other woods were also extensively employed. It was the oak, however, which proved to be most fitted to "brave the battle and the breeze/' and defy the ravages of centuries, in the home as on the "rolling wave" ; while the less enduring productions of the forest and woodland have long since given way before the strain imposed upon them. Chairs, and not so frequently, tables, are occasionally to be met with in the less durable woods, but these are almost invariably either in a state of extreme dilapidation, or else have been "restored" out of all recognition of their former selves, leaving but little of the original structures to tell the tale.
Of the series of styles with which I shall endeavour to deal in these pages, those which had rise during the century now under consideration present, on the whole, perhaps, the least difficulty as regards general classification ; but to give to each its proper place is not nearly so simple. Still, I think, and hope, that a careful study of the accompanying types, and of the special peculiarities and characteristics of each, will enable the reader to obtain such a knowledge of the subject as will materially assist in the removal of many obstacles which might otherwise lie in his path.
We might reasonably imagine that the whole of the woodwork—furniture, wall-panelling, etc.—of the " Elizabethan," as of other periods, would partake, to a very large extent if not wholly, of one and the same character, constituting one more or less harmonious whole. That, curious as it may appear, was not by any means the case. A certain degree of relationship is apparent, of course, between the various examples; but, notwithstanding that, a very considerable difference is to be recorded. Broadly speaking, the architectural woodwork of the " Elizabethan " is marked by a far greater refinement and more perfect execution than is the furniture of the same period, which partakes of a more rugged character; though there are occasional exceptions to this rule. Those exceptions, however, were only to be found among the household gods designed and made for the wealthier patrons, and cannot in any sense be accepted as representative of the art or craft of the age.
In studying the furnishing of the homes of this period, we must be careful, at the outset, not to forget the fact that, during the early part of the seventeenth century, the great majority of the people, the "masses" as they are glibly termed nowadays, subsisted and worked under conditions vastly different from those which prevail in the present day. We must remember that even the average modern " desirable villa residence," imperfect as it may be in our estimation, would have been regarded by the bourgeois of the time of James the First, and of his immediate successors, with feelings not far removed from awe, and the admiration excited by what to them must have seemed models of comfort and convenience would have been unbounded. In those days the family of small means did not rejoice in the possession of separate and distinct dining and drawing rooms ; and such a thing as a " spare bedroom," that joy of the newly-wedded wife, was a sign of opulence indeed. Then, the single apartment, which, be it noted, was not by any means too commodious, was requisitioned to serve many purposes, except, of course, in the homes of the well-to-do; even with the majority of the upper middle classes accommodation was none too generous. Thus it came about, in the natural order of events, that little attention was lavished upon any apartment other than those devoted to sleeping, to the entertainment of guests, and the enjoyment of the " kindly fruits of the earth " ; it is, therefore, to the old bedrooms and living-rooms that we must look first for the most typical examples of the furniture in common use during the period in question.
It will be apparent then, I think, that it is quite impossible to classify most of the pieces of furniture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as having been designed and manufactured for exclusive service in anyone particular room, such as the drawing-room, dining-room, bedroom, hall, library, or study, as can be done with the majority of the productions of a later date. They had practically no definite abiding place, but were shifted from one part of the house to another, as occasion demanded, and even from one residence to another when protracted visits were being paid. Of this aspect of the subject I shall have more to say in due course.
Recognising also the fact that much of the furniture now in everyday use is quite modern in origin, so far as form and general appointments are concerned, and having discovered that many articles which are now regarded as necessities were quite unknown to our forefathers of two centuries ago, it is more than a little interesting to endeavour to discover what occupied their places in the early days, and to see how far the requirements of the household were fulfilled by the comparatively few predecessors of the thousand-and-one objects which are now to be found in almost every furnishing showroom throughout the country.
Before, then, entering upon a detailed examination of the individual examples which I have selected for illustration on the plates which are to follow, I will enumerate the chief pieces with which the collector is likely to meet nowadays, dating from the " Elizabethan " period.
First and foremost come chests or coffers of many sizes, shapes, and descriptions; and the extensive variety to be met with even to-day in all parts of the kingdom, of unquestionable authenticity, is proof conclusive that they undoubtedly ranked among the most important and indispensable accessories of the English home from the very first institution of the art and craft of the cabinet maker. They ranked next
in importance, that is to say, to the beds, tables, and seats of one kind or another, which supplied the requirements of bodily repose and the appetite.
It is not by any means an uncommon thing for writers to assert that the old English chest was the direct descendant of, and inspired by, the gorgeous Italian marriage coffers, or cassoniy of the Renaissance. Such a statement is certainly not altogether correct, for we must go much farther back to discover their origin. The cassoni, indeed, were themselves nothing more nor less than glorifications, for special occasions, of a piece of furniture known and used, ages before the Renaissance was dreamed of, by all classes who possessed any furniture at all; and if we want to trace them really to their source we must search the records of those days when solid trunks of trees were "scooped out," more or less clumsily, in order that they might be utilised for the required purposes. One such is standing within a few feet of me as I write these lines.
The chest, like the chair, table, and bed, was, in the first place, the outcome of an absolute necessity. Provided that it satisfied the requirements which called for its construction, little or no thought was originally devoted to making it graceful or in any way decorative. Convenience, strength, and security were the first considerations to be borne in mind. It was obvious that clothes, when they came into general use, had to be stored somewhere, and when once the ball was set rolling, the steady development of fashion in wearing-apparel called for ever-increasing accommodation. With the growth of civilisation the smaller appointments of the household also increased and multiplied ; and, little by little, things which were once regarded as luxuries, unattainable by most people, found their way into nearly every home, and finally came into vogue as articles of constant and everyday use, whose services could not be dispensed with by anyone. Apart quite from the adornment of the body—by no means an inconsiderable matter as time went on—the loom was set to work to enhance the comfort of the bed chamber and beautify the table; and the increase of household linen of every kind and description provided another reason for the devising of convenient and safe receptacles for such domestic treasures. Further, the taking of meals came to be re-
garded as something more than the mere unavoidable consumption of food for the sustentation of the body. Dinner, particularly, developed into an important function, at which friends might be fittingly feasted upon the "fat of the land," where good-fellowship could reign supreme, and at which brilliant intellects, pitted one against another, might furnish that "feast of reason and flow of soul"—too often, it has been said, a "flow of bowl"—which elevated the mere meal into a feast in every sense of the word. This, of course, rendered it essential, or at least desirable, that the appointments of the table should not only answer the demands of strict utilitarianism, but at the same time should be of such a character as to give pleasure to the eye. Knives, forks, spoons, dishes, plates, and glass commenced to receive the attention of artists and craftsmen of the highest renown. The simplest implements and utensils, which formerly could lay claim to the possession of but small decorative value, or indeed of any value apart from their utility, for they were originally fashioned from the commonest and least expensive materials, were produced in rare and costly metals, wrought and enriched with the greatest taste and skill that influence and money could command. The family plate was raised to a position of rare honour and importance, and was proudly regarded as one of the most cherished possessions of the old English home. Most of this, also, had to be kept in safety somewhere, and here, once more, the chest was welcomed as a satisfactory solution of the problem. In view of all these many and varied demands, it is not surprising that the design and manufacture of that piece of furniture occupied no small part of the time and attention of the old woodworker.
It is certainly not easy for the twentieth-century housewife, who has at her command fire and burglar proof safes, steel and iron jewel caskets, wardrobes, linen presses, chests of drawers, roomy cupboards, box rooms, closets, cabinets, sideboards, and other similar receptacles, devised by modern ingenuity, to appreciate all the difficulties with which the lady of the seventeenth-century house had to contend, or to understand by what means she could possibly overcome them.
The question "where to put things" has ever constituted a problem most difficult to solve for those of our women folk who are endowed with a love of tidiness, and who would be so bold as to assert that there exists any woman who is not so endowed ? So generally is this recognised, that, as time goes on, architects strive more and more earnestly to provide in their houses the greatest possible number of cupboards in the smallest possible space, while the designer of cabinet work racks his brains to satisfy his prospective lady clients in the provision of shelves, brackets, drawers, pigeon-holes, and every other description of hole, corner, and recess which it is possible to imagine and devise. Yet, with all the ingenuity that they can bring to bear upon the matter, the task of giving perfect satisfaction seems to be as far from actual accomplishment as ever.
To return to the " Good old Days." The necessity for conveniences and accommodation of the class I have indicated was by no means so great as it is now. Tastes were more simple and less exacting ; it was far more easy, therefore, to satisfy them. The same difficulty, nevertheless, certainly did exist then, though in a lesser degree, and the manner in which it was overcome brings us back to the chest or coffer pure and simple. We shall presently mark the most characteristic forms which it took in its earlier stages, as well as make a point of noticing the manner in which it blossomed forth into something far more imposing than the unpretentious rectangular box which was the earliest ancestor of the whole tribe. For the moment we have come to the conclusion that this piece of furniture, in its various forms, was in great demand, and was, in consequence, extensively manufactured ; it is not, therefore, surprising to find that examples of it rank among the most numerous of the relics now existing of the days to which they belonged.
Next in number and importance come seats and chairs, articles of a type more indispensable, of course, than the chests themselves, as it is obvious that we must sit or lie somewhere, whatever may become of our various and sundry impedimenta.
Continuing the list we have sturdy side-tables, developing later into "court" and "bread-and-cheese" cupboards, "bahuts," and "armoires"—ancestors to the sideboard of to-day, though so vastly different in form and character; smaller tables—rectangular, circular, hexagonal, and octagonal, and in some cases so contrived as to fold up ; and last, but by no means least as far as general proportions are concerned, four-post bedsteads.
Other pieces not included in the foregoing list may be discovered occasionally here and there, but they are exceptions, and, as such, will not enter very largely into our calculations.
I have contended that the earnest and well-informed student of the furniture of days gone by cannot fail, if he pursue his studies in the proper vein, to find clearly expressed in the examples with which he has to deal more than a slight indication of the different spirits pervading the ages in which they were produced; and, indeed, it is difficult to see how it could be otherwise. This contention is, I am well aware, far from being a novel one, but the fact is not as generally appreciated as it should be, and I am perfectly confident that, were it more fully realised and strenuously insisted upon, many more people would be inclined to pay greater attention to a study the pursuit of which positively teems with interest and delight.
Owing to ignorance—not necessarily intentional ignorance —the subject is regarded at present by some as an unpleasant and incomprehensible u craze" for raking over and " rum maging" among objectionable, dusty, and worm-eaten stuff, which in their estimation should long ago have been relegated to the dustbin, or have been chopped up for firewood.
We are told that there are sermons in stones. If that be so, and unquestionably, if accepted in its proper sense, the statement cannot be refuted, surely there is many a story u writ large " in the household gods of our forefathers. Nay, their actual tastes and habits may be judged to a far greater extent from their furniture ; for their places of abode—the eloquent stones of architecture—were, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, planned and built quite independently of any consideration of the individual preferences or requirements of their possible occupants. On the other hand, their internal environment, the furniture and woodwork with which they were to be surrounded, was of their own seeking and selection, and it is to be presumed that they made a point of acquiring that which appealed most strongly to their ideas regarding what should be, so far at least as the means at their command would permit. If this view of the matter be accepted as correct, it is not too much to claim that a people, or an age, may, to a very considerable degree, be judged by the furniture and woodwork appertaining to them.
Regarded in this light, the study of these old chests and tables, beds and chairs, is veritably fraught with romance. They become animated, and talk with us of times, manners, and customs long since gone by, and almost forgotten; and we see grouped around them the giant shadows of men and women who have made history, as well as those of the quiet family circle, drawn cosily round the homely ingle, whose deeds, it is true, have never been handed down *to posterity, but who, nevertheless, played their part in the great game of life.
The inclination to enlarge upon the romantic side of old furniture collecting is great and hardly to be resisted, but I must not give way to temptation here. I must content myself with simply indicating that the romantic side really does exist, and with assuring the student that it will reveal itself more and more fully the greater and more devoted the attention he accords to the subject. Regarding in this light the work of the period with which we are now dealing, we naturally endeavour to discover what kind of story it has to tell us, apart from the mere interest derived from the artistic and technical view of its design and construction; and we attempt to trace, in its lines and enrichment, something of the history and conditions of the people who made it, and for whom it was made. What is its general character, and what can we read in it ? Sturdy, often-times to the point of clumsiness ; obviously constructed to withstand the hardest of usage, and defy Time the Destroyer; made in one of the hardest woods obtainable; it is enriched, it is true, with carving and inlay, but in a manner which is comparatively primitive, and there is every indication in these late u Elizabethan " and " Jacobean" chairs and tables that the age in which they were made was not in any way notable for the cultivation, encouragement, and consequent development of the arts of peace. I need hardly say that the impression which they convey in that respect is in no way misleading. Time and again the country was embroiled in strife for the support or overthrow of one cause or another. The kingdom was split into factions, blown hither and thither, as one or the other party gained the upper hand ; men, and indeed members of the same families, erstwhile the closest of friends, became the bitterest of enemies in consequence of the views which they severally entertained respecting the question of home government.
The old saying, u An Englishman's home is his castle," was something more than a mere figure of speech in those days, suggesting possible invasion and defence of its rights and privileges. No man then knew when he might be called upon to protect himself, his family, and his goods from the raids constantly being planned and carried out by political opponents, and which resulted by no means infrequently in bloodshed, and almost invariably in the destruction or loss of property.
Living under such conditions as these, and finding it absolutely necessary to be prepared for the worst, knowing not what any moment might bring forth, it is hardly to be wondered at that our forefathers regarded existence as a stern reality, and had but little time, whatever inclination they may have possessed, for the acquisition of those graces and refinements which go to make life beautiful. They were to follow in after years.
Everything with them was uncertain, from personal safety to the security of every penny they possessed ; and they were compelled to adjust themselves to their political and social environment, and deport themselves accordingly. It is not necessary for me to dip further into a period of English history the records of which will be fresh in the memory of all who peruse these pages, except to point out, here and there, how certain changes in the government and condition of the people influenced, and are consequently to be traced in, their home surroundings.
One of the first points to be noted in connection with early Jacobean furniture is that plain, straightforward, and simple construction is its principal characteristic, and that under no circumstances is undue elaboration of general form to be expected. If found, it must be classed under an altogether different heading, as hailing from some other country, or dating from an entirely different period of time.
I insist upon this, as I am writing, for the moment, of form alone, as entirely distinct from enrichment of any class or description—a phase of our subject that will be dealt with at length in its proper place.
Regarded, then, simply as examples of construction, the cabinet work, almost without exception, is such as might have, and probably very often did, come from the bench of the skilful and conscientious carpenter, so primitive is it and entirely free from those constructional problems the solution of which was imposed upon the cabinet maker by designers of succeeding centuries. By way of illustrating this statement, let us take the chests, to which reference has already been made. Many, indeed the majority, of them are but little more than simple rectangular boxes, strongly put together, varying only so far as size and relative proportions are concerned. Some are raised slightly from the floor, say from three to nine inches, and supported by a roughly turned sphere of wood, a square leg, or a continuation of the end framework ; and some rest flat upon the floor itself. Whatever claim these might make to the possession of decorative value—and many of them, as we shall presently see, certainly did possess that quality—must be credited not to the skill of the craftsman responsible for the " carcase," as the main body of any piece of cabinet work is technically termed in the trade, but to that of the carvers and inlayers who, when the " carcase " was completed, and ready to be put together, were called in to enrich it to the best of their ability and so far as considerations of cost allowed. So much for the moment for a brief summing-up of the leading characteristics of the forms of Jacobean cabinet work.
Now a word or two, by way of introduction, respecting the enrichment. This, I need hardly say, was, at the inception of the style, more than a little hybrid in character, partaking to a certain extent of the late " Elizabethan," and even, not infrequently, awakening memories of the Gothic, which "died hard/' Notwithstanding the energy displayed by the pioneers of the English Renaissance to kill, or, at all events, supersede the traditions of the Middle Ages by the introduction into the furnishing of the home of what was in those days a " New Art," the Gothic was not to be despatched at a blow. After the lapse of many a year,the old "linen" and "parchment" panels,originated by,
and beloved of, the ecclesiastical carvers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, still put in an appearance, though amidst strange surroundings; and we do not seem to tire of them. They are often accompanied by other decorative detail, the origin of which dates from the days when the carver more often than not found his training in, or under the shadow of, the monastery. This is so all through the " Elizabethan," and far into the " Jacobean" era.
Yet "Jacobean" detail in its purest phases was neither entirely new nor in any way revolutionary; it must rather be regarded in the light of a crude attempt on the part of the British carver to follow in the footsteps of the foreign craftsmen brought over to this country during previous reigns by the command, and under the patronage, of royalty. This is a point that must not be overlooked. Proud as we may be of the position we have won among the nations of the world in relation to the cultivation and development of the arts and crafts, we must by no means ignore the fact that, in these early days, not to speak of more recent times which will call for our consideration later, we depended very largely, not only upon foreign inspiration, but upon the actual presence in our midst of foreign artists and craftsmen themselves. If we look for a moment at the inlay, carving, and decorative painting produced in this country during the reigns of Henry the Eighth and Elizabeth, we shall see that nearly all the finest was from the hands of skilled artists, neither born nor trained upon British soil, but induced to work here for a time at rates of remuneration almost princely in their generosity. It sometimes happened, as a matter of fact, that more than one royal patron of the arts was endeavouring to secure the services of the same man at one and the same time, and it was only natural that the highest bidder should gain the day. At all events, they had to be induced to come somehow, and at almost any price.
These men were born and bred in countries where art seems to have been in the very air, and where, too, the most generous, nay, more than generous financial encouragement of art in all its phases was not lacking. Small wonder that men saturated, so to speak, by the very atmosphere of the Italian and French Renaissance; men who had played leading parts in making those styles what they were ; absolute masters of design and craftsmanship, and artists by birth, to their very finger tips, should be in demand; and we may feel thankful that we are so fortunate as to enjoy some, at least, of the fruits of their genius. They came over to show what they could do, and set an example for us to follow, if we could. But to admire was one thing; to follow quite another. The rare and perfect mastery which they possessed, and which, in a great degree, was a national as well as a hereditary gift with them, was not to be acquired by the conservative Briton in a day—far from it! He did his best, doubtless, so far as his temperament and the conditions under which he lived and worked would permit; but it was an insignificant best at the most. Sympathetic and lenient as we may be, and naturally are, through national pride, we cannot fail to recognise the many shortcomings in these early attempts to copy a style, or rather styles, which were altogether foreign to our nature. We might almost say of the British carver of that period that, for no inconsiderable time, he was floundering about in strange waters which were altogether too deep for him, and in which it was as much as he could do to keep afloat at all. The result was that he produced a sort of debased "Renaissance" which, though effective in its way, we cannot but admit was | vastly different from, or, as some say, nothing better than I a weak caricature of, the originals which had come to life under the sunny skies and amid the rarely beautiful natural surroundings of Italy and France.
The "Elizabethan " and "Jacobean" were almost entirely devoid of all the romance, fantastic spirit, and extraordinary brilliance associated with the parent styles—the outcome of the temperaments of those responsible for their origination. They were, on the other hand, stamped with the mark of a rugged honesty of purpose created by, and characteristic of, the stern needs of our forefathers of the days of the Armada, of " Marston Moor," and a hundred other memorable conflicts ; men made in a different mould from that of their masters in art and craft, and but little disposed to change their nature. They were, of course, quite prepared to buy furniture, as it was an absolute necessity; and were not averse to the expenditure of some time, labour, and expense upon its embellishment, provided that the cost were not too great. But what they did have must needs be of a sensible and enduring description, such as would fully please their tastes and satisfy all their requirements ; furniture not made for show alone, but designed and constructed to bear the brunt of stern times, when practical utility and lasting qualities were held in the highest esteem, and graces, whether of manner or adornment, played a secondary part.
I have had the temerity to assert that Jacobean decoration, particularly carved and inlaid decoration, was practically a debased version of the Italian "Renaissance" and "Elizabethan," and a brief comparison of the ornamental detail of the three styles will furnish ample proof that this assertion, bold and sweeping as it may appear to be, has foundation in fact. Let us consider first, for example, the crude, ill-drawn, and roughly-carved, though effective, foliations so commonly employed in the first-named, and we shall dis-1 cover at once that they are in reality neither more nor less than a sort of school-boy attempt to copy the sparkling and piquant leafage, with its graceful sweeps, scrolls, and delicate veining, of the " Cinque-Cento." They bear a closer resemblance to our common cabbage than to the sprightly acanthus and similar natural forms whence the Italians drew their inspiration. The successions of circles also, sometimes separate and distinct one from another, sometimes interlaced so as to form a connected and continuous repeating pattern, with and without rosettes or other decorative filling in their centres, such as we constantly meet with in the carving of this period, are, beyond any possible manner of doubt, descended from the old Roman guilloche. They were most probably introduced so frequently owing to the fact that they were easy and cost but little to execute, and required nothing more than a slight knowledge of the use of the compasses in the "setting-out." Yet, at one and the same time, they furnished an expeditious method of filling awkward spaces most effectively.
Next we find the familiar " nulling," freely used in cabinet work of the more costly and elaborate class—a feature which hails direct from the Italian—and many other details from the " Cinque-Cento," " Francois-Premier," " Henri-Deux," and u Flemish," undergoing a strange metamorphosis when transported from all the associations of the vineyards and sunshine of their native lands to be interpreted by devotees of the strong beer and roast beef of Old England. But, having taken a general review of the period with which we have to deal just now, it will, doubtless, prove to be far more satisfactory if we discuss all these points in connection with illustrated examples of the various phases and details referred to, and this we will at once proceed to do.
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