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More About Ceilings

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

INIGO JONES made very great use of plaster in his ceilings, but, like all his work, it was of a very different character from the contemporary treatment. In the latter the desired effect was one of magnificence, and it was obtained by exuberance of detail. In many instances the whole ceiling became a network of small interlacing ribs arranged in the form of various geometrical figures. Heavy drooping pendants and bosses, too, were a feature, while the interspaces between the ribs were filled with various strap and leaf work or heraldic devices. The work was carried out in situ, and was of a high order.

As will be seen from the ceiling at Raynham (Fig. 52), Inigo Jones's ceilings were designed on an ordered plan, and were necessarily in accordance with the remainder of the room. In many of the Jacobean rooms it would often seem quite possible to interchange the ceilings without detracting from the finished effect of the whole. In the rooms designed by Jones or his school, the decorative detail of the ceilings was of secondary consideration from the general design of the whole. As seen in Fig. 52, the innumerable small ribs are replaced by a series of broad heavy ribs arranged to form large panels. The ribs are moulded and enriched at their edges and faces, and the design is an essential feature of the whole scheme of the room. Inigo Jones also introduced painted ceilings into his rooms, as in the example shown in Fig. 54 at Wilton.

Webb's ceilings were in many respects similar to those of his master, Jones. That in Fig. 92 shows the use of the broad ribs, the draped human masks, and the heavy swags of fruit and leafage which were often incorporated in Jones's work. The workmanship in all these later 17th-century ceilings was of a very high order. Such elaborate treatment, however, was not exclusively used. In some cases the ceilings were quite plain, or had a simple rib placed near to the cornice and returned right round the room.

During the Wren period, the work was also very fine, although the general design was not usually so formal as in the previous style. The room in Fig. 6o has a typical Wren ceiling, with a centre panel bounded by large deco-rated ribs rounded at the corners to allow for the circular wreaths.

In the first part of the 18th century the ceiling was the subject of the most elaborate treatment, whether it was carried out in plaster or painted. Foreign craftsmen were often employed for the work, which to a great extent changed its spirit.

The Adam ceiling of the second half of the century, shown in Fig. 93, shows the general reticence and comparative delicacy which characterised the work of that period. It should be compared with that in Fig. 92. In both the workmanship is of the best, but the whole character is altered. The heavy ribs are replaced by small beads and bandings in light relief, and the modelling is far more delicate. The dainty pendants of husks and the oval paintings are typical of the Adam School. In some cases a series of small painted panels was introduced, as in Fig. 82. Further details of the fine acanthus scrolls are given in Fig. 83 at D.

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