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The Early Jacobean Period

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



1600-1620

THERE was a very close affinity between the Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods, and the two really form one continuous style in which the profusion and over-elaboration of the former period became modified during the first twenty years of the 17th century.

The general system of house planning was very similar to that in the previous reign, although an attempt to produce a more ordered arrangement of rooms was apparent. The true spirit of the Renaissance, however, was not yet properly understood, and the general misapplication of the decorative details continued. The classical orders were freely used, but were by no means understood, and the early part of the 17th century was really the last phase before the work came under the influence of individual designers, who, having studied and realised the true principles of classic design, were able to lift it from the vague and generally inconsistent character of the work of the second half of the 16th and early 17th centuries.

In large mansions the hall was still continued as a traditional feature rather than as having any great use as a dining hall. The great hall at Hatfield (Fig. 31) is typical of the Jacobean period, in which the tall windows of the bay, reaching practically to the ground, are of the square mullion type. The rounded arches seen over the doors at either side of the hall are characteristic of the period, and were motifs considerably used for smaller details, such as the headings of panels. They are repeated in the arcading above the screen, and their details are shown at A, Fig. 32. These may be compared with the side gallery in the Charterhouse (Fig. i8), and with the staircase (Figs. 20 and 21). Beneath the arcading is a balustrading formed by a series of panels pierced through in the form of arabesque designs of scroll work, a feature which was often employed in the balustrading of staircases of the period. (This strap work at Hatfield is, however, of a later date.) A good example occurs at Aston Hall, Warwickshire. The use of the caryatid figures is continued, and the lower supporting pedestals are carved with masks.

The panelling is divided into sections by pilasters, and the panels are bevelled at the edges, forming a raised centre. The ceiling has lost its original exposed timber character, and has become the flat plaster type used so frequently in the smaller rooms in the last half of the preceding century.

An example of the expanded use of the arcaded panel is afforded in Fig. 35, in which the whole panelling is treated with this form of decoration.

As was usual at the period, the panelling is broken up at intervals with pilasters which are carved with chain strap work enclosing rosettes and conventional leafage. The mantelpiece is of stone, in which the retention of the Gothic arching above the opening is noteworthy. The capitals to the pilasters, as seen in C, Fig. 36, are doubtful adaptations of the classic Corinthian, whilst the frieze above is modelled with crude grotesques. Enlarged portions of the panelling are seen in A and B, Fig. 36.

A room showing considerably more restraint can be seen in South Kensington Museum, and comes from the old palace at Bromley-by-Bow, Middlesex (Fig. 29). The general design appears to have been more carefully considered in this case. The panelling is taken up to the full height of the room, and, as usual, is subdivided by pilasters carved with strap work. The latter are surmounted by Doric capitals, seen more clearly at A, Fig. 3o, in which can also be noticed the flowing and interlacing strap work with which it is carved. The wooden panelled frieze is carved with designs of a similar character, and is divided at intervals by curved brackets. An interesting feature of the panelling is that the mouldings are raised above the surface of the framework shown at C, Fig. 30, and continued on all four sides of the panels. A portion of the plaster ceilings is shown at B, Fig. 30, and shows one of the pendants positioned at the inter-section of the ribs, which are slightly rounded on their faces.

The outstanding feature of the room is the fireplace, which consists of a carved stone opening with a flat lintel and a wooden overmantel of elaborate design. The central panel is vigorously carved with the coat of arms of James I, more clearly seen at A, Fig. 28, from behind the top of which sprays of acanthus leafage are sprung. The whole is deeply carved and well modelled. On either side of the centre panel are coved niches containing carved figures standing on a base on which are placed semi-Ionic pillars. The base is continued beneath the coat of arms, and is centralised by the mask seen at B, Fig. 28. The figure C is one of four carved on the supporting shelf, while the caryatid figure D is one of the two superimposed above the supporting pilasters reaching to the floor.

The use of the long gallery in large mansions, as mentioned in the Elizabethan chapter, was continued in the present period for the purpose of exercise, and often as a picture gallery. Fig. 37 is the Brown Gallery at Knole, Sevenoaks, and is typical of the Jacobean period. Details of the mantelpiece are shown in Fig. 38. The lintel of the stone opening, B, is carved with grotesque figures and mythical beasts, while the edging is decorated with a chain pattern of squares and rounds. The upper wooden portion is in the form of two recessed panels surrounded by a wide rounded moulding, and flanked by semi-Ionic pilasters.

The elaborate staircases introduced during the Elizabethan period formed a feature of Jacobean mansions. That at Hatfield (Fig. 33) is a good example of its kind. The heavy newels (Fig. 34) may be compared with the Elizabethan staircase at the Charterhouse (Figs. 20 and 2I).

A smaller staircase, although elaborate, is that in Fig. 39, in which the finials are surmounted by carved animals in a similar way to the Hatfield example. The whole treatment, although bold and vigorous, is some-what barbarous and of heavy proportions. Enlarged details are shown in Fig. 40, A being the carved lion on the foremost newel, and D the double "S" scroll carving of the newel. "S" scroll work, with the ends carved in the form of leafage, was a favourite motif of this and the later Elizabethan periods. B shows the carved hand-rail and the turned baluster, and C is a section through the former.

A lighter staircase in which the square newels are replaced by turnings is illustrated in Fig. 41. The balusters are also considerably lighter, as shown in detail at A, Fig. 42. The outer string is carved with strap work in the form of semi-chain patterns, D, Fig. 42.

The details of the staircase from the court house at E and F, Fig. 42, show another of the quaint designs evolved in the Jacobean period, and serve to illustrate the extraordinary inventive powers at work during the period.



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