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Pompeii And Its Treasures

We owe much to Pompeii for our knowledge of Roman civilisation, the fulness of which has only in recent years been realised. Although the chief objects of furniture which have remained uninjured by their long burial beneath the ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of bronze, among the relics of those ancient cities are remains of the wood-worker's craft. In researches among the remains of Pompeii it has been made clear that a much advanced art was practised by its workmen. There may be seen rows of houses and shops owned probably by citizensówell to do perhaps ó not altogether by rulers and nobles.. Therefore, the examples of ancient furniture found may be regarded as of the common order and not like some of the exceptional pieces which alone remain to us as examples of the art of some ancient countries. One of the finest pieces discovered is a table, evidently from a Pompeiian temple. The rooms in the houses in that ill-fated city were light and airy, some open to the sky. The upholsteries used are apparently in many instances luxurious, and were probably embroideries and rugs from Eastern looms.

Like the Chair of St Peter, representative of the earliest known European craftsmanship, Italy possesses another chair, known as that of Saint Maximian, at Ravenna, which dates from the sixth century in the Christian era. It is a remarkable piece of early craftsmanship, being over-laid with panels of ivory carved with scenes taken from the life of Joseph. It will be remembered that the Byzantine period began when Constantine removed his seat of empire to Byzantium, A.D. 321, and continued until the year 1204, when the city was taken by the Latins.

Customs which influenced manufacture as well as art were at work during the Byzantine period, for it was then no longer correct style to recline at meals ; therefore the couch which had hitherto been used in Rome gave place to chairs at meals. In the decoration of furniture at that time the influence of religious beliefs was seen, for the Mahometans were forbidden to copy the human figure or form. Hence the absence of that which had been so conspicuous in Greek designs and architecture, and in the Roman furniture which had been influenced or wrought by Greek artists. In lieu of the realistic life and figure which had hitherto prevailed floral and geometrical designs were prominent when the Moslems ruled in Southern Europe, for they had destroyed the classic art they found in Constantinople at the time of its overthrow.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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