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Relation Between Architecture And Furniture

It has been truly said that the furniture of the home has throughout the ages been subservient to the builder's craft, and also that as civilisation spread, and the wants of the people increased, the builder and the architect have had to provide for the necessities of more furniture and a greater number of comforts in house furnishing and the surroundings of the home. The affinity between architecture and furniture has always been very close. The alliance is realised by the collector when he visits some of the more important palaces, and those buildings which retain their original schemes of decoration, and have but to a small extent been altered to suit so-called modern requirements. Nowhere is this affinity between architecture and architectural decoration, and the furniture used in such buildings, more clearly seen than in those wonderful palaces in France furnished by her kings and emperors. The history of French furniture of those days seems to be bound up with the kings who were to a large extent patrons and supporters of art. A trip to Versailles even to-day shows the architectural influences which con-trolled and governed the makers of furniture and those luxuriant furnishings which give such a distinctive character to antique French furniture. A visitor to Versailles, who had the advantage of being conducted over the famous palace by the architect attached to the building, in very graphic terms described how realistic the scenes which had been enacted in the Revolution seemed to be. As an enthusiastic collector of furniture he began to understand more than ever not only the general effect of those magnificent pieces of furniture which were at one time assembled in the palace, but he realised that the whole Court atmosphere and influence in those days was such as to inspire the great artists, and to make them, as it were, run riot in the extravagance of their decoration.

In viewing those great apartments at Versailles it is no difficult matter to people them in imagination with royal personages, and obsequious courtiers in gorgeous costumes, and as fitting accompaniments in such scenes to recognise the furniture which would be appropriate to such surroundings. In these prosaic days, when viewing individual pieces of French furniture of the Empire period, we are apt to look upon their rich colouring, almost extravagant decorations and carvings and wealth of gilding, as being unnatural, superfluous, and out of place in the furnishing of any apartment intended for human beings to live in ; but when viewed in the light of the architectural buildings which had to be furnished in keeping with their style, we see at once that anything less gorgeous would have been inappropriate. Thus it is that whether viewing architectural efforts of the French Empire period, or the furniture that once filled those apartments and halls, we must view them with full cognisance of the gorgeous apparel of those days, and not from the standpoint of everyday clothing, and what would be suitable furnishings in a London suburban villa in the twentieth century.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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