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The Renaissance

Its origin and the new interpretation—Italian Renaissance—The new art in Spain and Portugal—German Renaissance—The Netherlands —French Renaissance—The English Renaissance.

THE Renaissance, or new birth, in architecture and art, involving in its course a revival in the arts in every direction, began in Italy. Having taken root and given rise to a new order of things in wood-working, and particularly in the interior wood-work of castle and palace, together with their furnishings, the Renaissance spread. The new movement permeated the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. It gradually became recognised in France, and then made its way into England, the Renaissance which eventually superseded the Gothic and mediaeval art reaching this country in the reign of Henry VIII.

The Renaissance came at a time when the nations of Europe were ready to receive and adopt a new and much improved class of building and superior fittings and furnishings.


The old order of things was fast passing away, and ancient institutions were crumbling. The world was ripe for a forced march onwards. The idea of reconstructing the very foundations of a new art was welcomed, and the cleverest men of the times sought for inspiration among the ashes of the civilisation which had existed long before. They found what they needed in the ruins and relics of ancient Greece and Rome.

The fundamental principles of the Renaissance were accepted and passed on from country to country, but the artists of each country, and in some instances of small isolated areas, interpreted the inspirations they received and the ideals given them as models differently. Hence it is that the new birth took shape in different forms, and the Renaissance affected the peoples of the several countries through which it passed, and those remoter districts it eventually reached in various ways. Thus it is that English, Flemish, French, German, and Italian wood-work of the later years of the fifteenth and the earlier years of the sixteenth century present such striking differences ; and in each of those countries it is evident from authentic specimens in museums and private collections that the art of those countries developed on different lines.

The architecture of the Renaissance underwent a rapid change, for many stately homes were taking the place of feudal castles, and the carver aided the carpenter and joiner in embellishing the interior woodwork as well as the portable furniture. The old order of things was passing, and artistic decoration and design as interpreted by the exponents of the new art or Renaissance, influenced the handiwork of sculptors, workers in wood, metal, clay, and glass. The Renaissance brought with it applied ornament of various kinds, so that wood-workers and carvers learned to use embellishment which necessitated the arts of other craftsmen, and the use of materials other than those which had been employed by mediaeval wood-workers. Such architects as Andrea Palladio in Italy in the sixteenth century, and nearly a century later Inigo Jones in England, did much to establish styles in architectural decoration, which could very appropriately be carried out in the furniture intended to be used in the buildings they erected.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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