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German Renaissance

The Empire of Germany as an empire did not exist in the days of the Renaissance. The peoples of the States now embodied in Germany and Austria chiefly included in the so-called Holy Roman Empire (which one writer on furniture says was neither holy nor Roman), were distinctly mediaeval in their tastes, and their architecture, furniture, and all constructive arts retained some of those tendencies during the Renaissance which came to them after France and England had caught the inspiration. The furniture of the Renaissance of German origin is, therefore, very unlike the furniture of the same period made in Spain or Italy, or those countries which followed more directly the Italian lead.

German makers appear to have been much influenced by Flemish artists, as is seen in existing pieces. The cabinet-makers of the German people were at that time in advance of the wood-workers of many other nations, in that they had made use of the printing - press, and some of them had brought out books of designs, thereby supplying standards which could be copied by others. Some of these were evidently made use of by English furniture makers during the Tudor period.

Perhaps one of the chief departures made by German makers is seen in the wealth of wrought iron work, with which they covered their chests and furniture.. Their metal-workers became famous for beautiful lock plates, handles, and hinges, which were often of extravagant styles. This characteristic is seen when the cupboards and chests of German make in the Victoria and Albert Museum are examined. There are many fine pieces there. Among the more recent acquisitions is a large oak chest of South German makeóprobably of sixteenth-century dateógiven by the executors of the late John Russell, Esq., of St John's, Sutton-at-Hone. Its chief beauty lies in the parqueterie decoration. Another remarkable piece is a fifteenth - century oak cupboard in four compartments, each of which is furnished with a separate lock, the plate of which is a most decorative piece of wrought iron work. The hinges, too, are especially attractive smiths' work.

The bed was a formidable piece of wood work in Germany and in other countries at that time. Indeed, rather more so, for the testers at that period were enclosed on three sides.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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