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The English Renaissance

As it has been pointed out the Renaissance spread westward through Italy, France, Spain, and Germany. Its full force was not felt in England with the same rapidity that it had been in some of the other countries, for it took shape slowly. The change from the mediaeval Gothic came about in the reign of Henry VIII., and in due course developed into what we call the Tudor style (see chapter vi.), the full effects of which did not appear until the reign of Elizabeth.

In the cabinet-making or furniture trade much good work was accomplished locally. The Italian artists, and those who had come under the influence of the Renaissance in other countries, laid the foundations. We were fortunate, however, in having one who could take up the position of leader, for in Inigo Jones was found one entitled to the title of " The Father of English Revival.." It was Horace Walpole who wrote of him, " Inigo Jones who, if a table of fame were to be formed for men of real and indisputable genius in every country, would save England from the disgrace of not having her representative among the arts. She (England) adopted Holbein and Vandyck ; she borrowed Rubens ; but she produced Inigo Jones."

That the Renaissance in England was influenced directly by Italian art, rather than that of the nations through whom the Renaissance had come, is fully recognised, for Henry VIII. encouraged art and craftsman-ship. He sent to Italy for workmen, and those who came taught Englishmen in the arts in which they were deficient. Although the oak of the forests served to provide the wood of which most Tudor furniture was made it was supplemented by apple, pear, box, chestnut, walnut, holly, and pine. It is affirmed that the general interpretation of the Renaissance in England was almost the same as the view taken of Italian designs by the artists in France where Francis I. then reigned.

The monument erected in Westminster Abbey to the memory of Henry VII. is said to be strong evidence of the influence of Italian art, and its erection undoubtedly strengthened the Renaissance of art in wood-carving in this country. The decorative furniture of mediaeval England was almost entirely confined to churches and ecclesiastical houses and the houses of the barons. During the Renaissance there was an improvement in the position of the citizen, and the real regeneration or rebirth going on in other countries found its counterpart in the greater comfort of the homes of English people. Early traces of the general improvement going on are seen in the comparatively few authentic pieces of fifteenth-century handicraft. The internal porches or entrances like that in the remarkable room from Sizergh Castle, now at South Kensington, referred to fully in chapter vi., are of Continental origin, and were no doubt Flemish. Several others are known in old English houses. There is one very interesting example at Broughton Castle on which is carved a motto which reads, " Of what used to be, the memory pleases but little."

( Originally Published Early 1900's )





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