Marked Development In Style
The Gothic style having been got rid of, designers were free to strike out new lines of ornament. It has been said that the Elizabethan style was influenced by the classical, but not so much as either the early Tudor or the later Jacobean.
Another characteristic of the period is the strap or interlaced strap, some of the finest examples of which are to be seen at Haddon Hall, which was built during Henry VIII.'s reign.
The small scoop moulding given to the edges of chairs and cornices, carried to an extreme in its too free use in later times, began to be used in Elizabethan days. The panels were then rather small, but the mouldings were large in proportion, and sometimes wide as well as deep. Bedstead heads were then panelled, the earlier ones with linen-fold, which is said to have been very useful to conceal secret doors which were sometimes found in the head of the bed.
The introduction of inlays which had begun a few years before was continued, and their use extended. The broad mouldings gave opportunities of ornamental inlays, and the small panels on furniture, walls, and chests were suited to the purposes of the inlayer. By means of different woods inlays produced light and shade, and enriched the beauty of the so-called jewel work. What is technically known as strap and jewel moulding was much favoured, also geometrical patterns ; conventional flowers also made their appearance about that time.
Elizabethan wood-carvers were more skilled than the carvers of earlier days, and they acquired a lighter touch. Moreover, they adopted figures and decorations instead of the somewhat meaningless ornament of an earlier period.
They carved supports and columns in the form of caryatides, which, although first culled from the classic figures of the Italian type, were altered at the will or whim of the carver, who sometimes saw greater possibilities in savage or sylvan men.
The acorn-shaped ornament found favour with the wood-carver. The round arch is another feature often noticed upon the backs of armchairs made in Elizabeth's day ; and a flower—something like a sunflower—is frequently seen on chair backs and chests of the period. The round arch is common, too, . and the arch, pillar caps, and other ornaments are sometimes built up upon the flat surface of the carcass of the chest or Court cupboard on which they form the decorations, piece by piece. They thus form an architectural building upon the surface. In later times similar designs were followed, but incised instead of being built up of separate pieces. This produced a flat effect in the inferior work, showing but little relief, and without the clear-cut appearance of the older method.
It has often been noticed that the most striking innovation in the furniture of Elizabethan days was the fuller development of the Court cupboard, which then differed from the flat cupboards of the early Tudor in that the upper part was recessed. The ledge thus provided not only served a useful purpose, but it made the court cup-board a much handsomer piece of furniture, the recess of the cupboard at a convenient angle offering further opportunities of effective ornament. The jewelled bulbs of the balusters supporting the canopy were especially bold and pleasing. Indeed, the jewelled bulbs of the pillars are the principal characteristics of design in the Court cupboards of Elizabeth and during the earlier Stuart period, especially in the reign of James I., when many fine cupboards were made.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )