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Furniture - The Arrangement Of Collections

Another very important point in the history of furniture which should be remembered by the collector is that a vast change has passed over the approved style of arrangement of museums during the last few years, and that change for the better should influence collectors in their selection of specimens and in their arrangement of the art treasures they are able to secure from time to time. In the South Kensington Museums a great effort has been made to classify objects of interest. Different galleries have been apportioned to various articles. No doubt the system of classification could with advantage be still further extended.

In Lancaster House, the home of the London Museum, a chronological scheme of arrangement has been attempted, and the arrangement aims at giving the visitor an opportunity of realising the progress made in home life from the earliest times. There is the dug-out canoe telling of pre-historic men who inhabited the marshes near by the site on which London town was eventually to rise ; there are rooms in which relics of Roman, Saxon, and early Norman London are shown in proper sequence ; the household curios of medieval, Tudor, and later days are beautifully arranged ; until at last the furnishings of the present day are made evident, and the costumes as worn by Londoners represented. That, up to a point, is an admirable arrangement. It gives, however, but a very poor idea of the condition of the home of the Englishman when the articles of furniture collected by the connoisseur were in everyday use. The reproduction—or, better still, the reconstruction—of some well-known building, or of some of the chief rooms removed from houses now demolished, filled with the correct furniture of the period, just as may be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, seems to be an admirable scheme of arrangement. The collector may be more cosmopolitan in his tastes, and may see much to admire in objects giving him a more casual survey of house-hold furnishings, as they have been used in this country at different periods. There is, however, a strong plea put forward by those who, whilst connoisseurs of art and collectors of the antique, are believers in appropriateness of arrangement.

The modern architecture of today reproducing some old English styles, such, for instance, as the black and white Elizabethan dwellings, once such noted features in many English counties, seems to provide the collector of old furniture with ample means of display. Some of these rooms can be quite appropriately panelled with old oak, the richness of the linen folds of which would give the choicest setting to oaken furniture of the Tudor or Elizabethan periods. There are rooms, too, very appropriately designed to show off to the best advantage the work of Thomas Chippendale, and the later periods when the Brothers Adam, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton founded styles and designs which have been much copied, but never excelled. In rooms furnished in keeping with the furniture collected, not only are the objects of interest to the furniture collector housed in appropriate settings, but they may be enriched by the collection of contemporary ceramics, tapestries, needlework, and other antiques.

The term " house furnishings " is of a somewhat elastic character, and those who stop short at simple wooden furniture do not get the full delight of the more complete collector, who includes in house furnishings everything that has at any period been a necessary part of the domestic surroundings essential to home comfort. As an example it may be mentioned how very incomplete an old Welsh dresser is without its accompanying array of pottery and porcelain. There is something wanting in a scheme of arrangement of an old oak chest, cupboard, buffet, or similar antique without a few pieces of copper and brass or contemporary pottery to suggest its contemporary surroundings ; and surely the floral decorations which delight the housewife today would look better in vases of priceless china and bowls with a wealth of colour, rather than in modern vessels, when antiques are displayed in the same room. Once again, the collector who revels in the old walnut furniture of the reigns of William and Mary, and Queen Anne would fall short of his realisation of what a collection of furniture should be if it were unadorned by a few pieces of Delft, or the blue and white of the Kang-He Chinese period, at that time being imported. Collectable objects overlap, but the connoisseur may well decide to specialise on some given period, and when collecting furniture add appropriate supplementary objects,

Fig. 1 represents how old furniture in a room suitably fitted up can be made very realistic, and how by providing an appropriate setting the value of antique furniture to the home connoisseur can be considerably increased. The illustration shows the interior of one of the rooms at the Manor House, Hitchin, in which there is some fine old Flemish panelling. The old paintings, hung on walls covered with wall paper of rich colouring, are in keeping. There are Jacobean caned chairs of several well-known types, and there is an excellent gate-legged table, in the centre of which is a branched candlestick suggestive of the days when such a room was lit up by candles. This photo-graph is reproduced by the courtesy of the owner.

Fig. 2 is suggestive of the grandeur of the bedroom in all its glory when the four-poster was such a conspicuous object.

The furnishing of the home in the eighteenth century included some fine pieces of decorative furniture, such as the one shown in Fig. 3, which is a finely carved Chippendale pedestal writing table, on the top of which are appropriate home-like furnishings. This beautiful table was recently in the Hatfield Gallery of Antiques.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

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