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English Renaissance - Comparative Analysis

( Originally Published 1921 )



(For a comparative analysis of the essential differences between Gothic and Renaissance Architecture see p. 547)

This Comparative Analysis covers Early Renaissance (Elizabethan and Jacobean periods) and Late Renaissance (Anglo-Classic and Georgian).

A. Plans.

Early Renaissance.—House plans are often E- or H-shaped (p. 696) with central entrance and two side wings, as at Montacute (p. 696 B), Bramshill (p. 696 G), Aston Hall (p. 696 H), Hatfield (p. 696 F), and Audley End. Plans are sometimes quadrangular, as at Burghley (p. 696 A), Longleat (p. 696 D), Wollaton (p. 696 c), and Castle Ashby (p. 700 n). Sometimes plans are of a fanciful shape, as at Longford Castle (p. 696 E). Hardwick Hall (p. 700 B) is a rectangular block with large projecting bays. Such buildings as Knole, Penshurst (p. 370 E), and Haddon (p. 370 H) are of irregular plan, and are additions to previous Gothic houses. Internal courts for lighting are sometimes employed, as at Blickling (p. 696 J) and Chastleton House, Oxfordshire. Characteristic features are the great hall (p. 693 A), broad staircase (pp. 693 B, 755 B, c), and long gallery (p. 693 C). Broad terraces with balustrades (p. 752 D, F) raised above the garden level and wide flights of steps are charming features in the style ; while the gardens were often laid out in a formal manner with yews and box cut in fantastic shapes, as at Holland House (p. 705 A), Montacute, Longford, and Hatfield (p. 695).

Late Renaissance.—Plans are now marked by regularity and even by exaggerated symmetry, which aimed at uniting the various parts in an imposing facade (p. 737). The square type of plan sometimes had a central top-lit saloon, as at the Queen's House, Greenwich (p. 717 E), and the Villa at Chiswick (p. 734), and Mereworth (p. 737 G). The oblong type was usually divided into three, of which the centre third was occupied by hall, saloon, and stairs, as at Thorpe Hall (p. 737 AI), Chevening (p. 737 H), Coleshill (p. 737 c), and Eltham (p. 737 E). The Italian " piano nobile " was adopted for many country houses (pp. 736 B, 742 A, IT, 745 A, D, 746 A, B) with basement, not necessarily below ground, for cellarage and kitchen offices, while the principal rooms are approached either by a great external staircase with a portico (pp. 736 B, 742 A, 745 A, D, 746 A) or by an internal stair from the basement. Octagonal, circular, and ellipticalshaped apartments became usual, often arranged in various combinations, but these fanciful forms are not indicated externally (p. 737 G, J, L, N). Staircases received much attention, ingenious domical or other top-lights being introduced, as at Ashburnham House (pp. 741 A, 762 J), and there is no feature more characteristic than the well-designed staircases, with their stout newels, variously treated balusters, and consoled step ends (p. 762 L). Corridors gradually superseded the " thoroughfare " system of planning (p. 379), and added much to the convenience and privacy of houses. The Jacobean gallery survived in a modified form, as at Castle Howard (p. 742 B), Chatsworth, Holkham (p. 737 J), and Blenheim (p. 745 B).

B. Walls.

Early Renaissance.—Facades, both in brick and stone, are picturesque in character and often marked by a free use of the Classic " Orders " one above the other, as at Hatfield (p. 706 A), the Bodleian Library, Oxford (p. 706 c), Kirby Hall (p. 699 B), and Holland House (p. 705 A). Gables are often of scroll-work, due to foreign influence, and their general outlines are governed by the roof-slope (pp. 699 B, 705 A), while parapets are balustraded (p. 700 A) or pierced with letters or characteristic patterns (pp. 700 C, 705 A, 706 A). Chimney-stacks, either of cut brickwork or stone, follow Tudor traditions ; the shafts are carried up boldly above the roof and are sometimes disguised as columns, as at Burghley (p. 752 B) and Kirby (p. 699 B), and owing to their prominence on the skyline they play an important part in the design, thus differentiating it from Italian and approximating it to French treatment. Walls were frequently finished internally with panelling or wainscoting, with framing often joined by a mason's mitre " (see Glossary), in small divisions of uniform size, as at Stockton House (p. 755 A), Hatfield (p. 693 A), Knole (p. 693 B), Haddon (p. 693 C), Crewe Hall (p. 694 A), and Sizergh (p. 694 B).

Late Renaissance. —Walls continued to be of stone, sometimes simulated by stucco, but Sir Christopher Wren popularised the use of red brickwork as at Belton House and Groombridge Place (p. 736) ; while the angles of walls were frequently emphasised by raised blocks or quoins, as at Swan House (p. 738 A), which in brick buildings were often of stone, as also were the window architraves. The walls of Georgian houses are often terminated with well-designed cornices in brick (p. 738 A), stone (p. 762 B), or wood (p. 762 D, E), which, when painted white in conjunction with the window-frames, give pleasant relief to the facades, especially when of red brickwork. Plain ashlar wall surfaces served to throw into relief the ornate stonework of porticoes and windows (pp. 717 C, 736). Pediments and hipped roofs take the place of gables (p. 736), and chimneys are often hidden behind parapets, and thus the design approximates more in this respect to Italian Renaissance. The panelling of internal walls now generally extended in houses from floor to ceiling, and the wall surface was divided into dado, large panels, and moulded cornice, which gives a finished appearance and sense of comfort, as at Belton House (p. 741 c), and the Orangery, Kensington (p. 762 x).

C. Openings.

Early Renaissance. — Arcades were introduced into the larger houses, such as Hatfield (p. 706 A), Bramshill (p. 752), and Holland House, Kensington (p. 705 A). Doorways are always important features, as at S. Catherine's Court (p. 752 H), and are sometimes elaborate in design, flanked by columns (pp. 699 B, 706, 752 B, G) and are an evidence of the hospitality of the times, which is expressed in the couplet at Montacute House :

"Through this wide opening gate None come too early, none return too late."

Windows still resembled those of the Tudor period with vertical mullions, horizontal transoms, and leaded glass (pp. 699 B, 700 A, C, 705, 706). They became flat-headed instead of arched, to suit the level ceilings of dwelling-rooms. Projecting oriel windows, as at Bramshill (p. 752 A), and bay-windows were also much used and give light and shade to facades, as at Little Moreton Hall (p. 699 A), Hardwick Hall (p. 700 A), Longleat, Holland House (p. 705 A), Hinchingbrooke Hall (p. 752 c), and Kirby Hall (p. 699 B) .

Late Renaissance. — Arcades, formed of columns of correct Classic proportions, are familiar features of this period, especially in the larger mansions, such as Blenheim (p. 745 A) and Castle Howard (p. 742 A). Arcades with superimposed Orders, under the influence of Palladio, became systematised (p. 756 K), as were also superimposed colonnades (p. 756 G), and various other combinations were used by Sir William Chambers (p. 756 D, F). Doorways became more formal in design, owing to the influence of Palladio (p. 736), and many treatments became standardised (pp. 756 B, 763 A, C). The doorways of Georgian houses are often special features of the facades, showing variety of treatment, and are sometimes provided with shell hoods (pp. 738 D, E, 762 G). Gate-ways, frequently filled in with wrought-iron gates, are flanked by well-proportioned piers of stone crowned with balls, sculptured figures, or armorial bearings (pp. 712 A, 738 A), and rustication was frequently employed (p. 756 A). Windows were much altered in character from the previous period and became smaller, as mullions and transoms, although sometimes used by Wren, as at Wolvesey House, Winchester (p. 762 H), went out of general use, and sash windows were introduced (pp. 717 C, F, 736, 738). These sash windows, placed almost flush with the outer face of the walls (p. 762 F), were painted white and form a pleasant colour scheme when flanked by green shutters, which contrast with the red brickwork commonly in use. The openings were surrounded by moulded architraves and frequently surmounted by a pediment (pp. 711 c, 723), while larger openings were often formed in three divisions, as in Italy (p. 597)—a treatment much favoured by the Brothers Adam (pp. 756 C, 763 B).

D. Roofs.

Early Renaissance. — Steep sloping roofs, sometimes covered with tiles or stone slabs, were still used (p. 752 B), as well as flat lead-covered roofs, and sometimes both occur together (pp. 699, 700, 705 A) . Roofs were fronted with gables of the Gothic type, as well as with low pediments of Classic origin, even in the same building, and this is one of the many instances of reluctance to break with tradition (p. 705). Balustrades in great variety of design—arcaded, columned, pierced, or battlemented —were favourite features evolved from those of the Gothic period.

Late Renaissance. — Sloping roofs were frequently " hipped" and without gables, because the cornice was now the characteristic feature of the building and gables were therefore inappropriate, while dormer windows now took the place of the windows in the gables of the Jacobean period (pp. 736, 738 A, 762 B). A low-pitched pediment sometimes outlined the ends of sloping roofs, in contrast to the steep gables of the early period (p. 712). The upper part of the roof was often formed as a lead flat, surrounded by a balustrade and surmounted by a turret with a domical roof (p. 736 B). Balustrades played an important part in the general design, and partly concealed the flat-pitched roofs behind them (pp. 742, 745, 746) . Domes and cupolas were much in vogue (p. 762 A, c), while splendid steeples, initiated by Sir Christopher Wren, rival and even surpass Mediaeval spires in their fanciful storeyed outlines (p. 727).

E. Columns.

Early Renaissance.—The columns of the five Orders of architecture, as standardised by the Romans, were reintroduced, and indeed form the outstanding features of the Renaissance style ; so much so that all five Orders were sometimes used one above the other, as in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (p. 706 c), and Burghley House (p. 752 B). They were employed in all parts of the building, externally in porches, gables, and even in chimney-stacks (pp. 699 B, 706), and internally in panelling, doorways, and fireplaces (p. 705 D, E). These columns, both circular and square, were as yet seldom correct, either in design or proportion, while pilasters, banded with strapwork or prismatic ornament (p. 752 J), often tapered towards the base like the " Hermes " columns, which were also now used, especially in the design of hall screens and elaborate chimney-pieces (p. 694 A). Pedestals also received similar ornamentation.

Late Renaissance. — The Orders of architecture now lost the naive incorrectness of proportion and detail which characterised them in the early period. After Inigo Jones' visits to Italy and his study of Palladio's buildings, columns, as in the Banqueting House (p. 711 c), and other buildings (p. 712), were more strictly designed according to the proportions laid down by that autocrat of architecture. Full scope was afforded for the display of the Orders in the spacious porticoes of churches (p. 723), country mansions (pp. 742, 745, 746), and public buildings (pp. 748, 751), and they were often carried through two or more storeys to give an effect of unity, as at Greenwich Hospital (p. 717). Columns and pilasters are also the prevailing features of the Renaissance monuments introduced into Gothic churches, while panelling, doorways, and chimney-pieces of interiors conform to the same columnar style (p. 741). The canons governing proportions, first promulgated by Vitruvius and further systematised by Palladio, were again formulated by Sir William Chambers, who is generally accepted by English architects as the authority on this subject (pp. 756, 757).

F. Mouldings.

Early Renaissance.- Mouldings once again reverted to Roman forms as applied to the bases and capitals of columns and their entablatures (pp. 119, 12o), but naturally displayed considerable variety, due to lingering Gothic influence. They were often coarse in outline, but became more refined when used in wood panelling or plaster ceilings (p. 693). Bold convex mouldings, banded and decorated with strapwork (pp. 694 A, 705), characterise many Jacobean chimney-pieces as well as monuments and tombs.

Late Renaissance. — Mouldings, like other features, became more strictly Classical in form and, as the stock-in-trade of every craftsman, they admitted of little variety in design (pp. 119, 120). Mouldings in general, whether in stone, wood, or plaster, became bolder, and the large " ogee " moulding was the one chiefly in use round fireplaces and panels (PP. 738, 741).

G. Ornament.

Early Renaissance (pp. 758, 761).—The carved ornament of the Early Renaissance period is often a strange mixture of Gothic and Renaissance forms, and this transitional treatment gives it a special interest. " Strap " ornament, now much employed in all materials, received its name from its resemblance to leather straps interlaced in geometrical patterns, attached to the background as if by nails or rivets (pp. 694 A, 762 J, 761 C, E). It was probably derived from the damascene work of the East, and appears on pilasters, as at Hatfield (p. 706), on piers, spandrels, and plaster ceilings, as at Bromley (p. 761 B) and in friezes, as at Yarmouth (p. 761 E) and Aston Hall (p. 761 c). Carved figures of mythological personages, and of grotesques, such as satyrs and fauns, are further evidence of Classic influence, while heraldry was freely employed (pp. 752 B, C, G, 761 D). Interiors owe much of their finished character to the carved wainscot panelling, wide stairs with carved newels (pp. 693 B, 755 C, E), chimney-pieces, as at Blickling Hall (p. 755 F), Crewe Hall (p. 694 A), and Holland House (p. 705 E), wall tapestries, and modelled plaster ceilings, as at Audley End (p. 761 A), developed from the rib and panel type of the Tudor period (p. 337). Renaissance features also pervaded every branch of the allied arts and crafts, as in the following examples : The monuments to Elizabeth (A.D. 1604) and Mary, Queen of Scots, in Westminster Abbey; the tomb of Lord Burghley (A.D. 1598) (p. 758 E) ; the Culpepper Tomb, Goudhurst (p. 758 c) ; the chapel screen at the Charterhouse (p. 758 B) ; the doorway in Broughton Castle (A.D. 1599) (p. 755 D) ; the bookcase at Pembroke College, Cambridge (p. 758 D) ; the throne and stalls in the Convocation Room, Oxford (A.D. 1639) (p. 758 F) ; the pulpit in North Cray Church, Kent (p. 758 A) ; the rain-water head from Claverton Manor (p. 752 E) ; a cistern now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (p. 758 H) ; the tablets in Peterhouse Chapel, Cambridge (p. 758 J) and All Hallows, Barking (p. 758 G) ; the entrance porch (p. 752 G) and chimney-piece at Blickling Hall (p. 755 F) ; while the style was also applied to the furniture of the period, such as chairs (p. 761 x), chests, tables (p. 761 G), stools (p. 761 F), table settles (p. 761 J), cupboards (p. 761 H, N), and bedsteads (p. 761 L).

Late Renaissance (pp. 763, 769).—The carved ornament of the later period is an Anglicised version of the fully developed Italian Renaissance, from which all trace of Gothic influence disappeared as Classic tradition reasserted itself. The style of Louis XIV naturally affected decorative art in England ; while later on the Brothers Adam show the effect of the simpler Classic tradition in their designs. Interiors are characterised by large wall panels (p. 741 c), often containing family portraits, which also appear over chimney-pieces which otherwise became simpler in treatment (p. 741 B). Plaster ceilings are boldly set out in squares, ovals, or circles, framed in by mouldings, on which fruits and flowers are modelled in high relief (p. 741 A, C). Both walls and ceilings were sometimes painted with frescoes, such as those by Verrio and Sir James Thornhill at Blenheim Palace and Hampton Court. Renaissance features, now more sedate in type, were reproduced in all decorative features, such as the archway at Wilton (p. 763 D) by Sir William Chambers, the gate piers (p. 763 G) by Inigo Jones, the circular window (p. 763 E) by Gibbs, the typical chimney-pieces (p. 763 H, K) by Gibbs ; in the numerous wall tablets of the period (p. 763 F) and in monuments, such as that of the Duke of Newcastle in Westminster Abbey (p. 763 J) ; in casinos, such as that near Dublin (p. 756 E), and covered bridges, as in Prior Park, Bath, and Wilton (p. 712 E), and in buildings resembling Roman temples, such as the circular temple in Kew Gardens by Sir William Chambers, which it had become the fashion to introduce into the plans of formal gardens, usually decorated with such accessories as ornamental vases and sundials (p. 738). Houses owe much of their interest to the beautiful fittings and furniture with which they were completed by Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, and their followers. Chairs (p. 769 A, c), settees (p. 769 B), tables (p. 769 N, P, Q), waiters (p. 769 D), book-cases (p. 769 H, M), clocks (p. 769 F, x), mirrors (p. 769 E), candlestands (p. 769 L), gueridon (p. 769 J) and pedestals (p. 769 G) all help to give a comfortable feeling to houses of this period.



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