Interior Decoration in England Prior to the 18th Century
( Originally Published 1919 )
INTRODUCTION. — Sixteenth century England will ever be endued with a glamour all its own in the eyes of those over whom history exerts a fascinating hold or in whose mental background a strong sense of love and reverence for our Mother Country and a just pride in our great heritage of English blood and traditions count as potent factors. The vigour, freshness and naivete of the period, added to the full-blooded stability of English characteristics and traditions, combine to cast a subtle spell over the imagination. Even the misdoings of that old reprobate and rapacious spendthrift, Henry VIII, seem to fade into a half-pardoned state of unreality and grow less reprehensible in the enshrouding haze of glowing splendour that radiates from the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and when we think of the marvellous delights of None such or of the 2600 tapestries that adorned the walls of his palaces we are all too apt to forget whence came the funds, to compass the building of the former and that many of the latter he either stole from the monasteries he so ruthlessly pillaged or filched from the possessions of Cardinal Wolsey.
Notwithstanding all this bravery of gorgeous display, there was comparatively little upon which, for our present purpose, we may profitably centre our attention until we come to the days of Queen Elizabeth. During her reign the building of country houses advanced by strides and gave scope for the art of furnishing to develop to a truly national extent. In all this work, which progressed continuously during the rule of Elizabeth and her Stuart successors, the spirit of the Renaissance was the controlling influence, but that influence arrived in England through various channels and manifested itself under varying forms, as we shall presently see, so that it is necessary to divide the epoch embracing the last half of the sixteenth century and the whole of the seventeenth into three phases the first covering decoration in the time of Queen Elizabeth and during the reigns of King James and King Charles I, a period of consistent, logical and uninterrupted development; the second covering the dour years of the Commonwealth; the third covering the Restoration period, with all its influx of fresh and divers tendencies, and terminating in the medley of Baroque and Oriental fashions that flourished vigorously all through the reign of William and Mary.
In the Elizabethan period the chiefest part of the architectural and mobiliary Renaissance inspiration came into England through Flemish channels. While a powerful Renaissance influence had taken deep root in Flanders and wrought abundant results, nevertheless the Flemings, like the French, had retained a large measure of late Gothic tradition and their interpretation of Renaissance principles was strongly tinged and modified by this residuary leaven of an earlier mode so that the composite result was unmistakably local and individual in character. This body of Flemish forms, upon its transition to England, was grafted upon a stock of British growth and precedent and the pure Italian Renaissance element in it was still further diluted by British conceptions and methods of execution on the part of craftsmen who, then as now, were conservative and retentive of the manner of technique and forms of decorative expression instilled by early training. In spite, however, of the dominating Flemish bias imparted to the Renaissance mode in England, distinct traces of a subsidiary but unadulterated source of Italian inspiration recur again and again in the work of the period, showing that the direct connexion with Italian cultural influence was far stronger and more intimate than is generally supposed. We may the more readily credit the existence and potency of this bond when we look into the literary history of the age and find that between the accession and death of the Virgin Queen there were published in England no fewer than 394 translations from the Italian into English and 72 texts in Italian and Latin. When Italian literature found such a receptive audience as these figures prove, when we remember how closely the arts were inter-related in England, when we study the evidence of trade and imports, and when we consider the presence of not a few able Italian craftsmen, whose continued residence and activity in England are matters of historical record, we may be very sure that Englishmen were not insensible to the enlivening impetus of direct contact with Latin sources in matters of decoration.
We also see in this condition a further link in the powerful chain of evidence showing a wide internationalism in art, an internationalism that we are altogether too prone to ignore in the past and assume as a development of modern times.
Under the Commonwealth we find a period of comparative stagnation and arrested growth in matters of English decoration. Certain Baroque tendencies, it is true, came more into evidence than at an earlier date, but, for the most part, it was an era of drab monotony; the minority who still cherished taste and refinement were in too great trouble or weighed down by disabilities too heavy to permit them-to give much encouragement to any form of art, and the greater part of the nation, under the impulse of that strange mania that impelled the rue-faced Roundhead ranters and gloomy Puritan religionists to contemplate in fascinated dread the flaming terrors of hell and to prophesy with savage satisfaction the unalterable damnation of all their kin and neighbours, was much too engrossed in the orgy of morbid introspection to pay much heed to the amenities of architecture or decoration. A few wealthy " worldlings " did indulge in " wicked and unedifying extravagances," but their example did not produce an appreciable effect.
At the Restoration, the pendulum swung to the other extremity of its arc and the arts of architecture and interior decoration gained all the impetus that usually attends long pent up energy suddenly let loose in a congenial and hitherto forbidden field of activity. The impetus was further intensified in London by the necessity of replacing the ruin wrought by the Great Fire. The large numbers of refugees returning from exile on the Continent in the train of the King brought with them not only a fresh set of polite tastes, requirements and broadened conceptions but also a very considerable quantity of household furnishings and luxurious garniture. Court circles and the people of the country at large alike welcomed all the new and newly invigorated influences — French, Italian, Flemish, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and Oriental—that successively made their way into England as a result partly of political alliances, partly of expanded trade relations, partly through the immigration of foreign artificers, and partly, though by no means in the, least measure, through a new cosmopolitanism that was gradually spreading throughout the country and sup-planting the old insularity that had received a mortal wound when King Charles the Martyr was beheaded and got its coup de grace when King Charles the Scapegrace, as the Merry Monarch might well have been called, came back from overseas to "enjoy his own again."
The architecture of this complex Restoration period was catholic enough to employ inspiration derived from French, Flemish and Italian interpretations of the Renaissance spirit and also to incorporate Baroque elements when there was occasion. In the field of interior decoration we find an opulent medley of Renaissance, Flemish, Baroque, East Indian and Chinese influences that combined to diversify the mobiliary manifestations of the period to an hitherto unwonted degree.
Architectural Background and Methods of Fixed Decoration.—Allusion has already been made to the domestic architecture of the age of Elizabeth, which was largely a composite of Flemish Renaissance forms grafted upon an English stock of late Gothic provenance. One might characterise the style as a Gothic body with Flemish Renaissance features and clothes.
The rooms and galleries were large, or at the very least commodious, and the ceilings were frequently though not invariably low in comparison to the other dimensions, unless there was an open timbered roof. The window openings were large and might consist of a range of three or more leaded casements separated by upright posts or mullions of wood or stone, or might rise to a great height, filled with tiers of leaded casements (Plate 5) separated both horizontally and vertically by mullions. Again, the whole end of a room might be filled by one great bow window with the mullion divisions, as in the previously noted oases. In any event, the mullions were an invariable as well as a distinctly characteristic and decorative feature. The casements were glazed with small quarries or with little lozenge-shaped panes leaded together. While the leading alone served as an agreeable decoration, heraldic blasonings and other devices in colour, in the centre of a casement, were often employed to lend additional glow and interest.
The walls were panelled with small oaken panels (Plates 3, 4 and 5), separated by broad stiles and rails, for either their whole height or else for the greater part of it, and when any part of the upper wall was left uncoated with wainscot it was plastered. At the top of the panelling was often a carved and moulded frieze. Projections from the panelling, such as door frames and pilasters, were carved in low relief.
The fireplace and its superstructure always formed an highly significant and much decorated feature of the room. The opening of the fireplace was of generous size and the surround was of carved stone (Plate 4), while the massive superstructure or chimney piece might be either of richly carved stone or of wood (Plate 3) carved with an equal degree of elaboration.
Whether of wood or of stone, the further enrichment of colour and gilding was often added. Equally significant with the fireplace as a conspicuous item in the Elizabethan and Stuart interiors was the staircase, the newel post and the side railing beautifully carved and fretted, which rose by broken flights and landings to the upper floor, sometimes ascending directly from one of the larger rooms, sometimes from a hall or gallery.
Doorways, too, were objects of rich ornamentation (Plate 2), both at the sides, in the shape of either carved pilasters or semi-engaged pillars, and at the top with elaborate carving and moulding, often in the form of armorial bearings with casque, mantlings and sup-porters. In not a few instances, the actual entrance was surrounded by an elaborately carved and panelled screen extending from the floor part way to the ceiling. The door itself not infrequently bore the adornment of wrought-iron hinges and bands with scrolls. The floors were of stone, of tiles and of wood, the latter being most used. Occasionally simple decorative devices were essayed with stone or tile paving, but as a rule the paving was without any pretense at ornamentation.
The ceilings were of beamed wood or of plaster or else there were open timbered roofs. The beamed ceilings commonly displayed the amenity of chamfering and moulding on the beams and frequently the addition of carving. Colour, too, was apt to play a part in the decorative scheme. Open timbered roofs might or might not be plastered between the timbers and characteristic ornamentation of carving and colour some-times adorned the woodwork, while decoration was also extended to the plaster surfaces.
The plastered ceilings were either flat or barrel vaulted or coved. In some cases stucco-duro or parge (Plates 3 and 4) ornamentation was used for the ceiling and consistent decoration in the same media extended to a portion or to the whole of the wall surface above the oak panelling. The over-mantel decoration, too, often consisted of a stucco-duro or a parge composition instead of carvings in stone or wood. The art of working in stucco-duro was introduced into England in the time of Henry VIII and was executed by Italian work-men who continued to ply their craft during a great part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and they taught some of the more capable English artificers to work after the same fashion. For various reasons, however, the art decayed and was eventually supplanted by the simpler substitute of parge work which, while it required less skill of execution, was also limited in the scope of delicacy and the range of motifs which might be executed therein. The stucco-duro ceilings were beautifully decorated with moulded ribs and panels, floriations and other devices, while the plaster portions of walls above the panelling often bore most intricately and deftly wrought friezes of hunting scenes, mythological or historical subjects. The same style of device was likewise used for an over-mantel embellishment and well-moulded strapwork was employed freely. It was not at all unusual further to augment the decorative effect of this carefully wrought stucco-duro work by polychrome treatment in tempera colours.
After the hand of the average English plasterer had somewhat lost its cunning and it became necessary to descend to the cruder parge work, the modelled decoration continued to be applied in the same places as previously noted, but the motifs were necessarily simpler and the execution far less delicate. For a full explication of stucco-duro and parge work, for the methods and motifs employed, and for numerous excellent illustrations, the reader is referred to George P. Bankart's admirable book, "The Art of the Plasterer."
When all the resources of fixed decoration just enumerated were fully utilised, the interior of many an Elizabethan or Stuart room was so replete with decorative variety and interest that it gave the impression of being furnished, even before a stick of movable furniture was put in place. This fact deserves close attention for the emphasis it lends to the reasonable contention that interior decoration is not alone a mat-ter of selecting and arranging an aggregation of movable pieces, but comprehends the creation of an whole and complete composition, a conception of the art that too many are unfortunately disposed to ignore.
The interiors during early Stuart or Jacobean times were substantially the same in their principal features as the Elizabethan rooms already described. Certain motifs of carved decoration, such as Romayne work or heads carved on roundels or medallions, fell out of fashion while other motifs came into vogue. The differences, however, were not sufficient to require minute elucidation here and may be satisfactorily explained in a subsequent paragraph. During the Commonwealth there was little architectural or decorative activity and it is not until we come to the Restoration that we find another fully distinct interior type of a widely increasing prevalence.
Beginning with the immediate Restoration period and thence onward to the end of the century, two separate and well-defined types of interiors must be taken into consideration. The one was the type with which we are already familiar, substantially the same as the Elizabethan or Stuart interior, which came down as an heritage from the past with only a few minor evolutionary modifications ; the other was a type for which we are indebted to the agency of Inigo Jones, followed, after the Restoration, by the work of Sir Christopher Wren and his contemporaries, who designed in a vein of much purer Renaissance inspiration than was apparent in the Elizabethan houses, the creations of Wren, however, being perceptibly tinged by a strong French influence, while the earlier designs by Jones were based directly upon Italian precedents. An infusion of Baroque interpretation entered into the composition of this style as well as the basis of Renaissance precedent.
The most signal points of difference between the old Elizabethan and early Stuart type of interior and that of the newer mode were that in the houses of more recent fashion the ceilings were higher: there was a more general regard for symmetry in the dimensions of rooms which, as a rule, were now broader in proportion to their length than formerly and designed to be approximately square rather than oblong : the window openings were taller and not so wide, double hung sashes instead of leaded casements appeared, and panes of glass considerably larger than the old quarries and lozenges, that had been held in place by strips of lead, were now set in substantial wooden muntins : the panelling of the walls—and this was one of the most momentous changes—was made with far larger divisions (Plate 6) and the mouldings surrounding the panels were of wholly different contour and far bolder: finally, in the treatment of both the plaster ceilings and the wooden floors, the spaces involved were regarded as opportunities for coherent and finished composition in decorative design rather than as bare surfaces to be covered with a relieving pattern.
While oak was still used extensively for panelling, pine, deal or Scottish fir, and even cedar were coming rapidly into fashion for the same purpose. This was the age of Grinling Gibbon, when the art of decorative wood carving reached the acme of perfection. For the new style of carving with all its realism, delicacy and undercutting, oak was too hard and open-grained a medium to be worked with the same ease or with the same dexterity of finish as the other woods just mentioned. Delicate carving in low relief was often employed freely on the mouldings of cornices and the surrounds of panels (Plate 6), while for overdoor ornamentation and still more for the enrichment of the chimney piece swags and drops of flowers, fruit and foliage, with human figures, amorini, baskets, urns, birds and other devices in a free and flowing style, with high relief and much undercutting, all together constituted one of the most characteristic aspects of the new mode. These finely wrought carvings were often executed in lime or basswood, which admitted of even more ingenious manipulation than pine, deal or cedar. While the beauty of the woods just mentioned, in their natural state, was fully appreciated, it was also a common practice to paint all the woodwork, carving and all, white or some colour such as grey, greenish grey or blue green and occasionally to apply gilding to mouldings and portions of carving. This practice was especially common towards the end of the century.
Doorways, and very often window casings, were made the objects of decorative wood carving: fluted pilasters with carved capitals, heavy cornices with carved mouldings, overdoor embellishments of an architectural character or panels with carved drops and swags were much used. The overmantel or chimney piece was even to a greater degree the object of careful decorative elaboration. The fireplace surround, with bold bolection mouldings, was sometimes of wood, sometimes of stone or marble. There was no mantel shelf and the chimney piece, reaching all the way to the ceiling, consisted either of a distinctly architectural treatment in classic and Renaissance motifs, sometimes with Baroque features also, or else of a large panel surrounded with heavy mouldings and flanked and surmounted with carved flower, fruit and foliage swags and drops in the characteristic Grinling Gibbon manner. In many instances either a portrait or else a decorative still life painting would be framed in the panel. This empanelling of portraits was not confined to the chimney piece, but was likewise practised to some extent for the walls. Toward the end of the century painted panels for overdoor adornment, too, came into favour and now and again decorative niches with coved or shell tops, for urns, vases or sculpture, were introduced into the panelled walls when there was a good opportunity for such symmetrical composition. Another feature of fixed wall decoration also frequently resorted to towards the end of the century was the setting of mirrors into wall and door panels, a device now made readily possible in England, as well as the employment of larger panes for glazing windows, by the establishment of glass works at Lambeth under the patronage of the Duke of Buckingham.
Just as the panelling of the walls had been proportioned and varied in size, according to the space to be filled (Plates 6, 7 and 8), so also was the ceiling space treated with one consistent and sufficient design (Plates 6 and 137) calculated to satisfy the whole area. Cornice, corner and centre ornaments were conceived in one mode and proportioned to the scale of the room. The devices used were ropes and garlands of laurel, flowers and fruit in bold relief cast in plaster as distinguished from the old stucco-duro work and the parge work that succeeded it, in which latter the relief or ribbing and flower pats were comparatively low, the designs being worked in the raw parge or plaster in situ. Colour and gilding were in many instances added to this cast plaster decoration. Decorative paintings also often occurred in the flat surfaces.
While most of the floors were of well-joined boards without ornamental device, the practice was not uncommon, in the more elegant houses, of inlaying or parquetting the floors in patterns wrought in different coloured woods. In her diary, Celia Fiennes alludes to the floor in a cedar room, of the Restoration period, "inlayed with cyphers and the coronet." Geometrical patterns in divers coloured woods were likewise used, " often radiating from a star in the centre of the room." To some such design Evelyn evidently refers in his Diary in an entry anent the Duke of Norfolk's "new palace at Weybridge" when he notes that "the roomes were wainscotted and some of them parquetted with cedar, yew, cypresse, etc." He also notes of another house that "one of the closets is parquetted with plain deal set in diamond exceeding staunch and pretty."
Furniture and Decoration.—During the sixteenth century and the early part of the seventeenth the articles of furniture in common use were somewhat restricted in number. Chests of all sizes and of all degrees of ornamentation were to be found everywhere and may be regarded as the standard mobiliary unit of the period. It was not until the early days of the Stuarts that tables became really common; prior to that time long boards on trestles often served in lieu of the long, narrow refectory tables with heavy legs, underframing and stretchers close to the ground. The wall furniture comprised hanging cupboards, credences or buffets (Plate 136) and hutches in the earlier days and, in the greater houses, there were often cabinets of more or less elaboration in the matter of carving. Bedsteads with heavy carved posts supporting cumbrous panelled and carved tops were the most imposing items of mobiliary equipment. The seating furniture consisted mainly of backless benches or fonts and joint stools. Chairs, most commonly with arms, panelled backs and carved cresting, were few in number and usually reserved for the heads of families or for guests of honour. It was not until the fore part of the seventeenth century, during the reigns of James I and Charles I, that there was much variety in the kinds of pieces in general use or that houses were furnished in at all an adequate manner according to our notions. Both in the time of Queen Elizabeth and also through the reigns of the first two Stuarts and the Common-wealth period the furniture, almost without exception, was heavy in structure, robust in its proportions and rectilinear in contour, in all of these respects coinciding very fully with the architectural background (Plate 136). So universally was this the case that the mobiliary creations of the period have been not inappropriately referred to as being, for the most part, a kind of movable architecture. While the paragraphs immediately following are to be understood as applying mainly to the furniture of the first sixty years of the seventeenth century, they may be taken as applying also to the furniture of the sixteenth century so far as the pieces therein discussed existed during the earlier period. It is, however, necessary to remember that certain items of decorative detail and ornamentation that had been characteristic in the time of Queen Elizabeth either almost or entirely disappeared very early in the reign of King James. Such an item of difference, for example, was the "Romayne work." This consisted of human heads carved in relief on roundels or medallions and was popular in the sixteenth century but virtually disappeared at the beginning of the seventeenth. Human figures in ornamentation also dropped almost completely out of fashion.
The pieces of furniture in common use during the reigns of James I and Charles I and the period of the Commonwealth were cupboards of various sorts, cabinets, buffets and dressers, chests, hutches, bedsteads, day-beds, tables of many varieties the most characteristic of which, perhaps, were the long narrow refectory tables, settles and settees, chairs both with and with-out arms, forms or backless benches, joint stools and footstools. The wood of which these piece's were made was almost invariably oak, although other less durable woods were occasionally used for furniture in humbler houses. The decoration consisted of carving, panel-ling, inlay or marqueterie, painting and, towards the middle of the century, the application of turned ornaments such as oval bosses, lozenges, split balusters and maces, and the formation of intricate geometrical panels by means of applied mouldings.
Carving of several sorts was used (v. pp. 55 and 56, "Practical Book of Period Furniture": Eberlein & McClure), but the most usual kind was in low but strong relief, often on a sunk ground. The motifs included strapwork, diaperwork, guilloche patterns, lunettes, tulips, hearts, roses and rosettes, acanthus leaves, foliated and fioriated scrolls, grapevines with fruit and leaves, gadrooning, channelling, reeding, fluting, nulling, lozenges, laurelling, palmated chains, pomegranates, notching, "jewelling," geometrical de-signs and similar devices, all of which were practically echoes of the motifs employed in connexion with the panelling or in the embellishment of one or another part of the fixed woodwork.
The inlay or marqueterie of divers coloured woods and bone was of simple but effective execution and generally showed an adaptation of some of the motifs already mentioned. The aid of colour was more frequently resorted to than many imagine. The carved headboards and panelled canopies of the bedsteads were often enriched with heraldic blasonings and the same form of ornamentation was also applied in other places. There was comparatively little upholstered furniture and such as there was in the early part of the century may usually be traced to a Continental origin; after the principles of the Commonwealth had swept aside tradition regarding the use. of chairs and they had become plentiful, we find both seats and backs frequently covered with either leather or "Turkey work." For a full discussion of all the furniture during the first sixty years of the seventeenth century, the reader is referred to Chapter II, "Practical Book of Period Furniture" : Eberlein & McClure.
With the access of new and varied influences attending the Restoration and profoundly affecting cultural conditions during the rest of the century, there was not only a vast growth in the taste for luxurious and ample household furnishings but also a perceptible increase in the kinds of articles that came into common use. While the furniture of former days continued in use along with the newer types in a majority of the houses, and while the former styles continued to be copied in country districts, the new modes exercised a far-reaching and modifying effect, completely trans-formed and enriched the average interior where they had been adopted along with the substantial residuum of earlier equipment, and in houses where only le dernier cri of fashion was heeded to the exclusion of all previous vogue—as in the establishments of some of the king's mistresses—produced a revolution in the art of interior decoration.
In addition to the tale of articles previously set forth as usual items of equipment, we must now mention chests of drawers on stands, highboys and low boys, cabinets with doors on high stands, Chinese lacquered cabinets, with or without doors, on carved stands, chests of drawers without stands, desks or bureaux, bureau bookcases, presses, bookcases, mirrors, tall case clocks and a great assortment of small tables for one special purpose or another. In the matter of contour, we may note that while the old rectilinear principle continued to be strongly felt, the curvilinear influence made its appearance and rapidly gained favour. This curvilinear influence manifested itself plainly in Baroque tendencies and we have such plentiful examples as scrolled legs, hooded tops to cabinet work, curved contours of chair backs in the Portuguese fashion and the beginnings of cabriole leg dominance.
The decorative processes employed included carving, painting and gilding or parcel gilding, veneering, inlay and marqueterie and lacquering. The vogue for lacquered furniture became a positive passion and not only did the importation of numerous Oriental pieces indicate a potent infusion of "the Chinese taste" in interior decoration, but the rage for this species of poly-chrome embellishment led amateurs to engage extensively in the process and the results of their endeavours often achieved an high degree of excellence. The style of carving that now came into fashion was realistic and wholly different from the methods that had previously prevailed. Much elaborately carved or turned furniture was made of pine, lime, beech, birch and other soft woods and then painted and parcel gilt or wholly gilded. The art of veneering was developed to an extent hitherto unknown and produced admirable results in whose composition were considered not only the pleasing effects to be gained from the contrasting colours of different woods but also the divers agreeable effects of grain and the pattern employed. Akin to veneering, but involving greater scope for the exercise of decorative design and the properties of multi-coloured woods, was the process of marqueterie which, in England, reached the high-water mark of its most skillful expression towards the end of the century. The value of upholstery as a decorative accessory was now fully understood and a great many chairs, settees and stools were covered with needlework of gros point and petit point, with velvets and brocades, with silks and even with printed linens and chintzes.
Other Decorative Accessories and Movable Decorations.—In no country has skillful needlework ever commanded more sincere admiration or counted a greater number of proficient devotees than in England. It is not surprising, therefore, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to learn of the high esteem in which the decorative products of the loom and of the embroidery frame were held and of the extent to. which they were utilised in the adornment of houses. Allusion has already been made to the 2600 tapestries which Henry VIII had in his possession. Nor was he by any means alone as a collector. England was always regarded as a good market for Continental tapestries and an enormous number crossed the Channel to be hung up in English halls and bring brilliant colour into sombre oak-panelled rooms. During the reign of James I the Mortlake looms were set up and the exportation of English-made tapestries from the island was several times forbidden.
Besides numerous tapestries a great many other hangings were, used to liven the walls ; velvets with applique devices, embroideries, and large pieces of the curious multi-coloured zig-zag needlework which we are accutsomed to associate with upholstered seats and chair backs rather than with the adornment of walls. When we remember that needlework was one of the principal occupations of ladies of position and quality, we can more readily understand the abundance of this sort of decoration. Besides the hangings for doors and windows, which were often enriched with embroidery, there were the bed hangings and bedspreads by which so much store was set that they were specifically bequeathed by will as important items of inheritance. These hangings and spreads were not only made of costly material, but were enriched with the most lavish and exquisite needlework as well. In the simpler rooms window hangings and bed hangings. were occasionally of printed linen with striking patterns and brilliant colouring.
In addition to the woven and embroidered hangings that decked the walls of oak-panelled rooms, another resource for polychrome decoration was to be found in the stamped, tooled, coloured and sometimes gilded leather that was hung or else fastened tight upon the wall surface. Other wall adornments no less effective were portraits and occasionally other paintings. When neither paintings nor hangings graced the wall, the surface was oftentimes relieved by antlers, heads, fox masques and other trophies of the chase.
Of course, there were numerous small accessories such as candlesticks, sconces, candelabra, and fire dogs, the last named of which were often large and of imposing design. Besides these, such objects as silver and pewter tankards, bowls and platters, pieces of brass and copper, the small brass fireside ornaments and fittings and brass bracket clocks lent welcome spots of interest and lustre.
While many of the floors were strewn with rushes, especially in the fore part of the period under consideration, it was not at all unusual to have rugs made of rushes woven by hand. In the wealthier houses Oriental rugs were by no means unknown.
After the Restoration curtains and draperies assumed an importance in the scheme of furnishing (Plate 1) previously unknown in England. The most splendid fabrics imported from Venice and Genoa, and afterwards made in England, were used for this purpose. Curiously enough, although the Mortlake looms continued in operation during the Restoration period and tapestries were still imported from the Continent, the vogue for this particular sort of wall decoration somewhat languished and abated in use and manufacture, in large measure, no doubt, owing to the new styles of decoration by means of more pretentious panelling, the use of niches, and the inserting of decorative paintings as panels and overdoor embellishments—a change for which Wren and his school were to a great extent responsible. Bed hangings and bedspreads maintained their wonted hold on public taste. Linens and calicoes printed in gay colours and fascinating de-signs, many of them of Oriental origin, took the place of the more expensive fabrics for draperies and hangings in rooms of simpler equipment.
Mention has already been made of the use of mirrors set in the panelling as a means of wall decoration. Mirrors in wonderfully wrought frames were no less esteemed as an effective factor in furnishing elegantly. Since the establishment of glass works at Lambeth and Greenwich it had become possible to obtain the best glass and of a much larger size than formerly and English decorators were not slow to avail themselves of this new resource. Some of the mirror frames were made of coloured, bevelled and engraved glass and were exceedingly rich in appearance. This glass of excellent quality was also turned to account in making large, cut lustres or crystals for the admirably designed chandeliers and .sconces that now became common. Other chandeliers were made of brass, of iron embellished with colour and gilding and of wood painted and parcel gilt.
Paintings, both portraits and pictures of a decorative character, afforded a constantly used resource. And to all this rich array, we must add the colour and grace of form conveyed by the Oriental porcelains the collection of which had become not only a fashionable hobby but an absolute passion among the people at large. Here, again, the power of Chinoiserie showed itself plainly in the history of decoration. The Dutch were not slow to emulate the Chinese and their Delft soon came to hold nearly as high a place in the esteem of English people. What with porcelains, lacquer and other odds and ends of Eastern luxuries that constantly found their way into England, Oriental influence made a deep impression on the modes of the period.
Materials and Colour: Up to the end of the Commonwealth period oak had been the staple wood of England for all purposes architectural and mobiliary, although, of course, there were plenty of occasional departures from this precedent and exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless, the period mentioned must be considered par excellence the "age of oak." About the time of the Restoration walnut came into popular use, being partly imported and partly derived from native sources which became plentifully available at this time. In addition to walnut, which may be considered the staple wood for fine furniture after the Restoration, other woods were employed for inlay and marqueterie purposes and oak continued to have an accepted position, especially in country districts.
Owing to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and, to some extent, to a certain tide of immigration into England before that event, great numbers of silk workers came over from France and began to ply their craft in England. They soon made brocades and velvets the equals in gorgeous colour, graceful pattern and excellent texture of the fabrics that had previously been imported in vast quantities from Venice and Genoa.
Throughout the whole of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the English colour sense was fresh and vigorous (Plate 1) and, despite the somewhat sombre hue of oak panelled walls, English interiors did not lack for colour and plenty of it. This passion for colour reached its culmination in the latter part of the seventeenth century, so that by 1700 the country was in a. very riot of rich, virile, scintillating colour, a condition that was perfectly compatible with good taste because the massive, strong, and rather dark back-grounds of the architectural setting made. such treatment not only permissible but absolutely necessary.
Arrangement.—During the earlier part of this period the architectural arrangement was rather fortuitous than formal, and the arrangement of the furniture units was much the same. The units themselves were not overly numerous, so that it was not difficult to place the important pieces in the broad spaces where they would be most effective. The fireplace, of course, was always a centre about which a number of movables would naturally be grouped.
In the latter part of the seventeenth century furniture items were far more numerous and notions of symmetrical arrangement, brought back by the refugees, imparted to the rooms an aspect of orderly and balanced composition.