(PRIOR TO, AND EARLY, “VICTORIAN”)
Having fresh in our memory the standard attained by the British furnisher and decorator during the reign of the Georges, it is difficult to write in terms of moderation of English furniture as it was during the latter part of the first half of the nineteenth century—the early Victorian period— if the subject is to be discussed purely from the artistic point of view ; and it is that aspect of the question which must now be kept before us. Comparisons are notoriously odious ; but in many circumstances they are not altogether to be evaded ; and as it is one of the chief objects of this book to indulge in them, we must be prepared to put up with the consequences, whatever they may chance to be... >
supports—they can scarcely be called legs—of the two first named certainly bring to mind the tree trunk, but it is the tree trunk adapted to a specific purpose, and not as found in its natural state in the woodland or forest glade. In connection with these plates I must explain that it is quite impossible to convey a completely correct impression of any of the pieces by means of mere black-and-white sketches ; the originals must be seen in all the richness of the choicest mahogany, relieved by leaves, blossoms, and tendrils, exquisitely modelled and chased in fine brass, which is finished dull, and polished only here and there so as to give the necessary “ high lights." Their effect may then be properly appreciated... >
palette and brush through the medium of marquetry. It is not for me to enlarge here upon the possibilities and limitations of inlay as a means of decoration, but I may point out that, broadly speaking, it was never devised, nor intended, for the interpretation of schemes in which minute detail predominates, nor for the rendering of complicated harmonies of colouring; it is altogether beyond human ingenuity to employ it with complete success under such conditions. The “New Art ” designers, however, do not seem to pay any heed to this. There is scarcely a natural form or effect, from the tiniest piece of down on the breast of a bird, to a gorgeous sunset; from a blade of grass to the “ human face divine " ; which they will not attempt to reproduce in marquetry... >
of the important fact that the very nature of the materials selected renders the consummation of the idea excessively difficult, and, moreover, costly almost beyond calculation. When all is said and done, and the task is finally accomplished, the result is, in many respects, far from everything that could be desired... >
they are amid their own proper surroundings, in the field, garden, meadow, and woodland ; clothing the hills, and filling the valleys with verdure ; were never intended, and are absolutely unfitted, for the performance of the thousand-and-one duties associated with the furnishings of the modern home. Primitive man might be, indeed had to be, content with the service of a tree-stump for a table, a log for a seat, the shells of nuts or rinds of fruit for his cooking and feeding utensils, and Mother Earth for his couch ; but we are primitive man no longer. With every generation since Eve rejoiced over the advent of her firstborn, fresh needs, or supposed needs, have arisen or have been created... >
These reminiscences will serve to remind the reader of the fact that the times were not remarkable for lofty aspirations of earnest endeavour; but in everything the satisfaction of the senses was placed before the cultivation of the intellect, though the intellect was, of course, cultivated in so far as it could be brought to minister to the more carnal appetites. It cannot be urged that the influence of the Comtesse du Barri was in any degree inferior to that of any other of the king’s favourites; for his Majesty’s choice of companionship throughout was directed by the dictates of his own weak and libidinous disposition... >
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
The task of tracing, identifying, arranging in chronological order, and placing on record the scattered fragments now available of the history of such English furniture and woodwork as was designed and manufactured prior to the commencement of the seventeenth century, is, for many reasons, beset with difficulties; indeed, it is greatly to be feared that the story, in absolute entirety, will never be told, for the requisite material upon which to base it is no longer available. In the first place, the cabinet makers of the earlier times did not cultivate the practice of publishing design books, or illustrated sheets; if they did, none has survived to tell the tale... >
ІТ is not the pretension of this work, as will be understood when its dimensions are remarked, to provide a complete and exhaustive history of furniture, but simply to convey a knowledge of those national types that are still to be met with, in original form, in the auction sale-rooms, the dealers’ shops, the country cottage, or the old family mansion ; and which are being perpetuated even to-day by the labours of the designer who draws upon time-honoured sources for inspiration. The study of our domestic furnishing as it was prior to the end of the sixteenth century belongs rather to the field of remote antiquarian research, which interests but comparatively few people, and, on that account, has not been included in the present volume.
I have commenced, therefore, with furniture which... >
The following pages have been written with two distinct aims in view. In the first place, it has been my endeavour to treat my subject in such a vein as to render the text interesting to those who may wish to acquire sufficiently accurate knowledge of old English and some French furniture in order that they may be able to distinguish one style from another, to apportion each to its proper period, and to learn something of the history of all, without entering upon a very deep study of the questions involved. For inquirers of this class, I trust that my general remarks in each chapter will afford the necessary information.
For the non-technical reader, therefore, I have striven to connect the various styles with great political and social changes, so as to impress them the more clearly upo... >