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. It is remarkable and significant that, whereas the names which stand out most prominently during the preceding reign as those of men of colossal genius are the names of those who were employing their powers for the glorification of the monarchy, under Louis the Fifteenth the giant intellects seem to have been intent upon its demolition. Fran$ois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire had, for instance, more than once full opportunity of judging from personal ex­perience the efficiency of the system adopted in the Bastille for the repression of treason ; and saw his works publicly burned by the decree of Parliament. l( Jean-Jacques,” instead of singing the praises of the Bourbons and writing trium­phal marches in their honour, was busily engaged upon his “ Contrat Social.” Marat was fanning the flames of the revolutionary spirit with all the energy with which nature had endowed his strangely warped intellect, and Joseph-Ignatius Guillotin, M. D., was perfecting his gruesome working draw­ings, and testing his weights and levers. So I might con­tinue, with reminiscence after reminiscence, but enough has been written to refresh the memory of the reader with regard to the influences at work when the furnishings were produced which we are now considering.

Let us see, then, in what particular directions the charac­ter of French furniture became metamorphosed under these prevailing conditions. A glance at the whole of the examples

illustrated in this chapter will fully justify my assertion to the effect that the reign of the straight line had terminated for a time and had been supplanted by that of the curvilinear; and an examination of the pieces in detail will bear out many more of my contentions put forward in this and the preced­ing chapter. The most important example perhaps of all those presented is the writing-table, indicated in Fig. 3, Plate

I., which is known and treasured in the Louvre as “Le Bureau du Roi" and was designed and made for Louis the Fifteenth by Boulle’s pupil Oeben, in collaboration with his own favourite apprentice Riesener. (Riesener, in after years, married his master’s widow, succeeded to the business, and became very wealthy; though he, again, like Boulle, died practically in a state of penury.) The form of this piece, although free in comparison with those of earlier times, ex­hibits that comparative restraint which characterised the earlier “ Louis-Quinze,” and the grace which it undeniably possesses is not unmixed with dignity. Regarded from the technical standpoint, as a piece of cabinet work it is as near perfection as possible, while the ormolu mounts are simply superb. As we are considering this “ Louis-Quinze " furni­ture more particularly with a view of ascertaining how far the English designers and craftsmen of the eighteenth century were indebted to’ it for inspiration, I may point out here that the “cylinder top” was not generally employed in this country in articles of this kind until the time of Heppel – white and Sheraton, and it is not unreasonable to surmise that they borrowed that idea, as they did many others, from this style. In the table, Fig. 1, Plate I., we have a model similar in feeling, but rather more free in character than “ Le Bureau du Roi," and closely resembling one illustrated in the preceding chapter. This study furnishes a capital demonstra­tion of the employment of the coquettish female head, a feature already referred to ; also of the prominence given to the bust. The whole, indeed, is suggestive of the “ certain

Reference in Text Page

Figs, i, 3-5. See 245 ,, 2. ,, 246

embonpoint" and "pliancy of the snake." But as time went on, the curves became more and more accentuated, and graceful shaping, whose very subtlety was its great charm, gave way to more pronounced and somewhat vulgar em­phasis, and a superabundance of meaningless elaboration— as in the pier-table, Fig. 5, Plate III. (with which may be compared Fig. 4, Plate VIII., and the table on Plate IX., "Chippendale"), and the pier-table, Fig. 4, Plate IV., which, however, is not quite so extravagant an example. Keeping Fig. 5, Plate III., in mind, the reader may well turn to the chapter on " Chippendale," and note the corners of the lower part of the larger press or wardrobe, Plate I.; the legs of the chairs, Plate III.; the chair-legs and screen, Plate IV.; the lower secrdtaire, Plate V.; the lower arm-chair, Plate IX. ; and other pieces dotted about here and there which it is not need­ful to particularise, for the nearness of the relationship is too apparent to need emphasising. This is particularly noticeable when we examine the chairs shown on the accompanying plates. The legs, in many cases, are almost identical, and as the French models were earlier in the field, there can be no question as to the source from which Chippendale secured his inspiration. All the chairs illustrated here are perfectly typical " Louis-Quinze," though the sofa, or settee, Fig. 1, Plate II., is a late example, almost verging upon the " Louis – Seize." Figs, i and 2, Plate III., are more or less modern renderings. The frames of " Louis-Quinze" chairs were almost invariably gilded in every part, or painted in the most delicate tones of white, cream, blue, or green, and touched up with gold ; the colouring, where colour was employed, being of so light a shade as to be hardly distinguishable. The cover­ings were of figured silk, chiefly from Lyons ; brocades, choice embroideries, or tapestries from Gobelins, Beauvais, or Au – busson. The designs woven into these latter were usually free and floral in character, as in Fig. 2, Plate I.; Figs. 1, 3, and 5, Plate II.; Figs. 1 and 3, Plate III.; and Figs. 1 and 3,

Plate IV.; though the “stripe” was also popular, as in Fig. 2, Plate II., and Fig. 4, Plate III.

In a previous chapter I have said that Heppelwhite and Sheraton were not influenced to any very great extent by the “ Louis-Quinze ” ; but that they were amenable to its fascina­tion now and again may be gathered by another look at some of the chair and sofa arms employed by them, and by a glance at the arms which predominate in the accompanying examples. The reader may also refresh his memory on the question of the relationship between the three styles—“ Louis-Quinze,” “ Heppelwhite,” and “ Sheraton ”—by again referring to the chapter on lt Heppelwhite,” and noting the chair-back, Fig. 6, Plate I., Fig. 9, Plate II.; the pier-table, Fig. 10, Plate III.; the stool, Fig. 2, and the sofa, Fig. 7, Plate VIII.; and the dressing-chest on Plate IX. Sheraton was, to all intents and purposes, guiltless in this respect, though by no means in others, as we have already noted, and shall note again.

While dealing with the furniture of the reign of Louis the Fifteenth, we must not omit to call to mind the fact that when the reign was nearing its close there appeared in the field of art industry one of the greatest fondeurs-ciseleurs the world has ever seen or is likely to see—I refer, of course, to Gouthiere. This great artist-craftsman was born in 1740, and was therefore only thirty-four years of age at the time of the king’s decease ; but he displayed rare ability early in life, and when but a stripling was working hand-in-hand with the most notable cabinet makers of his time. To him are to be attri­buted some of the most magnificent mounts that ever graced cabinet, chair, or table; but as he proved his skill more extensively in the “ Louis-Seize” than in the preceding style, lengthy comment upon his work is not called for here. It may, however, be mentioned in passing that among the inno­vations which he brought about Gouthiere laid claim to having been the first to introduce the “ dead gold ” finish that endows

Reference in Text Page

Figs. 1-3, 5. See 245 Г. 4- .. 246

so much of this old French brass work with such subtle and yet so great charm.

Thomire, born in 1751, was another bright and shining light in the same branch of industry, but he continued his labours to a period thirty-seven years after Gouthiere, who died in 1806, having been brought to such straits that, history tells us, “ il 6tait ^duit a solliciter une place a l’hospice; il mourut dans la misere." Thomire had much to do, not only with the tl Louis-Seize,” but also with the “ Empire" metal work, with which we have yet to deal.

The names of Lamour, Lalonde, Gabriel, Негё, Gamain, Caffieri, Peneau, Cressent, and Duplessis may also be men­tioned, for all shone brilliantly under one or another of the Louis, but lack of space renders it impossible to give indi­vidual examples of the work of every one of them here.

It is very curious that the French cabinet maker of the times of which I am writing did not avail himself to any great extent of marquetry for the enrichment of his productions, if we except, of course, the tortoiseshell and metal incrus­tations of the Boulles. Such inlay as was employed—an example is given in Fig. 2, Plate IV.—was of a comparatively simple character, and, when not floral in design, consisted chiefly of diaper patterns composed of tiny pieces of veneer— principally amaranth, tulip, rosewood, laburnum, and maple. These diapers were frequently introduced as a background for floral schemes, and were brought to great perfection by Riesener, among other marqueteurs, during the pre­valence of the succeeding style. The effect obtained by this inlay is rich though subdued, and decidedly pleasing, often having somewhat the appearance of a l( bloom," though it cannot be admitted that it ever possessed the great charm associated with that which became popular in this country a few years later through the encouragement of Heppelwhite and Sheraton.

There is yet another name which must be mentioned while

we are considering this style, and it is that of Antoine Watteau, who, although not a cabinet maker in any sense of the word, exercised considerable influence over the decorative work of the period by the persistent cultivation of that particular class of pictorial subject which, ever since his day, has been asso­ciated with his name.

Commencing his career as a scene-painter under the famous Gillot, he soon gave ample proof that the making of a master was in him, and worked his way up with so much determination that it was not long before he received the appointment of “ Painter to the King" (Louisthe Fourteenth). During the reign of George the First he came over to Eng­land with the intention of settling here, but his health suffered so seriously in our climate that he was obliged to return to his own country, where he worked until his death in 1721— seven years after the accession of Louis the Fifteenth. A scenic or theatrical feeling was always associated with the work of Watteau, and when regarding his military studies of camp life, or his still more popular pastoral creations, with their frisking lambs, coy and coquettish shepherdesses, and love-sick swains, we almost instinctively listen for some con­cealed orchestra to break into the strains of a rollicking drinking song, “chorus of villagers," or amorous duet.

Pastoral paintings, after Watteau and Boucher, constituted a great feature in the productions of the famous Martin family, to whose work a few words must be devoted here. Originally a coach painter by trade—and in those days even coaches were veritable works of art—Guillaume Martin and his three sons, Simon-Etienne, Julien, and Robert, maitres-peintres et vernisseurs, devoted themselves to the improvement of var­nishes and lacquers as applied to cabinet work. They did much to perfect the transparent lac varnish, and worked largely in that beautiful green varnish, powdered with gold, which is now generally known as “ Vernis-Martin,” and was employed extensively as a background, or “ field,” for such

dainty brush work as that to which I have referred. The introduction of the “ Martin ” preparations and methods of application made it practicable to enrich furniture with the choicest and most delicate paintings without fear of their coming to harm ; and so highly were the innovations made by the family in this direction esteemed by those in authority that, in the year 1730, Guillaume and Simon-Etienne were accorded the sole right, for twenty years, of making “ toutes sortes d’ouvrage en relief de la Chine et du Japon,” and the brevet was further confirmed and extended in 1744. The Martins, throughout their career, cultivated the decoration of coaches, sedan-chairs, and similar vehicles, as well as that of furniture, wall-panelling, and the like. Indeed, “ Vernis-Martin ” may be regarded as ranking among the most important features of the furniture of this period.

With the foregoing comments we must leave the “ Louis Quinze ”; but, before doing so, the reader may well ponder again over the examples presented here, institute a mental comparison between them and the forms based upon them which appeared later in this country, and then debate in his mind the question whether the spirit of luxurious sensuality has been so materially expressed, through the medium of wood, metal, and textile fabrics, in any other age or country, before or since, as it was in France during the days of the Pompadours and Du Barrys. We may attempt to copy the “ Louis-Quinze,” as we have attempted in the past; we may imbibe some of its qualities, as we have done and may still succeed in doing : but to expect the British nature to inter­pret the style as it was in the land of its birth in its best and palmiest days, with all its rare, subtle, and sinuous grace, is to look for a moral impossibility. It is not the skill of the British artist and craftsman that is wanting in this regard, but his very nature and temperament, for the possession of which he cannot be blamed.

While all those influences were at work in Б’гапсе which led to the ultimate debasement of the “Louis-Quinze,” others also were active in a totally opposite direction. By the death of his father in 1765, the future king became heir to the throne, and, in 1770, the marriage was arranged and con­summated between him and the beautiful Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, who was at that time only fifteen years of age. Thus it happened that while, on the one hand, the wildest extravagances were being encouraged by the ruling monarch, his favourite, and her satellites, the destined ruler, disinclined by nature to find relaxation in the licentious debaucheries of the court, was exploring the sciences and mending his locks, happy in the congenial companionship of his young but rarely cultured partner. The presence of this dauphinessas a prominent figure in such a scene presents a picture of refinement set amidst ribaldry, culture hemmed in by chicanery, love surrounded by lust; but she held aloof from the less desirable associations and companionships, and, fortunately for her, found a kindred spirit in that of her “lord and master."

A delightful glimpse of the daily life of these two, planning their future in the retirement of the Trianon, is gleaned from the pages of Dumas, where he pictures, with his graphic pen a surprise visit paid to them by the king in company with his prime minister; the two discussing the merits of the new bride. The following is a scrap of the conversation ; imaginary it may be, but it nevertheless conveys a capital idea of the preferences and temperaments of those who, in


Reference in Text Page

Figs, i, 3, 4. See 261 >: 2. „ 262, 263

after years, were to do so much towards re-moulding the arts of the nation :—

“ ‘ I have already had the honour to remark/ said Monsieur de Choiseul, ‘that Her Royal Highness is accomplished, and requires nothing to make her perfect!’

“ On the way, the two travellers found the dauphin standing motionless upon the lawn, measuring the sun’s altitude.

“The king said, loudly enough to be heard by his grand­son, ‘ Louis is a finished scholar, but he is wrong thus to run his head against the sciences : his wife will have reason to complain of such conduct.’

“ ‘ By no means, sire,’ replied a low soft voice, issuing from a thicket.

“And the king saw the dauphiness running towards him. She had been talking to a man furnished with papers, com­passes, and chalks.

“’ Sire,’ said the princess, ‘ Monsieur Mique, my archi­tect.’

“ ‘ Ah!’ exclaimed the king ; ‘ then you too are bitten by the mania, madame?’

“’ Sire, it runs in the family. . . . You may walk a hundred years in your grounds and you will see nothing but straight alleys or thickets, cut off at an angle of forty-five degrees, as the dauphin says, or pieces of water wedded to perspectives, parterres, or terraces.’

“’Well, come, what will you make of my Trianon? ‘

“’ Rivers, cascades, bridges, grottoes, woods, ravines, houses, mountains, fields.’

“ ‘ For dolls,’ said the king.

‘"Alas, sire! for such kings as we shall be."’

We now have to consider a third style in old French furniture, and one, withal, which is filled with interest for the earnest student. In the preceding chapters I hope we have been successful in arriving at a fair estimate of the


character of the two earlier styles; of the grandeur of the “ Louis-Quatorze," instinct with the spirit of majesty, and of the sinuous beauty of the “ Louis-Quinze," with its almost total evasion of the straight line, both as regards conduct and contour. It is now incumbent upon us to pursue our studies still further and see what followed the apotheosis of luxury and licentiousness which we have just reviewed.

It need not be pointed out, of course, that many of the artists and craftsmen who did their best to please the tastes of the Comtesse du Barry were endeavouring, towards the end of her supremacy, also to win the favour of the dauphin and dauphiness, whose predilections were as remote in every respect from those of the royal favourite as the two poles. These artists and craftsmen, of course, recognised this; they saw that the extravagances of the reign then rapidly drawing to its close would meet with but small favour in that which was to follow ; so they set themselves the task of exploring fresh woods and pastures new, determining at all costs to strike out for themselves, so far as lay within their power, an entirely novel line. What was the outcome?

From ostentatious, and to a certain extent vulgar, display, the pendulum swung back to the other extreme, and a more severe spirit of chaste refinement made itself apparent, for the sudden and unexpected development of which it is difficult to account if we leave the tastes and influence of the young dauphin and dauphiness out of our calculations—as some would have us do. It is practically impossible to trace with any degree of thoroughness the origin and operation of all the agencies which had been silently at work to bring this change about, and we can only speak with certainty of the tangible results that are to be credited to their account. Those results, which it will now be our task to consider, made the reign of Louis the Sixteenth and Marie-Antoinette, brief as it was, rank among the brightest in the history of French art.

The reader is already aware that my sole object in touch­ing on French styles at all is simply to bring to light the original source from which the eighteenth-century English cabinet maker drew the greater part of his inspiration; to show the extent to which Chippendale, his contemporaries, and successors, appropriated ideas from the other side of the Channel. This has, in a certain measure, been indi­cated in the chapters devoted to our own eighteenth-century work, as also in our study of the “ Louis-Quatorze" and “ Louis-Quinze " ; but we shall now be able to note more fully how far the productions of the designers referred to were the creations of their own brains, and to see how much was “inspired."

The more deeply we study the history of past ages the more firmly convinced we become of the fact that, in art as in other walks of life, it is inherent in human nature to go sometimes to extremes ; but we generally find that matters readjust themselves sooner or later; at all events it has almost invariably so happened. From the very earliest times of which we possess any authentic record it has been so. The severity of the “ Egyptian," “ Assyrian," and “ Greek," was supplanted by the heavy and redundant splendour of the “ Roman,” the very gorgeousness of which was almost too much for the eye to support. After that, reaction soon set in, and the “ Roman ” in its turn was superseded by the simpler and symbolic “ Byzantine," which again was itself destined to have as a successor its very antithesis, the “ Rcnascimento,” “ Cinque-cento,” or “ Renaissance."

In a similar manner, in English furniture, the rich carving —“Francois-Premier" to all intents and purposes—of the time of Henry the Eighth was supplanted by the simpler “strap-work” of the “Elizabethan”; then came the some­what crude productions of the “Jacobean," the severe “Cromwellian,” with its straight lines, refined mouldings, and dearth of ornamentation ; the “ Queen-AnneJ born of French

and Dutch parentage, and eventually another revolution, resulting in the production of “Chippendale,” “Heppel – white,” and “ Sheraton,” and finally of our debased rendering of the “ Empire.”

Contrasts similarly marked are to be traced in the old French styles as we pass them in review, and in the “ Louis – Seize,” with which we are now about to deal, we find, as I have already indicated, a distinct departure from every one of the modes that led up to it. Garishness is once more banished by good taste; eccentricity gives place to excel­lence ; sensible construction is in no circumstances sacrificed to ornamental elaboration ; and, instead of riotous extrava­gance being in evidence everywhere, calm and beautiful rest­fulness reigns supreme. It is really most remarkable and interesting to note the fixed determination with which these old French designers of the “ Louis-Seize ” set aside all pre­valent traditions, and relied upon their own ingenuity to attain the end they had in view. In order to appreciate the extent to which they did this, the reader need not do more than compare the types accompanying this chapter with those shown in the two preceding ones. By so doing it will be made apparent that hardly a single detail, or even the mere suggestion of a detail, common to the styles that went before is retained, so far as ornament is concerned, while general construction is completely revolutionised.

It may be laid down as a guiding principle for the help of the student that the “ Louis-Seize ” depends in a very great degree upon ornamental enrichment for its character; shorn of that, the examples we shall consider—and they are the most typical in every respect which we could select— would possess but meagre interest. Most of the construc­tional forms are simple almost to severity, though, be it noted, they are almost without exception well proportioned and graceful in the extreme. It is in this respect above all others that the style differs from the “ Louis-Quinze ”; and

if this be constantly borne in mind, the task of distinguishing one style from the other will be very greatly simplified.

It is for us to discover, then, so far as we can, the special character of which the u Louis-Seize" enrichment partook, and to decide in what category it is to be classed. And with regard to this, I may again refer, for a moment, to the fact that there are two distinct classes of decoration—and I am now alluding to decorative art generally—viz. : that which is designed solely and purely to give pleasure to the eye, to appeal to our love of grace of form, and appreciation of the skilful disposition of detail; and that which, while pleasing the eye by the possession of the qualities indicated, conveys to the mind also some lesson, or suggestion of something further. These two classes we may describe as the purely decorative and the decorative-symbolical. In the “ Louis – Quatorze" the ornamentation was intended to overpower as well as please; in the “ Louis-Quinze” it was intended to lull the senses into voluptuous abandonment; and in the “ Louis-Seize " we come to yet a third type—to a fresh vein of symbolism. Let us see what it symbolises.

Though Louis the Sixteenth differed vastly in character from his predecessor, he resembled him insomuch that he was far from being disposed to exert himself for the good of his country; and in no respect did he share the energy or determination of “ Le Grand Monarque.” The martial spirit was absent from his rule—that spirit which had predominated for so long until Philip of Orleans gave it the quietus, and which had so successfully been ignored by Louis the Fifteenth in his later years. It cannot be said by any means that the new sovereign was a libertine; but he was a lover of ease, addicted to peaceful pursuits, and devoted to the cultivation of the graces and refinements of life. He was neither vain of conquests abroad nor jealous of being regarded as a man of iron will by his subjects at home ; and provided that political disturbances did not interfere with his own personal


comfort and enjoyment of life, or limit “ supply," he concerned himself but little about them. Times of comparative peace had succeeded those of trouble and turmoil, though they were not destined to continue for very long. King, queen, and courtiers, not looking for, and therefore not discovering, the presence of the thunder-clouds in whose womb was pent up one of the most appalling outbursts of popular fury the world has ever seen, passed their days in dalliance with whatever appealed to their fancies, and devoted their energies almost exclusively to the pursuit of enjoyment, so long as serious exertion of any kind, mental or physical, was not required for the gratification of their desires. The notes of the shepherd’s pipe had, in truth, taken the place of the bray of the trumpet; silks, velvets, brocades, ruffles, and satin shoes had ousted the martial cuirass and spurred heel from the scene ; ministers’ “ portfolios ” and despatch boxes were filled with love-lorn ditties ; swords rusted in their scabbards ; even the duello was interdicted ; and it might almost be said that the only truly militant member of the community who kept his weapons in constant readiness was Dan Cupid him­self, the shafts from whose bow continued to speed as un­erringly as ever.

This, and much more in a similar vein, was what there was to be symbolised, and it is this which accounts for the presence, indeed the predominance, in “ Louis-Seize ’’ decora­tion of almost every imaginable symbol and emblem that could suggest to the mind in the most delightful manner the cultivation of the arts of peace, and, to a still greater extent, the pursuit of pleasure rather than the suggestion of strife, conflict, and conquest. The spirit pervading the court was indeed caught and crystallised, if I may so express it, by the disciples of Watteau and Boucher ; a spirit of dolce far niente, delightful enough to enjoy where circumstances will permit its indulgence, but which, under the social conditions prevailing in France at the time, could not but lead to awful disaster.

Reference in Text. See page 262

The foregoing remarks will make it clear that the transition from the “ Louis-Quinze ” to the “ Louis-Seize ” was not by any means a sudden one. The development was gradual. Determined as were the pioneers of the latter to bring about the existence of a completely new order of things, they were compelled to work in accordance with existing condi­tions, and saw clearly that an accomplishment of the complete change they had in view was a task whose execution must of necessity be a matter of time. At the death of Louis the Fifteenth, and when his successor came to the throne, most of the royal palaces were completely furnished and decorated, as we should naturally expect to find them, in the style popular during the preceding reign ; and, before any appre­ciable change could be effected, much of that which was already in existence had to be done away with in order to make room for the practical demonstration of the ideas that were germinating. That was not to be accomplished in a single day, or even in a single year. To this time we find in one room, in many of the old palaces and chateaux, decora­tion and furnishing which show the characteristics of two or more distinct styles, indicating either that the means were not forthcoming to do away with the old altogether and replace it by the new, or that the old was regarded with sufficient veneration and admiration to preserve it from banishment. At the inception of almost every fresh style, the old and the new were, for a time, wedded in precisely the same way, one with the other ; though one was (l dying hard,” as it were, and the other was barely yet possessed of sufficient independent and individual strength to stand alone. Minor details, novel in character, were grafted on to already existent and familiar constructive forms ; slight indications of change at first, but growing aggressive by degrees, until the forms themselves were superseded, and others more in keeping with the taste of the times took their place.

In planning this review of the styles included in my scheme,



I was forced to recognise the fact that to deal fully, in the space at my disposal, with every period of tm? isition was out of the question ; to follow such a course would necessitate the publication of many bulky volumes. Considering, then, what would be the best plan to adopt, I determined to deal, in the main, with each style at its fullest development, and to discuss the individual peculiarities of every one; feeling that then the recognition of transitional examples would involve but small difficulty. When we are familiar with the charac­teristic types of all the distinct styles, it is a very simple matter to distinguish when the decline of one set in and the birth of another took place, and, consequently, to classify correctly the somewhat hybrid productions that belonged to intervening periods.

I must now turn once again from mere generalisation to the more immediate discussion of the particular types I have selected for illustration, in order to make clear to the reader in what respect the “ Louis-Seize " was really the foundation of much which was best in our own “ Heppelwhite ” and u Sheraton.” In the first place, we may set ourselves to note the radical changes which were brought about in the general forms of the furniture that drove the Rococo from its position of pre-eminence, and for a time completely took its place. Here we find a revolution indeed. While u Louis-Quinze ” ornamentation, even at the best, was to a very large extent constructive—i. e. usurped the place of that which should have been construction pure and simple—that of the true “ Louis – Seize ” never, in any circumstances, transgressed beyond what were its legitimate limitations. It was designed entirely for, and regarded solely as, an enrichment for a foundation, or basis, already provided by the cabinet maker or chair maker for the carver, inlayer, or painter to beautify. This is a most important point for the student to bear in mind. In this style we have no longer to deal with a multitude of curves in the shaping, or an abundance of coquillage, apparently of the

Reference in Text. See pages 262, 263

most fragile and unreliable description, and ostensibly serving to support weighty superstructures—a task for which, both in reality and appearance, they were utterly unfitted. In their place we have sensible, straightforward, honest construction, conveying every suggestion of stability, though, at the same time, light and graceful in proportion ; satisfying to the eye, and altogether free from the suspicion of impending and imminent collapse, which is so often associated with the creations of the preceding mode. It may be true that, so far as form was concerned, novelty was consequently, in this way, constantly sacrificed to good taste; but novelty is not to be looked upon as “ the be-all and end-all of our strange exist­ence upon earth," and when it is attained at the expense of stability on the one hand, and good taste on the other, as so frequently is the case even to-day, the less we have of it the better. It is impossible to emphasise this point too strongly if the most distinctive features of the two styles are to be properly appreciated ; and the student must thoroughly grasp the fact that while, in the one place, the “ Louis-Quinze ” designer was perpetually striving to make his decoration constructional, the great aim in the “ Louis-Seize" was to decorate construction.

In “ Louis-Seize ” forms themselves, then, we need not look for anything very striking or exceptional ; if we do, our search will remain unrewarded by success. They are, in fact, pre­cisely what they should be—speaking from the strictest point of view—admirably serving the purposes for which they were designed, and presenting no very great difficulties in execution to the craftsman possessed of average skill. Where the presence of supports, such as legs, trusses, brackets, and similar mem­bers, is called for, those provided are obviously of a character most exactly adapted for the requirements to be fulfilled, instead of being confused masses of contorted scrolls, leaves, shells, and other more or less extravagant detail, pressed into service to perform duties for which, by reason of their very

nature, they appear to be quite unsuited, and have actually in many instances to be supported themselves in order to bear the weight imposed upon them. Need I say that the new rule was a vast step in the right direction? It was not beneficial only so far as regarded French furniture, for the British cabinet maker—at least those who take a pride in sustaining the best traditions of their craft—may be truly thankful that the change referred to came about in time to exercise a counteracting influence on the Rococo fever which had in­vaded this country, owing to the exertions put forth all too successfully by Thomas Chippendale to spread the infection which he had contracted, and from which he himself was suffering badly.

Had this reaction, to which I have intentionally referred at some length, not come about in France when it did, it is quite within the bounds of possibility that what we may term the “ Chippendale-Rococo " would have enjoyed a far longer run of popularity in this country, which would unquestionably have been a great misfortune. Had Heppelwhite and Sheraton not had before them the example set by the “ Louis-Seize" they might have continued on the old lines laid down by their predecessor, and the dainty creations which they eventually produced, based on this new French style, would never have seen the light. Thus it is that we are really as intimately concerned with the changes which took place in the applied arts of France at this time as were the people of that country themselves.

A glance at all the chairs and seats illustrated on the accompanying plates will at once make strikingly clear the extent of the change which came about in the designing of the forms of those articles alone, apart from any others.

As a beginning of our comparative analysis, let us look at the legs first—a most indispensable feature. The pure “ Louis-Quinze " chair-leg was never, under any conditions, straight; it was always curviliuear, generally in that shaping


(See page 263)

which we have come to know as the “ cabriole.” The pure “ Louis-Seize ” leg, on the contrary, was never curved, but always straight, and almost invariably enriched in one way or another. This point is amply demonstrated by all the models shown ; and, in order to appreciate fully how Heppelwhite and Sheraton followed the example of their French com­petitors, the reader may compare the types of the three styles

specified below :—


“ Louis-Seize.”

“ Heppelwhite

“ Sheraton."

Fig. i, Plate I. – j

Fig. 5, Plate I.

Fig. 2, Plate I.

,, b » hi. >

25, и 11. „ 5, „ VIII.

,, 4> „ VII.

{ Bed Pillar.

Fig. 4, Plate III.

» 27, „ II.

„ i, „ III.

„ 15 „ III.

These are the most striking examples, but there are many others which on comparison will reveal the existence of a very close resemblance. As a matter of fact, there is not a single “ Sheraton ” turned leg which is not based in a certain de­gree— generally a very great degree—upon the “ Louis – Seize.”

Considering the general outline of chair-backs next, the following may be studied side by side:—

Here again I have only drawn attention to the most in­disputable instances of direct inspiration, but I am sure they will induce my readers to search on their own account for others. There are, I need hardly point out, many modi­fications and variations in detail, but the “ family likeness” is

strong throughout. As regards the ornamental detail, there is not the least necessity for me to specify and particularise points of resemblance which are so apparent everywhere. It may be noted in passing that Sheraton’s “ conversation chair” (Fig. i, Plate II., “Sheraton”), though different in form from the French type shown in Fig. 4, Plate II., was undoubtedly based on an idea borrowed from the “ Louis – Seize.”

With regard to the peaceful symbolism of the “ Louis – Seize ” enrichment, I may briefly draw the reader’s attention to the caduceus on the table legs, Fig. 2, Plate I.; Cupid’s blossom-bedecked bow and sheaves of arrows in the mantel­piece on Plate II. ; the arrows, garlands, ribands, and bunches of blossom surrounding the monogram of Marie-Antoinette in the chair-back, Fig. 3, Plate II.; Cupid’s bow and the torch of Hymen, with “ love-birds ” above in the buffet, Plate II.; the shield, on the bed-end, wreathed with laurel, Fig. 4, Plate III., and many other details which will tell their own story of placid enjoyment, amorous dalliance, and the pursuit of pleasure generally.

The marquetry of the diaper class previously mentioned is represented in the table, Fig. 2, Plate III.; while the work of the fondeur-ciseleur plays an important part in the ormolu mounts of Fig. 2, Plate I.; of the buffet, Plate II.; Fig. 4, Plate III., Fig. 4, Plate IV., and Fig. 2, Plate V., in which last we have a slight departure from the perfectly straight turned leg, and a most delightful one withal. Delicate enriched brass mouldings and “galleries” were much in favour with the “ Louis-Seize ” cabinet maker, as indicated in a number of the types illustrated. In dealing with tables, smaller cabinets, buffets, etc., I must not omit to mention that alabaster, onyx, and the rarest marbles were very fre­quently employed for the tops—another feature of which Sheraton was not slow to make a note. Still further com­parison may be instituted between the under-framing of the

" Louis-Seize" table, Fig. 2, Plate I., and the "Sheraton" under-framing, Fig. 9, Plate VI., and the "Louis-Seize" " claw ” supports of the screen, Plate V., and those of the small table, Plate VI., with many in "Sheraton."

Enough has been said then, I think, to indicate how the " Louis-Seize " came into existence; to convey a knowledge of some of the most powerful influences that were instru­mental in causing it to differ so vastly from the preceding mode ; and to illustrate in some degree the extent of our indebtedness to it for much of that spirit which went to make our own late eighteenth-century furniture as refined and tasteful as it was.

In dismissing this most interesting section of our study for the time being we cannot do better than try to fix in our minds the picture of as perfect a complete scheme of actual " Louis-Seize ” furnishing and decoration as it is possible for us to conjure up; and a better could not be found than the bedroom of Marie-Antoinette at the Chateau de Compiigne, which is illustrated on Plate VI. In this delightful chamber of sleep every turn of the carver’s chisel, every mark of the ciselen/s graver, every thread from the loom, every touch of the brush, speaks of culture and refinement; yet does not the whole bring back to our memory the words of the dauphiness : "Alas! sire, for such kings as we shall be?"

The political history of France during the closing years of the eighteenth century; the events which led up to the execution of Louis the Sixteenth and his queen ; the state of chaos that followed the downfall of the monarchy, and the work of Napoleon to reduce that chaos to order, must all be so fresh in the memory of the reader that it is not at all necessary to re-tell the story here. All that we need do is to bear it well in mind, keep the facts before us, and see, so far as we can, to what extent the applied arts of France were influenced by them, and, above all, by the dominating spirit of that Little Corporal who discovered something far more precious in his knapsack than the traditional baton du marechal.

That the art of France was revolutionised for a time, together with everything else associated with the country, through the dictatorship of that colossal mind, no one can possibly deny ; and it is more than a little interesting to see by what instrumentality the radical changes which took place were really brought about, and to study that which has been handed down to posterity as the outward and visible sign of it all. We have no foundation for the assumption that Napoleon himself was an artist in any sense of the word, but it is clear that he appreciated the fact that, for his sway to be completely effectual, he must surround himself by material pomp and grandeur, that the eyes of his subjects should be dazzled by his splendour, and their minds over­powered by his magnificence. It is not too much to assert, indeed, that the theatrical element was strongly apparent, and intentionally so, throughout almost everything he did ; and


that being the case, the preparation of the mise en schie was regarded as a question of paramount importance.

When, in 1799, on the memorable 18th Brumaire, Napo­leon overthrew the Directory and caused himself to be nomi­nated First Consul, there were State residences enough for himself and Josephine. But the mark of the Revolution had been indelibly impressed upon them all, and a vast scheme of restoration had to be carried out before they could be expected to meet with the approbation of their new occupants. The question was, then, in what manner were they to be restored? Was the old order of things to be revived? Let us recall, for a moment, the story told by the then existent remnants of the glories which had so recently passed away. Shattered as many of them were through the mis-directed zeal of the satis-culottes, these old palaces, with their tottering walls, powder-begrimed gilding, and splintered furniture, were haunted by souvenirs of the “ doll monarchs,” whose heads had fallen at the command of the populace; of the “Well-Beloved,” whose corpse was followed to its last resting-place with curses ; of “ Le Grand Monarque,” whose great work of reconstruction had been so nullified by the puerility of his successors. We see there, in imagination, the shade of Richelieu, cursing the weakness of the fallen sovereigns; of Mazarin bemoaning the loss of his hoarded treasure ; Anne of Austria weeping over the fate of her children; Philip of Orleans hunting for his rouge pots; Madame de Maintenon and poor La УаШёге, Jeanne – Antoinette du Pompadour, and the ill-fated Du Barry, wring­ing their hands ; while the sweet strains of Lully seem to mingle with the echoes.

Such were the memories which were kept green by all that remained of the decoration and furnishing of the resi­dences and palaces to enter which Napoleon had won the right in council—or at the point of the sword : memories most hateful to him, and, through his influence, to the country at large. These memories, therefore, had to go, together with

everything that might be calculated to revive them. But what was to take their place, and from whom was the in­spiration for a fitting substitute to come? That was the question which presented itself to the First Consul, and he did with it as he did with every other question that submitted itself to him—settled it. Palaces were waiting restoration, and paintings wanted replacing, which, of course, meant that architects and painters must be found to superintend the task. They must, moreover, be architects and painters whose past records justified the assumption that they might be relied upon to breathe into their work the Imperial Spirit which dominated the mind of the great Empire Builder.

Was the “ Louis-Quinze " or the “ Louis-Seize,” with sug­gestions of pastoral pleasures and amorous delights, of any use here! No. Napoleon’s views on the question of morality, it must be admitted, were far from narrow; but what he himself indulged in and what he desired others to do were vastly different matters. In his imperial surroundings at all events he would tolerate but little toying with love knots— except the historic one which was destined to be untied—nor would he countenance Cupid’s bows ; flowers were to be the wreath of the victor, and not to be garlanded about the lute, lyre, and pan-pipes; while as to the timorous Colin and the coy shepherdess, they could not look for a very cordial recep­tion at court. There were some exceptions to this rule, but the rule obtained nevertheless. “ Empire " must be writ large in everything, and the task was to find the men who could write it in bold enough characters. They were found of course ; and the names of the chief among them were Charles Percier, Pierre-Frangois-Leonard Fontaine, and Jacques – Louis David. The records of these men completely justified the choice under the special and unique conditions recorded. All three were deeply versed in the history of the old Roman Empire, the completion of a “second edition” of whose glories was ever present in the mind of Napoleon; all had

become saturated with the traditions of Classic art in the lands of its birth ; while one of them, at least, outvied, if possible, the Consul himself in his detestation of the Bourbons, and no doubt gloated with devilish delight over the day that saw the execution of the Due d’Enghien.

It is desirable to dwell for a brief space on the careers of these notabilities ; for by so doing we shall be able later to account all the more readily for the character of the style which they created, and the study of which is the object we have at present in view.

Charles Percier, even during the reign of Louis the Six­teenth, had attained a fame so great as an architect, and par­ticularly as an exponent of the principles of ancient Roman art, that when, in 1792, just a year prior to that during which the guillotine became the temporary ruler of France, he founded a school of architecture in Paris, students from all parts of the civilised world flocked to him for instruction, and received a training which, in after years, raised them in their turn to positions of eminence in their own lands. Perhaps the best known works of Percier himself are the completion of the Louvre, the Madeleine, and the Bourse, in Paris. This artist, it is interesting to note by the way, was on terms of the most intimate friendship with Canova and our own Flaxman.

Pierre-Fran$ois-Leonard Fontaine (who worked largely in collaboration with Percier, and who became known as the “Father of the Modern French School”), in the year 1785, when quite a young man, in fact when only twenty-three years of age, won the French National Prize for architecture; went to study in Rome at the expense of the Academy; was accorded an extra prize of 3000 francs by the State for his drawings of “The Imperial City in the Time of the Caesars”; and, after his return to his own country, took first rank at the head of his profession, and terminated his career as Architect to King Louis the Eighteenth.

As for Jacques-Louis David, his life was indeed an eventful

one. Born in 1748, while Louis the Fifteenth was yet on the throne, he early gave evidence of the possession of artistic talents; and, when he had attained the requisite age, became a pupil of Joseph-Marie Vien, Director of the French Academy at Rome, and afterwards Commander of the Legion of Honour when that order had been instituted by Napoleon. Having completed his studies in Italy, he returned to France, and, like Percier, opened a school, the fame of which attracted many students to its doors. He revisited Italy in 1784, and on his second return was hailed as “The Regenerator of French Art." His admission to the Academy followed, and apartments were accorded to him in the Louvre, together with the title “ Painter to the King ” (Louis the Sixteenth). When the people of France commenced to gorge themselves with blood, David displayed an insatiable appetite for it; forsook his “appartements” at the Louvre; forgot the favours that had been heaped upon him by royalty ; became a member of the National Convention, joined hands with Robespierre, for whom he formed a great personal attachment; and, when the death of the king had been decided upon, was the loudest to clamour for the head of his sovereign, and the foremost to hurl the vilest insults at him upon whom he had previously fawned for favour. When he was deprived of the protection of Robes­pierre, and was himself brought face to face with “Made­moiselle de Paris,” his head was left on his shoulders on account of his genius as an artist; so he hastily abandoned party politics and returned to art, in which he became “ Dictator.”

Such were the men to whom Napoleon looked for the creation of the art of the First Empire ; men who laid the foundation of the “Empire” style, and, further, did much towards the completion of the edifice. Percier and Fontaine were set to work early to restore Malmaison and other palaces, as well as to complete the Louvre and the Tuileries ; while, in the direction of the fine arts, the influence of David

became supreme, and so far reaching in other paths that even the designing of the official dresses of the court was entrusted to him. Napoleon heaped favours upon his head, created him “Commander of the Legion of Honour,” so that he took rank with his erstwhile master ; and so inflated did he become with the greatness of his own importance that his conceit was almost intolerable, and fortunate were they deemed who could persuade him to execute commissions for them. A story is told to the effect that the Duke of Wellington visited David’s studio on one occasion, and expressed a desire to be painted, but that the artist met the request by turning on his heel with the retort that he did not paint Englishmen! Whether this be true I am not in a position to affirm.

The studies of these men had naturally made them masters of the best traditions of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art, and those traditions furnished exactly the inspiration which they required for the execution of the work they had in hand. Their imperial patron, moreover, had travelled much in the lands of the Caesars and the Pharaohs; had seen and admired many of the incomparable works of their times; and had found in them a material expression of the stupendous greatness of his own imaginings and plans. So there was an open field, a clearly defined programme, and unlimited opportunity for the achievement of great things; and certainly the chapter which was written at this time in the history of the art of the world moves with stately measure.

In considering individual examples of “ Empire ” furniture, we may note, in the first place, whether, notwithstanding the determination to banish all memories of the “ Louis-Seize ” and of the preceding styles, any traces of them lingered in the homes of Napoleon. It would indeed have been remark­able had absolutely none remained ; some actually did, but they are very slight and few and far between, I will, how­ever, point out one or two. If the general forms of Figs,

3 and 4, Plate I., Fig. 3, Plate II., and Fig. 6, Plate IV., be carefully studied, it will be apparent that, in planning them, the designer had not completely lost sight of the “Louis-Seize ” chair, and was not able, try as he might, to keep clear of its lines, but there the resemblance ends. The proportions are different—much heavier generally ; the de­tail is in no way related to that of the preceding style, so the whole structures are endowed with a character entirely different from that which charmed the refined tastes of Marie Antoinette. For an “Empire” chair, that illustrated in Fig. 3, Plate I., is exceptionally light and graceful, and the shaping of the back is somewhat suggestive of the “Greek” curve so popular amongst French designers of the period ; but the massive arm-chair on the same plate (Fig. 4) is dignified enough to support the shade, or the body were it available, of Junius Brutus himself, passing sentence of death on his son Titus—an incident so beloved of Jacques Louis David. Here we have a strong reflection of the ancient Roman splendour, with its overpowering heaviness and con­fusing wealth of redundant detail. A careful observation of the arms will reveal the presence of the Imperial Eagle—in an embryonic state it is true. The front legs of the chair, I need not say, are “ Louis-Seize ” clothed in “ Empire.”

Figure 3, Plate II., as I have already suggested, illustrates another “Louis Seize” frame upon which the “Empire” mantle has fallen ; in place of the dainty enrichment of the earlier style, we find the heavier “ Roman ” acanthus leaf, the “Classic” capital to the front legs, the bay, and the severe “ Greek ” scrolls surmounting the back. Fig. 6, Plate

III., gives a very simple study in “Empire,” and is most re­strained so far as ornamentation goes, clearly revealing the “Greek” influence. Fig. 6, Plate IV., brings us nearer to the “ Louis-Seize,” though the turning of the front legs, instead of being diversified by members, presents one un­broken line, and the legs themselves, by their form and

Reference in Text


Fig. 4. See 275

5- .. 274

,, 6. ,, 270, 276

treatment, almost convey the idea of flaming torches, irre­sistibly recalling Nero and the traditional setting for the most famous of his musical performances.

I have reserved three seats for special consideration. The first of these is portrayed in Fig. 1, Plate IV. Comparatively insignificant as this example of the chair maker’s art is in point of size, I employ no figure of speech in saying that it is instinct with stately dignity in every item of form and detail. It well need be, indeed, for such was the sacred throne of the great emperor himself. When in the throne room, this chair was, of course, mounted on a dais, and shadowed by rich and heavy draperies, relieved by martial emblems ; but, even when divorced from those stage accessories, it is every inch a seat for a king. The frame, with its chimerical “trusses” or supports, wreath of bay leaves entwined with ribands, and rosettes, or patera, is richly gilt, while the spheres terminating the arms, which were grasped by the hands of the emperor when seated in state, are of the purest crystal, studded with stars. Did not the imperial hand, holding the star-studded sphere, symbolise the insatiable aspirations of the man? Had he conquered this earth itself, would he have been satisfied, or might he not, in very truth, have chafed at the defiance of the terrestrial bodies, the symbols of which were beneath his fingers? Who will venture to say?

But to complete my description of this treasure. The covering is of deep green velvet, if I remember aright—it is many years since I saw it—richly embroidered with gold, the whole of the design of the embroidery being planned so as to frame in the royal initial “ N.” In front of the seat cushion the Imperial Eagle is “supported” by u Roman” foliated scrolls.

I have remarked upon the comparatively insignificant pro­portions of this throne; but is it not quite possible that this very insignificance, so far as size is concerned, may be most significant in other respects. It is not at all unreasonable

to presume that, being notably small of stature, Napoleon dictated that his throne should be planned in proportion to his own frame; not being himself prepared to submit to even apparent subordination to wood and upholstery, even though that wood might be gilded with refined gold and the upholstery covered in the costliest products of the loom. Small as he was, he preferred to tower above his surroundings rather than to be lost amidst them.

Some writers would have us believe that Napoleon was never known to “take things easily" ; but I am in a position to present conclusive proof to the contrary. Endowed with almost superhuman energy, displaying a terrible capacity for work, turning night into day, and all but killing those who served under him by his constant demands upon their physical endurance, there came periods when even he could support the strain no longer, and had to seek bodily repose, though whether his mind ever enjoyed immunity from activity is open to question. But his attitude even when temporarily resting was characteristic of the really restless disposition of the man ; when settled down in either chair or sofa, or any other form of seat furnished with arms, over one or the other of those arms one of the imperial legs would be thrown sooner or later, if it was in any way possible to get it there. So strong was this idiosyncrasy with him that a special seat was made —it is said from his own design—to enable him to indulge it to the full, and with the maximum degree of comfort. Whether the story respecting the authorship of the design be founded upon fact or not must be left open to question; but that the seat itself really was used by Napoleon seems to be beyond dispute, and it now occupies a place of honour in the Palace of Fontainebleau, where I made the sketch for the drawing which appears in Fig. 1, Plate II. It is exceptionally sensible and comfortable, providing a model from which the modern upholsterer would do well to take a hint more often when furnishing the club, smoke-room, or “ den.”

Figure i, Plate III., illustrates another “Empire’’ type of chair. The origin of its form, though that form is vastly different from the others shown here, is clearly “ Classic,” for it may be traced without difficulty to the old Roman chariots of the simpler description. Substitute two wheels for the legs and take away the arms, and there is the chariot ready for the horses and the arena.

In Fig. 3, Plate IV., we have a “ Roman ” form again, based on the ancient curule chairs, upon which the emperors used to take their ease when not reclining, and in which they were sometimes carried abroad. This particular seat is from the Throne Room at Fontainebleau, and its dimensions seem to suggest that, on State occasions at least, all present who were privileged to sit, had to be content with occupying a lower place in every sense of the word than that of the central and predominant figure.

While dealing with models which we know from existing evidence to have actually formed part of the personal sur­roundings of Napoleon at home, the two beds, Figs. 2 and 4, Plate IV., must come in for a share of consideration. That shown in Fig. 4 is indeed simple to severity, and is more suggestive of the rigours of camp life than of anything else ; but the one above it speaks more of the royal splendour of the palace, though it also is severe, but with the severity of the palmiest days of the “ Greek.” It is beautiful in the chaste simplicity of its scrolls and perfect restraint in the employ­ment of the most refined decorative detail.

We will next take a glance at the “Empire” table ; and in doing so we shall find that the top is almost invariably either circular or rectangular in form, is made either of wood or of some rare marble, and is supported by chimerical creatures inspired by the ancient sphinxes ; by “ trusses,” or legs, shaped to resemble the legs and paws of animals—generally of the lion —or by heavy, and severely simple, turning. Of the first class we have examples in Figs. 1 and 5, Plate I.; of the second


in Fig. 2 on the same plate ; and of the third in Fig. 2, Plate

11., Figs. 2 and 5, Plate III., and in the historic table upon which Napoleon signed his abdication, shown on Plate V. With regard to these I may point out at the moment that, in Fig. i, Plate I., in addition to the protective chimerx, the “ Roman " shield and bay leaf are introduced in order to heighten the martial feeling of the whole; and that, in the chimerx of Fig. 6, we have the head and wings of the Imperial Eagle. The detail of the rest speaks for itself.

In studying the “ Empire ” with a view to tracing the influence which it exerted over early nineteenth-century English furnishings, special note should be made of the tables illustrated in Fig. 2, Plate II., Figs. 2 and 5, Plate

111., and the “Table de F Abdication" Plate V., for they are models that were seized upon, and “ done to death,” by the early Victorian cabinet makers of this country. There can, surely, be but few of my readers who have not met, at one time or another, with many descendants of these. The turned pillar, and particularly the base, of the last are familiar friends which in our childhood’s days suffered the impress of our boots. The top of the “Empire” pier – table was, more frequently than not, supported by slightly tapered, but by no means slender, legs, surmounted by a classically conceived female head and bust—as in Plate V.— or by the heads of animals or birds. In the tables illustrated it will be noticed that the imperial initial again plays an important part. The dainty little piece which appears in Fig. 5, Plate IV., seems almost to have crept in by mistake, as there is nothing of the stately spirit of the “Empire” about it. It is Napoleonic, however, as regards period; was included in the furnishing of one of the royal residences; and was probably designed and made to please the more delicate tastes of poor Josephine, or of her successor Maria Louisa, to both of whom their imperious master’s persistent

Reference in Text. See page 274

craving after pomp and display must surely have proved not a little trying.

Leaving chairs, sofas, beds, and tables, it is time to note one or two examples of “ Empire" cabinet work proper before concluding our consideration of this style; these will be found in Fig. 6, Plate I., Fig. 4, Plate II., Fig. 4, Plate III., and on Plate V. A knowledge of this phase of the subject is easily acquired, for “Empire” carcase work generally, no matter for what purpose it was intended, was, with the rarest excep­tions, extremely severe in form, and depended almost entirely for its character on the detail with which it was enriched. Here the fondeur ciseleur again had his opportunity, and he made remarkably good use of it. Popular as modelled and chased brass mounts were during the earlier periods which we have passed in review, at the introduction of the “ Em­pire” they were more extensively employed than ever. So important, indeed, was the part they played, that, without their presence, many a choice example of the style which is treasured in the most famous collections, and with which the proud possessors could never be induced to part “for love or money,” would not attract a second glance. In order to illustrate this point, let the reader imagine Fig. 4, Plate II.—a piece worth many thousands of pounds—shorn of its brass work. My meaning will then be made perfectly clear. The effect of these mounts, severe in character, demonstrating to the utmost the rare possibilities of modelling, casting, and chasing, and standing out against their background of choice mahogany, or sombre ebony—almost invariably the former—is indescribably rich and truly regal. The details in these, and in all pieces con­ceived in the “ Classic” spirit, to which the designer paid most particular attention, were the anthemion, the bay leaf ar­ranged in wreaths and other forms ; the laurel, the myrtle, and the oak leaf with acorns, similarly disposed; the heavy “ Roman ” acanthus scroll, foliated rosettes and “ bosses ” ;

“ Classic ” capitals—particularly the “Corinthian ; ” the “ egg,” and “ egg-and-tongue ” mouldings; “pearl” beading; the sacrificial heads—bullocks’ rams’, etc.; stiff festoons of drapery ; sphinxes, lions, eagles, and other figures, mytho­logical, animal, and human. The enrichment of Fig, 4, Plate

II., is as comprehensive an object lesson in the decorative elements of this period as could well be found in a single example. In addition to the employment of brass in the form of mounts such as those illustrated and described, simple lines of the same metal were, very frequently, inlaid into the mahogany, with very chaste and pleasing results. Reverting, for a moment, to chairs and seats, I may mention that, when not made in mahogany, with brass mounts or gilded carving, they were painted in light and subtle shades of cream, green, pink, or blue, and touched up here and there with gilt, the mouldings and ornaments generally being thrown into prominence in that way. Gilt, in one guise or another, was a very prominent feature throughout the Napoleonic furnishing era in France, which, from more than one point of view, may be, perhaps, regarded as an age of brass.

A word or two, in conclusion, with regard to the character of the design of the “Empire” textile fabrics used for furni­ture coverings and draperies. Sometimes they were bold, free, and floral in treatment, as in the coverings of Fig. 4, Plate I., and Figs. 1 and 3, Plate II., but more generally they were stiff and conventional, as in Fig. 3, Plate I., Fig. 6, Plate III., and Figs. 1, 2, and 6, Plate IV. The pattern was often composed solely of a “powdering,” which con­sisted of a simple wreath, or even of the Imperial Bee alone, without any decorative accompaniment.

In taking leave of the “Empire,” after having noted its historical associations and seeing what it eventually became, we cannot but arrive at the conclusion that, great and liberal as was the encouragement afforded by Napoleon to the arts

—and he could not well have done more in that direction than he did—he was fully repaid by the refined dignity and magnificence which were instilled into the material environ­ment of his reign by the genius and instrumentality of such men as Percier, Fontaine, David, and their co-workers.

It is common to regard, and speak of, the temperament of the French people as one to which perpetual change and excite­ment are essential; and when the Gallic disposition, so instinct with vivacity, so full of verve, is contrasted with our own, something more than a slender foundation for that view may perhaps appear to exist. Proud as we may be, and unques­tionably are, of our national characteristics, it is useless to deny the fact that the attitude of mind which we present under certain circumstances, and our actions, when compared with those of the French, must appear to the people of other nations sluggish and phlegmatic in the extreme ; though which traits are the more desirable to cultivate is quite another matter, and one which does not call for discussion here.

Yet, in some respects our neighbours across the Channel have displayed, from time to time, a conservatism altogether unlooked for in a people possessed of such rare versatility ; this was especially the case in the attitude which they assumed towards all matters appertaining to the arts of house furnish­ing and decoration as practised by them during nearly the whole of the nineteenth century. I would not, for one moment, sug­gest that there was not much admirable work done during that period by the designers and craftsmen of France, who were determined to sustain the old, and respected, traditions of their land. That task they accomplished without difficulty; they easily succeeded, moreover, in retaining their supremacy in the particular walks with which long acquaintance had made them familiar—a supremacy that has not by any means been wrested from them yet. It is true that they sustained old traditions ; but, up to within a few years of the close of


the last century, that was all that they attempted to do, or, at any rate, it was all that they succeeded in doing. Inde­pendently of this, they accomplished practically nothing worth recording; to all appearance they were absolutely barren of originality of any kind or description.

So far as progress was concerned, the “ full stop ” came in France with the final development of the “ Empire,” in as full measure, and in exactly the same way, as the fount of in­spiration appeared to run dry, and a period of deadly dulness, almost without a single redeeming feature, came over the fur­nishing of our own homes when the pencil dropped for ever from the hand of Sheraton. It yet remains to be proved whether a new, and really serious, chapter has actually been commenced, or whether the few hesitant and fragmentary lines that have recently been added to the old story are simply expressions of transient thoughts, which lack the power and virility essential to arrest and hold the attention for any ap­preciable length of time.

What, then, were the French cabinet makers and designers doing during this lapse of so many years? A study of their published works, and of the records of the displays which they organised at their great Expositions Universelles, and for those held in other countries, will furnish a conclusive answer to that question ; an answer, moreover, that will fully bear out the observations with which this chapter commences. Those records will show that, for many a long year, indeed from the fall of Napoleon to within the last decade of the century in which that event occurred, the French designer remained perfectly content to study the work of those who had gone before ; “ rescuing ” every piece that had survived the depredations consequent upon many political upheavals; treasuring them carefully, and holding them in such venera­tion that any attempt to improve upon, or depart from, them would probably have been regarded as sacrilege. Every “Department” of the country was ransacked for authentic

examples. Such as were brought to light, and could be ac­quired by the nation to supplement the incomparable store already possessed, were eagerly seized upon, and conveyed to places of honour in the national palaces, chateaux, and museums, where students, for generation after generation, were taken in order that they might imbibe, and put into practice to the best of their ability, the lessons which these relics of bygone days had to teach.

More than that even was done. In no country in the world have the names, and histories, of artists and art-crafts­men been handed down to posterity, and the beauty of their masterpieces placed on permanent record, so that he who runs may read, as in France. Volumes upon volumes—many of them truly monumental works, produced without any regard to the question of the expenditure of time, labour, or money— have come from the press, to tell the world of the glories of French furniture and decoration throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. The services of the most gifted artists have been retained to reproduce those glories, so far as possible, by means of pen, pencil, and brush ; and, with modern developments in photography and photo­graphic reproduction, the camera has been set to work to render yet more perfect this ever-growing chronicle of the great things done for the beautification of the home by those furniture designers and makers whom even kings delighted to honour.

It is hardly to be wondered at, therefore, that, with the French, admiration of the “ Francois-Premier,” and u Henri – Deux ” ; of the a Louis-Quatorze,” “ Louis-Quinze,” (t Louis- Seize,” and “ Empire,” developed almost into a creed, amongst the numerous adherents of which, for over half a century, there was not the slightest indication of heresy. Old models were studied and copied until it would seem that the idea of any serious departure from them was not within the bounds of possibility; and so it came about that

the styles I have named, but more particularly the “ Henri – Deux," “ Louis-Quinze," “ Louis-Seize,” and “ Empire,” were “ served up,” so to express it, year after year, and decade after decade, until people became so accustomed to their apparently inevitable re-appearances that nothing else was seriously looked for in the land of their origin.

Perfect, both in design and execution, as the French renderings of those styles always have been, and are still, there came a time at last when a certain number of artists, rebelling against this constant and slavish following of old and familiar forms, determined, so far as they were con­cerned at all events, that such a course should be no longer pursued. They recognised plainly that, if continued, its enervating effects on the minds of designer, craftsman, and public alike would inevitably culminate in artistic atrophy. A new line, they insisted, should be struck out by them at any cost, and the all-too-prevalent styles, to which they had for so long been faithful, should know them no more.

It is affirmed, I believe, by scientists, to be an indis­putable fact that, if certain organs, gifts, or faculties be per­mitted to fall into absolute disuse for any length of time, they become, imperceptibly it may be but none the less surely, weaker ; while, if the period during which they are not employed be prolonged unduly and past all reasonable limits, the result must surely be complete local paralysis, if not something still more serious. This has, of course, been conclusively proved within the experience of most of us. Must we, then, fall back on this theory, or rather recognised natural law, to furnish an explanation for the temporary loss, on the part of the French designer, of the power to create fresh ideas? Truly, their faculty for adaptation and repro­duction was constantly kept in active training; but that was to the almost total exclusion of everything else. What was the natural result? Whatever originality those designers and craftsmen possessed—and we cannot by any process of reason-

mg arrive at the conclusion that it was absolutely non­existent for so long—they kept so completely in subjection that people became accustomed to its absence, and were tempted to regard it in the light of a negligible quantity.

This condition of affairs prevailed from the time of Napoleon the First until about the year 1890, or even some­what later. Then, at last, indications appeared again, slight, it is true, but none the less definite and unmistakable, that a new spirit, or the old one revived and appearing in a new guise, was at work. Strange and novel creations, bearing no relationship whatever to, and, indeed, differing entirely from, those with which the French had become so accustomed by long usage—in fact until they seemed almost to have become part and parcel of their very existence!—commenced to appear in odd corners of the furnishing showrooms of Paris. As a certain demand for them seemed to have been created, they found their way, by degrees, though somewhat timidly at first, into the shop windows. As a natural result, people commenced to wonder what they were, and whence they came, and to talk about them. They certainly appealed to the taste for novelty inherent in human nature. Then came the u craze."

Most of us have from early childhood been taught some­thing to the effect that it is usually undesirable to throw away even dirty water unless there is some certain prospect of obtaining clean to take its place ; and the lesson conveyed in that old adage is one which even would-be – creators of new styles may well take to heart. To what source, then, did these artistic protestants, who were responsible for such startling innovations, look for inspiration before getting rid of what they regarded as H dirty water,” and finally for­saking the wells upon which they had depended for so long? In considering this point, we must not fail to bear in mind that it is more than probable that every one of the artistic agitators in question had every detail of the historic styles at

his fingers’ ends, and would unquestionably have been able to make a comfortable living had he continued in the time – honoured paths of his forefathers. That, however, was just the thing that none of them was content to do. It was their opinion that they had all done this for far too long a period ; so they finally and irrevocably decided that a strenuous effort must be made to strike off the shackles of time-worn tra­ditions, and break boldly away from long-accepted custom ; apparently agreeing with Carlyle in his pronouncement that “ custom doth make dotards of us all.”

These artists, therefore, did their best, in the first place, to forget, so far as lay within their power, that such styles as the “ Henri-Deux,” “ Louis-Quinze,” “ Empire,” and all the rest, ever existed. They set out with the fixed deter­mination to originate an entirely new style for themselves. But the artist, I need not say, cannot originate a new style without inspiration from some source or another any more successfully than could the Israelites of old fabricate their full tale of bricks when deprived of the all-essential straw. Inspiration had to be sought for somewhere, and, in their pursuit of it, these founders of the new school went from one extreme to another. For many years, as we have seen, they had been practically u steeped ” in Conventionality, working under set conditions which bound them hand-and – foot, so to speak, and permitted little or no lattitude. In fact, to all intents and purposes, their work was ready u cut – and-dried ” for them. Recognised forms, no appreciable variation from which was to be tolerated, had to be followed exactly in every particular, no matter however much the artist or craftsmen may have had the inclination to improve upon them. The self-same set of time-honoured details, too, was always ready to hand, to be introduced as occasion might demand—and it generally did demand ; so, practically all that remained to be done was to unite these various elements. But, even in accomplishing that, the exercise of

little or no ingenuity was demanded ; all had simply to be brought together in such a manner as to constitute one harmonious whole, resembling specific old and familiar models as closely as possible. Those models, it must be noted, were so well known throughout the land, even by the “common people,” that any radical deviation from their lines or details was certain to be detected, as I have indicated, and the chances were that, should any such be discovered, it would meet with but scant favour.

Having, then, determined to abolish this state of things in so far as its existence affected their own work, the designers whose productions we shall presently consider positively refused to be bound any longer by hard-and-fast convention, or be trammelled by custom. Desiring to be allowed an absolutely free hand, to the end that whatever creative faculties they possessed might have full play, uninflu­enced by antiquated custom or tradition, they harked back from the well-worn paths they had traversed from their youth up, and returned straight to Nature, in order that they might obtain their ideas fresh, and unsullied by passage through the brains of others—direct from the only true source of all Beauty. Verily, a more desirable course could not be adopted by anybody, nor one calculated to lead to better results, pro­vided always—and here comes the crux of the whole matter— that Nature be approached in the proper spirit, and that the lessons she has to teach be correctly learned and not misconstrued.

Pitfalls, however, are to be found almost everywhere ; even in situations where their presence might be least suspected. That there were many, and dangerous ones, in the road which this little band elected to follow, is made painfully evident by many of the productions which they have given to the world in the course of little over a decade, and by which the success of their undertaking must be estimated.

But before discussing the quality and character of this work, I must mention the style and title by which it has already been distinguished, and by which it is generally known to-day. Whether the originators of the new move­ment are themselves responsible for its nomenclature— “ L’Art Nouveau”—it is impossible for me to say with any degree of certainty; but, considering all things, I am inclined to affirm that they are not. The title, whether in French or English, savours somewhat of the up-to-date shopkeeper, anxious to endow his goods with a telling description calculated to attract and arrest attention, and so promote business, and would hardly be included in the vocabulary of the conscientious and enthusiastic artist. In imagination, we can almost hear the satisfied and gleeful chuckle with which an inspiration, so u happy ” from the sales­man’s standpoint, was hailed when the title was first coined. It is on a par with, and no better nor worse than, the com­mercial employment, now so painfully common, of the word “ art ” as an adjective to describe all sorts and conditions of things, the first impetus to the use of which in such an association was given by its novel application, by a certain go-ahead firm, to exceptionally delicate, subtle, and really beautiful shades of colour brought out in dainty textile fabrics some years ago. It has since been “ dragged – in ” to do service in all manner of unlooked-for associations, being applied to practically everything that can,"with, or even without, any possible excuse, be so designated. So – called “ art colours ”—could any designation be more absurd?—we have had with us for some few years now, and they seem likely to remain. They are still being merrily retailed at “ a-penny-three,” while “ art pots ”—many of them the most fearful and wonderful creations the eye of man has ever beheld—and “ art ” goodness-knows-what-besides continue to swell the draper’s “ Special-Bargain-Sale ” lists, and fill the souls of ignorant and unwary purchasers with

sensations of the keenest satisfaction at being enabled to in­troduce “ Art " into their home. They know it must be “ Art/’ for it had it on the label—“ and so cheap too! ” Last, but by no means least, what a difference it makes to the balance – sheets of those who manufacture, as well as of those who factor, this “Art for the Million.” They alone, could we see them, would furnish the most unmistakable indications that the “discovery” of this little word as a trade descrip­tion must be counted among the most brilliant strokes of the kind in modern times.

“Art,” then, in its indiscriminate application for business purposes, must be regarded simply as a “ catch word,” meaning little or nothing, and as, more often than not, mis­applied. We may, I think, class “ L’Art Nouveau,” or “New Art,” as we have it in this country, under the same category, and look upon it as equally objectionable. Art, accepting the true and all-embracing meaning of the word in its strict and proper sense, is from all eternity ; and to describe it as “ new ” is to perpetrate as absurd an anachronism as could well be imagined. “Art,” employed as meaning merely a technical process or method of procedure, is, of course, an entirely different thing, and its use in such a connection is, of course, quite permissible ; but it is not thus associated with this new movement in France and in other countries. The “ New Art ” bases its claim to attention and respect, not upon innovations in the direction of ways and means of manufacture, for it is not entitled to any special notice in that regard ; but upon the supposed novelty of the spirit underlying it all ; a spirit which, to tell the truth, is not in itself fresh, but is the old one, which has, by some means or another, gone sadly astray. With regard to this “New Art,” it has been said, and with some measure of reason, that, on the one hand, most of it which is really new is not art, and that which is really art is not new ; and I do not think that the situation could be summed up much more

correctly or concisely. We may accept, without hesitation, as a comparatively new expression of art—but further than that we cannot go—all that is best in it ; and it must not be imagined for a moment that there is no good in it at all: the very reverse is the case.

Notwithstanding all this, the name has been coined, has found favour—or, in vulgar parlance, “ caught on ”—it is in general use ; and, that being so, I suppose I also must fall into line, and, if ambiguity is to be avoided, make use of it for want of a better if I am to make my meaning clear. I shall, however, feel more comfortable in doing so after having placed my humble protest on record.

Were I to discuss fully, and in a critical vein, the merits of the “New Art” under all its aspects, it would be essential for me to deal exhaustively with the old and vexed question of Naturalism versus Conventionalism. To do so here is neither possible nor necessary ; for, on the one hand, to set out and debate the case in full, with all its many pros and cons, to say nothing of side issues, would occupy far too much space; and, on the other, the matter has been so completely threshed out in the past by abler pens than mine that it may, I think, be regarded as settled for all time.

When going to Nature for inspiration the great aim of the decorative or applied artist—and the designer of furni­ture must unquestionably be included under one of those denominations—should not be to copy slavishly her multi­tudinous forms, except, of course, in the preparation of “ studies ” in order that they may be impressed on the mind, and the lessons they have to teach be more thoroughly learned. He should search for, and, when found, analyse and endeavour to grasp thoroughly the spirit underlying them all; to become so permeated with this spirit, that it may be reapplied under fresh conditions without any conscious mental effort, and with such aptitude that the outcome shall

partake, in every particular, of that absolute sense of fitness which is to be found to perfection in Nature alone.

With the painter and the pictorial artist the case is entirely different. They may copy, as closely as they may be disposed or able, and with pre-Raphaelite minuteness if they possess the patience ; and the more faithful in every respect their copies are to the great original, the more per­fect are they likely to be. The disciples of applied art are not by any means so situated—very frequently they wish sincerely that they were. Their ideas are not destined finally to be interpreted by means of pen, pencil, or brush, upon card, paper, canvas, or any other passive material capable of receiving them without presenting any appreciable obstacles. Those ideas have to be wrought in metals, precious and base ; to be tortured into beauty of form and richness of effect by means of the forge, crucible, melting-pot, hammer, pincers, graver, and many another instrument devised to subdue the materials’ stubborn natures. For the interpre­tation of those ideas, the whole equipment of the saw-mill and joiner’s factories, with their wondrous machinery, cutters, fitters, carvers, inlayers, painters, enamellers, and polishers, are ready and waiting ; the potters’ kilns, lathes, moulds, and pastes ; the glass-blowers’ furnaces, crucibles, and pipes, all have their part to play ; while, in great weaving-sheds, the looms are prepared for the reception of newly-filled bobbins, shuttles, and fresh-cut “ cards,” in order that they, too, may be set in motion, to contribute their quota towards the ultimate beautification of the home.

Thus it is that the decorative artist—or, to speak more precisely, the applied artist—is bound and restricted at almost every step by harassing conditions, many of which are most difficult to understand and to obey in practice. If he is to prove successful in the profession of his choice, he must do far more than merely supplement the possession of the creative spirit, or genius—call it what you will—by the

acquisition of skill in drawing, and a knowledge of the cardinal principles of design. In addition to all this—and it is, of course, a sine qua, non—he must make himself acquainted with the dry technicalities of those manufacturing processes connected with the particular crafts or trades through the medium of which he intends the fancies of his brain to be brought to light in the tangible form he wishes them to assume ; technicalities that dictate to him what he may, and what he may not, do ; laying down their inviolable laws with that exactitude which we generally associate with the traditional government of the oft-quoted Medes and Persians of old. It is here that the great difficulty arises. Ideas which, when skilfully carried into effect, may be passing beautiful in one metal, cannot be successfully interpreted in another; in wood their execution would be quite impossible ; while to render them in pottery, glass, or textile fabrics may be equally out of the question. Yet, they could, one and all, be presented to the eye with the most scrupulous exactitude by means of the pen, pencil, or brush. In the foregoing explanation is, I think, summed up the vital difference that subsists between those distinct expressions of art commonly distinguished by the descriptions, “ Fine," “ Illustrative," “ Decorative,” and “ Applied,” but it is a difference whose very existence is but little known to, and therefore not appreciated by, the public at large.

Yet again, the applied artist spends, or is supposed to spend, his life in racking his brains for the production of designs the only reason for the existence of which is that they shall, in the end, serve some distinct, and, in the vast majority of cases, useful purpose which has been duly specified, understood, and provided for from the first. All other conditions having been fulfilled, it is for him to see, if he desire, of course, to do the best that lies within his power, that the particular purpose in view, with its indi­vidual requirements, whatever they may chance to be, is


served as completely and consistently as possible ; that the demands of comfort, or utility, or of both, are fully satisfied, and in a manner pleasing to the eye ; that the quality of absolute fitness be observable in every particular. Lastly— and here comes a consideration which must be kept in view throughout if our artist depend upon the receipt and execution of commissions for a living—he must make sure that the ideas in question are capable of being put into shape and manufactured with such economy of material, time, thought, labour, and money, that they may be certain of a ready welcome from the much-abused “ middleman,” and of being retailed at a reasonable, if not a ^cutting,” price, which will lead to such a demand for them that the initial expense of their manufacture and introduction to the public—often a very costly process—may be recovered, and recovered, too, with the addition of a reasonable profit.

With all this present in our mind, it will readily be understood that the cultivation of “ Applied,” as distinct from “ Fine,” art is very far from being a simple matter ; and that the life of its disciples is “ not a happy one ” ; or if it should chance to be so, what happiness there is in it is not attained without protracted and conscientious labour and study; nor is it unmixed with anxiety and disappointment, even in the end. Even with artists of the greatest skill, ideas which appear to be practicable enough as finished designs on paper positively refuse to be u worked-out ” in their entirety, with the result that modifications have to be made here and there, often necessitating the sacrifice of the most cherished features, and the consequent loss of much of their special character. Various details cannot be allowed, be­cause their retention would, says the manufacturer, “ cost too much ” ; they may not be “ the sort of thing the public wants ” ; certain colours, upon which the entire beauty of the general effect would depend, cannot be produced in the particular material to be employed ; or, if everything else

be absolutely right and in order, the expenditure of many months’ thought and labour may be, and indeed often is, brought to nought by a flaw in material, the over-heating of a kiln, the letting-out of a furnace, or some other unlooked-for and utterly unexpected contretemps. I have gone into these matters at some length, for, as will presently become apparent, in considering the principles and practice of the “ New Art" from the strictly critical point of view, it was quite impossible to avoid doing so if the subject is to be discussed with any measure of thoroughness.

How were these French art reformers situated, then, after all? They would not be bound by the vexatious conditions and restrictions inevitably involved by following any parti­cular traditions, styles, or phases of taste except their own ; they would be free, obeying no laws except those of Nature; and, as we shall presently discover, they were quite prepared, on occasion, to take considerable liberties with even those. Under these circumstances what occurred at the outset was inevitable. Having broken all the laws by which they had previously been restrained, and having completely thrown aside all their fetters, or rather fondly imagining that they had done so, they hied them away from the haunts and purlieus of towns and cities, leaving behind them all the old associations of urban life, with its bricks and mortar, to revel in the glorious freshness of the country—the very Temple of Nature herself, with its virgin wealth of unexplored treasures. The joy attendant upon their newly-acquired liberty proved altogether too much at first for brains so long unaccustomed to such an experience. Their mental balance was disturbed ; the mistake of over-indulgence was committed ; and, at the beginning, freedom was sadly abused. Liberty led to licence, and the abuse of licence brought about the existence of a condition of affairs that can only be described as absolutely chaotic. Sketch-books were filled with a multitude of studies of natural growths, forms, and colourings. The wildest and

most fantastic imaginings, based upon them, were conceived and transferred to paper ; imaginings which, it was fondly hoped, would startle the whole of the civilised world, and charm by their beauty, boldness of conception, and striking originality, when they grew into lasting and tangible form under the skilled hands of the craftsman, with his many and varied materials, and innumerable facilities for mani­pulation and transformation at his command. But here came the first command to u halt." Conditions and restric­tions imposed by taste and style might be cast to the winds with impunity, without any one but those indulging in such a liberty either suffering, or reaping any benefit, thereby ; and cast to the winds they were. But when it came to attempting to ignore the hard-and-fast technical conditions and restric­tions inseparable from many processes of manufacture—pro­cesses of manufacture, it must be understood, upon which these enthusiasts absolutely depended for the practical inter­pretation of their ideas—where was the free, perfect, and unfettered liberty? It was found to be non-existent. Diffi­culties presented themselves at every step, and many of them proved to be altogether insurmountable, although there was a vast deal of kicking against the pricks, and the most ingenious expedients were tried to circumvent them, in order that the new school might be entirely free from all suspicion of convention. The attainment of that happy state defied the wit of man ; and, in the end—not, however, until after an exceptionally severe struggle—some measure of resigna­tion and obedience to the dictates of the inevitable had to be exercised, though it was almost invariably accompanied by a most emphatic and unmistakable protest.

When they stated their intention to follow Nature, and to obey Nature’s laws alone, these artists, though really meaning to carry out their programme, quite neglected to bear in mind the important fact, that natural growths and forms, wondrously beautiful, and indeed incomparable, as

Updated: October 4, 2015 — 4:07 am