The Project Gutenberg eBook of Ancient and Modern Furniture and Woodwork

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Ancient and Modern Furniture and Woodwork

Author: John Hungerford Pollen

Release date: April 25, 2017 [eBook #54602]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Chris Curnow, Lesley Halamek and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)



These Handbooks are reprints of the dissertations prefixed to the large catalogues of the chief divisions of works of art in the Museum at South Kensington; arranged and so far abridged as to bring each into a portable shape. The Lords of the Committee of Council on Education having determined on the publication of them, the editor trusts that they will meet the purpose intended; namely, to be useful, not alone for the collections at South Kensington but for other collections, by enabling the public at a trifling cost to understand something of the history and character of the subjects treated of.

The authorities referred to in each book are given in the large catalogues; where will also be found detailed descriptions of the very numerous examples in the South Kensington Museum.

W. M.

August, 1875.





Published for the Committee of Council on Education



I. Furniture Ancient and Modern 1
II. Antique: Egypt, Nineveh and Greece 4
III. The Romans 16
IV. Byzantine Art 35
V. The Middle Ages 41
VI. The Fifteenth Century 59
VII. The Renaissance in Italy 66
VIII. Renaissance in England, Flanders, France, Germany, and Spain 78
IX. Tudor and Stuart Styles 85
X. Furniture of the Eighteenth Century 103
XI. Changes of Taste and Style 116
  Appendix: Names of the Designers of Woodwork and Makers of Furniture 133
  Index 140


Egyptian chair 4
Assyrian chairs 7
Greek chair 10
Greek chairs 11
Greek couches 13
Greek mirror 14
Greek chariot 15
Pompeian interior 19
Roman tripod 22
Roman candelabra 23
Roman candelabra 24
Roman table 26
Roman couch 27
Roman ceremonial chair 28
Roman sella 28
Roman kitchen utensils 30
St. Peter's chair 35
The chair of king Dagobert 43
Anglo-norman bedstead 46
The Coronation chair 49
Interior of English mediæval bedroom 51
Anglo-saxon dinner-table[pg vi] 52
Dinner-table of middle-class, fifteenth century 53
Table of fifteenth century 53
Travelling carriage of fifteenth century; "Tullia driving over the body of her father" 55
Oriental panels 57
A royal dinner-table of the fourteenth century 58
French panel; fifteenth century 60
Venetian cornice 68
Portion of carved Italian chest 69
Venetian chair 71
Italian bellows 72
Another example 73
Knife-case; 1564 76
Carved panels 80
French table; sixteenth century 81
French panel; 1577 82
English panel; about 1590 86
French cabinet; sixteenth century 88
Italian oak pedestal 90
Venetian mirror-frame 91
German arm-chair; seventeenth century 93
English bracket; about 1660 97
English doorway; about 1690 98
Venetian looking-glass 100
Holy-water stoup 101
English dinner-table; 1633 102
Italian distaff 106
Roman triclinium 117
Bedstead; fifteenth century 118
The great bed of Ware 119
Bedstead at Hampton Court[pg vii] 120
Mediæval room 120
Cradle; fifteenth century 121
Folding chair; fifteenth century 122
Italian chair; sixteenth century 123
Antique Roman tables 125
Folding table; English, 1620(?) 126
Mediæval chest 127
Roman carriages 130
English carriage; fourteenth century 131
State carriages 132

[pg 1]





The study of a collection of old furniture has an interest beyond the mere appreciation of the beauty it displays. The carving or the ornaments that decorate the various pieces and the skill and ingenuity with which they are put together are well worthy of our attention. A careful examination of them carries us back to the days in which they were made and to the taste and manners, the habits and the requirements, of bygone ages. The Kensington museum, for example, contains chests, caskets, cabinets, chairs, carriages, and utensils of all sorts and of various countries. Some of these have held the bridal dresses, fans, and trinkets of French and Italian beauties, whose sons and daughters for many generations have long gone to the dust; there are inlaid folding chairs used at the court of Guido Ubaldo, in the palace of Urbino, and of other Italian princes of the fifteenth century; buffets and sideboards that figured at mediæval feasts; boxes in which were kept the jesses and bells of hawks; love-tokens of many kinds, christening-spoons, draught and chess men, card boxes, belonging to the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries; carriages of the London of Cromwell and Hogarth, and of the Dublin of Burke; panelling of the date of Raleigh; a complete room made for a lady of honour to Marie Antoinette.

[pg 2]

Besides these memorials of periods comparatively well known to us, we shall find reproductions of the furniture of ages the habits of which we know imperfectly, such as the chair of Dagobert, and various relics illustrating the old classic manners and civilisation, as they have come down to us from Roman and Greek artists, and brought to light by the discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii.

The field through which a collection of old furniture stretches is too wide to be filled with anything like completeness; but the South Kensington collection is already rich in some very rare examples, such as carved chests and cabinets, decorated with the most finished wood carving of Flanders, France, and Italy, as well as of our own country.

As wood is the material of which furniture for domestic use has generally been made, there are, of course, limits to its endurance, and not much furniture is to be found anywhere older than the renaissance. Objects for domestic use, such as beds, chairs, chests, tables, &c., are rare, and have not often been collected together. The museum of the hôtel de Cluny, in Paris, is the best representative collection of woodwork anterior to the quattro or cinque cento period—i.e. the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries. Some carved and gilt carriages belonging to the last century are also there; and a set of carriages, carved and gilt, made for state ceremonials, used during the latter part of the last century and down to the days of the empire of Napoleon III. are, or were till the war of 1870, kept at the Trianon at Versailles.

Many cabinets and tables in Boule work, Vernis-Martin work, and in marquetry by Riesener, Gouthière, David, and others, in the possession of Sir Richard Wallace, were lately exhibited in the museum at Bethnal Green, and examples by the same artists from St. Cloud and Meudon are in the Louvre in Paris. A fine collection of carriages, belonging to the royal family of Portugal, is kept in Lisbon. These are decorated in the "Vernis-Martin" [pg 3] method. Several old royal state carriages, carved and gilt, the property of the emperor of Austria, are at Vienna.

In order to take a general review of the kinds, forms, and changes of personal and secular woodwork and furniture, as manners and fashions have influenced the wants of different nations and times, it will be well to divide the subject in chronological order into antique; Egyptian, Ninevite, Greek, Roman:—modern; early and late mediæval:—renaissance; seventeenth and eighteenth century work: to be followed by an inquiry into the changes that some of the pieces of furniture in most frequent use have undergone.

[pg 4]



Egyptian chair

Considering the perishable nature of the material, we cannot expect to meet with many existing specimens of the woodwork or furniture of ancient Egypt. There are to be found, however, abundant illustrations of these objects in the paintings and sculptures of monuments. The most complete are on the walls of the tombs, where we see detailed pictures of domestic life, and the interiors of houses are shown, with entertainments of parties of ladies and gentlemen talking, listening to music, eating and drinking. The guests are seated on chairs of wood, framed up with sloping backs, of which specimens are in the British museum; others are on stools or chairs of greater splendour, stuffed and covered on the seat and back with costly textiles, having the wooden framework carved and gilt, generally in the form of the fore and hind legs of tigers, panthers, and other animals of the chace, sometimes supported, as in the accompanying woodcut, on figures representing captives.

The British museum contains six Egyptian chairs. One of these is made of ebony, turned in the lathe and inlaid with [pg 5] collars and dies of ivory. It is low, the legs joined by light rails of cane, the back straight, with two cross-bars and light rails between. The seat is slightly hollowed, and is of plaited cane as in modern chairs. Another is square, also with straight back, but with pieces of wood sloped into the seat to make it comfortable for a sitter. Small workmen's stools of blocks of wood hollowed out and with three or four legs fastened into them may also be referred to, and a table on four legs tied by four bars near the lower ends.

The Egyptians used couches straight, like ottomans; with head boards curving over as in our modern sofas, sometimes with the head and tail of an animal carved on the ends, and the legs and feet carved to correspond. These were stuffed and covered with rich material. The Egyptians did not recline at meals. Their double seats, δίφροι, or bisellia, were such as were used by the Greeks and Romans. They had shelves and recesses, chests and coffers, made of pine or cedar wood, and of a material still used in Egypt, the cafass—palm sticks formed into planks by thin pegs or rods of harder wood passing through a series of these sticks laid together. "Of their bedroom furniture," says Sir Gardner Wilkinson, "we know but little." They used (he tells us) their day couches probably, or lay on mats, and on low wooden pallets made of palm sticks. These last had curved blocks, which served for a pillow, forming a hollow to receive the head. Examples in alabaster and wood are in the Louvre and in the British museum.

Their materials for dress were of the most delicate and costly description. The robes of the ladies were often transparent, and the gold and silver tissues, muslins, and gossamer fabrics made in India and Asia were probably also used in Egypt. All these, as well as their jewels and valuables, imply corresponding chests and smaller coffers. Small toilet boxes elegantly carved into the form or with representations of leaves and animals, are preserved in the Louvre and in the British museum and other collections. [pg 6] They were generally of sycamore wood, sometimes of tamarisk or sont (acacia), and occasionally the more costly ivory or inlaid work was substituted for wood. Larger boxes may also be seen in the Louvre, some large enough to contain dresses. They are square, with flat, curved, or gable tops, painted on the surface, and generally lifted from the ground by four short legs or prolongations of the rails that form the framework. These boxes are dovetailed, and secured by glue and nails.

Their chariots and the harness of their horses were rich in proportion, the former painted, inlaid with ivory and gold, or with surface gilding, containing cases for their bows and arms, and made of wood filled in with the lightest materials, perhaps canvas stiffened with preparations of lac in the Japanese manner, and put together with a skill that made the carriage-makers of Egypt famous in their day. It will be sufficient to add that the great Jewish kings had their chariots supplied from Egypt. Solomon paid about £75 of our money for a chariot, and of these he kept (for war purposes alone) a force of fourteen hundred, with forty thousand horses.

Mummy cases of cedar, a material readily procured and valued for its preservative qualities, are to be seen in many collections, and examples can be examined in the British museum. They are richly decorated with hieroglyphic paintings executed in tempera, and varnished with gum mastic.

Assyrian chair

The furniture of Nineveh is not so elaborately or completely represented as that of Egypt, where the preservation of sculpture and painting was helped out by a climate of extraordinary dryness. But the discoveries of Mr. Layard have thrown on the details of Ninevite domestic life light enough to give us the means of forming a judgment on their furniture.

"Ornaments," says Mr. Layard, "in the form of the heads of animals, chiefly the lion, bull, and ram, were very generally introduced, even in parts of the chariot, the harness of the horses, and domestic furniture." In this respect the Assyrians resembled the [pg 7] Egyptians. "Their tables, thrones, and couches were made both of metal and wood, and probably inlaid with ivory. We learn from Herodotus that those in the temple of Belus in Babylon were of solid gold."

Assyrian chair

According to Mr. Layard, the chair represented in the earliest monuments is without a back, and the legs tastefully carved. This form occurs in the palace of Nimrúd, and is sculptured on one of the bas-reliefs now in the British museum. Often the legs ended in the feet of a lion or the hoofs of a bull, and were made of gold, silver, or bronze. "On the monuments of Khorsabad and by the rock tablets of Malthaiyah we find representations of chairs supported by animals and by human figures, sometimes prisoners, like the Caryatides of the Greeks. In this they resemble the arm-chairs of Egypt, but appear to have been more massive. This mode of ornamenting the throne of the king was adopted by the Persians, and is seen in the sculpture of Persepolis." The woodcut represents such a chair, from a bas-relief at Khorsabad. The lion head and lion foot were used by other oriental nations. The throne of king Solomon was supported by lions for arms, probably in the same position as the horses in the Khorsabad chair; and lions of gold or chryselephantine work stood six on each side on the six steps before the throne.

[pg 8]

The forms of furniture of a later date in the sculptures of Nineveh at Khorsabad are of an inferior style. "The chairs have generally more than one cross-bar, and are somewhat heavy and ill-proportioned, the feet resting upon large inverted cones, resembling pine-apples." All these seats, like the δίφροι and sellæ of important personages in Greece and Rome, were high enough to require a footstool. "On the earlier monuments of Assyria footstools are very beautifully carved or modelled. The feet were ornamented, like those of the chair, with the feet of lions or the hoofs of bulls."

The tables seem in general to have been of similar form and decoration to the thrones or seats, the ends of the frame projecting and carved as in the woodcut above, only on a larger scale. The couches were of similar form, but made of gold and silver, stuffed and covered on the surface with the richest materials. The tables and the chairs were often made in the shape also found in Greece and Rome, with folding supports that open on a central rivet like our camp-stools, and like the curule chairs which were common not only in Rome but throughout Italy during the renaissance.

A large piece of wood of pine or cedar is in the British museum. It is of a full red colour, the effect of time. Cedar was probably most in use; but both in Egypt and Nineveh, as also in Judæa under Solomon and his successors, woods were imported from Europe and India; ebony certainly, perhaps rosewood, teak, and Indian walnut. Ebony and ivory were continually used for inlaying furniture. Of their bedroom furniture we can say little, nor do we know of what kind were the cabinets or chests made to preserve their dresses and valuables. It is probable, however, that these were occasionally as rich and elaborate as any of their show or state furniture.

Of Hebrew furniture we can give few details. It is probable that the Jews differed but little from the Assyrians in this respect. The throne of Solomon has been already noticed. In the story [pg 9] of Judith the canopy and curtains of the bed of Holofernes may have been taken by the chronicler from familiar examples at home, or may have been strictly drawn from traditional details. In the figurative language of the Canticles, the bed of Solomon is of cedar of Lebanon, the pillars of silver, the bottom of gold. Ordinary bedroom furniture is spoken of in the Chronicles, when the Shunamite woman, a person of great wealth, built for the prophet Elias "a little chamber on the wall, and set therein a bed, a table, a stool, and a candlestick." Ivory wardrobes are mentioned in the 45th psalm, but of what size or form we cannot determine. In the book of Esther allusions are made to Persian furniture decorations, white, green, and blue hangings fastened with fine linen to silver rings and pillars of marble. The beds were of gold and silver, &c. The bed of Og, king of Bashan, was nine cubits long by four, and was of iron: it was preserved as a trophy.

As the chariots of Solomon were made in Egypt, and the artists employed on the Temple came from Tyre, it is not unreasonable to suppose that furniture was either made by foreign workmen, or that the Hebrews borrowed freely the forms and decorations of surrounding Asiatic nations. Though specially and purposely jealous of any innovation or interference with religious rites and observances, we have no cause to think that they objected to the use of furniture or utensils such as they found first during the long sojourn in Egypt, and afterwards in other countries. They are said in earlier times to have spoiled the Egyptians with reference to the ornaments and jewels carried away at the migration. We know that Moses was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians;" and two particular artists, and two only, are named in the book of Exodus as qualified to execute the sacred vessels and utensils. Whatever their technical qualifications were, these had been acquired in Egypt.

Greek chair

In any attempt to picture to ourselves the kind of furniture and objects of daily use apart from chariots, arms, &c., that surrounded [pg 10] the Greeks in early ages, it will be necessary to bear in mind the close connection which that people must have had with the Asiatic races, and the splendour and refinement that surrounded the wealthy civilisation of the oriental monarchies.

They were so continually the allies or the rivals of the various states in Asia Minor, and pushed out into that fertile region so many vigorous colonies, that it cannot be doubted that the splendid stuffs, beds, couches, thrones, chariots, &c., used by Greeks on the Asiatic continent or in Europe, had much of eastern character in form and method of execution; perhaps, at first, in decoration also. This woodcut represents a chair of Assyrian character on a bas-relief from Xanthus, in the British museum.

Much that is oriental figures in poetic accounts of the arms, furniture, and equipments of the Greek heroic ages. The chiefs take the field in chariots. These could have been used but in small numbers on ground so uneven as the rocky territories of the Morea. The beds described by Homer, the coverlids of dyed wool, tapestries, or carpets, and other instances of coloured and showy furniture, were genuine descriptions of objects known and seen, though not common. Generally the furniture of the heroic age was simple. Two beds of bronze of Tartessus, one Dorian and one Ionian, the smallest weighing fifty talents, of uncertain date, were kept in the treasury at Altis, and seen there by Pausanias towards the end of the second century. The chariots differed little except in the ornamental carving, modelling, or chasing, from those of Egypt.

Greek chairs
Greek chairs

The oldest remaining models of Greek furniture to which we can point are the chairs in which the antique figures in the Syrian [pg 11] room at the British museum are seated. These are dated six, or nearly six, centuries before Christ. They represent chairs with backs, quite perpendicular in front and behind. The frame-pieces of the seats are morticed into the legs, and the mortices and tenons are accurately marked in the marble, the horizontal passing right through the upright bars. These early pieces of furniture were probably executed in wood, not metal, which was at first but rarely used. The woodcuts show the different forms taken from antique bas-reliefs.

Greek couch

The chest or coffer in which Cypselus of Corinth had been concealed was seen by Pausanias in the temple of Olympia. It was made about the middle of the sixth century B.C. The chest was of cedar, carved and decorated with figures and bas-reliefs, some in ivory, some in gold or ivory partly gilt, which were inlaid on the four sides and on the top. The subjects of the sculpture were old Greek myths and local legends, and traditions [pg 12] connected with the country. This coffer is supposed to have been executed by Eumelos of Corinth.

Greek couch

The great period of Greek art began in the fifth century B.C.; but those were not days favourable to the development of personal luxury among the citizens. An extreme simplicity in private manners balanced the continual publicity and political excitement of Greek life. The rich classes, moreover, had little inducement to make any display of their possessions. The state enjoyed an indefinite right to the property of its members; the lawgiver in Plato declared "ye are not your own, still less is your property your own." In Sparta the exclusive training for war admitted of no manner of earning money by business. In Athens the poorer class had so exclusively the upper hand of the rich that the latter had to provide the public with entertainments of sacrificial solemnities, largesses of corn, and banquets. "The demos," says the author of the "Gentile and the Jew," "understood the squeezing of the rich like sponges." Greece was the paradise of the poor.

Greek couch

It is therefore to be expected that the sculpture of the day, though employed sometimes upon the decoration of thrones or state seats, chariots, chests, looking-glasses, tripods, as the painting was on walls, vases, and movable pictures on panels, should have been employed mostly in temples and, with occasional exceptions, on objects of some public use. The chest described above was kept as a relic, and the elaborately carved thrones in the temples were those of the statues of gods and heroes. Ivory and gold laid over a substructure of olive wood were the materials quite as frequently used by great sculptors as marble or bronze for statues which did not form parts of the actual decorations of their architecture. In later times these materials were used in sumptuous furniture.


The Greeks used couches for sleeping and resting upon, but not for reclining on at meals, till the Macedonian period. We give two or three examples, from marbles: one of which resembles [pg 13] the modern sofa. Women sat always, as in Rome, sometimes on the couch at the head or foot, on which the master of the house or a guest reclined, generally on chairs. Besides chairs like the one represented here, the Greeks made arm-chairs; and folding chairs of metal. In the Parthenon frieze Jupiter is seated in a square seat on thick turned legs, with a round bar for a back, resting on short turned posts fitted into the seat. The arms are less high than the back; they are formed by slight bars framed into the uprights at the back, and resting on winged sphinxes.

Greek mirror

Mirrors of mixed metal alloys, silver, tin, and copper, have come down to our times in great numbers. They were made occasionally in pure silver, and in gold probably among the Greeks as they were in later times among the Romans. The cases are of bronze, and engraved with figure designs of the highest character. There is, however, no proof that these were used as furniture in houses, as in Rome. They are hand mirrors, and the description of them, as works of art, belongs rather to [pg 14] that of antique bronzes. The woodcut shows the usual type, with the richly ornamented handle.

Designs of the Greek couch, whether for sleeping or for reclining at meals, are abundant on tomb paintings, and sculptures, and on the paintings of vases. In the British museum we may see a large vase in the second vase room, on which a couch for two persons is arranged with a long mattress covered with rich material, lying within what appears to be a border of short turned rails with a cushion on each end, also covered with rich striped material. A long low stool decorated with ivory lies below the couch as a kind of step. The legs, as in many vase representations, are thick turned supports with lighter parts below, and a turned knob at the foot. On another vase Dionysus reclines on a thick round cushion at the head of the couch, while Ariadne sits on it. Figures feasting or stretched in death on similar couches can be seen in two beautiful and perfect funeral chests in the Ægina room. All these pieces of furniture seem made of or decorated with ivory, and furnished with coloured cushions or coverings of an oriental character. Tripods were made of bronze in great number for sacred use, and probably also as the supports of brasiers, tables, &c., in private houses. The tables were of wood, marble, and metal; the supports being either lion or leopard legs and heads, or sphinxes with lifted wings, a favourite form in Greek ornamentation.

Greek chariot

With regard to Greek houses generally, their arrangements differed very little from the earlier houses of the Romans. The bas-relief in the British museum—Bacchus received as a guest by Icarus—represents a couch with turned legs, the feet of which are decorated with leaf work; a plain square stool, perhaps the top [pg 15] of a box, on which masks are laid, and a tripod table with lion legs. The houses in the background are tiled. The windows are divided into two lights by an upright mullion or column, and a bas-relief of a charioteer driving two horses ornaments a portion of the wall, and may be intended for a picture hung up or fixed against the wall. The whole shows us an Athenian house, decked for a festive occasion, and garlands and hangings are festooned round its outer walls.

The Greek chariot was of wood, probably similar to that of the Egyptians. It had sometimes wheels with four strong spokes only, as in the woodcut. The chariot wheel of the car of Mausolus, in the British museum, has six. The Ninevite wheels have sometimes as many as twelve, as may be seen in the sculptured bas-reliefs of the narrow Assyrian gallery of the British museum.

The woods used by the Greeks for sculpture were ebony, cypress, cedar, oak, smilax, yew, willow, lotus, and citron. These materials were rarely left without enrichments of ivory, gold, and colour. The faces of statues were painted vermilion, the dresses, crowns, or other ornaments were gilt or made in wrought gold.

[pg 16]



The splendour that surrounded the personal usages of the earlier races of antiquity, the Egyptians, Ninevites, Persians, Greeks, and Tuscans, was inherited by the Romans. Not only did they outlive those powers, but they absorbed their territory as far as they could reach it; they affected to take in their religions and deities to add to their own system; they drained the subject populations for slaves, and eagerly adopted from them every art that could administer to the magnificence and luxury of their own private life. They have left both written records in their literature and actual examples of their furniture, made in metal or of marble. The discovery of Herculaneum and of Pompeii has given us not only single pieces of furniture, but very considerable remains of houses, shops, streets, fora or open public places of assembly, theatres, and baths. It is in such evidences of Roman social life that we shall find the materials for our present inquiry.

The Romans spent their earlier ages in unceasing struggles for independence and dominion: and so long as the elder powers of Italy survived to dispute the growth of Roman greatness, there could not be much expansion of private wealth or splendour in the houses of Roman citizens. Though surrounded by splendid social life among the Etruscans, the Roman people long remained exceptionally simple in personal habits. It was after the Punic wars that oriental luxuries found their way into Italy along with [pg 17] the Carthaginian armies. Tapestry is said to have been first brought to Rome by Attalus, the king of Pergamus, who died B.C. 133 possessed of immense wealth, and bequeathed tapestries, generally used in the east from the early ages, to the Roman citizens. When Augustus became emperor the conquest of the world was complete. Thenceforward military habits and simplicity of individual life were no longer necessary to a state that could find no political rivals. The great capital of the world absorbed like a vast vegetable growth the thought, the skill, and the luxuries of the whole world. Nothing was too valuable to be procured by the great Roman nobles or money-makers, and nothing too strange not to find a place and be welcome in one or other of their vast households.

While this was so at Rome in chief, it must be remembered that other capitals were flourishing in various countries, as wealthy, as luxurious in their own way and degree, only less in extent and means, and lacking that peculiar seal of supremacy that gives to the real capital a character that is never attained in subordinate centres of civilisation. Antioch was such a centre in the east; Alexandria in the south. Both these great cities contained wealthy, refined, and luxurious societies. Both were known as universities and seats of learning. Antioch was the most debauched and luxurious; Alexandria the most learned and refined. They did not exactly answer to the distinct capitals of modern kingdoms and states, such as we now see flourishing in Europe, to London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, or St. Petersburg, because no one supreme state or city predominates over them; and further still, no one draws the pick and choice of the intellect and refinement of the whole of Europe to absorb them into itself as Rome did in the old world. But, in those days, Antioch and Alexandria, one at the head of the wealth and splendour of Asia, the other representing Greek learning grafted on the ancient scientific and artistic traditions of Egypt, must have contributed much to the general [pg 18] fusion of "ideas" and notions on art and personal manners and customs in the capital of the Roman empire.

The Roman house was of traditional plan, and consisted generally of two or more square enclosures surrounded by arcades, open to the air in the centre, but which openings could be closed in summer or winter by awnings when the courts were not large enough to include a garden, as the inner enclosure usually did.

The house had in front a vestibulum, an open space covered by a verandah-shaped roof, sometimes enclosed by lattices, sometimes open. An ostium or lobby inside the entrance-door, deep enough to contain a small porter's lodge on one side, led to an inner door which opened on the atrium. This court had an opening to the air, and a tank for rain water was sunk in the middle. Fountains with jets or falls of water were not uncommon, the ancients being well acquainted with the principle that water if brought from an elevation in pipes will force its way up to its natural level.

Inside the atrium was the nuptiale, the nuptial bed, and here were kept in earliest times the penates, household or family divinities, and the family hearth, though these sacred emblems were banished in the imperial times to distant parts of the house, and statues between the columns that supported the central roof supplied their place. The atrium was the general reception-room, like the hall in mediæval houses, but not the dining-room. To this succeeded an inner open court, with porticoes or corridors running round, supported on columns, and with a fountain or basin, shrubs and flowers in the centre, like the courts of the Alhambra. This court provided four halls in the four corridors, which could be screened off by tapestries and curtains. The centre was shaded in summer by canvas or carpet awnings. In winter a wooden roof could be pushed over the open space. Between the two halls or courts was a chamber called the triclinium, or dining-room. These rooms were roofed with timber richly painted and gilt. The roofs either hung on beams projecting [pg 19] from the walls, or were supported by pillars, or were carried up to a high opening, sloping back to the walls so as to admit more light to the rooms, alcoves, or screened portions furthest removed from the opening. Occasionally they were covered in wholly with a testudo-shaped roof, and in such cases lighted, perhaps, by dormers, though it is not quite clear how light was provided for in such constructions. Roman rooms were not floored with boards but paved with marble in large pieces, or in mosaic work made of small dies or squares. Coarse specimens of such work manufactured in our own times are laid down in the museum at Kensington, and fragments of the old work may be seen there on the walls. Occasionally these mosaics represent the house watch-dog chained, or the fable of Ganymede, or hunting scenes, sometimes finished with the utmost nicety. The triclinium took its name from the three couches or sofas, on each of which three persons reclined during meals. Later, and in sumptuous palaces, several dining-rooms were built out beyond the inner courts. The engraving, a reconstruction, will give a fair idea of the general character of a richly furnished Roman [pg 20] house. First, is the atrium, into which smaller chambers open; next, the triclinium, to the left of which is a cabinet; and beyond is the peristylium, with its lofty colonnades. This last apartment was large and open; often planted with shrubs and trees, or containing statues, flowers in pots and vases, and surrounded by a corridor. As these courts were of various sizes they were, no doubt, in Rome on a scale out of all proportion to those found at Pompeii; were fewer or more in number, and rooms were added as the proprietor could acquire ground for building, often a difficulty in the older parts of the city. Something of this ground plan survives in a few of the very ancient Roman churches, as in that of S. Pudenziana, formerly the house of the senator Pudens, with vestibules, open courts, &c.

Pompeian interior

Around the inner court, in the sumptuous Roman houses and the country villas of the patricians, were built other rooms, dining-halls, no longer called triclinium but triclinia in the plural, as admitting more than the number of nine persons reclining on the conventional three couches, to dine at once. In the city itself room was probably wanting in private houses for such expansion, the houses being in streets already laid out. In the villas there was no such restriction. These halls were built to face different quarters of the compass and to be used according to the season. Verna and autumnalis looked to the east, hyberna to the west, æstiva to the north. Œci were other rooms still larger; and glass windows were to be found in them. In a painting now in the Kensington museum, no. 653, given by the emperor Napoleon the third, glazed windows can be distinguished, divided by upright mullions and transoms of wood, such as were constructed in English houses in the seventeenth century. The sleeping-rooms, cubicula, were small closets rather than rooms, closed in general by curtains or hangings, and disposed about the sides of the rooms between the courts, or round the outer courts themselves.

Besides the living and sleeping chambers, there were store-rooms [pg 21] for various kinds of food. Wearing apparel was kept in vestiaria, wardrobe rooms, fitted especially to store them in. It is doubtful whether the dresses were in chests: more probably in presses, or hanging on pegs.

The ornamental woodwork in some of these rooms was rich in the extreme. The outer vestibule was protected by an overhanging balcony or by the projecting rafters of the roof of the first portion of the house, according as rooms were built over that portion or not. It was in some instances enclosed by carved or trellised woodwork. The doors were generally in two halves and could be closed with locks, which in the age of the empire were thoroughly understood, with latchets secured by a pin or with a wooden bar. The term obserare was used when the security of a bar was added. The hinge was a pin or peg at the top and bottom which turned in a socket. Metal hinges strapped over the wood frame were not unknown: and bronze hinges are in the collection of the British museum. The decoration of the door, which was of wood, consisted principally of bronze mounts. The doorposts were ornamented with carving, sometimes inlaid with tortoiseshell and other rich materials. The woodwork was painted. Bedrooms were closed with doors; oftener by curtains. The windows were generally closed with shutters, hinged and in pairs. They were some six feet six inches above the level of the street, not beyond reach of the knocks and signals of friends outside. Wooden benches were usually provided in the vestibule.

Besides the inlaid door frames, the ceilings of all the Roman rooms were very richly decorated. In more simple constructions the wood joists of the floor above, or the structure of the roof when no room surmounted it, were shown and painted; but in richer houses the timbers were covered with boards, and formed into coffers and panels, painted, gilt, and inlaid with ivory. This splendid system of decoration dates from the destruction of Carthage. Curved bearers from the upper part of the walls were added to form one kind of ceiling (camara), for which Vitruvius [pg 22] gives directions; and glass mosaics, like those used in the pavements, were inlaid on a plaster bed in the coffers. The cornices were of carved wood, or of plaster carved or modelled; the wood was always covered with a preparation of gesso, and gilt and painted like the walls.

Roman tripod

An examination of the remains of Roman glass found at Pompeii and elsewhere, and of which excellent examples may be studied in the Kensington museum, seems to point to the use not only of mosaics made of dies, but of mouldings, borders, and panels moulded in coloured glass of magnificent hues, and with the finest stamped ornaments. These were occasionally gilt, or were made in relief, or with a coat of opaque white glass over the translucent material, which could be cut and modelled in the manner of cameos, and helped further to decorate the ceiling, always one of the most splendid features of the room.

The walls, when not painted, were sometimes hung with mirrors of glass blackened, or of silver, or of slabs of obsidian. They were of various sizes, sometimes large enough to reflect persons at full length. In the case of portable pictures, frames were added round them. Borders were certainly painted round frescoes. It is not to be supposed that paintings which could be exposed for sale, moved about, and hung up, could be finished round otherwise than by ornamental mouldings, or framework sufficient to protect and properly set them off.

Among the ornamental pieces of furniture were tripods, three-legged frames, forming the supports of tables, of altars, of braziers, sometimes of pieces of sculpture. These were generally of bronze, and original pieces obtained in various parts of Italy can be seen in the bronze room [pg 23] of the British museum. Some of these much exceed the height of high modern tables. They are light, and ornamented on the upper ends with animal or other heads; some with the beginning of a hind leg about halfway down. They were, however, frequently movable, and, like the piece in the cut on the preceding page from an example in the British museum, were made to contract by folding; the stays which connect the legs internally slipping up and down them by means of loops. Such pieces might serve as table legs, or would hold altar pans or common fire pans or support pots of flowers.

Roman candelabra

Besides tripods the reception rooms were ornamented with candelabra on tall stands of most graceful form and proportions. It will suffice to point to more than a dozen of examples in the British museum; and the woodcuts are from examples in other collections. The stems are a fluted staff or a light tree stem, commonly supported on three animal legs spread at the base, and branching out on the tops into one, two, or more boughs or hooks, with elegant modelled decorations or ending in flat stands. [pg 24] One has a slight rim round the dish or stand, on which a candelabrum or wax candlestick could be placed. In other cases the lamps were hung by their suspensory chains to the branches described. Other candelabra stands were of marble, six, eight, ten, or more feet in height, hybrid compositions of column caps, acanthus leaves and stems, on altar bases, &c., in great variety of design, of which engravings may be studied in the work of [pg 25] Piranesi. Casts, n^{os.} 93, 94 (antiques), are in the South Kensington museum.

Roman candelabra

We do not know in what kind of repositories or pieces of furniture the ancient Romans kept their specimens of painting or their vases, some of which formed their most valued treasures. It is generally supposed that they were set on shelves fastened to the wall. On such shelves small images, boxes of alabaster or glass, and ornamental vases of all kinds were kept. Craters, sculptured vases on a large scale and made of bronze or marble, were also mounted on pedestals and ranged as ornaments with the statues. Bronzes and statues, pieces of sculpture that had fixed places, stood either along the walls of the reception rooms or under the eaves of the compluvium, whence light was obtained to set them off to advantage, and where turf, flowers, and fountains were in front of them. A vase or crater, nearly eight feet high, is in the hall of the British museum, brought from the villa of Hadrian at Palestrina; and in the entrance-hall of Nero's house there was a colossus 120 feet high, and long arcades and a tank or basin of water. But objects on this scale scarcely belong to the descriptions of what might be found ordinarily in houses of the great patricians. Sometimes a couch and a table of marble were placed close to the fountains in these delightful portions of the house.

Tables were of many varieties in Rome, and enormous expenses were incurred in the purchase of choice pieces of such furniture. They were made of marble, gold, silver, bronze; were engraved, damascened, plated, and otherwise enriched with the precious metals; were of ivory, and of wood, and wood decorated with ivory; and in many other methods. Engraved (p. 26) is a very beautiful table found at Pompeii, and now at Naples. Tripods, terminal and other figures, made of bronze or marble; winged sphinxes, or leopards' and lions' legs, columns and other architectonic forms, were the supports on which these tables were fastened. Some had one central support only, in [pg 26] a few instances finished with animal heads of ivory. Abaci were small tables with raised rims to hold valuables.

Roman table

Many tables were of cedar and on ivory feet. Horace speaks of maple, so also does Pliny, as a favourite wood for tables: birds'-eye maple especially was much prized. The planks and disks that could be cut from the roots and the boles of trees that had been either pollarded or otherwise dwarfed in growth in order to obtain wavy grain, knotted convolutions, &c., were in request. Veneers of well-mottled wood or of precious wood, small in scantling, were glued on pine, cedar, &c., as a base. These pollard heads, root pieces, &c., were bought at high prices, specially those of the citrus or cedrus Atlantica.

The point held to be desirable (says Pliny) in the grain of tables was to have "veins arranged in waving lines or else forming spirals like so many little whirlpools. In the former arrangement the lines run in an oblong direction, for which reason they are called tigrinæ, tiger tables. In the latter case they are called pantherinæ, or panther tables. There are some with wavy, undulating marks, and which are more particularly esteemed if these resemble the eyes of a peacock."

Next in esteem to these was the veined wood covered or dotted, as it were, with dense masses of grain, for which reason such tables received the name of apiatæ, parsley wood. But the [pg 27] colour of the wood is the quality that was held in the highest esteem of all; that of wine mixed with honey was the most prized, the veins being peculiarly refulgent. The defect in that kind of table was lignum (dull log colour), a name given to the wood when common-looking, indistinct, with stains or flaws. The barbarous tribes, according to Pliny, buried the citrus wood in the ground while green, giving it first a coating of wax. When it came into the workman's hands it was put for a certain number of days beneath a heap of corn. By this process the wood lost weight. Sea-water was supposed to harden it, and to act as a preservative. This wood was carefully polished by hand-rubbing. As much as £9,000 (a million of sesterces) was paid for one table by Cicero. Of two that had belonged to king Juba, sold by auction, one fetched over £10,000. These were made of citrus (Thuya articulata or cedrus Atlantica). We hear of two made for king Ptolemæus of Mauritania, the property of Nomius, a freed man of Tiberius, formed out of two slices or sections of the cedrus Atlantica four feet and a half in diameter, the largest known to Pliny; and of the destruction of a table, the property of the family of the Cethegi, valued at 1,400,000 sesterces.

Roman couch
Roman ceremonial chair

The Roman patricians and their ladies sat on chairs and reclined on couches when not at meals. In the atrium under the broad roofed corridors, and in the halls not used for eating, were couches, such as the couch of which we give a woodcut, of bronze or of precious woods; the bronze damascened with ornaments of [pg 28] the precious metals, or of metal amalgam; the wood veneered or inlaid with marquetry or tarsia work of ivory, ebony, box, palm, birds'-eye maple, beech, and other woods.

The chairs were of different kinds and were used for various occasions. The atrium contained double seats, single seats, and benches to hold more than one sitter; chairs that either folded or were made in the form of folding chairs, such as could be carried about and placed in the chariot, curules. The woodcut shows the general fashion of a state or ceremonial chair; from the marble example in the Louvre.

This woodcut is of the sella, a seat or couch, made of wood, with turned legs; it is intended, probably, for one person only, and has no need of a footstool. It has been covered with a cushion.

Roman _sella_

Scamnum was a bench or long seat of wood, used in poorer houses instead of the luxurious triclinium of the men or arm-chairs of the women, for sitting at meals or other occasions. Seats were placed along the walls in the exedræ or saloons; marble benches in most cases, sometimes wooden seats; particularly also in the alcoves that were constructed in the porticoes of baths and public buildings, where lectures of philosophers were listened to.

The Romans had hearths in certain rooms. Numerous passages in ancient writers, to which it is needless to refer, concur in showing that the hearth was a spot sacred to the lares of the family, the altar of family life. It was occasionally made of [pg 29] bricks or stone, and immovable, on which logs could be heaped. It seems doubtful whether chimneys were used in the Roman houses; probably occasionally. Writers on Roman antiquities speak of such rare constructions used, perhaps, as ventilators to the kitchen. The usual method of warming was by means of a brazier, of which an example found at Cære, in Etruria, is preserved in the British museum. It is a round dish on three animal legs, with swing handles for removing it. Another, square in form, is reproduced in a casting in the South Kensington museum collection, no. 70, standing on animal legs and damascened round the sides with gold ornaments. The Romans had also kitchen braziers with contrivances for heating pans, water, wine, &c., by charcoal. No. 71 at South Kensington is a casting of such a piece, having a round metal receptacle, like a small cask, on its end, and a raised horse-shoe frame, on which a pan could be placed, with fire space in the middle. These braziers were filled with charcoal heated thoroughly by the help of the bellows, to get rid of the noxious gases.

It has been said that the dresses of the Romans were preserved, as in mediæval castles, in a separate room or wardrobe, and this room must have been fitted with apparatus for hanging shelves and lockers. They had besides for keeping valuables, and usually placed in the sleeping-room of the master or mistress of the house, cupboards and chests of beech ornamented with metal, some large enough to contain a man. In these receptacles they conveyed their property to and from country houses, and on visits. Enormous numbers of slaves moved to and fro with the family, and the chests were carried on men's shoulders, or in waggons of various shape and make.

The most important action of the luxurious Roman day was the dinner. Couches were arranged for the guests, and the room was further provided with stools or low benches, side tables, and the movable table used for each course. These tables were put down and removed from the supports on which they stood. The [pg 30] side tables were of marble or of wood, covered with silver plates, inlaid, veneered, and ornamented in various ways; some were used for serving the dishes, others for the display of plate.

Sculptured objects of plate, partly ornamental, were put on the table and removed with the courses. Petronius describes an ass of Corinthian bronze with silver paniers as the centre piece of one course; sauces dropped from the paniers on luscious morsels placed beneath. A hen of wood with eggs within and a figure of Vertumnus are also named by the same author as centre pieces. These were replaced on the sideboard or removed with the course in trays.

Closely connected with the dining-room was, it need scarcely be said, the kitchen; and we give woodcuts of kitchen utensils, from the originals preserved at Naples.

Roman kitchen utensils
Roman kitchen utensils

Mention should be made of tapestries and carpets before leaving the subject of Roman house furniture.

[pg 31]

Carpets, tapete, blankets, or other woollen coverlids for sofas or beds, were made at Corinth, Miletus, and a number of seats of fine wool manufacture. It is too large a question to go into in detail, and woven fabrics belong to a different class of objects fully described in another hand-book, upon textiles. These tapestries played a great part in the actual divisions of the Roman rooms. Bedrooms, it has been said, were often closed with curtains only, and the corridors and smaller rooms were closed at the ends and made comfortable by the same means. At the dinner detailed by Petronius the hangings on the triclinia are changed between pauses in the meal. The feelings consonant with the day or occasion were symbolized or carried out in these external decorations. Mention is made by Seneca of ceilings made so as to be moved, and portions turned by machinery; perhaps the changed panels showed different colours and decorations according to the day, and to the hangings which were used. The same author alludes to wood ceilings that could be raised higher or lower by machinery, "pegmata per se surgentia et tabulata tacite in sublime crescentia," making no noise in the operation. These contrivances were reserved for dining-rooms, where the diversions were of the freest description and the guests prepared for any exciting or sensational interludes.

The Romans required some of their furniture for out-door use. Besides the curule chairs and lofty seats which were carried into theatres or baths, and other places of public resort, they used litters. The sofas or couches were sometimes carried on the necks of six or more slaves, and served as litters. But special contrivances like the Indian palanquins were made with or hung under poles, with curtains or shutters. Stations of such conveyances for public use were established in Rome.

The subjects of the carving and ornamentation of Roman furniture were the classic legends mainly derived from the Greek mythology. Roman house walls were, however, in later years profusely decorated with conventional representations of architecture, [pg 32] and panels richly coloured on which were painted figures of dancers, cupids, gods and heroes; sometimes commonplace landscapes and domestic scenes. Their solid furniture was decorated with masks, heads of heroes, legs and feet of animals, and foliage, generally the leaves of the acanthus, of an architectonic kind.

The great achievement of the Romans in woodwork of a constructive kind was the machinery contrived for public shows, such as the cages shot up out of the sand of the arena of amphitheatres, of which the sides fell down, leaving at liberty the beasts wanted for fights or for the execution of criminals. Of such constructions probably nothing in the middle ages, when timber abounded and the use of it was thoroughly understood, exceeds the following; a description by Pliny of a device of C. Curio, in Africa, when celebrating the funeral games in honour of his father:—

"He caused to be erected close together two theatres of very large dimensions and built of wood, each of them nicely poised, and turning on a pivot. Before mid-day a spectacle of games was exhibited in each, the theatres being turned back to back, in order that the noise of neither of them might interfere with what was going on in the other. Then, in the latter part of the day, all on a sudden, the two theatres were swung round and, the corners uniting, brought face to face; the outer frames too were removed (i.e. the backs of each hemicycle) and thus an amphitheatre was formed, in which combats of gladiators were presented to the view; men whose safety was almost less compromised than that of the Roman people in allowing itself to be thus whirled round from side to side."

The following woods were in use amongst the Romans:—

For carpentry and joiner's work, cedar was the wood most in demand. Pine of different kinds was used for doors, panels, carriage building, and all work requiring to be joined up with glue, of which that wood is particularly retentive. Elm was [pg 33] employed for the framework of doors, lintels and sills, in which sockets were formed for the pins or hinges on which the doors turned. The hinge jambs were occasionally made of olive. Ash was employed for many purposes; that grown in Gaul was used in the construction of carriages on account of its extreme suppleness and pliancy. Axles and portions which were much morticed together were made of Ilex (Holm oak). Beech also was in frequent use. Acer (Maple) was much prized, as has been already stated, for tables, on account of the beauty of the wood and of the finish which it admits. Osiers were in use for chairs as in our own times. Veneering was universal in wood furniture of a costly kind. The slices of wood were laid down with glue as in modern work, and they used tarsia or picture work of all kinds. Figwood, willow, plane, elm, ash, mulberry, cherry, cork wood, were amongst the materials for the bed or substance on which to lay such work. Wild and cultivated olive, box, ebony (Corsican especially), ilex, beech, were adapted for veneering boxes, desks, and small work. Besides these, the Romans used the Syrian terebinth, maple, palm (cut across), holly, root of elder, poplar; horn, ivory plain and stained; tortoiseshell; and wood grained in imitation of various woods for veneering couches and other large pieces of furniture, as well as door frames, &c., so that this imitation of grains is not entirely a modern invention. Woods were soaked in water or buried under heaps of grain to season them; or steeped in oil of cedar to keep off the worms. The cedars of Crete, Africa, and Syria were the best of that class of timber. The best fir timber was obtained from the Jura range, from Corsica, Bithynia, Pontus, and Macedonia.

The Romans had admirable glue, and used planes, chisels, &c. Their saws, set in frames, had the teeth turned in opposite directions to open the seam in working.

There are some curious historical records of the endurance of particular wood structures. The cedar roof of the temple of Diana of Ephesus was intact at the end of four centuries in [pg 34] Pliny's time. Her statue was black, supposed to be of ebony, but according to other authorities of vine, and had outlasted various rebuildings of the temple. The roof beams of the temple of Apollo at Utica were of cedar and had been laid 348 years before the foundation of Rome; nearly 1,200 years old in the time of Pliny, and still sound.

The emperor Philip celebrated the secular games (recurring every 100 years), with great pomp, for the fifth time in the year 248. We may consider this event, for our present purpose, as a convenient finish of the classic period of antique art, and of the reflections of it in the woodwork and furniture and the surroundings of private life.

Ten centuries had elapsed since Romulus had fortified the hills on the banks of the Tiber. "During the first four ages" (says Gibbon) "the Romans, in the laborious school of poverty, had acquired the virtues of war and government; by the vigorous exertion of these virtues, and by the assistance of fortune, they had obtained in the course of the three succeeding centuries an absolute empire over many countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The last three centuries had been consumed in apparent prosperity and internal decline."

[pg 35]



We may take as the next period for illustration the centuries that witnessed the break up of the old Roman constitution and the gradual formation of a new order of society down to the end of the first ten centuries of our era. Seven hundred and fifty years out of those ten hundred belong in great part to mediæval history. The misfortunes of Italy, and the incessant state of war, invasion, and struggle in that peninsula were too destructive of personal wealth and the means of showing it in costly furniture to leave us any materials from thence for our present subject. The history of furniture and woodwork, as applied to civil and social uses, now belongs to such civilisation as took its origin and its form from Constantinople. Art of these centuries is called Byzantine.

St. Peter's chair

The woodcut is from the chair of St. Peter in Rome, the oldest and most interesting relic of antique furniture in existence; that is, of furniture made of wood and kept in use from the days of ancient Rome. But it has had repairs and additions, and a description of it shall be referred to in another section.

[pg 36]

Byzantine art is a debased form of the classic, but with a large mixture of Greek; not of the old classic Greek type which had long been exhausted, but of that Asiatic Greek which derived so much of its splendour from the rich but unimaginative decorations of Persia. The objects actually executed at Constantinople or by Byzantine artists now remaining can scarcely be included in a treatise on furniture. They are mostly caskets and other small pieces executed in metal or in ivory. Accounts of many interesting pieces of Byzantine sculpture will be found in the "Description of the ivories in the South Kensington museum." Amongst them the diptychs of the consuls are not only the most important, but the most interesting to a treatise on furniture, as we see in them consular seats and thrones of many varieties.

We may select amongst other examples the following, which can be studied in the museum or referred to in that work. For instance, no. 368 (fully described in Mr. Maskell's "Ivories") is one leaf of a consular diptych of Anastasius Paulus Probus Sabinianus Pompeius. The consul is represented seated on a chair of very ornate character. It is like the old folding curule chairs of Rome, but with elements both of Greek and Egyptian ornamentation, such as belong to the massive marble seats, supported by lions or leopards, with the heads sculptured above the upper joint of the hind legs. In the mouths of these lions' heads are rings for the purpose of carrying the chair, and the top frame is ornamented with little panels and medallions containing winged masks and portrait heads of the consul and his family or of members of the imperial family. On each side of the seat are small winged figures of Victory standing on globes and holding circular tablets over their heads. These probably represent the front of the arms, and are supposed to have a bar stretching from the heads or the circular tablets to the back of the seat. This feature too is a continuation of types that are to be found on Greek vases and in the chairs of both Nineveh and Egypt. A low footstool with an embroidered cushion on it is under the feet of the consul, and [pg 37] another cushion, also embroidered, covers the seat. This represents a chair of the sixth century.

A seat still more like the curule chair, but with a high back, is represented in another ivory, no. 270, in the South Kensington collection. This piece is a plaque or tablet with a bas-relief of two apostles seated. The chairs are formed of two curved and recurved pieces each side, which are jointed together at the point of intersection. One pair of these pieces is prolonged and connected by straight cross-bars, and forms a back. Two dolphins, with the heads touching the low front pieces and the tails sloping up and connected with the back, form the arms. This belongs to the ninth century. The lyre back, a form not unknown in old Greek and thence adopted among Roman fashions, is also to be seen in chairs on ivories and in manuscripts. Round cushions were hung on the back, others covered the seat. These are seen also figured in the mosaics of Venice, and later of Monreale in Sicily which retained much of the Byzantine spirit. The art of Sicily continued longer subject to Constantinople than that of most of its Italian provinces, and Venice preserved her old traditions far into the period of the European revival of art.

The beds, as represented in manuscript illuminations, belong chiefly to religious compositions such as the Nativity, or visions appearing to saints in their sleep. They are couches in the old Roman form, or are supported on turned legs, from the frames of which valances hang down to the ground. Sometimes a curtain acts as a screen at the head or on one side, but testers are wanting.

Chariots and carriages of all sorts remained more or less Roman in type. There were a greater number of waggons or carriages for the conveyance of women and families than had been in use in ancient times. Christianity had materially altered the social position of women, and they appeared in public or moved about with their families without the restraints which in the old Roman society forbad their appearance in chariots and open carriages, [pg 38] and made the covered couch or closed litter the usual conveyance for ladies of rank in Rome. Several forms of chariots or carriages of this larger kind can be seen in the sculptures of the column of Theodosius in Constantinople.

The art and the domestic manners and customs that had been in fashion in Rome maintained themselves with some modifications in Constantinople. The life there was more showy and pompous, but it was free from the cruelties and the corruption of the elder society. It was founded on the profession of Christianity, and the numbers and magnificence of the religious hierarchy formed an important feature in the splendid social aspect of the Greek capital. The games of the circus, without the cruelties of gladiatorial combats, were maintained. Chariots were in constant use, much wealth was spent on their construction, and chariot races were kept up. Furniture, such as chairs, couches, chests, caskets, mirrors and articles of the toilet, was exceedingly rich. Gold and silver were probably more abundant in the great houses of Constantinople than they had been in Rome. As the barbarous races of the east and north encroached on the flourishing provinces of the Roman empire, constant immigration took place to Constantinople and the provinces still under its sway. Families brought with them such property as could be easily moved, gold of course and jewels; and, naturally, these precious materials were afterwards used for the decoration of their furniture and dress.

The ancient custom of reclining at meals had ceased. The guests sat on benches or chairs. At the same time the "triclinia aurea," or golden dining room, was still the title of the great hall of audience in the palace at Constantinople. The term only served to illustrate the jealous retention of the old forms and names by the emperors and patricians. The last branch of the ancient empire did little for the arts of painting and sculpture, though it long preserved the old traditions of art, gradually becoming more and more debased with every succeeding generation, [pg 39] whilst outward splendour was increased because of the greater quantity of the precious metals that had accumulated or been inherited during so many centuries.

The decay of art and skill in the old world was, however, counterbalanced by the rise of new societies, which were gradually being formed in various parts of the empire. These consisted partly of the races of Huns, Goths, Saxons, and others, who had invaded Italy and settled themselves in it, partly of the old municipal corporations, who defended their property and maintained their privileges in the great walled towns of Italy. The cities profited to a great extent by this infusion of new blood; and became the parents of the future provinces of Italy, so rich in genius and industry, so wealthy and powerful in peace and war. The most important of them was Venice, and it is in Venice that, in the later middle ages, we find the birthplace of most of the art with which the furniture and utensils of home and warlike use were so profusely decorated.

We point to Constantinople as the last stronghold of the old arts of the Roman period, but it is because it was from the Greeks that the new states borrowed their first notions of art. Nearly all the early art we meet with throughout the west in manuscripts and ivories bears a Byzantine character.

A remarkable piece of monumental furniture has survived from these early centuries of the Christian era, half Byzantine and half western in character, the chair of St. Maximian of Ravenna, preserved in the treasury at Ravenna, and engraved and described in the "Arts Somptuaires" of M. Du Sommerard. Ravenna was the portion of the empire that most intimately connected the east with the west. The domed churches of San Vitale, San Giovanni in Fonte, the tomb of Galla Placidia, the round church of Santa Maria, built by Theodoric, together with the great basilica of Saint Apollinare in Chiasse, and others of the Latin form, unite the characteristics of the eastern and western architecture. What is true of architecture can also be pronounced as to painting, [pg 40] sculpture, textile fabrics, and all decoration applied to objects, sacred or domestic, that were in daily use.

But events occurred in the declining state of the empire that went far to transfer what remained of art to northern Europe. The sect of the iconoclasts, or image-breakers, rose into power and authority under the emperor Leo the Isaurian, who published an edict in 726 condemnatory of the veneration and use of religious images and paintings. During a century this principle was at work, and it caused the destruction not only of innumerable antique statues, such as those defaced in the Parthenon of Athens, but the loss of vast quantities of ivory and wood sculpture and precious objects of all kinds. Many artists took refuge in western Europe, and were welcomed in the Rhenish provinces of the empire by Charlemagne.

How much ancient and domestic art in the form of bronze or other metal furniture, such as chairs, thrones, tripods, &c., whole or in fragments, survived the taking of Constantinople by Mahomet II. we cannot conjecture. Perhaps the royal palaces, or still more possibly the mosques which have been the banks and depositories of family treasures under Mahometan rule, may contain valuable bronzes, ivories, and carved wood, relics of the luxurious life of the latter days of the Greek empire, and such evidences may some day come to light. No doubt, however, much antique art and much that belonged to the first eight centuries of our era survived the ordinary shocks of time and war, only to be destroyed by the quiet semi-judicial action of a furious sect protected by imperial decrees, after the manner in which mediæval art suffered under the searching powers of fanatical government commissioners in our own country, in the sixteenth century.

It is to the impulse which the Lombard and Frankish monarchs gave to art in western and northern Europe by the protection of Greek refugee sculptors and artists that we should trace the beginnings of the northern school called Rhenish-Byzantine.

[pg 41]



We cannot easily determine on a date at which we can assign a beginning to mediæval art. It differs from the art that succeeded it in the sixteenth century in many respects, and from the late classic art that preceded it still more widely. That peculiar character which we call romantic enters into the art of mediæval times, as it does into the literature and manners of the same ages. It took a living form in the half religious institution of chivalry. The northern nations grew up under the leadership of monks quite as much as under that of kings. They lived in territories only partially cleared from forests, pushed their way forward to power pioneered by the great religious orders, and their world was one surrounded by opportunities of endless adventures. But this romantic standard, though it took its rise from the times in which the Christians carried their lives in their hands, under the persecuting emperors, did not pervade Europe for many centuries. Classic art, in its decay, still furnished both forms and symbols, such, e.g., as that of Orpheus, to the new societies, and the names of Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn, have survived as the titles of days of the week. The two art traditions overlapped each other for a while. Mediævalism grew very gradually.

We have just said that Charlemagne welcomed Byzantine artists to the Rhine. It must be remembered, however, that the Roman empire had been firmly planted beyond the Alps, and that Gaul produced good Roman art in the second and third centuries. [pg 42] Architecture, sculpture, bronze casting, and the numberless appliances of daily life were completely Roman in many parts of France and Britain. The theatres and amphitheatres of Arles and Orange and the collections in various museums are enough to show how extended this character was. It was not till the old traditions had been much developed or modified by oriental influences that a thorough mediæval character of art was established in Italy, France, Germany, and England. To the last it remained semi-classic in Rome itself.

We can give reference to few specimens of household furniture or to woodwork of any kind before the eleventh century, with a great exception to be noticed presently. Ivories, in any form, belonging to these ages are rare. The best objects are Byzantine. Anglo-saxon ivories, though not unknown, are all but unique examples. Ivory was probably rarely employed for any objects of secular use, unless on mirror cases, combs, or the thrones of kings; on horns, caskets, sword hilts, and the like.

Metallurgy in the precious metals and in bronze, including the gilding of bronze, was probably the one art that survived the departure, if it had not even preceded the invasion, of the Romans in Britain. It is scarcely probable that tin and copper ores would have been sought for from Britain if manufactured ornaments of metal had not found their way in the first instance from this country to the south. Be that, however, as it may, the art of metallurgy survived the downfall of such architectural and sculpturesque skill as had been attained in England under Roman traditions; and that metal thrones, chairs, and other utensils were made here as in Gaul can hardly be doubted.

There is an interesting collection, lately bequeathed by Mr. Gibbs, of Saxon ornaments in gold, bronze, and bronze ornamented with gilding and enamel, in the South Kensington museum. These objects were dug up chiefly at Faversham, a village in Kent. Most of these antiquities are fibulæ, brooches, and buckles, or portions of horse trappings, bosses, &c., and not recognisable as parts of [pg 43] bronze furniture, such as the chair of Dagobert. But it is difficult to examine these personal ornaments and not believe that during the Saxon occupation bronze thrones, tripods, mirrors, and other objects of household use were also made.

The chair of king Dagobert

The earliest example of mediæval furniture in the Kensington museum is a cast of the chair known as that of Dagobert, in the Louvre. A full description and history of this chair is to be found in the large catalogue, no. 68: and we here give a woodcut of it. This work (it is said) was executed by a monk.

When we consider the rapacity of the barbarian inroads into Italy and Rome, and the amount of spoil carried bodily away from Constantinople, Rome, and the great municipal centres of Italy, it is remarkable that so little precious furniture should have survived in other parts of Europe. The Goths under Adolphus in the fifth century carried an immense plunder into Gaul and Spain. "When the treasuries, after the conquest of Spain," says Gibbon, "were plundered by the Arabs, they admired, and they have celebrated, a table of considerable size, of one single piece of solid emerald [that is, glass], encircled with three rows of fine pearls, supported by three hundred and sixty-five feet of gems and massy gold, estimated at the price of five hundred thousand pieces of gold,"—probably the most expensive table on record. It is the value of the materials that has prevented the preservation of many such objects, while the chair of Dagobert is of gilt bronze only.

Early mediæval art, included under the general name of Gothic, [pg 44] continued down to the twelfth century full of Romanesque forms and details. Figures were clothed in classic draperies, but stiff and severe with upright lines and childish attempts to indicate the limbs or joints beneath. Nevertheless, the work of these centuries, rude and archaic as it is, is full of dignity and force. The subjects were often sacred, sometimes of war or incidents of the chase. These last were commonly mixed with animals, lions and dogs, or eagles and hawks, or leaves of the acanthus and other foliage. Throughout these ages the foliated sculpture, the paintings of books and carving of ivory, and no doubt of wood also, was, moreover, composed in endless convolutions, such as may be seen on sculptured stones in Ireland and on the Norwegian doors of the twelfth century. Whether the different convolutions are formed by figures or dragons, or by stalks of foliage twined and knotted together in bold curved lines, symmetrically arranged, each portion is generally carefully designed and traceable through many windings as having a distinct intention and purpose. Ornamental work was thus apparently conventional, but made up of individual parts separately carried out, and in some degree, though not altogether, realistic: a character gradually lost after the early thirteenth century till the new revival in the sixteenth.

The tenth century was not favourable to the development of the requirements or comfort of personal life. Towards the year one thousand a superstition prevailed over many parts of Europe that the world would come to an end when the century was completed; and many fields were left uncultivated in the year 999. The eleventh century made a great advance in architecture and other arts, but down to the Norman invasion our own country was far behind the continental nations in the fine arts; metallurgy only excepted. The Anglo-saxons perhaps advanced but very slowly, as the century wore on to the period of the Norman conquest; and manners remained exceedingly simple.

Early illuminations, though conventional, give us some details of Anglo-saxon houses. They were of one story, and contained [pg 45] generally only one room. The addition of a second was rare before the Norman conquest. The furniture of the room consisted of a heavy table, sometimes fixed; on which the inhabitants of the house and the guests slept. A bedstead was occasionally reserved for the mistress of the house. Bedsteads when used by the women or the lord of the house were enclosed in a shed under the wall of enclosure and had a separate roof, as may be seen in many manuscripts. In the Bayeux tapestry a bed roof is tiled, and the framework shut in with curtains. In many instances such a design represents only a tester with posts. Otherwise beds of straw stuffed into a bag or case were spread on the table, and soldiers laid their arms by their heads ready for use in case of alarm. Benches, some with lion or other heads at the corners, like elongated chairs or settles (with backs, for the lord and lady of the house), were the usual seats. Thrones, something like that of Dagobert, were the property of kings. King Edward the Confessor is seated on such a chair (metal, and in the Roman shape) in the Bayeux tapestry, and folding chairs of various forms, more or less following classical types, were used by great personages. Benches were also used as beds; so were the lids or tops of chests, the sack or bag being sometimes kept in it and filled with straw when required. The tables were covered with cloths at dinner. Stained cloths and tapestries, commonly worked with pictorial designs, were used to hang the walls of the house or hall. They were called wah-hrægel, wall coverings. Personal clothing was kept in chests of rude construction. Silver candlesticks were used in churches. Candles were stuck anywhere in houses, on beams or ledges.

With regard to carriages during the Saxon and Anglo-norman period, carts on two wheels were common for agricultural use, and served to transport the royal property. Four-wheeled cars drawn by hand labour are used for carrying warlike stores in the Bayeux tapestry. In the battle of the Standard the standard of the English host was carried on a wheeled car or [pg 46] platform, and remained as the head-quarters or rallying point during action.

The Norman invasion of England caused a new advance in the luxury and refinement, such as it was, of daily life. The houses began to grow—upper rooms or rooms at the side of the great hall were added, called solars (solaria), the sunny or light rooms. These seem to have been appropriated to the ladies. In due time they added a parloir or talking room, a name derived from the rooms in which conversation was allowed in monasteries where silence was the general rule. In the upper rooms fireplaces were made occasionally, but not always chimneys. In the halls, when the upper room did not cover the whole under room or when an upper room was not constructed, fire was made in the centre of the floor. Stairs were of wood. Glass was all but unknown in the windows of houses, and wooden shutters kept out the weather.

The houses of landowners in England were called manoir or manor. The furniture was simple and consisted of few objects. The table was on trestles; the seats were benches. Armaria, armoires, cupboards or presses, either stood in recesses in the wall or were complete wooden enclosures. These had doors opening horizontally. The frames were not panelled. The doors were ledge doors of boards, nailed to stout cross bars behind, and decorated with iron hinges and clamps beaten out into scrolls and other ornaments.

Anglo-norman bedstead

Bedrooms were furnished with ornamental bed testers, and benches at the bed foot. Beds were furnished with quilts and pillows, and with spotted or striped linen sheets; over all was laid a covering of green say, badgers' furs, the skins of beavers or of [pg 47] martin cats, and a cushion. A perch for falcons to sit on was fixed in the wall. A chair at the bed head, and a perch or projecting pole on which clothes could be hung, completed the furniture of the Anglo-norman bedroom. In the foregoing woodcut from Willemin there is no tester, but carving on the posts, and the coverings are of the richest description.

Woodwork was decorated with painted ornament or with fanciful work on the hinges; and nails and clamps were applied to hold it together, rather than with sculpture, down to the fourteenth century; and in England, France, and Germany, oak was the wood employed for furniture. Both in England and in the countries which had retained old artistic traditions on the continent, such as Italy, France, and Spain (which profited by the skill of the Moors in painted decoration), colour was used not less on walls and wood than on metal and pottery. Tapestry was an important portion of the furniture of all houses of the richer classes.

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries mediæval art in Europe reached its greatest perfection. The classic traditions were at last forgotten everywhere except in Rome itself, where a chain lingered almost continuous between the old ideas and those which succeeded in the sixteenth century. Elsewhere the feeling in sculpture, whether of wood or other materials, was in unison with the pointed architecture and reigned unchallenged. All sorts of enrichments were used in the decoration of furniture. A chest of the time of John is preserved in the castle of Rockingham. It is of oak richly decorated with hammered iron plates, hinges, &c. The jewel chest of Richard of Cornwall was long preserved in the state treasury of Aix-la-Chapelle, and is now at Vienna. It belongs to the first half of the century, and was left at Aix when Richard was crowned king of the Romans. The body is of oak decorated with wrought-iron hinges, lock, and clamps, and with bosses of metal on which are enamelled heraldic shields.

[pg 48]

The construction of woodwork gradually became more careful and scientific. Panelled framework came into use, though seldom for doors of rooms. With this method of construction the chests were put together that formed the chief article of furniture during two centuries in the mediæval sleeping, sitting, or private room.

In the middle of the thirteenth century Eleanor of Provence was escorted on her journey to England by an army of ladies, knights, nobles and troubadours, from Provence to the shores of the channel. Kings were continually making progress in this manner through their dominions, like the Indian governors of our own days, and carried their furniture and property in chests, called standards, on the backs of mules or sumpter horses. Portable furniture and hangings were the principal objects of household use on such occasions. A precept in the twentieth year of the reign of Henry the third directed that "the king's great chamber at Westminster be painted a green colour like a curtain, that in the great gable frontispiece of the said chamber a French inscription should be painted, and that the king's little wardrobe should be painted of a green colour to imitate a curtain." The queen's chamber was decorated with historical paintings. Remains of similar wall decoration are in tolerable preservation still in one of the vaulted rooms of Dover castle.

Till the fourteenth century candles were generally placed on a beam in the hall, whether in the castle of a king or baron. Frames of wood with prickets were also suspended for the lighting of rooms, or were fixed to the sides of the fire-place when that was made in the wall and had a chimney constructed for it. More generally, as regards halls, the hearth was in the middle of the room and a lantern just above it in the roof acted as a chimney. Iron chandeliers, or branches, were ordered to be fixed to the piers of the king's halls at Oxford, Winchester, and other places. Though the royal table might be lighted with valuable candlesticks of metal, they were not in general use till a century later. Besides the numerous rows of tallow candles pieces [pg 49] of pine wood were lighted and stuck into iron hasps in the wall, or round the woodwork at the back of the dais to give more abundant light.

The wardrobe was a special room fitted with hanging closets, and in these clothes, hangings, linen, as well as spices and stores, were preserved. This arrangement was common in all large castles during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. Great preparations were made in the bedrooms of queens of England to which they retired before the birth of children. Henry the third directed that his queen's bedroom should be freshly wainscoted and lined, and that a list or border should be made, well painted with images of our Lord and angels, with incense pots scattered over it; that the four evangelists should be painted in the chamber, and a crystal vase be made to keep his collection of relics.

Room panelling was introduced into England during the same reign. Henry ordered a chamber at Windsor castle to be panelled with Norway pines specially imported; the men worked day and night. The boards were radiated and coloured, and two clear days only were allowed for the fixing and completion.

The Coronation chair

Edward the first married a Spanish queen, and household furniture was further developed under his reign in many particulars. Pottery for the table was imported from Spain, and oriental carpets were introduced; a luxury naturally borrowed from the extensive use of them by the Moors in that country. Italian artists had already been invited to England. Master William, the [pg 50] Florentine, was master of the works at Guildford castle. John of St. Omer was another foreign artist employed by Henry the third. To the former of these we probably owe the introduction into this country of the method of gilding and tooled gold work, with which wood was decorated. Specimens of the work are still discernible on the famous coronation chair (of which we give a woodcut, p. 49) in Westminster abbey; made about the year 1300.

The decoration and comfort of furnished houses during Henry's reign was further promoted by the general use of tapestry. Queen Eleanor is traditionally and incorrectly said to have first brought this kind of furniture into houses; it was certainly adopted for churches at earlier periods, and hangings of various materials, stained or embroidered, were employed as far back as the Anglo-saxon times. Tapestries and cypress chests to carry them probably became more general in Eleanor's reign.

Amongst the particulars collected in the history of the city companies and by the record commission are lists of the royal plate, showing that objects of personal use besides table plate were made in silver and gold. We find mention of pitchers of gold and silver, plates and dishes of silver, gold salts, alms bowls, silver hannapers or baskets, a pair of knives with enamelled silver sheaths, a fork of crystal, and a silver fork with handle of ebony and ivory, combs and looking-glasses of silver. Edward had six silver forks and one of gold. Ozier mats were laid over the benches on which he and his queen sat at meals. These were also put under the feet, especially in churches where the pavement was of stone or tiles.

In the furniture of bedrooms linen chests and settles, cupboards and the beds themselves were of panelled wood. The next woodcut shows the interior of a well-furnished bedroom, from a manuscript life of St. Edmund written about the year 1400.

Interior of English mediæval bedroom

Chests served as tables, and are often represented with chess-boards on them in old illuminations, and husband and wife sitting on the chest and using it for the game, which had become familiar to most [pg 51] European nations. Chests of later date than the time of Edward, of Italian make, still show the same use of the lids of coffers. As the tops of the coffers served for tables, and for seats they began in the thirteenth century to be furnished with a panelled back and arm-pieces at either end. This development of the chest was equally common in France. It does not seem to have been placed on legs or to have grown into a cabinet till a later period. The raised dorsal or back of the seats in large rooms was a protection from the cold, and in the rude form of a settle is still the comfort of old farm and inn kitchens in this country; it became the general type of seats of state in the great halls, and [pg 52] was there further enlarged by a canopy projecting forwards to protect the heads of the sitters, panelled also in oak. In the fifteenth century in many instances this hood or canopy was attached to the panelling of the upper end of the hall, and covered the whole of that side of the dais. The backing and canopy were sometimes replaced by temporary arrangements of hangings, as in modern royal throne rooms, the cloth being called cloth of estate and generally embroidered with heraldic devices. Panelled closets called dressoirs or cupboards, to lock up food, were general in properly furnished rooms; a cloth was laid on the top at meals, with lights, and narrow shelves rose in steps at the back for the display of plate, the steps varying in number according to the rank of the persons served.

Tables used at meals were generally frames of boards, either in one piece or folding in the middle. These were laid on trestles, as in the woodcut from an early manuscript in the Bodleian library, and could be removed as soon as the dinner was over, so that the company might dance and divert themselves. Somewhat later, about the year 1450, the tables although still on trestles were made more solidly, even for the use of people of the middle class.

Anglo-saxon dinner-table

All houses, however, even of kings could not be completely or even comfortably furnished in such a manner, far less those of feudal lords, not princes or sovereigns. The kings moved incessantly to their various strongholds and manors in time of peace to collect dues and revenues, much of which was paid in kind and [pg 53] could only be profitably turned to account by carrying the Court to different estates and living on their produce as long as it lasted. Orders were continually sent to sheriffs to provide food, linen [pg 54] and other requisites, while hangings and furniture were carried by the train in its progress. Much of the household belongings of persons of wealth was, therefore, of a movable kind. We engrave (p. 53) a very curious table standing on a pedestal shaped like a chalice, from a manuscript of the beginning of the fifteenth century. The ladies are playing at cards.

Dinner-table of middle-class, fifteenth  century
Table of fifteenth century

A most oppressive privilege was exercised in France, which went beyond the legal right of the lord or owner to the rents of his estates whether paid in money, agricultural produce, or manufactures carried on in his towns or villages. This was the droit de prisage, a privilege of seizing furniture of all kinds by the hands of stewards and others for the use of the king. Chairs, tables, and beds particularly were included in these requisitions. The droit de prisage was modified at various times in consequence of the remonstrance of the commons at so oppressive an exaction; but as late as the year 1365 Charles the fifth seized beds. In 1313 Philippe le Bel entertained the English king and his queen at Pontoise with no other furniture than such as had been seized in this manner. A fire broke out in the night during their stay, the furniture was consumed, and the royal personages escaped in their shirts. It was not till 1407 that this privilege was finally abandoned.

Though the usual conveyance during the thirteenth century was a horse litter for women of rank, and men rode on horseback, yet covered and open carriages or waggons were not unknown in that and in the following century. A charette containing a number of maids of honour in attendance on Anne of Bohemia at her public reception in London in 1392, was upset on London bridge from the rush of the crowd to get a sight of the queen, and her ladies were not without difficulty replaced. These charettes, cars, or waggons were covered carts on four wheels, like country waggons of our days, panelled at the sides, and the tilt covered with leather, sometimes with lead, and painted.

Travelling carriage of fifteenth century;

We must not pass without a very brief notice the large constructions [pg 55] of roofs of wood begun as early as the twelfth, and continued and improved through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the period during which the finest efforts of mediæval Gothic art were embodied all over the north and over parts of the south of Europe. The older part of Westminster hall dates from the reign of Rufus, and the walls of the present building belong to that period, though faced at a later time. How the roof of the enormous space, sixty-five feet diameter, was at first constructed there is no evidence to show. It had, perhaps, a row of arches down the middle, like the great hall of the palace of Blois, said to be of the thirteenth century, or huge kingposts supporting the ties between rafters, which in that case may have been as long as those of the later roof. The present roof, work of the fourteenth century, marks the beginning of a change in the style of architecture that accompanied and caused great changes in furniture and household woodwork. The ties are supported by curved braces that descend like arches on the stone corbels made in the wall to receive them. These braces take two flights, being tied back where they meet by hammer beams into a lower part of the rafter. The lower brace upholds another upright or collar post which supports the [pg 56] junction of these beams with the rafter, at its weakest part. A rich subdivision of upright mullions with cusped arch heads fills up the spandrels between these braces and the beams they support, and adds stiffness as well as decoration to the whole.

Such constructions were not only more scientific than those of older date, but they are more pompous and complicated, and have a greater apparent affinity with the architecture of the day. This architectural character, from the date of the change to the third period of pointed architecture, began to show itself in furniture and wood structure of every kind. Until then a certain originality and inventiveness were preserved in the decoration both of architective woodwork and furniture, notwithstanding the strictest observance of the rules and unities of architectural law in buildings, ecclesiastical and civil. Small sculpture, such as that on ivories and utensils made of metal, or that which decorated woodwork as well as stone, and the general forms of furniture, were designed without immediate imitation of architectonic detail. Figure sculpture of great dignity remains in ivories of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, illustrative of the general character given to things of daily use which were not, probably, nearly so numerous as in a later age, and were each carefully elaborated for the person for whom they were made. We need go no further than some of the objects in the Kensington museum, such as the statuettes and caskets of ivory, English and French work of that time.

We can point to few large pieces of furniture, except the coronation chair, illustrating the fashions of this early period. Examples of wooden movable furniture are extremely rare in this country. There are large semicircular cope chests in the cathedrals of Wells, York, and other cities. These are merely chests or boxes in which the copes are spread out full size, one over the other, and the only decoration consists in the floriated ironwork attached to the hinges.

[pg 57]

Oriental panel
Oriental panel

We must not omit to remark that some examples of very beautiful oriental panelling of this period are to be seen in various collections. The woodcuts represent the fittings of a series of such panels from a mosque at Cairo, now at South Kensington, no. 1,051; and a single piece to show the detail. [pg 58] The delicacy of the carving and the apparent intricacy of the geometrical arrangement are very remarkable.

A royal dinner table, from a manuscript of the fourteenth century.

[pg 59]



In discussing the great wood structures such as screens, house fronts, roofs, and other large pieces of mechanism, which developed in boldness and variety in the fifteenth century, we must not forget that the abundance of oak timber in the north of Europe both suggested much of this timber art and admitted of bold features of construction from the size of the logs and the tenacity of the material. A large portion of England and perhaps an equal proportion of Ireland were covered with dense forests of oak. The eastern frontier of France, great portions of Burgundy, and many other districts in France, Germany, Flanders, and other northern countries, were still forests, and timber was to be had at low prices and in any quantity. Spanish chestnut had been introduced probably by the Romans into England.

Though churches, castles, and manors were built of stone or brick, or both, yet whole cities seem to have been mainly constructed out of timber. The London of the fifteenth century, like a hundred other cities, though abounding in noble churches and in great fortified palaces, yet presented the aspect of a timber city. The houses were framed together, as a few still are in some English towns and villages, of vast posts sixteen to twenty-four inches square in section, arching outwards and meeting the projecting floor timbers, and so with upper stories, till the streets were darkened by the projections. The surfaces of these posts [pg 60] were covered with delicate tracery, niches and images. In the streets at Chester an open gallery or passage is left on the first floor within the timbers of the house fronts. In the court of St. Mary's guild in Coventry, whole chambers and galleries are supported on vast arches of timber like bridges. Oriels jutted out under these overhanging stories, and the spaces between the framing posts were filled in, sometimes with bricks, sometimes with laths and mortar, or parts (as the century wore on) more frequently with glass.

French panel; fifteenth century

In London and Rouen, in Blois and in Coventry, these angle posts were filled with niches and statuettes or fifteenth century window tracery sunk into the surfaces. The dark wooden houses were externally a mass of imagery. In the great roofs of these centuries, such as the one spoken of at Westminster, the hammer beams were generally carved into figures of angels gracefully sustaining the timber behind them with outstretched wings; and these figures were painted and gilt. A magnificent example remains intact in the church of Knapton in Norfolk.

The number of excellent workmen and the size and architectural character of so much of the woodwork of the day contributed to give all panelled work, no matter of what description, an architectural type; and furniture shared in this change. Coffers and chests, as well as standards or stall-ends in churches, and bench-ends in large rooms and halls, were designed after the pattern of window tracery. The panel in the above woodcut from a French chest of this date, is a very delicate and beautiful example. Little buttresses and pinnacles were often placed on the angles or the divisions between the panels. At South Kensington, [pg 61] the buffet, no. 8,439 and the chest, no. 2,789, with other pieces are of this kind; also a grand cabinet of German make in the same collection. This last, no. 497, is of the rudest construction, but a few roughly cut lines of moulding and some effective ironwork give it richness and dignity that are wanting in many pieces more scientifically made and more decoratively treated.

The quantity of tapestry employed in these centuries in fitting up houses and the tents used either during a campaign or in progresses from one estate to another was prodigious, and kept increasing. Lancaster entertained the king of Portugal in his tent between Mouçal and Malgaço, fitted up with hangings of arras "as if he had been at Hertford, Leicester, or any of his manors." As early as 1313, when Isabel of Bavaria made her entry into Paris, the whole street of St. Denis, Froissart tells us, "was covered with a canopy of rich camlet and silk cloths, as if they had the cloths for nothing, or were at Alexandria or Damascus. I (the writer of this account) was present, and was astonished whence such quantities of rich stuffs and ornaments could have come, for all the houses on each side of the street of St. Denis, as far as the Châtelet, or indeed to the great bridge, were hung with tapestries representing various scenes and histories, to the delight of all beholders." The expense incurred in timber work on these occasions may be estimated from the long lists of pageants, and the scale on which each was prepared on this and like occasions.

Of the early Italian furniture of the mediæval period there is at South Kensington one fine specimen, a coffer of cypress, covered with flat surface imagery filled in with coloured wax composition. It dates from the fourteenth century. The better known Italian furniture of the quattrocento or "fourteen hundred period," i.e. the fifteenth century, is gilt and painted. The richness of this old work is owing to the careful preparation of the ground or bed on which the gold is laid and the way in which the preparation [pg 62] was modelled with the tool. The old gold is, besides, both thicker and purer, more malleable, and less liable to suffer from the action of the atmosphere than the gold we now use for this purpose. The paintings executed on such pieces of furniture as offered suitable surfaces to the artist, boxes and coffers (and, for church uses, reliquaries), are equal to the finest works of that kind and of the same period.

Many artists worked in this way. Dello Delli was the best known in regard to such productions. His work became so entirely the fashion that, according to Vasari, no house was complete without a specimen of it. Andrea di Cosimo was another. It need not be said that such men and their contemporaries had a number of pupils similarly employed. Every piece of painted furniture attributed to Dello Delli cannot be warranted. There are, however, specimens which we believe to be from his hand in the Kensington collection, and numbers of fronts and panels and fragments of great merit which illustrate his style.

Besides this kind of decoration, the Venetians had derived from Persia and India another beautiful system of surface ornament; marquetry, a fine inlay of ivory, metal, and woods, stained to vary the colour. The work is in geometric patterns only. It is found on the ivory boxes and other objects sculptured in that material, and attributed to Italian as well as to Byzantine sources. In the fifteenth century Florence also came prominently to the front in the manufacture of these and other rich materials; as well as of ivory inlaid into solid cypress wood and walnut, known as Certosina work. The style is Indian in character, and consists in geometric arrangements of stars made of diamond-shaped pieces: varied with conventional flowers in pots, &c. The name Certosina is derived from the great Certosa, charterhouse, or Carthusian monastery between Milan and Pavia: where this kind of decoration is employed in the choir fittings of the splendid church of that monastery.

We are inclined to the belief (as already said) that the manufacture [pg 63] of geometrical work of this kind was originally imported from Persia by the Venetians. There are in the Kensington museum some very interesting old chairs made for the castle of Urbino, and part of the furniture of Guidobaldo II., whose court, like that of Réné, king of Provence, was the resort of troubadours, poets, and philosophers. These chairs are covered with geometric marquetry of white and stained ivory, &c., the very counterpart of the Bombay work now brought to this country. That manufacture, in the opinion of Dr. Birdwood, was also of Persian origin and thence found its way to Bombay. The Persians continued long into the last century the inlaying of ivory in walnut wood, and their geometric marquetry is still made.

The forms of chairs in use in Italy early in the fifteenth century were revivals of the old Roman folding chair. The pairs of crosspieces are sometimes on the sides, sometimes set back and front, and in that case arm and back pieces are added. Generally we may say that the fine Italian furniture of that day owed its beauty to inlaying, surface gilding, tooling and painting. Gilt chests and marriage trays, inlaid tables, and chairs are also to be seen at South Kensington.

As in Italy, so in England, France, Germany, and later in Spain, the splendour hitherto devoted to the glory of ecclesiastical furniture, utensils, or architectural decoration was gradually adopted in the royal and other castles and houses. State rooms, halls of justice, sets of rooms for the use of the king or his barons were furnished and maintained. The large religious establishments also demanded the skill of artists and workmen, and to a greater extent north than south of the Alps. Many monastic houses in the north of Europe were seats of feudal jurisdiction. These communities executed great works in wood, stall-work, presses, coffers, &c., as large and continuous societies alone are able to carry through tasks that want much time for completion. All this helped to encourage the manufacture of woodwork of the finest kind. Hence the mediæval semi-ecclesiastical character [pg 64] maintained sway in every art connected with architecture and furniture longer in northern countries than in Italy, where both old traditions and monumental remains recalled rather the glories of antique art, and where the revival of classic learning had begun.

As regards English art it is certain that, partly from the influence of foreign queens, partly from foreign wars, and partly from the incessant intercourse with the rest of Europe kept up by religious houses, many of the accomplishments of other countries were known and practised here by foreign or native artists.

It is true that the wars of the Roses, more bloody and ruinous than any experienced in this country, delayed that growth of domestic luxury which might have been expected from the then wealth of England. But when Henry the seventh established a settled government, and from his time downwards, the decorations and the accumulation of furniture in houses, libraries, and collections of works of art rapidly increased. Many of the books in the "King's library," and many pictures and movables still in possession of the crown, may be traced to that day.

It is difficult, indeed, to imagine the England which Leland saw in his travels. It must have been full of splendid objects, and during the reign of Henry the feudal mansions, as well as the numerous royal palaces of Windsor, Richmond, Havering, and others, were filled with magnificent furniture. Mabuse and Torrigiano were employed by the king, and this example found many imitations; artists, both foreign and English, made secular furniture, as rich and beautiful as that of the churches and religious houses which covered the country.

Taste in furniture, as in architecture, both in continental Europe and in these islands had nevertheless passed the fine period of mediæval design. The "Gothic" or pointed forms and details had become uninventive and commonplace. The whole system awaited a change. The figure sculpture, however, of the latter years of this century, though life-sized statues had lost [pg 65] much of the dignity and simplicity of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, was approaching the realization of natural form, which it attained in such excellence in the succeeding century. The ingenuity and raciness of the smaller figure carving both in stall-work of churches and on the tops and fronts of boxes and caskets, in panel-work of cabinets or doors, &c., during the last half of the fifteenth century are scarcely surpassed by the more academic and classical figure design of the sixteenth. Carvers on all kinds of wood furniture and decoration of houses delighted in doubling their figures up into quaint and ingenious attitudes, and if the architecture was latterly tame, though showy and costly, imagery continued to be full of individuality and inventiveness.

[pg 66]



There are few matters regarding art more worthy of consideration than the narrowness of the limits that bound human invention: or, to speak more exactly, we should say the simplicity of the laws and principles in obedience to which the imaginations of men are exercised. The return of the painters, sculptors, and architects to the old types of classical art after the reign of the Gothic seems at first sight as if in the arts there could be nothing new under the sun: as if the imagination, so fertile in creation during many centuries since the establishment of Christianity, had been utterly worked out and come to an end, and that there was nothing left but to repeat and copy what had been done ages before.

There is, however, in reality more connection between classic and mediæval art than appears on the surface, and although all the great masters of the revival studied eagerly such remains of antique art as were discovered in Italy during the early years of the renaissance, they only came into direct contact with or absolute imitation of those models occasionally; and the works of that age have a grace that is peculiarly their own, and an inventiveness in painting and sculpture, if not in architecture, that seems, when we look at such cities as Venice and Florence, inexhaustible. The renaissance began in Italy many years before the year 1500. Most changes, indeed, of manners or arts which are designated by any century are perhaps more correctly dated [pg 67] twenty years before or after its beginning, and in the notices which we are here putting together we are compelled to make divisions of time occasionally overlap each other.

The revival of learning in Italy was accompanied by other circumstances which had a powerful influence on the arts, and particularly on the sumptuary arts of the century. It has been already remarked that while the nations of Europe were more or less convulsed with war it was not easy or possible for the inhabitants, even the wealthy, to do much in furnishing dwelling-houses with any kind of comfort. Rich furniture consisted in a few costly objects and in hangings such as could be carried about on sumpter horses or in waggons, and, with the addition of rough benches, tables, and bedsteads, could make bare walls look gay and comfortable, and offer sufficient accommodation in the empty halls of granges and manors seldom lived in, for the occasions of a visit or a temporary occupation. Churches indeed were in those ages respected by both sides in the furious contests that raged throughout Europe. The violation of holy places was a crime held in abhorrence by all combatants, and the treasuries and sacristies, therefore, of churches were full of examples of every kind of accomplishment possessed by the artists of the day. They contained objects collected there during many generations, as was the case of shrines like that of the Virgin del Pillar in Spain, of which the offerings so long preserved have been very lately sold and dispersed, and represented the art of many successive ages. But in private houses it was scarcely possible to have any corresponding richness, though in the instance of kings and potentates there was often much splendour.

As in England the fifteenth century saw the close of a series of great wars and the establishment of one powerful government, so during its conclusion and the beginning of the next century a similar disorder gradually gave place to tranquillity in Italy.

The practices of painting gilt furniture of all kinds, and of modelling terra-cotta work on the wood, were not altogether new [pg 68] accomplishments or confined to the artists of one city. When, therefore, the French having been driven out of Italy, the popes were in security in Rome and the accomplished Medici family reigned in Florence, those states as well as Urbino, Ferrara, and other independent cities were free from the perpetual attitude of defence against foreign invasion; they could indulge their enthusiasm for classic art, and the impulse given to the study of it found a ready response, as great noblemen while building palaces and digging gardens came upon statues, frescoes, vases, bronzes, and many glorious remnants of antiquity. In the various Italian states were artists well skilled and carefully trained, and there was no difficulty in finding distinguished names with whole schools of enthusiastic admirers behind them who, with these precious objects in their view, formed their style on the old classic models. We are to consider such acquirements here only so far as they came to be applied to secular woodwork (of which this cornice from Venice is an example) and the objects of daily use; to coffers, chests, caskets, mirrors, or cabinets, sideboards of various kinds, seats, tables, carriages and furniture of every description.

Venetian cornice

The best artists of the day did not hesitate to give their minds to the making of woodwork and furniture in various materials and employed every kind of accomplishment in beautifying them. Of this fine renaissance period there are so many examples in the South Kensington collection, and some of them of such excellence, that the student need scarcely have occasion to travel [pg 69] beyond the limits of that museum to illustrate the quattrocento and cinquecento furniture and woodwork.

Many materials were employed by the renaissance artists. Wood first and principally in making furniture, but decorated with gilding and paintings; inlaid with agate, carnelian, lapis lazuli and marbles of various tints; with ivory, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl; and with other woods. They also made many smaller objects, such as mirror cases in iron, damascened or inlaid with gold and silver. For many years, however, mirrors continued to be of polished metal, the enrichment being devoted to the outer case. Glass mirrors were not common till a somewhat later period.

As the general material of furniture in the sixteenth century continued to be wood, its chief decoration was sculpture. The number of remarkable pieces of carved wood furniture belonging to this period in the museum is considerable. The most striking are the chests, cassoni, large coffers for containing clothes or ornamental hangings and stuffs that were kept in them when not in use. Rooms, however large, of which the walls, floors, and ceilings are decorated, do not require many substantial objects in addition; and these chests, with a table and chairs placed against the wall, nearly complete the requirements of great Italian halls and corridors.

Portion of carved Italian chest

The general form of the carved chests is that of a sarcophagus. They are supported on claw feet, and have masks, brackets, or caryatid figures worked into the construction as in the accompanying woodcut, leaving panels, borders, or other spaces for historic sculpture. The subjects are sometimes from Scripture, [pg 70] often from the poems of Ovid. They are carved in walnut wood, which is free in grain and very tenacious: and the work, like most of the old furniture carving, is helped out with gilding. Sometimes the ground, at others the relieved carvings are touched or completely covered with gilding. Most of these fine chests are in pairs, and probably formed parts of still larger sets, fours or sixes, according as they were intended for the wall spaces of larger or smaller rooms or portions of wall between two doors.

Carved chests commonly in use, and given to brides as part of their dowry or as presents to married couples, or simply provided as the most convenient objects both for receptacles and occasionally for seats, were often made at less cost in cypress wood. They are generally decorated with surface designs etched with a pen on the absorbent grain of that wood, the ground being slightly cut out and worked over with punches shaped like nail heads, stars, &c. Cypress chests were especially used for keeping dresses or tapestries; the aromatic properties of that timber being considered as a specific against moth. This kind of chest, when intended to hold a bridal trousseau, was occasionally made with small drawers and receptacles inside for fans, lace, combs, or other feminine ornaments. Allusions to cypress chests in England are numerous in the wardrobe and privy purse accounts of Edward the fourth and his successors.

The tables of this period are sometimes solid (as no. 162, which is covered with spirited designs of mythological subjects). Dinner tables were "boards" fastened on trestles, according to the old usage already alluded to, and could be removed when the meal was over; or several could be laid together, as in our modern dining-room tables, to meet the demands of the noble hospitality exercised in those days.

The Italian chairs of the quattrocento period have been spoken of above. We have, however, another very rich and effective form of chairs usual in the sixteenth century, and which were in general use in Venice. In these the seat is fastened into two [pg 71] planks, one before and one behind, as in the woodcut. The planks are richly carved, and a third plank is let in to form a back. The several portions, particularly the back, were sometimes sufficiently thick to admit of carving in massive relief. The flanks of the back piece are usually grotesque monsters, and the arms of the owner carved on a scutcheon in the centre. They seem to have been generally richly gilt. They also formed the decoration of a great corridor or hall, and were used without cushions.

Venetian chair

The frames of pictures were bold and rich. Those of the previous century had been mostly imitative of small Gothic shrines, being generally for religious subjects and for use in churches or oratories. In the cinquecento period they were square panels, carved and richly gilt. There are in the Kensington museum remarkable examples of frames made for mirrors, either for the sitting-rooms or saloons of the lady of the house, or for her bedroom. Three of these are type pieces of such productions. No. 7695 is a square frame carved in walnut, standing on a foot, and meant to be carried about. From the daisies in relief on the foot it may perhaps be ascribed to Marguerite of Valois, and have been used in the court of Provence. Nothing in the collection surpasses the elegance and perfection of the ornamental work on the mouldings. The mirror itself is of polished metal. Another is in a circular frame, no. 7694, shaped like a shield, and meant to be hung up. It was probably made for a duchess of [pg 72] Ferrara. There are classical details of architectonic kind on the edges of the carving, which is highly finished. The mirror itself is of metal, and the back has figures on it in relief and is solidly gilt. The third of these, no. 7226, is larger. In design it is like a monumental mural tablet, with a carved rich finish on the four sides, and the mirror furnished with a sliding cover in the form of a medallion, containing a female head of singular nobleness and beauty. In this case the material is walnut relieved by broad surfaces of inlaid wood. We may also mention the superb Soltykoff mirror, no. 7648. This is an example of metal work throughout, the case, stand, and sliding cover being of iron damascened with gold and silver in every variety of that costly process.

Italian bellows

[pg 73]

Some of the richest pieces of carved walnut furniture belonging to this period are the bellows. As these are characteristic of the Italian style of the period in furniture of various kinds, we give woodcuts of two examples in the South Kensington collection. They are generally of walnut touched with gilding; and in the form still familiar to ourselves, which is as old as the classic times.

Another example

Besides furniture carved in this way out of solid wood, there were other materials used and other methods of decorating household furniture. The tarsia or inlaid work has been alluded to. The [pg 74] first methods were by geometrical arrangements of small dies; but magnificent figure designs had been executed in inlaid wood in the early period of the renaissance, and before it. Work of this kind was made in two or three woods, and much of it is in pine or cypress. The large grain is used to express lines of drapery and other movements by putting whole folds or portions of a dress or figure with the grain in one direction or another, as may be required. The picture is thus composed of pieces inclined together; a few bold lines incised and blackened give such outlines of the form as are not attainable by the other method, and slight burning with an iron is sometimes added to produce tone or shadow.

"'Tarsie' or 'Tarsiatura,'" says Mrs. Merrifield, "was a kind of mosaic in woods. This consisted in representing houses and perspective views of buildings, by inlaying pieces of wood of various colours and shades into panels of walnut wood. Vasari speaks rather slightingly of this art, and says that it was practised chiefly by those persons who possessed more patience than skill in design; that although he had seen some good representations in figures, fruits, and animals, yet the work soon becomes dark, and was always in danger of perishing from the worms and by fire. Tarsia work was frequently employed in decorating the choirs of churches as well as the backs of seats and the wainscoting. It was also used in the panels of doors."

Another method of ornamentation dependent on material that came into use in this century was the Pietra Dura or mosaic panelling of hard pebbles. The work is laborious and costly. Not only are the materials (agate, carnelian, amethyst and marbles of all colours) expensive, but each part must be ground laboriously to an exact shape and the whole mosaic fitted together, a kind of refinement of the old marble work called Alexandrinum. Besides being formed into marble panels for table tops and cabinet fronts, pietra dura was let into wood, and helped out with gay colours the more sombre walnut or ebony base of the furniture.

[pg 75]

Vasari, speaking of particular pieces of furniture of his day, mentions a "splendid library table" made at the expense and by the order of Francesco de' Medici in Florence. This table was "constructed of ebony," that is, veneered with ebony, "divided into compartments by columns of heliotrope, oriental jasper, and lapis lazuli, which have the bases and capitals of chased silver. The work is furthermore enriched with jewels, beautiful ornaments of silver, and exquisite little figures, interspersed with miniatures and terminal figures of silver and gold, in full relief, united in pairs. There are, besides, other compartments formed of jasper, agates, heliotropes, sardonyxes, carnelians, and other precious stones." This piece was the work of Bernardo Buontalenti. Another piece of such work is described as a table "wholly formed of oriental alabaster, intermingled with great pieces of carnelian, jasper, heliotrope, lapis, and agate, with other stones and jewels, worth twenty thousand crowns." Another artist, Bernardino di Porfirio of Leccio, executed an "octangular table of ebony and ivory inlaid with jaspers." This precious manufacture has been patronised in the grand ducal factories down to recent times, and is continued in the royal establishments of the king of Italy.

Knife-case; 1564

Knife case. Dated 1564.

A feature which was strongly developed in the sixteenth century furniture is the architectural character of the outlines. It has already been observed that in the fifteenth century, chests, screens, stall fronts, doors and panelling followed or fell into the prevailing arrangements of architectural design in stonework, such as window tracery, or wall tracery. But in the cinquecento furniture an architectural character, not proper to woodwork for any constructive reasons, was imparted to cabinets, chests, &c. They were artificially provided with parts that imitated the lines, brackets, and all the details of classic entablatures which have constructive reasons in architecture, but which, reduced to the proportions of furniture, have not the same propriety. These subdivisions brought into use the art of "joinery." The parts obviously necessary for the purpose of framing up wood, whether [pg 76] a box or chest, a door, a piece of panelling, or a chair, offer certain opportunities for mouldings or carvings; some are the thicker portions forming the frames, some the thin flat boards that fill up the spaces. To add a variety of mouldings, such as subdivide the roofs of temples or their peristyles, is, of course, to depart from the carpenter's province and work, and rather to take furniture out of its obvious forms for the express purpose of impressing on it the renaissance type.

The artists of that time did this with the object of designing "in character," and special models, such as the old triumphal arches, and sarcophagi, at Rome, were in view in these designs. On both arches and tombs sculptured bas-reliefs abounded. Figures reclined over the arches, and were arranged in square compositions in the panels, for which the upper stories of the arches made provision. The renaissance cabinets fell into modifications of this ideal. A century later they grew [pg 77] into house fronts, and showed doors, arches, and balustrades inside, with imitative paved floors, looking-glasses set at angles of 45°, so as to make reflections of these various parts; and in this humorous fashion the inside of a walnut or ebony cabinet was turned into the model of an Italian villa.

Again, in place of the running foliated borders and mouldings having a continuous design, or of compositions of foliage, animals, &c., forming in each arch moulding or cornice line a homogeneous line or circle, the renaissance arabesques introduced an entirely new method of decoration. In arabesque ornament all sorts of natural objects are grafted on a central stalk, or, as in the best work, on something like the stem of a candelabrum. The resources of this method are limited only by the fancy and skill of the artist, who grafts here a mask, there a leaf on his stem, and so on. The temptation is the license and discordance that come in when no unity is needed in a piece of ornament, and no continuous effort of mind required to think out and execute one definite idea in designing it. The central stem leads to an exact balance or reversal of one half of each element in the ornament, so that one half only of a panel or border has to be designed. In the hands of great artists this kind of ornamentation has been used with consummate grace.

[pg 78]



In the foregoing sketch of the furniture, designs, and manufactures of central Italy, we have described the history of contemporaneous furniture throughout Europe. Pope Leo the tenth gave every encouragement to the reviving arts in Rome, and left that capital the great nursery of art down to our day. To Italy the great princes of Europe sent the most promising artists of their dominions, or encouraged such resort. Most of these men were architects and sculptors.

Classical learning and splendid living were both encouraged by Henry the eighth. He is, probably, to be credited with the impulse given to the court and the country in the direction of the arts and accomplishments of Italy. If Jean de Mabuse had been patronised by Henry the seventh, his successor offered tempting terms to Primaticcio to exchange the service of his brother king, Francis, for his own. Other artists, contemporaries of Raphael and his scholars, found their way to England; to these we must add the great master of the German or Swiss school, Holbein. That the artists both of Holbein's and of the Italian schools designed furniture in this country we have proofs in the drawing for a panelled chimney-piece now in the British museum, and the woodwork of King's college chapel in Cambridge. Another piece of furniture of this date, showing the mixed character of Italian and Holbeinesque design, is the very fine "Tudor" cabinet at South Kensington.

[pg 79]

Though the court of Henry and the palaces of his wives were furnished with splendour, and works of art, especially those of the gold and silversmith, and jewellery, found their way from foreign parts to such great houses, the general manners of the country changed less in these respects than was the case in France and the more wealthy states and courts of Germany. In the portrait pictures of Henry and his family we see furniture of a renaissance character, but in the great monuments of the woodwork of the day the old style prevailed throughout the reign. The roofs, magnificent specimens of wood construction, were still subdivided, and supported by king posts, queen posts, hammer beams, arches connecting these portions and tracery panels in the spandrels, as in the two previous centuries. All parts were carved and coloured. The architecture of country houses began to change from the old form of a castle or a fortress to that of the beautiful and characteristic style to which we give the name of Tudor. Moats were retained, but still the principal features of the building were the depressed arches and perpendicular window mullions that had been long familiar in England, and were suggested by the wooden houses so general in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. The woodwork also and the panelling of halls and chambers retained the upright lines and mouldings forming the various "linen" patterns. Leafwork and heads, busts of the reigning princes, or of heroes such as the Cæsars, filled up the more ornamental sections, giving a certain classical element which was not fully developed till later: and most of the renaissance ornamentation of this reign has a Flemish rather than an Italian character. The woodcuts on the next page show a series of panels of different countries, many of which are to be found introduced with slight variations in English work of about the same period.

Flanders was in advance of this country in renaissance art. This remark extends to ornament of all kinds, whether of church woodwork, glass-painting, or domestic furniture. Still the Flemish [pg 80] work of this renaissance, or (speaking of England) this early Tudor period retains a mixture of details of the pointed style that makes us sometimes doubtful how to characterise the style of individual pieces. We may point to sideboards and chests in illustration. Belgium abounds in examples of this transition period.

Carved panel

English, 15th century.

Carved panel

Flemish, 16th century.

Carved panel

French, 16th century.

Carved panel

German, 15th century.

Carved panel

Italian, 16th century.

[pg 81]

In France, the most advanced and most luxurious and cultivated of the transalpine courts, the renaissance art had advanced far beyond that of England. Not only had Francis the first and the Medici princesses invited famous artists out of Italy, but they aimed at imitating Florentine luxuries and refinements as completely as they could. Admirable schools of ornamental art, such as that of the Limoges enamellers and carvers in ivory, were and had been long established in France. Classic sculpture was produced of great merit in all materials. Primaticcio and Cellini founded new schools of architects, painters, and sculptors in France. They employed pupils, and the most promising found their way to Rome and Florence, associated themselves with the great masters then practising, and brought back all the instruction they could obtain.

French table; sixteenth century

Jean Goujon stands at the head of these French masters. Besides being a sculptor and architect, there is little doubt of his having designed and even sculptured wood furniture. Probably the carved woodwork of the king's bedroom and adjoining rooms in the old Louvre are by his hand. Bachelier, of Toulouse, did the same, and pieces are attributed to him now in the Kensington Museum. Philibert de L'Orme was another artist in a similar [pg 82] field. Both Goujon and Bachelier showed the influence of the great Italian masters in their work. The table engraved (p. 81) is a very elegant example of French sixteenth century furniture.

French panel; 1577


The woodwork in the renaissance houses—the panelling and fittings of the rooms—was designed by the architect, and was full of quaint, sometimes extravagant imagery. For example, the architectural and decorative plates of Jacques Androuet du Cerceau will give some idea of the dependence of all these details on the architects of the day. This author published designs for marquetry or wood mosaics, as well as for all sorts of woodwork. A glance at the heavy cabinets of the later sixteenth century, of French origin, will show how completely great pieces of furniture fell into the same character of forms. Shelves are supported on grotesque figures, while in the mouldings, instead of simple running lines worked with the plane, as in fifteenth century woodwork, we see the egg and tongue, acanthus leaves, dentils and other members of classical architecture, constantly recurring. The ornaments of French woodworkers show a fondness for conventional bands or straps [pg 83] interspersed with figures and other ornaments. The panel, of which we give a woodcut, is French, and dated 1577. It contains armorial bearings and a monogram, said to be of the Aldine family. In 1577, however, Aldus Manutius the elder was dead, and his son did not live in France.

Germany and Spain took up the renaissance art in a still more Italian spirit than England or France. Parts of Italy as well as Spain were under the same ruler; they both, as far as regards art, felt the influence of powerful imperial patronage. We are only concerned with their art here as it refers to woodwork. German wood carvers were more quaint, minute, and redundant as to decoration. Something of the vigour, manliness, and inexhaustible sense of humour of the Germans characterises their woodwork, as it does other art, of which ornament forms the main feature. The well-known "Triumph of Maximilian," though a woodcut only, may be taken as a type of German treatment. The great cities of the empire are full of carved woodwork, house fronts, and gables. Timber was abundant. The imagery of the period, in wood as in stone, is intentionally quaint, contorted, humorous. It would be essentially ugly but for the inexhaustible fecundity of thought, allegory, and satire that pervades it. It should be added also that designers and architects had an immense sense of dignity, which we recognise immediately when we see their architectural compositions as a whole. Depths and hollows, points of light, prominences and relative retirement of parts in their arrangements of carved ornament, were matters thoroughly understood; and they succeed in imparting that general agreeableness which we call "effect" to the mind of the observers.

As regards Spanish art we cannot do better than adopt the statements of Señor J. F. Riaño, who says that "the brilliant epoch of sculpture in wood belongs to the sixteenth century, and was due to the great impulse it received from the works of Berruguete and Felipe de Borgoña. He was the chief promoter [pg 84] of the Italian style, and the choir of the cathedral of Toledo, where he worked so much, is the finest specimen of the kind in Spain. Toledo, Seville, and Valladolid were at that time great productive and artistic centres. As a specimen of wood carving of the Italian renaissance period, applied to an object of furniture, the magnificent wardrobe by Gregorio Pardo (1549) outside the chapter house at Toledo may be mentioned as one of the most beautiful things of its kind. These various styles of ornamentation were applied to the cabinets 'Bufetes' of such varied form and materials which were so much the fashion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The most characteristic of Spain are such as are called 'Vargueños.' These cabinets are decorated outside with fine ironwork, and inside with columns of bone painted and gilt. The other cabinets or escritoires belonging to that period, which are so frequently met with in Spain, were to a large extent imported from Germany and Italy, while others were made in Spain in imitation of these" (the italics are ours), "and as the copies were very similar it is difficult to classify them. It may be asserted, however, that cabinets of inlaid wood were made in great perfection in Spain at the end of the sixteenth century, for in a memorial written by a maker of tapestry, Pedro Gretierez, who worked for queen Isabella, he says, 'The escritoires and cabinets brought from Germany are worth 500, 600, and 700 reales each, and those of the same kind made in Spain by Spaniards are to be had for 250 and 300 reales.' Besides these inlaid cabinets others must have been made in the sixteenth century inlaid with silver. An edict was issued in 1594 prohibiting, with the utmost rigour, the making and selling of this kind of merchandise, in order not to increase the scarcity of silver. The edict says that 'no cabinets, desks, coffers, brasiers, shoes, tables, or other articles decorated with stamped, raised, carved, or plain silver, should be manufactured.'"

[pg 85]



The list of reigns supplies more convenient dates than the beginning or the end of a century for marking changes of national tastes in such matters as furniture. The names of kings or queens are justly given to denote styles, whether of architecture, dress, or personal ornaments, and utensils of the household. Society in most countries adopts those habits that are first taken up by the sovereign. In England, the reign of Elizabeth was pre-eminently a period during which the tastes, even the fancies, of the queen were followed enthusiastically by her people. Elizabethan is the name of the style of architecture gradually developed during her reign. Italian taste, though not perhaps so pure as it had been a few years earlier, had become far more general; classical details, however, were mixed even more in England than in other countries (Flanders excepted) with relics of older styles, the love of which was still strong in this country. The fireplaces and the panelling of our old houses, Crewe hall, Speke in Lancashire, Haddon hall in Derbyshire, Kenilworth castle, Raglan castle, and many other old buildings, are thoroughly characteristic of this mixed classical revival. The fashion is quaint and grotesque, the figure sculpture being good enough to look well in the form of caryatid monsters, half men, half terminal posts or acanthus foliations, but not sufficiently correct or graceful to stand altogether alone. Specimens, however, of very good work can be pointed out, and we give here some of the details of a panelled [pg 86] room brought lately from Exeter, and now in the South Kensington collection.

We may say that the character of the woodwork throughout this period consists in actual architectural façades or portions of façades, showy arrangements wherever they are possible of the "five orders" of architecture, or of pedimental fronts. Doorways and chimney fronts are the principal opportunities in interiors for the exercise of this composing skill. Panelling remained in use in the great halls and most of the chambers of the house, but the linen pattern, so graceful and effective, went out of fashion. The angles of the rooms, the cornices, and spaces above the doors were fitted with groups of architectural cornice mouldings, consisting of dentil, egg and tongue, and running moulds, and sometimes room walls were divided into panels by regular columns.

English panel; about 1590

Heraldry, with rich carved mantlings and quaint forms of scutcheons (the edges notched and rolled about as if made of the notched edges of a scroll of parchment), was a frequent ornament. Grotesque terminal figures, human-headed, supported the front of the dresser—the chief furniture of the dining-room and of the cabinet. Table supports and newels of stair rails grew into heavy acorn-shaped balusters. In the case of stair balusters, these were often ornamented with well-cut sculpture of fanciful and heraldic figures. Inlaid work also began to be used in room-panelling as [pg 87] well as furniture; bed heads and testers, chest fronts, cabinets, &c., were inlaid, but scarcely with delicacy, during the early Elizabethan period. The art was developed during the reign of James, when, in point of fact, the larger number of the Tudor houses were erected.

When the Tudor period was succeeded by that of the Stuarts the same general characteristics remained, but all the forms of carving grew heavier and the execution coarser. The table legs, baluster newels, and cabinet supports, had enormous acorn-shaped masses in the middle. The objects themselves, such as the great hall tables, instead of being moveable on trestles, became of unwieldy size and weight.

The general character of Flemish work was much of the same kind and form. It is not easy to distinguish the nationality of pieces of Flemish and English oak furniture of this period. The Flemings, however, retained a higher school of figure carvers, and their church-stall work and some of their best things are of a higher stamp and better designed; and where figure sculpture was employed this superiority is always apparent. A good example of Flemish panelling can be studied in the doorway at South Kensington, no. 4329. Their furniture is represented by an excellent specimen, amongst others, of this mixed period in the cabinet, no. 156. Though large and heavy, and divided into massive parts, the treatment of ornament is well understood on such pieces. The scroll-work is bold but light, and the general surface of important mouldings or dividing members is not cut up by the ornamentation. The panels are very generally carved with graceful figure subjects, commonly biblical. As the years advanced into the seventeenth century Flemish work became bigger and less refined. Diamond-shaped panels were superimposed on the square, turned work was split and laid on, drop ornaments were added below tables and from the centres of the arches of arched panels; all these unnecessary ornaments were mere additions and encumbrances to the general structure.

[pg 88]

French cabinet; sixteenth century

[pg 89]

Our own later Jacobean or Stuart style borrowed this from the Flemish. The Flemings and the Dutch had long imported woodwork into England, and it is to that commerce that we may trace the greater likeness between the late Flemish renaissance carving and corresponding English woodwork, than between the English and the French. Dutch designs in furniture, though allied to the Flemish, were swelled out into enormous proportions. The huge wardrobe cabinets made by the Dutch of walnut wood with ebony inlaid work and waved ebony mouldings are still to be met with. The panels of the fronts are broken up into numerous angles and points.

In France the fine architectural wood construction of the style of Philibert de l'Orme and so many great masters maintained itself, and a number of fine cabinets and sideboards in various collections attest the excellence of the work. The cabinet on the opposite page (no. 2573 in the Kensington museum) is of late French sixteenth century work, and combines the characteristics of the heavy furniture made in the north of Europe with a propriety of treatment in the ornamentation of mouldings and cornices peculiar to French architects, who continued to design such structures for the houses they built and fitted up. The descendants of Catherine de' Medicis and their generation were trained by Italian artists and altogether in Italian tastes, and no great change occurred in France in woodwork or furniture till the sixteenth century had closed.

In German and in Italian furniture the principal changes were in the direction of veneered and marquetry work. The same vigorous quaintness continued to distinguish German decorative detail as has been already noticed.

The Italians carved wood during the later sixteenth and the whole of the seventeenth centuries with extraordinary grace and vigour. The next woodcut, a pedestal in oak, shows their power in hard material: and smaller objects, such as the frames of pictures, were cut out in great sweeping leaves, perhaps of the [pg 90] acanthus, showing an ease and certainty in the artist that look as if he were employed upon some substance more yielding than the softest wood. Chairs were cut in the same rich style, and this luxurious carving was not unfrequently applied to the decoration of state carriages. Venice maintained a pre-eminence in this perhaps in a greater degree than Florence, though in the valley of the Arno the willow, lime, sycamore, and other soft white woods were to be had in abundance, and invited great freedom in carving.

Italian oak pedestal

[pg 91]

Venetian mirror-frame

We may now treat of an important epoch in the history of modern furniture. Venice was the seat of the manufacture of glass. In the sixteenth century workmen had received state protection for the manufacture of mirrors, which till that time had been mere hand mirrors and made of mixed metals highly polished. Gilt wood frames were extensively manufactured for these Venetian looking-glasses, which found their way all over [pg 92] Europe. Besides gilt frames, gilt chairs, carved consoles, and other highly ornate furniture were introduced as the century went on, and most of this took its origin from Venice. The woodcut represents a small frame, no. 1605, at South Kensington.

Another remarkable class of gilt woodwork, for which Florence and other cities had found trained carvers, was the framework of carriages. In England, France, Germany, and Italy carriages during the seventeenth century were stately, and certainly wonderful pieces of furniture. Examples of these showy carriages exist still. There is a collection belonging to the royal family of Portugal, now preserved at Lisbon, one or two in the museum of the hôtel de Cluny at Paris, dating from the time of Martin and painted by him, and there are a few carriages of old date at Vienna and probably in some private houses. The state-coach of the Speaker is an English example of the seventeenth century.

Germany differed less from Italy even than France in wood carving, interior room fittings, and the frequent pedimental compositions containing grotesques, or heraldic achievements on a scale of sumptuous display. The German princes were many of them skilful and intelligent patrons of art, and made collections in their residences. A well-known piece belonging to the early seventeenth century is preserved in the royal museum at Berlin. This is known as the Pomeranian art cabinet. It is 4 ft. 10 in. high, 3 ft. 4 in. wide by 2 ft. 10 in. deep, made of ebony with drawers of sandal wood lined with red morocco leather, and is mounted with silver and pietra dura work, and fitted inside with utensils of various kinds. The chair, of which we give a woodcut, is German of about the same date.

German arm-chair; seventeenth century

In the west of Europe, during the seventeenth century, marquetry was extensively used, and became the leading feature of furniture decoration. Inlaying had long been in use; but the new marquetry was a picturesque composition, a more complete attempt at pictorial representation. It comes before us in old furniture under various forms, and many examples of it may be [pg 93] studied in different collections. In this country we may consider it mainly as an imported art of the reign of William and Mary, when Dutch marquetry furniture became the fashion in the form of bandy-legged chairs, upright clock fronts, secrétaires or bureaux, or writing cabinets which were closed in the upper and middle parts with doors, and other pieces that offered surfaces available [pg 94] for such decoration. The older designs on work of this kind represent tulips and other flowers, foliage, birds, &c., all in gay colours, generally the self colours of the woods used. Sometimes the eyes and other salient points are in ivory or mother-of-pearl. In France, in the earlier marquetry designs, picturesque landscapes, broken architecture, and figures are represented. Colours are occasionally stained on the wood. Ivory and ebony were favourite materials; as also in Germany and in Italy.

It is to be noted that as the vigour of the great sixteenth century movement died out, the mania for making furniture in the form of architectural models died out also; nor do we find it becoming a fashion again till quite modern times, under the Gothic and other revivals at the end of the last and the beginning of the present century. The architectural idea was in itself full of grandeur, and it was productive of very beautiful examples in the sarcophagus-shaped chests or cassoni, and in cabinet work, though the façades of temples and the vaults and columns of triumphal arches in Rome do not bear to be too completely reduced to such small proportions. With the introduction of marquetry into more general use we recognise not only a new or renewed method of decoration, but a changed ideal of construction. Boxes, chests, tables, cabinets, &c., were conceived as such. They were made more convenient for use, and were no longer subdivided by architectural mouldings and columns, all so much extra work added to the sides and fronts.

About the middle of the seventeenth century a kind of work altogether new in the manufactory of modern furniture made its appearance under the reign of Louis the fourteenth of France. That king rose to a position in Europe that no monarch of modern times had occupied before, and the great ministers of his reign had the wisdom to take special measures for the establishment of the various arts and manufactures in which either the Italians or Flemings excelled the French as well as other nations. Colbert, his minister of finance, amongst his commercial reforms [pg 95] of learned societies and schools of art, founded in 1664 an "Academie royale de peinture d'architecture et de sculpture." It was into this that the designers of architecture, woodwork, ornament or furniture, were admitted. He established also the famous factory of the "Gobelins" for making pictorial tapestry. The place took its name from the brothers Gobelin, Flemings, who had a dyeing-house in the Rue Mouffetard. Lebrun, the painter, was the first head of it. Another important name is that of Jean Lepautre. He has left numerous designs of ornament behind him for panelling, mirror frames, carriages, &c. Lepautre was a pupil of Adam Philippon. This artist, whose chief calling was that of a joiner and cabinet maker, has also left designs.

To Colbert is due the credit of pushing forward the renewal or completion of the royal palaces; especially the château of Versailles. For the furniture of this palace we find the new material employed, namely, boule marquetry, which owes its name to the maker. The orthography of proper names was still often unsettled at that time, and we find the name variously spelt. The correct way seems to have been Boulle; but we shall retain the more usual mode, both for the artist and for his work. André Charles Boule was born in 1642, and made the peculiar kind of veneered work composed of tortoiseshell and thin brass, to which are sometimes added ivory and enamelled metal; brass and shell, however, are the general materials. Boule was made head of the royal furniture department and was lodged in the Louvre. A very interesting early specimen of this work is now at Windsor castle, and other early pieces belong to Sir Richard Wallace. The date attributed to the first makes it doubtful whether Boule may not have seen the same sort of work practised in other workshops. This kind of marquetry has, however, been assigned by general consent to Boule.

In the earlier work of Boule the inlay was produced at great cost, owing to the waste of valuable material in cutting; and the shell is left of its natural colour; in later work the manufacture [pg 96] was more economical. Two or three thicknesses of the different material were glued or stuck together and sawn through at one operation. An equal number of figures and of matrices or hollow pieces exactly corresponding were thus produced, and by counter-charging two or more designs were obtained by the same sawing. These are technically known as "boule and counter," the brass forming the groundwork and the pattern alternately. In the later or "new boule," the shell is laid on a gilt ground or on vermilion. The brass is elaborately chased with a graver.

Besides these plates of brass for marquetry ornaments, Boule, who was a sculptor of no mean pretensions, founded and chased up feet, edgings, bracket supports, &c., to his work in relief, or in the round, also in brass. The original use of these parts was to protect the edges and angles, and bind the thin inlaid work together where it was interrupted by angles in the structure. Afterwards brass mounts, more or less relieved, were added to enrich the flat designs of the surfaces. Classical altars, engraved or chased as mere surface decoration, would receive the addition of claw feet actually relieved. Figures standing on such altars, pedestals, &c., were made in relief more or less bold. In this way Boule's later work is not only a brilliant and rich piece of surface decoration, but its metallic parts are repoussé or embossed with thicknesses of metal ornament. In boule work all parts of the marquetry are held down by glue to the bed, usually of oak. The metal is occasionally fastened down by small brass pins or nails, which are hammered flat and chased over so as to be imperceptible.

English bracket; about 1660

In England, during the reign of Charles the second and of James, French furniture was imported; the old Tudor oak lingered in country houses. Boule hardly found its way till the following century to England. Splendid silver furniture consisting of plates embossed and repoussé, heightened with the graver and of admirable design, was occasionally made for the Court and for great families. Wood carving, in the manner of the school of [pg 97] Sir Christopher Wren, as in the bracket here shown, was long continued in connexion with architecture and furniture. Another style was carried to the highest pitch of technical execution and finish, as well as of truth of natural forms in the carving of Grinling Gibbons. This artist was English, but partially of Dutch descent. He carved foliage, birds, flowers, busts and figures, pieces of drapery, &c., with astonishing dexterity. We find his work principally on mirror frames, wall panels, chimney pieces, &c. Specimens may be seen over the communion table of St. James's church, Westminster, and in the choir of St. Paul's cathedral. The finest examples known are probably the carved work at Petworth house in Sussex, and at Chatsworth. His material is generally lime and other white woods. The flowers and foliage of his groups or garlands sweep round in bold and harmonious curves, making an agreeable whole, though for architectural decorative carving no work was ever so free from conventional arrangements. His animals or his flowers appear to be [pg 98] so many separate creations from nature, laid or tied together separately, though in reality formed out of a block, and remaining still portions of a group cut in the solid wood.

English doorway; about 1690


Gibbons died in 1721. Walpole mentions Watson as having been his pupil and assistant at Chatsworth. Drevot of Brussels and Laurens of Mechlin were other pupils: the former did not survive him. His school had many followers, for we find the acanthus carvings on mouldings, round doorways and chimney pieces, down to the middle of the eighteenth century, executed in England with a masterly hand. Specimens of such work have been recently acquired in the Kensington museum, the fruits of the demolition of old London, continually in progress. The border of this page represents one of these admirable pieces; a door and frame from a house in [pg 99] Lincoln's-inn. Nothing can surpass the perfect mastery of execution. All the work is cut clean and sharp out of wood which admits of no tentative cuts, and requires no rubbing down with sand paper, and in which errors are not to be repaired. Lengths of these mouldings were worked off by hand, evidently without hesitation and without mishap. Country houses abound with this fine though unpretending work, and give ample evidence of the existence of a school of fine workmen, carvers at the command of the architects of the day.

We may here revert to an important addition to room furniture, which became European during this century. Mirrors had been made from the earliest times in polished metal, but were first made of glass at Venice. In 1507 Andrea and Dominico, two glass workers of Murano, declared before the Council of ten that they had found a method of making "good and perfect mirrors of crystal glass." A monopoly of the right of manufacture was granted to the two inventors for twenty years. In 1564, the mirror makers became a distinct guild of glass workers. The plates were not large: from four to five feet are the largest dimensions met with till late in the eighteenth century. They were commonly bevilled on the edges. The frames in soft wood (as in the woodcut, p. 100) are specimens of free carving during the seventeenth century. Both in Venice and in Florence soft woods, such as willow or lime, were used. The mirror-plates were, at first, square or oblong. Towards the end of the century we find them shaped at the top. In the eighteenth century they were generally shaped at the top and bottom. Figures were sunk in the style of intaglio or gem cutting on the back of the glass and left with a dead surface, the silver surface of the mercury showing through as the mirror is seen from the front.

The looking-glasses made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by colonies of Venetian workmen in England and France had the plates finished by an edge gently bevilled of an [pg 100] inch in width, following the form of the frame, whether square or shaped in curves. This gives preciousness and prismatic light to the whole glass. It is of great difficulty in execution, the plate being held by the workman over his head and the edge cut by grinding. The feats of skill of this kind in the form of interrupted curves and short lines and angles are rarely accomplished by modern workmen, and the angle of the bevil itself is generally too acute, whereby the prismatic light produced by this portion of the mirror is in violent and too showy contrast to the remainder.

Venetian looking-glass

In England, looking-glasses came into general use soon after the Restoration. "Sir Samuel Morland built a fine room at Vauxhall [pg 101] in 1667, the inside all of looking-glass, and fountains, very pleasant to behold. It stands in the middle of the garden covered with Cornish slate, on the point whereof he placed a Punchinello." At about the same period the house of Nell Gwynne, "the first good one as we enter St. James' Square from Pall Mall, had the back room on the ground floor entirely lined with looking-glass within memory," writes Pennant, "as was said to have been the ceiling." "La rue St. André-des-arts," says Savarin, speaking of Paris in the seventeenth century, "eut le premier café orne de glaces et de tables de marbre à peu près comme on les voit de nos jours."

Holy-water stoup

[pg 102]

During the seventeenth century, tapestry, the material in use for hanging and decorating the walls of splendid rooms in France, was made also in this country. Factories were set up at Mortlake, where several copies were made of the Raphael tapestries, the cartoons of which were in this country; and in Soho fields. Sometimes tapestry was hung on bare walls; occasionally it was strained over the older panelled work of the days of the Tudor and Stuart sovereigns, the fruitful period of country house architecture in England.

An English table and chairs of the year 1633, from a woodcut of that date.

With a woodcut (on preceding page) of a bedroom holy-water vessel we finish the account of this period.

[pg 103]



As the eighteenth century draws on, we arrive at furniture of which examples are more readily to be met with, and we are reminded of houses and rooms more or less unaltered which have come under general observation.

The fashions were led in France. Boule work grew into bigger and more imposing structures as the manufacture passed into the hands of a greater number of workmen. Commodes or large presses were made with edgings and mounts, in the form of "egg and tongue" and other classic or renaissance mouldings. The tops were formed into one or three pedestals, to hold clocks and candelabra. Other changes were introduced to carry out the taste for gilding which then prevailed, and the broken shell-shaped woodwork, popularly known as Louis quinze work, began to be adopted for the frames of large glasses and the mouldings of room panels. The panels grew tall, were arched or shaped at the top, and occupied the wall space from the dado to the moulded and painted ceilings, in narrow panels. The fantastic forms of curve, emblems of the affected manners of the day, called Rococo from the words rocaille coquille, rock and shell curves, were well calculated to show off the lustre of gilding. The gold was admirably laid on, thick and very pure, and both in bronze gilding and in the woodwork, maintains its lustre to the present time. The severe classical grandeur of the old roll mouldings of fireplace jambs, wall and door panels, of the former reign gave way everywhere to this lighter work.

[pg 104]

Much early eighteenth century furniture was bombé, or rolled about in curious curves or undulations of surface, partly to display the skill of the cabinet-makers, and partly to show off the marquetry, which formed its only decoration. Another step was the introduction of mechanical applications and contrivances. The tops of tables lift off, and the action causes other portions to rise, to open, and so on. It is to be remembered that bedrooms were often used as boudoirs or studies, and that furniture which could shut private papers up without requiring that they should be put away into drawers was convenient in such rooms. As the century advanced, it became customary to form a sort of alcove at the end of bedrooms in France. The centre portion contained the bed, hidden by curtains, the spaces between it and the two walls were shut in with doors, and formed dressing closets, which could be used while the rest of the room was shut off. The bedroom then became a reception room and was thrown open with other receiving rooms of the house. Bureaux or mechanically shutting tables, writing desks, and the like, under this arrangement were a necessity for small rooms.

A school of painters arose in the reign of Louis the fifteenth who devoted themselves to the decoration of room woodwork and ceilings; Charles Delafosse, Antoine Coypel, Jean Restout, and many pupils. We must associate the names of these artists with those of the Le Pautre family. Jean died before the end of the seventeenth century, but Pierre took part in the later works of the Louvre and of Versailles under Jules Hardouin Mansard, "surintendant des bastiments." Juste Aurèle Meissonnier did still more to make this showy work popular. He designed all sorts of room furniture and woodwork. It is amongst the published works of these artists that we must seek the eighteenth century designs of French fashion. Painted panels were inserted into the wood ceilings, over the tops of looking-glasses, and dessus-portes or the short panels between the tops of doors and the line of cornice. These are generally in chiaro scuro, or light and shade [pg 105] only, and represent families of cupids. Nymphs and fauns, shepherdesses, and the supposed inhabitants of a fanciful Arcadia, formed the general subjects of room decorations.

A process belonging to the same reign should be noticed, called after the inventor, Vernis-Martin, a carriage painter, born about the year 1706. By carriage painter we must understand a painter of heraldic ornaments, flower borders, &c. His varnish is a fine transparent lac polish, probably derived from Japan through missionaries, who had resided there before the occurrence of the great massacres which closed Japan to all but the Dutch traders. The work which we commonly associate with his name is generally found on furniture such as tables or book cases, as well as on needle cases, snuff boxes, fans, and étuis, on a gold ground. The gold is waved or striated by some of those ingenious processes still in use amongst the Japanese, by which the paste or preparation on which their gold is laid is worked over while still soft. One or two carriages beautifully painted in vernis-martin are kept in the hotel de Cluny at Paris. Although it is popularly held that Martin declared his secret should die with him, and that he kept his word, yet it is certain that he left imitators and pupils who painted and enamelled in his manner furniture of various kinds. In Sir R. Wallace's collection there are two pieces, coloured green and varnished, one a table and the other a cabinet or bookcase, of vernis-martin work. There is on these no ornament excepting the varnish and the gold mounts that are added at the edges. The most beautiful objects that bear his name are the small wares, such as fans, needle books, or snuff boxes.

Later in the century we meet with other French names, Riesener, David, and Gouthière, who gained great reputation, the two first as makers of marquetry, and the latter as a founder and chaser of metal furniture mounts, such as edgings and lock scutcheons.

Italian distaff

The history of French furniture is in general the history of that of other nations. The art of wood carving was still maintained in [pg 106] Italy and applied, as in the instance of this distaff, to utensils of all kinds. In England we had, about the middle of the century, a school of carvers, gilders, and ornamenters following the extravagant style of the French. The most prominent name is that of Thomas Chippendale, who worked from the middle till towards the end of the century. He was descended from a family of carvers, and inherited the skill which had been general in his craft since the days of Gibbons. We find much rococo carving on bed testers, round fireplaces, over doors, &c., in our English houses built during the reign of Anne and the two first Georges. Other pieces of furniture, such as carved tables, wardrobe cabinets, chair backs or dinner trays, go by Chippendale's name. They are in mahogany, and follow the architectural moulding lines often seen in the works of Sir William Chambers and the brothers Adam.

Among the room decorations of the century we may notice the shelves for holding Chinese porcelain and imitations of Chinese designs in delft pottery, a taste imported by William the third and the members of his court who had lived in Holland. The chimney pieces at Hampton court and elsewhere are provided with woodwork to hold these ornaments. Hogarth paints them in his interiors, and the rage for purchasing such objects at sales became a popular subject of ridicule.

To the early eighteenth century belongs a class of furniture of which the decorations consisted of panels of old Chinese and Japanese lac work; fitted, as the marquetry of the day was, with rich gilt metal mounts. In England it was the fashion to imitate the Japan work, and such old furniture is occasionally met with: black, with raised figure decorations of Chinese character done in gold dust.

A great change is observable in the French furniture, panel [pg 107] carving and such decorations from the period of Louis the sixteenth. Several causes at the time combined to give art of this kind a new as well as a healthier direction. Amongst these we may mention the discoveries made at Herculaneum and Pompeii. It is needless to say that the peculiar cause of the destruction of both those towns had preserved in them perfect memorials, in many forms, of the social life of antiquity. Decorations, utensils and furniture of all kinds that were made of metal, and had resisted the action of damp and time, were recovered in fair condition. One result, both in France and England, was a return to a better feeling for classical style.

Room decorations and furniture soon reached the highest point of elegance which French renaissance art of a sumptuous kind has touched since the sixteenth century. The panelling of rooms, usually in oak and painted white, was designed in severe lines with straight mouldings and pilasters. The pilasters were decorated with well-designed carved work, small, close, and splendidly gilt. The quills that fill the fluted columns still seen round so many interiors were cut into beads or other subdivisions with much care. Fine arabesque work in the style of the "loggie" of Raphael was partly carved in relief, partly drawn and painted, or gilt, with gold of a yellow or of a green hue; the green being largely alloyed with silver. An example of the best work of this kind may be referred to in the beautiful room brought from Paris and now preserved, reconstructed, at South Kensington. The houses built for members of the brilliant court of queen Marie Antoinette were filled with admirable work in this manner, or in the severer but still delicate carved panelling in wood plainly painted. The royal factories of the Gobelins and of Sèvres turned out also their most beautiful productions to decorate rooms, furniture, and table service. In the former of these, tapestries were made for wall hangings, for chair backs, seats, and sofas. Rich silks from the looms of Lyons, and from those of Lucca, Genoa, and Venice were also employed for this kind of [pg 108] furniture both in France and Flanders, Germany, Italy, and Spain, as well as in our own country. In all these matters France led the fashions.

During this brilliant period, from 1774 to 1790, we meet with the names of several artists employed for painting the panelling of rooms, the lunettes over chimney fronts, and the panels of ceilings. Fragonard, Natoire, Boucher (the director of the Academy) are among the foremost of these. Their history perhaps belongs rather to that of painters than of our present subject; but they are too much mixed up with eighteenth century furniture not to find mention even in a sketch like the present.

Other artists such as Delafosse, Lalonde, Cauvet and Salembier designed arabesques, decorative woodwork, and furniture. The designs of many of them are still extant: and Cauvet dedicated a book of them to Monsieur, the king's brother. Four tables with silver-gilt mounts of his design were made for the queen's house of the Trianon, and afterwards removed to the favourite residence of the emperor Napoleon at St. Cloud. Robert and Barthélemy were sculptors and bronze workers who made mounts for furniture, and engravers. Meissonnier, Oppenord, Queverdo worked in the same way. Hubert Robert, a painter, helped Micque in all the decorations of the Trianon.

Two or three cabinet-makers have transmitted a great name, though little seems to be known of their history. Of these Riesener and David Roentgen were ébénistes, or workers in fine cabinet making. The designation is taken from the ebony and other exotic woods, which had come into more general use in Europe from the end of the seventeenth century subsequently to 1695, when the Dutch settled in Ceylon. The French obtained ebony from Madagascar, but in very small quantities. After the settlements at Ceylon we find it introduced into Europe on a larger scale. There are green and yellow varieties but the black wood is the most valuable, and Ceylon is the country in which the greatest quantities are produced. We still find in English [pg 109] houses much old carved ebony furniture, mainly chairs and cabinets, dating generally from the early years of the Dutch occupation.

Riesener used tulip (Liriodendron tulipifera), rosewood, holly (ilex aquifolium), maple (acer campestre), laburnum (cytisus Alpinus), purple wood (copaifera pubiflora), &c. Wreaths and bunches of flowers, exquisitely worked and boldly designed, form centres of his marquetry panels which are often plain surfaces of one wood. On the sides, in borders and compartments, we find diaper patterns in three or four quiet colours. These conventional sides or corners of diaper work help to give point to the graceful compositions that form the principal feature in his marquetry. Chests of drawers and cabinets are sometimes met with in snake wood and other varieties of brown wood, of which the grain is waved or curled without marquetry. The name of Riesener is to be found stamped sometimes on the panel itself, sometimes on the oak lining of the pieces of furniture made by him.

A number of exceptional examples of Riesener's cabinets are described in the appendix to the detailed catalogue of furniture in the South Kensington museum. The best pieces are from the collection now belonging to Sir Richard Wallace. The most imposing of these is the rounded bureau or secrétaire, made for Stanislaus, king of Poland. It is beautifully inlaid on the top, ends, and back with designs emblematic of the sciences, &c., and with bust heads. The letters S. R. are put upon a broad band of decoration that runs round the lower portion of the bureau. A similar piece of furniture with gilt bronze candle branches by Gouthière, on the sides, is now in the Louvre. Both are signed.

David Roentgen was born at Niewid near Luneville, in which latter city he worked as a contemporary of Riesener, but younger by some years in age. He also made marquetry in lighter woods and of rather a gayer tone than those of Riesener. Both of them often worked in plain mahogany, and in such cases trusted for the [pg 110] effectiveness of their pieces to the excellence of the mounts of chased and gilt metal by their contemporary, Gouthière. In his light marquetry David used various white woods. Pear, lime, and light-coloured woods were occasionally tinted with various shades by burning. This process, originally effected by hot irons, is better and more delicately managed by hot sand. Only browns and dark ochrous yellows are obtained by this means, and the more delicately toned marquetry is without hues of green or blue. Those tints, however, can be obtained by steeping the wood in various chemical solutions.

As a maker of gilt bronze furniture mounts Gouthière had a wide reputation. He belongs to the period of Louis the sixteenth. With him Riesener and David worked in concert; all their best pieces are finished with the mounts of Gouthière. Among examples in this country is the cabinet in the royal collection at Windsor. No signature has been discovered on this piece, but the exquisite modelling of the flower borders, the metal mouldings and mounts, and the crown supported by figures of cupids that surmounts the whole, leave us in no hesitation as to its authorship.

Gouthière modelled and chased up similar work for carriages, and mounts for marble chimney pieces, such as that in the boudoir just above referred to. The gilding on these mounts is so good and has been laid on so massively that the metal has in general suffered no substantial injury down to our own times, and can be restored to its original lustre by soap and water. Indeed, the fine old work dating from the two previous reigns by André Boule and other artists, after the designs of Berain, has suffered little. The boule clocks, with arched glass panels in front and spreading supports and figure compositions on the top, have in most cases come down to us clothed in their original water gilding, easily to be cleaned though looking black when they have been long left to neglect.

Contemporaneous with Riesener in France was the Italian [pg 111] maker of marquetry, Maggiolino. In Florence, Venice, Milan, and Genoa, cabinets and commodes of marquetry were produced. German cabinet-makers manufactured the same work through the earlier part of the century. Bombé or curved furniture was also made by the Germans with great, we may almost say with extravagant, skill. To maintain mouldings on the angles of these curved and waving surfaces is a feat in workmanship of difficult attainment, and German cabinet-makers seem to have taken delight in exhibiting such skill. The quaint work of the minute carvings in box and other hard woods, admirably carried out during the times of the immediate pupils of Dürer and the school of well-trained artists who succeeded him, was no longer to be found. The desolating wars that swept over this part of Europe during the days of Louis the fourteenth and Frederick the great seem to have exhausted the country, and worn out the ancient industry of the cities. Guilds died away, the men who composed them being required for the exigencies of war, and the wealth of the inhabitants was so reduced that the leisure to enjoy and even the means to buy fine productions of art existed no longer.

Few collectors have done greater service to the study of English art than Horace Walpole; and few have had the opportunities he enjoyed a century ago, when he was able to fill Strawberry Hill with a collection of mediæval, renaissance, and later works of art of every description. A lively passage, alluding to the contract for the roof and the glazing of King's college chapel, Cambridge, commemorates his value for these art traditions. "As much," he says, "as we imagine ourselves arrived at higher perfection in the arts, it would not be easy for a master of a college to go into St. Margaret's parish, Southwark, to bespeak such a roof as that of King's college, and a dozen or two of windows so admirably drawn, and order them to be sent home by such a day, as if they were bespeaking a chequered pavement."

A certain sort of revival of Gothic design took place in England [pg 112] about this period: and later in the century feeble attempts at Gothic woodwork were made here and there; but there was little national taste in furniture apart from a close imitation of French fashions. A still greater change was produced by Sir William Chambers, the architect of modern Somerset house, who wrote a book on civil architecture and room decorations. Another name connected with furniture has been already mentioned, that of Thomas Chippendale. He published his book of designs in 1764, containing complete sides of rooms, looking-glass frames, chimney fronts, &c. He and his contemporaries designed tables, cabinets and moveable furniture of every description, including carriages, on which, indeed, furniture designers of all periods were employed. Chippendale and his sons or assistants produced frames and cornices for gilding so different from his well-made wardrobes, &c., that there must have been more than one of the family engaged in superintending these dissimilar kinds of objects. He is a representative maker. The son has been sometimes credited with the mahogany woodwork of which delicacy and exactness are the characteristics. Satin wood came into fashion in England during the last half of the century. Both Cipriani and Angelica Kauffmann painted medallions, cameo ornaments and borders on table tops and fronts, harpsichord cases, &c., made of satin wood or coloured in the manner of the vernis-martin work. The former decorated Carlton house.

Mathias Lock, with whom was associated a cabinet maker named Copeland, also published designs of furniture of every kind. A semi-classic Pompeian or Roman arabesque feeling runs through the ornamentation of these pieces of furniture. They are light in make, often elegant, and more or less follow the taste prevailing in France and Italy. Gillow, the founder of a respectable existing firm, belongs to this period; but, as yet, nothing has come to light regarding his early history or apprenticeship. Another name connected both with furniture and decorative arts of all kinds was that of Robert Adam; he was of [pg 113] Scotch extraction and had travelled in Italy; and his brother John built many private houses; for example, the Adelphi and Portland place. Furniture, carriages, sedan chairs, and plate were amongst the objects for which Robert, perhaps both the brothers, gave designs. Classical capitals, mouldings and niches, circles and lunettes, with shell flutings and light garlands, were favourite features in their façade ornaments. The sideboards, bust terms (or pedestals), urn-shaped knife boxes; the chairs, commodes, &c., were all designed to accord with the architectural decorations. Polished-steel fire-grates belong to this period, and we believe to the authorship of the brothers Adam.

A cabinet maker named A. Heppelwhite published in 1789 a large set of designs for every sort of reception room and bedroom furniture. We see in these the mahogany chairs with pierced strapwork backs, library and pedestal tables, mechanical desks and bureaux, which continued in fashion during the early years of this century. Fanciful sashed glass doors closed in the bookcases; interrupted pediments and pedestals provided space for busts round the tops of these cases. Fluted legs, and occasionally lion-headed supports, uphold the tables and chairs. Knife cases to set on the sideboard, and urn stools for the breakfast table, are among these designs. Tea chests and tea caddies indicate that tea was then coming into general use. Thomas Sheraton, another cabinet-maker, published towards the end of the century an extensive "Dictionary" of his trade. His designs, like those just mentioned, embrace beds, sofas, &c. Mechanical dressing and washing tables, very ingeniously contrived, were among his productions. We meet with these still; of Spanish mahogany, and admirable workmanship. The structure of all these pieces was light and strong. Time has had little effect on wood so well seasoned and on pieces put together in so workmanlike a manner.

The French revolution put a complete stop to the old arts of domestic life in France. As in the sixteenth century, so in the [pg 114] eighteenth the new ideas rushed extravagantly in the direction of republican antiquity and Roman taste and sentiment. It was under the empire, after the Italian wars and the Egyptian expedition, that the means and taste for expenditure upon civil furniture and decorations revived, with an assumption of classicalism. The art of the time however, inspired by the hard paintings of David, is but a dry and affected attempt at a fresh renaissance. In furniture mounts, chairs, &c., of supposed classical designs, it is known as the art of the "empire." This country copied the fashion as soon as the return of peace opened the continent to English travellers. Furniture and room decorations were designed after classical ideals, and we see chairs and tables imitating bas-reliefs and the drawings on antique vases. It is probable that collectors, such as Sir William Hamilton and the members of the Dilettanti society, sensibly influenced the prevailing style.

James Wyatt the architect, about the end of the last century, rebuilt or cleared out many of our mediæval churches and houses, and took to designing what he called Gothic for room decoration and furniture. Sir Jeffrey Wyatt or Sir Jeffrey Wyattville (as he became) made great changes at Windsor castle, under George the fourth. Pugin designed some flimsy Gothic furniture for the same palace. At a later period of his life, however, he did much, both as a designer and a writer upon art, to turn attention to the principles on which mediæval designs of all kinds were based.

We are now, perhaps, returning to renaissance art in furniture, and it is certain that collections such as those lately exhibited by Sir Richard Wallace; the Exposition Retrospective in Paris in 1865; the loan exhibitions of 1862 in London, and that of Gore house at an earlier period; and above all the great permanent collection at South Kensington, must contribute to form the public taste.

In the review which we have made of what may be called the household art of so many ages, it would be difficult to assign an [pg 115] absolute superiority to the artists of any one generation, considering what countless beautiful objects have been made for the personal use and enjoyment of men. The sculptured thrones of ivory and gold, the seats and couches of bronze overlaid with gold and damascened with the precious metals, the inlaid chariots, tables, chests, and jewelled caskets of antiquity; the imagery, the shrines, the stalls, and roofs of the middle ages; the wood sculpture, tarsia, pietra dura, damascening and the endless variety of objects produced during the days of Leonardo, Michel Angelo, and Raphael, down to the carving of Gibbons, and the splendid work of Boule, Riesener and Gouthière, are all in various ways excellent.

We must not venture to call one class of productions finer than another where the differences are so great and such high perfection has been attained in each. Every style and fashion when at its best has resulted from the utmost application of mind and time on the part of trained artists; and the highest art can never be cheap, neither can any machinery or any help from mechanical assistance become substitutes for art. Beauty which is created by the hand of man is not the clever application of mechanical forces or of scientific inventions, but is brought to light, whether it be a cabinet front or the Venus of Milo, often with pain, always by the entire devotion of the labour, the intellect, the experience, the imagination and the affection, of the artist and the workman.

[pg 116]



It is interesting to trace the changes that the more common and necessary pieces of furniture have undergone during successive historic ages. The social life of ancient times, even of the middle ages which come so much nearer to us in point of years, differs from that of our own in its whole aspect. Yet though personal habits have so greatly altered the general wants of men remain much the same. Hence such objects as beds, chairs, tables, chests, dressers, wardrobes or cabinets, carriages or litters, have been always used and maintained a certain identity. With a summary of the changes of form and methods of decoration of a few of the principal objects of personal use we shall conclude.

Bedsteads and Couches.

Beds served often in antiquity and in the middle ages, and have served at all times, almost as much for sitting or reclining by day as for sleeping on at night.

To what has been already said on the subject of antique beds little need be added. The Egyptian bed and the pillow or crutch, of wood or more valuable materials, have been described. Examples of the crutch are numerous in the British museum and in the Louvre. "The Egyptians had couches," says Sir G. Wilkinson, "but they do not appear to have reclined upon them more frequently than modern Europeans, in whose houses they are equally common. The ottomans were simple square sofas without [pg 117] backs, raised from the ground nearly to the same level as the chair. The upper part was of leather, or of cotton stuff, richly coloured, like the cushions of the fauteuils, and the box was of wood painted with various devices and ornamented with the figures of captives, who were supposed to be degraded by holding so humiliating a position. And the same idea gave them a place on the footstools of a royal throne."

The bed, λέχος, of the Greeks was covered with skins, over the skins with woollen blankets; sometimes a linen cloth or sheet was added. The finest coverlids were from Miletus, Carthage, and Corinth. These varied in the softness of their woollen texture and the delicate disposition of the colours. Later Greek beds had girths of leather or string; a mattress; and a pillow.

The Roman bed had the side by which it was entered open, the other was protected by a shelf. The mattresses were stuffed with herbs, in later times with wool or feathers. Precious counterpanes embroidered with gold were occasionally used. Canopies or frames for curtains, in one form or another, have always been necessary adjuncts to beds. Testers were placed on cradles, with gauze curtains to keep off flies. Beds on wheels were in use for the sick in classical and mediæval times: as also a low and portable bed, grabatum, with mats for bedding. This is the word used in St. John's gospel, translated "take up thy bed and walk."

Roman _triclinium_

Besides beds, couches, and stools, used in antiquity, as in our own times, we find amongst the ancients the habit, unknown since, of reclining on the left elbow at meals. The Romans called the conventional arrangement the triclinium. The accompanying woodcut represents the plan of a triclinium, the guest reclining on the left elbow and the faces of each directed from 1 to 3, 4 to 6, and so on. These numbers and positions indicated a sort of superiority, or a highest, middle, and lowest to every table. A passage from [pg 118] Horace, often quoted, enumerates the guests in this order. Fundanius, who was at the top, giving an account of a dinner to his friends, says: "I sat at the top, Viscus Thurinus next to me; Varius, if my memory serves me, below him; Vibidius along with Servilius Balatro, whom Mæcenas brought as humble companions. Nomentanus was above, and Porcius below the host himself."

Bedstead; fifteenth century

The beds of the early middle ages in England had testers with curtains, often of valuable material. These slid on rings on an iron rod. Sometimes the rod, with a frame to sustain it, was on one or on three sides of the bed, and the tester wanting. Sometimes the beds were slung on uprights, as cots are at sea. No great expense was incurred in the framework till the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The splendour of state beds, or those of great people, consisted in the curtains, which were occasionally taken down, and hung up in churches on festivals. In the illuminations of manuscripts and in pictures representing scenes in which there is a bed, we find the tester strained by cords to the sides of the room or to the ceiling, as in the accompanying woodcut. The curtains ran round this frame, as in our modern four-posters; but we see them hoisted out of the way during the daytime, not round a post, only raised beyond reach.

The finest examples of bedsteads that can be called mediæval are French, and only met with in fragments, or more or less complete. This is unfortunately the case also as regards early English bedsteads. We may refer the reader to the "Mobilier Français" of Viollet le Duc, for an idea of the sumptuous carved [pg 119] oak bedstead of the great palaces and hotels of France. It was a frame panelled down to the ground, often containing chests, drawers, presses, or other safe places under the sleeper. The back resembled more or less the reredos of an altar, or the great panelled presses that filled the sides of sacristies. Four posts supported the canopy. A bedstead of the fifteenth century was long preserved at Leicester, and said to have been slept on by Richard the third. The under part of it formed his military chest, and the discovery of the treasure a century afterwards occasioned a barbarous murder. None of the coin found was of a later mint than his reign. It is also said by Pennant that a stump bedstead still in Berkeley castle is the same on which the murder of Edward the second was committed. Fine examples of Tudor bedsteads are preserved there. In the town of Ware in Hertfordshire is, and has long been, an inn under the sign of the Saracen's head, "In this," says Clutterbuck, "there is a bed of enormous proportions, twelve feet square. The head is panelled in the Elizabethan style of arched panels, and a date is painted on it—1460. [This, however, is not authentic.] It is of carved oak. The top is covered by a panelled tester, supported on baluster columns at the feet. The bases of these rest on a cluster of four arches or supports to each column." Nothing is known of the original history of the bedstead. Shakespeare alludes to it in Twelfth Night.

The great bed of Ware

To the Tudor and Jacobean period of heavy oak furniture succeeded the custom of supplying the place of oak-panelled testers [pg 120] and headboards with rich hangings either of tapestry, cut Genoa, or Venice velvets and other costly materials, with ostrich feathers or other ornaments on the angles. The royal beds at Hampton court admirably illustrate this stately fashion, as in the accompanying woodcut. More modern changes it is unnecessary to trace.

Bedstead at Hampton Court
Mediæval room

Couches for reclining or sitting upon were, in the middle ages, rather benches with cushions on them. The king conversing with a lady in her chamber is from a manuscript of about 1390 (the "Romance of Meliadus") in the British museum. In the seventeenth century we find the same ornaments that were used in chair backs extended to large frames so as to form them into couches, and the same plaited cane panels. In the last century, sofas were sometimes made in the form of several chair backs, with arms at each end, the backs being pierced work or framing [pg 121] made of bars in fancy shapes. This work was in mahogany or satin wood, or was painted after the fashion of vernis-martin work. In all cases such pieces were made to accord with suites of chairs, tables, &c.

Cradles have been made in many shapes. The most approved in antiquity was that of a boat, σκάφος, or a shield; in either case they could be rocked. In the fourteenth century the men of Ghent destroyed the house of the earl of Flanders, according to Froissart, and all his furniture including the cradle in which he was nursed, which was of silver. The cradle of Henry the fifth is still preserved. It is in the form of a chest, much like the cradle in the Kensington museum, no. 1769; and swings on posts, one at each end, standing on cross-bars to keep them steady: but there is no higher portion, as in the example in the museum, to support a tester. A hundred years later the shape seems to have become heavier.

Cradle; fifteenth century


In the ancient Egyptian paintings at Thebes, and elsewhere, chairs are minutely represented like the throne or arm chair of the Greeks, each containing one person. Occasionally they used stools and low seats raised a little above the ground. Some sat cross-legged on the ground, though this is more rare, or kneeling on one knee. The men and women generally were apart, but in [pg 122] the same room, while conversing they sat, and did not recline. Wilkinson gives a full description of the old Egyptian chairs and stools.

The classical curule chairs were made of ivory; sometimes of solid and entire elephants' teeth, which seems to have been the typical idea of the ivory chair; sometimes the ivory was veneered on a wooden base. The foot or point of the tusk was carved into a head or beak. It is from this curved chair of state that the later chairs were derived, of which the form remained popular in Italy through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The mediæval name was faldistorium, rendered "faldstool," a stool or seat to support the arms when kneeling, or to act as a chair when sitting.

Folding chair; fifteenth century

The earliest type of the architectural thrones or chairs of the middle ages is the ancient chair of St. Peter, at Rome, of which a woodcut has been given in p. 35. A full description and plates of it will be found in the "Vetusta monumenta" of the Society of antiquaries for 1870. Another famous chair, that of St. Mark, is preserved at Venice, in the treasury of St. Mark's. Anciently this chair, like that of St. Peter in Rome, was covered with plates of ivory, carved panels probably fitted into frame pieces of wood as a covering to the stone. As it is now seen, however, the work is of oriental marble. It is a rudely shaped arm chair, with high back sloping upwards in the form of a pediment, truncated and surmounted by a stone, cut into an imperfect circle or oval, and having an arm or volute like the reversed angle-volute of a column projecting from the lower part of each side. The chair of St. Maximian at Ravenna dates from the [pg 123] sixth century; this is described in Mr. Maskell's "Ivories." A magnificent fourteenth century architectural chair of silver is preserved at Barcelona. The supports represent window tracery. One large arch supplies the front support, being cusped, and these cusps are again subdivided. The two sides form each a pair of windows of two lights or divisions, with a circle above, the whole cusped and having trefoil leaves on the cusps. The back is open tracery work, representing three narrow windows, with two lights or openings each. They finish in three lofty gables, crocketed outside and divided into tracery within.

Italian chair; sixteenth century

Chairs in England during the mediæval period were sometimes made of turned wood. Sometimes they were cleverly arranged to fold up, as in our own days: the engraving (p. 122) is from a beautiful manuscript of the fifteenth century. The chair known as that of Glastonbury is a square board on two pairs of cross-trestles, with a square board for a back, held to the seat by sloping arm pieces, shaped out to receive the arms of a sitter. On the edges of the seat and back tenons protrude, long enough to pass through mortices in the leg and arm pieces, which are pegged to keep them firm. Like the sixteenth century curule chairs these can easily be taken to pieces for travelling. [pg 124] During the reigns of Elizabeth and James, high-backed chairs, richly cut and pierced, with wooden, afterwards with cane, seats were used and remained in use simplified and lightened during more than a century. The woodcut (p. 123) represents the fashion of chair common in Italy about the year 1620: and from thence introduced into England.

The use of marquetry was not confined to tables and cabinets. Rich chairs were made in this material (rarely in boule) during the eighteenth century in France, Italy, and Holland, from whence they came to this country. Light and very elegant yellow satin-wood marquetry chairs were also then in fashion. The use of mahogany for chairs, often delicately carved and admirably constructed, was general during the last century in England. The French carved chairs of the time of Louis the sixteenth covered with silk all but the legs and framework, and painted white or gilt, were made to accord with the sofas and carved woodwork of the rooms. This example was followed in England, with certain national differences.


The ancient Egyptian tables were round, square, or oblong; the former were generally used during their repasts, and consisted of a circular flat summit, supported, like the monopodium of the Romans, on a single shaft or leg in the centre or by the figure of a man intended to represent a captive. Large tables had usually three or four legs, but some were made with solid sides; and though generally of wood many were of metal or stone; and they varied in size according to the different purposes for which they were intended. Often they were three-legged, the legs in a concave shape.

An antique marble table of Græco-Roman work is preserved at Naples, supported by a centaur in full relief at one end, and a sea monster, Scylla it is supposed, involving a shipwrecked mariner in the folds of her tail, with indications of waves, &c., [pg 125] round her body. Other Roman tables of larger dimensions had three, four, or five supports of sphinxes, lions, and the like. We give representations of three kinds of tables from paintings on vases; and another, on three marble legs, found at Pompeii.

Antique Roman tables
Antique Roman table

In the middle ages, as has been before said, tables were generally folding boards laid on trestles and moveable. The general disposition of the dining table was taken from those of abbeys and convents, and may be seen continued in some of our own colleges to this day. The principal table was on a raised platform or floor at the upper end of the hall, and thence called the "High" table. The guests sat on one side only, as in the traditional representations of the Last Supper, and the place of honour was the centre, the opposite side being left for the service. The principal person sat under a canopy or cloth of estate, either made for the occasion, or under a panelled canopy curving outward and permanent. Occasionally mediæval tables in England were of stone or marble. Of the former material a table is preserved belonging to the strangers' hall at Winchester; and a wooden one in the chapter-house at Salisbury. The tops of some [pg 126] old English tables are made with two thicknesses, the lower pulling out on either side to rest on supports drawn from the bed. A table of this description is kept at Hill hall, Essex; and the woodcut represents a folding table of the time of Elizabeth, long preserved at Flaxton Hall, in Suffolk. During the last century mahogany tables with delicate pierced galleries round the edge, and similar work to ornament the bed or frame, were made by Chippendale and his contemporaries. Many of them are light and graceful pieces of construction. Others were massively made with goat-footed legs that bulge well beyond the lines of the table top, which in these cases is often a slab of marble. The workmanship is admirable. Mahogany had then supplanted the use of oak for large tables.

Folding table; English

Chests, Cabinets, and Sideboards.

The wardrobe, both in the Roman house and the mediæval castle, was a small room suitably fitted up and provided with receptacles. Chests, coffers, and caskets were also in use, and implied moveability. In later days the renaissance chests were either mounted on stands or gave place to mixed structures; and cabinets of various forms that could be kept permanently in the hall or chamber became the fashion. They were large, important [pg 127] objects, were never moved or carried abroad, descended from father to son, and were the monumental objects, as the panelled superstructure of the fireplace was, of halls and reception rooms. These pieces have various forms. In dining halls or rooms occasionally so used, they were cupboards, dressers, or places with a small receptacle to hold food, and a flat top with perhaps a step or shelf above it to carry plate, candlesticks, &c. When placed in receiving rooms or to hold dresses they were cabinets or wardrobes; for the conveniences of writing they are bureaux, sécrétaires, or escritoires.

Mediæval chest

We have early notices of the use of cypress chests, perhaps cabinets as some of them are fitted with drawers, in this country. John of Gaunt in his will, 1397, specifies "a little box of cypress wood;" probably something like the chest engraved from a manuscript of that date: out of which the servant is taking a robe evidently richly embroidered with armorial bearings. In the memoirs of the antiquities of Great Britain, relating to the reformation, we find an account of church plate, money, gold [pg 128] and silver images, &c., delivered to Henry the eighth: "Paid William Grene, the king's coffer-maker, for making of a coffer covered with fustyan of Naples, and being full of drawers and boxes lined with red and grene sarcynet to put in stones of divers sorts, vi. li. xviij. s. ij. d.," by which we may gather something of its costly construction, "and to Cornelys the locke smythe for making all the iron worke, that is to say, the locke, gymours, handels, ryngs to every drawer box, the price xxxvi. s. iv. d."

The marquetry invented or brought to perfection by Boule was displayed in greater magnificence on cabinets of various shapes than on any other pieces of furniture. The same may be said of the marquetry cabinets in wood executed during the eighteenth century in France by Riesener and David, with the help of the metal mounts of Gouthière and his contemporaries. In these fine pieces the interior is generally simple and the conceits of the previous century are omitted. Japan cabinets obtained through the Dutch were frequently imported into England. The hinges and mounts were of silver or gilt metal, richly chased. The bureau, escritoire, or office desk, called in Germany Kaunitz after a princely inventor, was a knee-hole table. These tall bureaux were of general, almost universal, use in England during the last century.


There are several old sideboards in the Kensington museum, described under the names of dressoir or dressoir de salle à manger in the large catalogue. They are small cupboards and would be called cabinets but for the drawers half-way down, and the rows of the shelves on the top; and are of the sixteenth century date. According to Willemin, the old etiquette of France, certainly that of Burgundy, prescribed five steps or shelves to these dressers for use during meals for queens; four for duchesses or princesses; three for their children and for countesses and grandes dames; two for other noble ladies. In [pg 129] the middle ages cupboards or dressers were mere covered boards or shelves against a wall on which plate was set out, and were made of three or four or more stages according to the splendour of the occasion. The cupboard dresser of more modest pretensions was considered as a piece of dining-room furniture. It was ordinarily covered with a piece of embroidery.

Robert Frevyll bequeaths, 1521, to his "son John a stone cobard in the hall." A manuscript inventory of Henry the eighth names, "Item, one large cuppbord carpet of grene cloth of gold with workes lyned with bockeram, conteyning in length three yards, iii. q'ters, and three bredthes." In the herald's account of the feast at Westminster, on the occasion of the marriage of prince Arthur, we find "There was also a stage of dyvers greas and hannes (degrees and enhancings of height) for the cuppbord that the plate shulde stande inn, the which plate for the moost part was clene (pure) goold, and the residue all gilte and non silver, and was in length from the closet doore to the chimney." And when in the next reign Henry entertained Francis at Calais, a cupboard of seven stages was provided and furnished with gold and silver gilt plate.

Before concluding these remarks on dining-room furniture something may be said on painted roundels or wooden platters. Though they have long ceased to be used for their original purpose, several sets still complete remain in country houses and collections of different kinds; and three sets are in the Kensington museum. They are usually twelve in number: and all seem to be of the date of the late Tudor princes. They were kept in boxes turned out of a block, and decorated with painting and gilding. Their size does not differ materially, all the sets varying from 5⅜ to 5⅝ inches. There are, however, smaller sets to be seen which range from 2¾ to 5 inches in diameter. The top surface is in all instances plain and the under surface painted with a border of flowers, generally alternating with knots more or less artistically drawn in vermilion: "posyes" or a couple of [pg 130] verses are generally added. These platters were used in the sixteenth century as dessert plates, the plain side being at the top. Leland speaks of the "confettes" at the end of a dinner, "sugar plate fertes, with other subtilties with ippocrass" (a sweet wine). Earthenware plates though not unknown were still very uncommon in England before the reign of Elizabeth. The dinner was served on plate in royal or very great houses, on pewter and wooden trenchers in more humble and unpretending households. Specimens of the latter may still be seen in our old collegiate establishments. Probably the earliest instance of the use of earthenware may be found in the time of Edward the first, when some dishes and plates of that material were bought from a Spanish ship. Pitchers, jugs and the like had been for centuries commonly made. "Porselyn" is mentioned in 1587: where we read of "five dishes of earth painted, such as are brought from Venice" being presented to the queen on one of her progresses.


Roman 'biga' and 'pilentum'

The shape and decoration of carriages have changed continually, but these changes have not always been in the direction of convenience and handiness for rapid motion. Our space will not allow us to enter here upon a history of the chariots of ancient nations; Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans. A detailed account of them will be found in the introduction to the large catalogue of furniture at South Kensington. The woodcut represents the Roman "biga," the original of which (in marble) is [pg 131] in the Vatican; and the "pilentum," or covered carriage, from the column of Theodosius.

English carriage; fourteenth century

We know but little of the period succeeding the destruction of Rome and the extinction of classic customs. In the middle ages we find carts, like those now in use for agricultural purposes in France; a long frame with spreading rails balanced on one pair of wheels of large dimensions, drawn by a string of horses. The woodcut of a family carriage is from the well-known Luttrell psalter, an illuminated manuscript of the early fourteenth century. Such vehicles seem to have been clumsy enough and had no springs: nevertheless they were much ornamented with various decorations. They had roofs as a protection from the weather, with silk or leather curtains; and the interior was fitted with cushions. In the "Squire of low degree" the father of the princess of Hungary promises,

To-morrow ye shall on hunting fare,

And ride my daughter in a chare,

It shall be covered with velvet red,

And cloths of fine gold all about your head,

With damask white and azure blue,

Well diapered with lilies new

Your pomelles (knobs) shall be ended with gold,

Your chains enamelled many a fold.

The oldest kind of wheel-carriages known in England were called whirlecotes, and one of these belonged to the mother of [pg 132] Richard the second. Whirlecotes were used also at the marriage of Katherine of Arragon. Coaches were probably first introduced from Hungary. They seem to have been square, not differing greatly in outline from the state coaches of which numerous engraved plates can be seen; and were considered as too effeminate a conveyance for men in the days of Elizabeth. The coach of Henry the fourth of France may be studied in the plate by Van Luyken that represents his murder by Ravaillac, 1610. It is four-wheeled, square, with a flat awning on four corner pillars or supports, and curtains. The centre descends into a kind of boot with leather sides. The accompanying woodcut represents the carriage of the English ambassador at Rome in 1688: and we add also an engraving of a state carriage of about fifty years later, still in the possession of Lord Darnley.

State carriage
State carriage

[pg 133]



Only very meagre notices are to be found of the artists to whom we owe the designs of modern furniture. For a hundred and fifty years after the renaissance, furniture partook so generally, and the woodwork of rooms so entirely, of the character and followed so continually the details of architecture that the history of furniture-designers is that of the architects of the day. These found in the members of guilds of carvers, carpenters, or image sculptors admirable hands to carry out the ornamental details of their woodwork, such as chimney-pieces, &c., and who made sideboards, cabinets, chairs, and tables to suit the woodwork. We have space here only for the names; in the large catalogue a brief notice of almost every one of them is also given.

Names of Artists. Country in which
   they worked.
Adam, J. (and R.) England 1728-1792.
Agnolo, B. da Italy 1460-1563.
Agnolo, D. da      " 16th century.
Agnola, J. da      "    ""
Ambrogio, G.      " 17th     "
Ards, W. Flanders 15th     "
Asinelis, A Italy 16th     "
Bachelier, — France 16th century.
Baerze, J. de Flanders 14th     "
Baker, — England 18th     "
Barili, A. Italy 16th     "
Barili, G      "    ""
Barili, S.      "    ""
Baumgartner, U.[pg 134] Germany 17th century.
Beaugreant, G. de Flanders 16th     "
Beck, S. Germany    ""
Belli, A. A. Italy    ""
Belli, G.      "    ""
Berain, J. France 1636-1711.
Bergamo, D. da Italy 1490-1550.
Bergamo, S. da      " 16th century.
Bernardo, —      "    ""
Berruguete, — Spain 1480-1561.
Bertolina, B. J. Italy 16th century.
Beydert, J. Flanders 15th     "
Blondeel, L.      " 1495-1560.
Bolgié, G. Italy 18th century.
Bonzanigo, G. M.      "    ""
Borello, F.      " 16th     "
Borgona, F. de Spain    ""
Botto, B. Italy    ""
Botto, G. B.      "    ""
Botto, P.      "    ""
Botto, S. A.      "    ""
Boulle, A. C. France 1642-1732.
Boulle, P.      " 17th century.
Brescia, R. da Italy 16th     "
Bross, — de France 17th     "
Bruggemann, H. Germany 15th     "
Bruhl, A. Flanders 16th and 17th centuries.
Brunelleschi, F. Italy 1377-1446.
Brustolone, A.      " 1670-1732.
Buontalenti, B. T.      " 16th century.
Caffieri, Ph. France 17th and 18th centuries.
Cano, A. Spain 17th century.
Canova, J. de Italy 16th     "
Canozii, C.      "    ""
Canozii, G. M.      "    ""
Canozii, L.      "    ""
Capitsoldi, — England 18th     "
Capo di Ferro, Brothers Italy 16th     "
Carlone, J.      " 18th     "
Carnicero, A. Spain 1693-1756.
Castelli, Q. Italy 16th century
Cauner, — France 18th     "
Cauvet, G. P.[pg 135] France 1731-1788
Ceracci, G. England 18th century.
Cervelliera, B. del Italy    ""
Chambers, Sir W. England 1726-1796.
Chippendale, T.      " 18th century.
Cipriani, G. B.      "    ""
Coit, —      "    ""
Collet, A.      "    ""
Copeland, —      "    ""
Cotte, J. de France    ""
Cotte, R. de      " 1656-1735.
Cotton, C. England 18th century.
Cressent, — France    ""
Davy, R. England 1750-1794.
Dello Delli Italy 14th and 15th centuries
Dolen, — van Flanders 18th century.
Donatello, — Italy 1380-1466.
Dorsient, A C.; C. Oc. Flanders 16th century
Ducerceau, A. France 1515-1585.
Dugar, E. Italy 16th century.
Du Quesnoy, F. H. and J. Flanders 17th     "
Faydherbe, L. Flanders 1627-1694.
Filippo, D. di Italy 16th century.
Flörein, J. Flanders 15th     "
Flötner, P. Germany 16th     "
Gabler, M. Germany 17th century.
Galletti, G. Italy 18th     "
Garnier, P. France    ""
Genser, M. Germany 17th     "
Gervasius England    ""
Gettich, P. Germany 17th     "
Geuser, M.      "    ""
Gheel, F. van Flanders 18th     "
Gibbons, G. England 17th     "
Giovanni, Fra Italy 16th     "
Glosencamp, H. Flanders    ""
Goujon, J.[pg 136] France    ""
Habermann, — France 18th century.
Haeghen,— van der Flanders    ""
Hekinger, J. Germany 17th     "
Heinhofer, Ph.      " 16th and 17th centuries.
Helmont, — van Flanders 18th century.
Heppelwhite, A England    ""
Hernandez, G. Spain 1586-1646.
Hool, J. B. van Flanders 18th century.
Huet, — France    ""
Hyman, F. England    ""
John of St. Omer England 13th century.
Johnson, T.      " 18th     "
Juni, J. D. Spain 16th and 17th centuries.
Kauffmann, A. England 18th century.
Kiskner, U. Germany 17th     "
Kuenlin, J.      "    ""
Ladetto, F. Italy 18th century.
Lalonde, — France    ""
Lawreans, — England 17th     "
Lecreux, N. A. J. Flanders 1757-1836.
Le Moyne, J. France 1645-1718.
Leopardi, A. Italy 1450-1525.
Le Pautre, J. France 1617-1682.
Le Roux, J. B.      " 18th century.
Linnell, J. England    ""
Lock, M.      "    ""
Loir, A. France 1630-1713.
L'Orme, Ph. de.      " 16th century.
Lunigia, A. da Italy    ""
Macé, J. France 18th century.
Maifeis, P. di Italy 15th     "
Maggiolino, —      " 18th     "
Magister, O.      " 16th     "
Majano, B. da      " 15th     "
Majano, G. da[pg 137] Italy 1432-1490.
Margaritone, —      " 1236-1313.
Marot, D. France 1650-1700?
Marot, G.      " 17th century.
Marot, J.      " 1625-1679.
Martin, R.      " 1706-1765.
Martincourt, —      " 18th century.
Meissonnier, J. A.      " 1693-1750.
Mendeler, G. Germany 17th century.
Meulen, R. van der Flanders 1645-1717.
Minore, G. Italy 15th century.
Modena, P. da      "    ""
Moenart, M. Flanders 17th     "
Montepulciano, G. da Italy 16th     "
Moser, L. Germany 15th     "
Müller, D.      " 17th     "
Müller, J.      "    ""
Newrone, G. C. Italy 16th century.
Nilson, — France 18th     "
Nys, L. de Flanders    ""
Nys, P. de      "    ""
Oost, P. van Flanders 14th century.
Oppenord, — France 18th     "
Pacher, M. Germany 15th century.
Padova, Z. da Italy 16th     "
Panturmo, J. di      " 1492-1556.
Pardo, G. Spain 16th century.
Pareta, G. di Italy    ""
Passe, C. de France 17th     "
Passe, C. de, the younger      "    ""
Pergolese, — England 18th     "
Perreal, J. France 15th     "
Philippon, A.      " 16th     "
Picau, —      " 18th     "
Picq, J. Flanders 17th     "
Pigalle, — England 18th     "
Piffetti, A. P. Italy 1700-1777.
Plumier, P. D. Flanders 1688-1721.
Porfirio, B. di[pg 138] Italy 16th century
Quellin, A. Flanders 1609-1668.
Quellin, A., the younger      " 1625-1700.
Quellin, E.      " 17th century.
Raephorst, B. van Flanders 15th century,
Ramello, F. Italy 16th     "
Ranson, — France 18th     "
Rasch, A. Flanders 15th     "
Riesener, — France 18th     "
Roentgen, D.      "    ""
Rohan, J. de      " 16th     "
Rohan, J. de      "    ""
Rosch, J. Germany 15th     "
Rossi, P. de Italy 15th and 16th centuries.
Rovezzano, B. da England 16th century.
Salembier, — France 18th and 19th centuries.
Sangher, J. de Flanders 17th century.
Schelden, P. van der      " 16th     "
Schwanhard, H. Germany 17th     "
Serlius, S. France 16th     "
Servellino, G. del Italy 15th     "
Sheraton, Th. England 18th     "
Smet, R. de Flanders 16th     "
Stoss, V. Germany 1438-1533.
Syrlin, J.      " 15th century.
Syrlin, J., the younger      " 15th and 16th centuries.
Taillebert, U. Flanders 16th century.
Tasso, D. Italy 15th and 16th centuries.
Tasso, G.      "    ""
Tasso, G. B.      "    ""
Tasso, M. D.      " 15th century.
Tatham, C. H. England 18th     "
Taurini, R. Italy 16th     "
Thomire, P. Ph. France 1751-1843.
Tolfo, G. Italy 16th century.
Toro, —[pg 139] France 18th century.
Torrigiano, — England 1472-1522.
Toto, —      " 1331-1351.
Trevigi, G. da      " 1304-1344.
Uccello, P. Italy 1396-1479.
Ugliengo, C.      " 18th century.
Venasca, G. P. Italy 18th century.
Verbruggen, P. Flanders 17th     "
Verbruggen, P., the younger      " 1660-1724.
Verhaegen, Th.      " 18th century.
Voyers, — England    ""
Vriesse, V. de France 17th     "
Walker, H. England 16th century.
Weinkopf, W. Germany    ""
Willemsens, L. Flanders 1635-1702.
William the Florentine England 13th century.
Wilton, J.      " 18th     "
Zabello, F. Italy 16th century.
Zorn, G. Germany 17th     "

[pg 140]

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | V | W




Transcriber's Note

The Table of Contents was erected by the transcriber, and placed in the Public Domain.

Sundry missing or damaged punctuation has been repaired.

This book, published in England, dates from 1875. Some older, but still correct, spellings may be present. There is also some 16th century spelling. Both hyphenated and un-hyphenated versions of some words appear in the text.

'Borgoña' and 'Borgona' both appear in the text, as do 'hôtel' and 'hotel'.

English spelling 'rules' have only existed since the second half of the nineteenth century.

Mouseover titles have been added to illustrations, corresponding to the entries in the LIST OF WOODCUTS (and entered into the Public Domain).

Illustrations which interrupted paragraphs have generally been moved to more convenient positions between paragraphs. An exception is the illustration of St. Edmund's 'well-furnished bedroom' on Page 51, referred to in the first part of the long paragraph beginning on Page 50. It made sense to insert the illustration after 'the year 1400', as the following text began a new topic.

Page 21: 'valves' corected to 'halves'. 'v' would seem to be a misprint for 'h'.

"The doors were generally in two halves and could be closed with locks,"

Page 48: 'candesticks' corrected to 'candlesticks'.

"Though the royal table might be lighted with valuable candlesticks of metal,..."

Page 82: "SEMPER FESTINA LENTE" = Hurry Slowly!

Page 121: 'musuem' corrected to 'museum'.

"... as in the example in the museum,..."

Page 140 et seq.: In the Index, the spaced double-quotes in the original and the .txt version have been converted to spaces to make a conventional nested index (which is easier to read).