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Jacobean furniture

English Home Life in the Reign of James I.—Sir Henry Wootton quoted—Inigo Jones and his work—Ford Castle—Chimney Pieces in South Kensington Museum—Table in the Carpenters' Hall—-Hall of the Barbers' Company—The Charterhouse—Time of Charles I.—Furniture at Knole—Eagle House, Wimbledon, Mr. Charles Eastlake—Monuments at Canterbury and Westminster—Settles, Couches, and Chairs of the Stuart period—Sir Paul Pindar's House—Cromwellian Furniture—The Restoration—Indo-Portuguese Furniture—Hampton Court Palace—Evelyn's description—The Great Fire of London—Hall of the Brewers' Company—Oak Panelling of the time—Grinling Gibbons and his work—The Edict of Nantes—Silver Furniture at Knole—William III. and Dutch influence—Queen Anne—Sideboards, Bureaus, and Grandfather's Clocks—Furniture at Hampton Court.

Furniture Directn the chapter on "Renaissance" the great Art revival in England has been noticed; in the Elizabethan oak work of chimney pieces, panelling, and furniture, are to be found varying forms of the free classic style which the Renaissance had brought about. These fluctuating changes in fashion continued in England from the time of Elizabeth until the middle of the eighteenth century, when, as will be shewn presently, a distinct alteration in the design of furniture took place.

The domestic habits of Englishmen were getting more established. We have seen how religious persecution during preceding reigns, at the time of the Reformation, had encouraged private domestic life of families, in the smaller rooms and apart from the gossiping retainer, who might at any time bring destruction upon the household by giving information about items of conversation he had overheard. There is a passage in one of Sir Henry Wootton's letters, written in 1600, which shews that this home life was now becoming a settled characteristic of his countrymen.

"Every man's proper mansion house and home, being the theatre of his hospitality, the seate of his selfe fruition, the comfortable part of his own life, the noblest of his son's inheritance, a kind of private princedom, nay the possession thereof an epitome of the whole world, may well deserve by these attributes, according to the degree of the master, to be delightfully adorned."

Sir Henry Wootton was ambassador in Venice in 1604, and is said to have been the author of the well-known definition of an ambassador's calling, namely, "an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country's good." This offended the piety of James I., and caused him for some time to be in disgrace. He also published some 20 years later "Elements of Architecture," and being an antiquarian and man of taste, sent home many specimens of the famous Italian wood carving.

It was during the reign of James I. and that of his successor that Inigo Jones, our English Vitruvius, was making his great reputation; he had returned from Italy full of enthusiasm for the Renaissance of Palladio and his school, and of knowledge and taste gained by a diligent study of the ancient classic buildings of Rome; his influence would be speedily felt in the design of woodwork fittings, for the interiors of his edifices. There is a note in his own copy of Palladio, which is now in the library of Worcester College, Oxford, which is worth quoting:—

"In the name of God: Amen. The 2 of January, 1614, I being in Rome compared these desines following, with the Ruines themselves.—INIGO JONES."

In the following year he returned from Italy on his appointment as King's surveyor of works, and until his death in 1652 was full of work, though unfortunately for us, much that he designed was never carried out, and much that he carried out has been destroyed by fire. The Banqueting Hall of Whitehall, now Whitehall Chapel; St. Paul's, Covent Garden; the old water gate originally intended as the entrance to the first Duke of Buckingham's Palace, close to Charing Cross; Nos. 55 and 56, on the south side of Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn; and one or two monuments and porches, are amongst the examples that remain to us of this great master's work; and of interiors, that of Ashburnham House is left to remind us, with its quiet dignity of style, of this great master. It has been said in speaking of the staircase, plaster ornament, and woodwork of this interior, "upon the whole is set the seal of the time of Charles I." As the work was probably finished during that King's reign, the impression intended to be conveyed was that after wood carving had rather run riot towards the end of the sixteenth century, we had now in the interior designed by Inigo Jones, or influenced by his school, a more quiet and sober style.

The above woodcut shews a portion of the King's room in Ford Castle, which still contains souvenirs of Flodden Field—according to an article in the Magazine of Art. The room is in the northernmost tower, which still preserves externally the stern, grim character of the border fortress; and the room looks towards the famous battle-field. The chair shews a date 1638, and there is another of Dutch design of about fifty or sixty years later; but the carved oak bedstead, with tapestry hangings, and the oak press, which the writer of the article mentions as forming part of the old furniture of the room, scarcely appear in the illustration.

Mr. Hungerford Pollen tells us that the majority of so-called Tudor houses were actually built during the reign of James I., and this may probably be accepted as an explanation of the otherwise curious fact of there being much in the architecture and woodwork of this time which would seem to have belonged to the earlier period.

The illustrations of wooden chimney-pieces will show this change. There are in the South Kensington Museum some three or four chimney-pieces of stone, having the upper portions of carved oak, the dates of which have been ascertained to be about 1620; these were removed from an old house in Lime Street, City, and give us an idea of the interior decoration of a residence of a London merchant. The one illustrated is somewhat richer than the others, the columns supporting the cornice of the others being almost plain pillars with Ionic or Doric capitals, and the carving of the panels of all of them is in less relief, and simpler in character, than those which occur in the latter part of Elizabeth's time.

Carved Oak Centre Table. In the Hall of the Carpenters' Company.

The earliest dated piece of Jacobean furniture which has come under the writer's observation is the octagonal table belonging to the Carpenters' Company. The illustration, taken from Mr. Jupp's book referred to in the last chapter, hardly does the table justice; it is really a very handsome piece of furniture, and measures about 3 feet 3 inches in diameter. In the spandrils of the arches between the legs are the letters R.W., G.I., J.R., and W.W., being the initials of Richard Wyatt, George Isack, John Reeve, and William Willson, who were Master and Wardens of the Company in 1606, which date is carved in two of the spandrils. While the ornamental legs shew some of the characteristics of Elizabethan work, the treatment is less bold, the large acorn-shaped member has become more refined and attenuated, and the ornament is altogether more subdued. This is a remarkable specimen of early Jacobean furniture, and is the only one of the shape and kind known to the writer; it is in excellent preservation, save that the top is split, and it shews signs of having been made with considerable skill and care.

Carved Oak Chair. From Abingdon Park.

Carved Oak Chair. In the Carpenters' Hall

From Photos in the S. Kensington Museum Album. Early XVII. Century. English.

The Science and Art Department keep for reference an album containing photographs, not only of many of the specimens in the different museums under its control, but also of some of those which have been lent for a temporary exhibition. The illustration of the above two chairs is taken from this source, the album having been placed at the writer's disposal by the courtesy of Mr. Jones, of the Photograph Department. The left-hand chair, from Abingdon Park, is said to have belonged to Lady Barnard, Shakespeare's grand-daughter, and the other may still be seen in the Hall of the Carpenters' Company.

In the Hall of the Barbers' Company in Monkswell Street, the Court room, which is lighted with an octagonal cupola, was designed by Inigo Jones as a Theatre of Anatomy, when the Barbers and Surgeons were one corporation. There are some three or four tallies of this period in the Hall, having four legs connected by stretchers, quite plain; the moulded edges of the table tops are also without enrichment. These plain oak slabs, and also the stretchers, have been renewed, but in exactly the same style as the original work; the legs, however, are the old ones, and are simple columns with plain turned capitals and bases. Other tables of this period are to be found in a few old country mansions; there is one in Longleat, which, the writer has been told, has a small drawer at the end, to hold the copper coins with which the retainers of the Marquis of Bath's ancestors used to play a game of shovel penny. In the Chapter House in Westminster Abbey, there is also one of these plain substantial James I. tables, which is singular in being nearly double the width of those which were made at this time. As the Chapter House was, until comparatively recent years, used as a room for the storage of records, this table was probably made, not as a dining table, but for some other purpose requiring greater width.

In the chapter on Renaissance there was an allusion to Charterhouse, which was purchased for its present purpose by Thomas Sutton in 1611, and in the chapel may be seen to-day the original communion table placed there by the founder. It is of carved oak, with a row of legs running lengthways underneath the middle, and four others at the corners; these, while being cast in the simple lines noticed in the tables in the Barbers' Hall, and the Chapter House, Westminster Abbey, are enriched by carving from the base to the third of the height of the leg, and the frieze of the table is also carved in low relief. The rich carved wood screen which supports the organ loft is also of Jacobean work.

There is in the South Kensington Museum a carved oak chest, with a centre panel representing the Adoration of the Magi, about this date, 1615-20; it is mounted on a stand which has three feet in front and two behind, much more primitive and quaint than the ornate supports of Elizabethan carving, while the only ornament on the drawer fronts which form the frieze of the stand are moulded panels, in the centre of each of which is a turned knob by which to open the drawer. This chest and the table which forms its stand were probably not intended for each other. The illustration on the previous page shows the stand, which is a good representation of the carving of this time, i.e., early seventeenth century. The round backed arm chair which the Museum purchased last year from the Hailstone collection, though dated 1614, is really more Elizabethan in design.

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