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Illustrated History of Furniture by Frederick Litchfield

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[Illustration: Interior of a French Chateau Shewing Furniture of the Time.
Period: Late XIV. or Early XV. Century.]

Illustrated History Of Furniture:

_From the Earliest to the Present Time._


Frederick Litchfield.

With numerous Illustrations



In the following pages the Author has placed before the reader an account
of the changes in the design of Decorative Furniture and Woodwork, from
the earliest period of which we have any reliable or certain record until
the present time.

A careful selection of illustrations has been made from examples of
established authenticity, the majority of which are to be seen, either in
the Museums to which reference is made, or by permission of the owners;
and the representations of the different "interiors" will convey an idea
of the character and disposition of the furniture of the periods to which
they refer. These illustrations are arranged, so far as is possible, in
chronological order, and the descriptions which accompany them are
explanatory of the historical and social changes which have influenced the
manners and customs, and directly or indirectly affected the Furniture of
different nations. An endeavour is made to produce a "panorama" which may
prove acceptable to many, who, without wishing to study the subject
deeply, may desire to gain some information with reference to it
generally, or with regard to some part of it, in which they may feel a
particular interest.

It will be obvious that within the limits of a single volume of moderate
dimensions it is impossible to give more than an outline sketch of many
periods of design and taste which deserve far more consideration than is
here bestowed upon them; the reader is, therefore, asked to accept the
first chapter, which refers to "Ancient Furniture" and covers a period of
several centuries, as introductory to that which follows, rather than as a
serious attempt to examine the history of the furniture during that space
of time. The fourth chapter, which deals with a period of some hundred and
fifty years, from the time of King James the First until that of
Chippendale and his contemporaries, and the last three chapters, are more
fully descriptive than some others, partly because trustworthy information
as to these times is more accessible, and partly because it is probable
that English readers will feel greater interest in the furniture of which
they are the subject. The French _meubles de luxe_, from the latter half
of the seventeenth century until the Revolution, are also treated more
fully than the furniture of other periods and countries, on account of the
interest which has been manifested in this description of the cabinet
maker's and metal mounter's work during the past ten or fifteen years.
There is evidence of this appreciation in the enormous prices realised at
notable auction sales, when such furniture has been offered for
competition to wealthy connoisseurs.

In order to gain a more correct idea of the design of Furniture of
different periods, it has been necessary to notice the alterations in
architectural styles which influenced, and were accompanied by,
corresponding changes in the fashion of interior woodwork. Such comments
are made with some diffidence, as it is felt that this branch of the
subject would have received more fitting treatment by an architect, who
was also an antiquarian, than by an antiquarian with only a limited
knowledge of architecture.

Some works on "Furniture" have taken the word in its French
interpretation, to include everything that is "movable" in a house; other
writers have combined with historical notes, critical remarks and
suggestions as to the selection of Furniture. The author has not presumed
to offer any such advice, and has confined his attention to a description
of that which, in its more restricted sense, is understood as "Decorative
Furniture and Woodwork." For his own information, and in the pursuit of
his business, he has been led to investigate the causes and the
approximate dates of the several changes in taste which have taken place,
and has recorded them in as simple and readable a story as the
difficulties of the subject permit.

Numerous acts of kindness and co-operation, received while preparing the
work for the press, have rendered the task very pleasant; and while the
author has endeavoured to acknowledge, in a great many instances, the
courtesies received, when noticing the particular occasion on which such
assistance was rendered, he would desire generally to record his thanks to
the owners of historic mansions, the officials of our Museums, the Clerks
of City Companies, Librarians, and others, to whom he is indebted. The
views of many able writers who have trodden the same field of enquiry have
been adopted where they have been confirmed by the writer's experience or
research, and in these cases he hopes he has not omitted to express his
acknowledgments for the use he has made of them.

The large number of copies subscribed for, accompanied, as many of the
applications have been, by expressions of goodwill and confidence
beforehand, have been very gratifying, and have afforded great
encouragement during the preparation of the work.

If the present venture is received in such a way as to encourage a larger
effort, the writer hopes both to multiply examples and extend the area of
his observations.

F. L. Hanway Street, London, _July_, 1892.


Chapter I.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES: Solomon's House and Temple--Palace of Ahashuerus.
ASSYRIAN FURNITURE: Nimrod's Palace--Mr. George Smith quoted. EGYPTIAN
FURNITURE: Specimens in the British Museum--The Workman's
Stool--Various articles of Domestic Furniture--Dr. Birch quoted. GREEK
FURNITURE: The Bas Reliefs in the British Museum--The Chest of
Cypselus--Laws and Customs of the Greeks--House of Alcibiades--Plutarch
quoted. ROMAN FURNITURE: Position of Rome--The Roman House--Cicero's
Table--Thyine Wood--Customs of wealthy Romans--Downfall of the Empire.

Chapter II.

Period of 1000 years from Fall of Rome, A.D. 476, to Capture of
Constantinople, 1453--The Crusades--Influence of Christianity--Chairs
of St. Peter and Maximian at Rome, Ravenna and Venice--Edict of Leo
III. prohibiting Image worship--The Rise of Venice--Charlemagne and his
successors--The Chair of Dagobert--Byzantine character of
Furniture--Norwegian carving--Russian and Scandinavian--The
Anglo-Saxons--Sir Walter Scott quoted--Descriptions of Anglo-Saxon
Houses and Customs--Art in Flemish Cities--Gothic Architecture--The
Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey--Penshurst--French Furniture in
the 14th Century--Description of rooms--The South Kensington
Museum--Transition from Gothic to Renaissance--German carved work: the
Credence, the Buffet, and Dressoir.

Chapter III.

THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY: Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaele--Church of St.
Peter, contemporary great artists--The Italian Palazzo--Methods of
gilding, inlaying and mounting Furniture--Pietra-dura and other
enrichments--Ruskin's criticism. THE RENAISSANCE IN FRANCE: Francois I.
and the Chateau of Fontainebleau--Influence on Courtiers-Chairs of the
time--Design of Cabinets--M.E. Bonnaffe on The Renaissance--Bedstead of
Jeanne d'Albret--Deterioration of taste in time of Henry IV.--Louis
Influence of the House of Burgundy on Art--The Chimney-piece at Bruges,
and other casts of specimens in South Kensington Museum. THE
RENAISSANCE IN SPAIN: The resources of Spain in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries--Influence of Saracenic Art--High-backed leather
chairs--The Carthusian Convent at Granada. THE RENAISSANCE IN GERMANY:
Albrecht Duerer--Famous Steel Chair of Augsburg--German seventeenth
century carving in St. Saviour's Hospital. THE RENAISSANCE IN ENGLAND:
Influence of Foreign Artists in the time of Henry VIII.--End of
Feudalism--Hampton Court Palace--Linen pattern Panels--Woodwork in the
Henry VII. Chapel at Westminster Abbey--Livery Cupboards at
Hengrave--Harrison quoted--The "parler"--Alteration in English
customs--Chairs of the sixteenth century--Coverings and Cushions of the
time, extract from old Inventory--South Kensington
Cabinet--Elizabethan Mirror at Goodrich Court--Shaw's "Ancient
Furniture"--The Glastonbury Chair--Introduction of Frames into
England--Characteristics of Native Woodwork--Famous Country
Mansions--Alteration in design of Woodwork and Furniture--Panelled
Rooms in South Kensington--The Charterhouse--Gray's Inn Hall and Middle
Temple--The Hall of the Carpenters' Company--The Great Bed of
Ware--Shakespeare's Chair--Penshurst Place.

Chapter IV.

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.

Chapter V.

CHINESE FURNITURE: Probable source of artistic taste--Sir William
Chambers quoted--Racinet's "Le Costume Historique"--Dutch
influence--The South Kensington and the Duke of Edinburgh
Collections--Processes of making Lacquer--Screens in the Kensington
Museum. JAPANESE FURNITURE: Early History--Sir Rutherford Alcock and
Lord Elgin--The Collection of the Shogun--Famous Collections--Action of
the present Government of Japan--Special characteristics. INDIAN
FURNITURE: Early European influence--Furniture of the Moguls--Racinet's
Work--Bombay Furniture--Ivory Chairs and Table--Specimens in the India
Museum. PERSIAN WOODWORK: Collection of Objets d'Art formed by Gen.
Murdoch Smith, R.E.---Industrial Arts of the Persians--Arab
influence--South Kensington specimens. SARACENIC WOODWORK: Oriental
customs--Specimens in the South Kensington Museum of Arab Work--M.
d'Aveune's Work.

Chapter VI.

PALACE OF VERSAILLES: "Grand" and "Petit Trianon"--The three Styles of
Louis XIV., XV., and XVI.--Colbert and Lebrun--Andre Charles Boule and
his Work--Carved and Gilt Furniture--The Regency and its
Influence--Alteration in Condition of French Society--Watteau, Lancret,
and Boucher. Louis XV. FURNITURE: Famous Ebenistes--Vernis Martin
Furniture--Caffieri and Gouthiere Mountings--Sevres Porcelain
introduced into Cabinets--Gobelins Tapestry--The "Bureau du Roi." LOUIS
XVI. AND MARIE ANTOINETTE: The Queen's Influence--The Painters Chardin
and Greuze--More simple Designs--Characteristic Ornaments of Louis XVI.
Furniture--Riesener's Work--Gouthiere's Mountings--Specimens in the
Louvre--The Hamilton Palace Sale--French influence upon the design of
Furniture in other countries--The Jones Collection--Extract from "The

Chapter VII.

Chinese style--Sir William Chambers--The Brothers Adams'
work--Pergolesi, Cipriani, and Angelica Kauffmann--Architects of the
time--Wedgwood and Flaxman--Chippendale's Work and his
Contemporaries--Chair in the Barbers' Hall--Lock, Shearer, Hepplewhite;
Ince, Mayhew, Sheraton--Introduction of Satinwood and
Mahogany--Gillows, of Lancaster and London--History of the
Sideboard--The Dining Room--Furniture of the time.

Chapter VIII.

The French Revolution and First Empire--Influence on design of
Napoleon's Campaigns--The Cabinet presented to Marie Louise--Dutch
Furniture of the time--English Furniture--Sheraton's later work--Thomas
Hope, architect--George Smith's designs--Fashion during the
Regency--Gothic revival--Seddon's Furniture--Other Makers--Influence on
design of the Restoration in France--Furniture of William IV. and early
part of Queen Victoria's reign--Baroque and Rococo styles--The
panelling of rooms, dado, and skirting--The Art Union--The Society of
Arts--Sir Charles Barry and the new Palace of Westminster--Pugin's
designs--Auction Prices of Furniture--Christie's--The London Club
Houses--Steam--Different Trade Customs--Exhibitions in France and
England--Harry Rogers' work--The Queen's cradle--State of Art in
England during first part of present reign--Continental
designs--Italian carving--Cabinet work--General remarks.

Chapter IX.

THE GREAT EXHIBITION: Exhibitors and contemporary Cabinet
Makers--Exhibition of 1862, London; 1867, Paris; and
subsequently--Description of Illustrations--Fourdinois, Wright and
Mansfield--The South Kensington Museum--Revival of
Marquetry--Comparison of Present Day with that of a Hundred Years
ago--AEstheticism--Traditions--Trades-Unionism--The Arts and Crafts
Exhibition Society--Independence of Furniture--Present
Fashions--Writers on Design--Modern Furniture in other
Countries--Concluding Remarks.


List of Artists and Manufacturers of Furniture--Woods--Tapestry used
for French Furniture--The processes of Gilding and Polishing--The


List of Subscribers.

List of Illustrations.

Frontispiece--Dwelling Room of a French Chateau

Chapter I.

Vignette of Bas-relief--egyptian Seated, as Ornament to Initial Letter.
Assyrian Bronze Throne and Footstool
Chairs From Khorsabad and Xanthus and Assyrian Throne
Repose of King Asshurbanipal
Examples of Egyptian Furniture in the British Museum: Stool; Stand
for a Vase; Head-rest or Pillow; Workman's Stool; Vase on a Stand;
Folding Stool; Ebony Seat inlaid with ivory
An Egyptian of High Rank Seated
An Egyptian Banquet
Chair with Captives as Supports, and an Ivory Box
Bacchus and Attendants Visiting Icarus
Greek Bedstead with a Table
Greek Furniture
Interior of an Ancient Roman House
Roman State Chair
Bronze Lamp and Stand
Roman Scamnum or Bench
Bisellium, or Seat for Two Persons
Roman Couch, Generally of Bronze
A Roman Study
Roman Triclinium or Dining Room

Chapter II.

Vignette of Gothic Oak Armoire, as Ornament to Initial Letter
Chair of St. Peter, Rome
Dagobert Chair
A Carved Norwegian Doorway
Scandinavian Chair
Cover of a Casket Carved in Whalebone
Saxon House (IX. Century)
Anglo-saxon Furniture of About the X. Century
The Seat on the Dais
Saxon State Bed
English Folding Chair (XIV. Century)
Cradle of Henry V
Coronation Chair, Westminster Abbey
Chair in York Minster
Two Chairs of the XV. Century
Table at Penshurst
Bedroom (XIV. Century)
Carved Oak Bedstead and Chair
The New Born Infant
Portrait of Christine De Pisan
State Banquet with Attendant Musicians (Two Woodcuts)
A High-backed Chair (XV. Century)
Medieval Bed and Bedroom
A Scribe or Copyist
Two German Chairs
Carved Oak Buffet (French Gothic)
Carved Oak Table
Flemish Buffet
A Tapestried Room
A Carved Oak Seat
Interior of Apothecary's Shop
Court of the Ladies of Queen Anne of Brittany

Chapter III.

Vignette of the Caryatides Cabinet, as Ornament to Initial Letter
Reproduction of Decoration by Raffaele
Salon of M. Bonnaffe
A Sixteenth Century Room
Chair in Carved Walnut
Venetian Centre Table
Marriage Coffer in Carved Walnut
Marriage Coffer
Pair of Italian Carved Bellows
Carved Italian Mirror Frame, XVI. Century
A Sixteenth Century Coffre-fort
Italian Coffer
Italian Chairs
Ebony Cabinet
Venetian State Chair
Ornamental Panelling in St. Vincent's Church, Rouen
Chimney Piece (Fontainebleau)
Carved Oak Panel (1577)
Fac-Similes of Engraving On Wood
Carved Oak Bedstead of Jeanne D'albret
Carved Oak Cabinet (Lyons)
Louis XIII. and His Court
Decoration of a Salon in Louis XIII. Style
An Ebony Armoire (Flemish Renaissance)
A Barber's Shop (XVI. Century)
A Flemish Citizen at Meals
Sedan Chair of Charles V.
Silver Table (Windsor Castle)
Chair of Walnut or Chesnut Wood, Spanish, with Embossed Leather
Wooden Coffer (XVI. Century)
The Steel Chair (Longford Castle)
German Carved Oak Buffet
Carved Oak Chest
Chair of Anna Boleyn
Tudor Cabinet
The Glastonbury Chair
Carved Oak Elizabethan Bedstead
Oak Wainscoting
Dining Hall in the Charterhouse
Screen in the Hall of Gray's Inn
Carved Oak Panels (Carpenters' Hall)
Part of an Elizabethan Staircase
The Entrance Hall, Hardwick Hall
Shakespeare's Chair
The "Great Bed of Ware"
The "Queen's Room," Penshurst Place
Carved Oak Chimney Piece in Speke Hall

Chapter IV.

A Chair of XVII. Century, as Ornament to Initial Letter
Oak Chimney Piece in Sir W. Raleigh's House
Chimney Piece in Byfleet House
"The King's Chamber," Ford Castle
Centre Table (Carpenters' Hall)
Carved Oak Chairs
Oak Chimney Piece From Lime Street, City
Oak Sideboard
Seats at Knole
Arm Chair, Knole
The "Spangle" Bedroom, Knole
Couch, Chair, and Single Chair (Penshurst Place)
"Folding" and "Drawinge" Table
Chairs, Stuart Period
Chair Used by Charles I. During His Trial
Two Carved Oak Chairs
Settle of Carved Oak
Staircase in General Treton's House
Settee and Chair (Penshurst Place)
Carved Ebony Chair
Sedes Busbiana
The Master's Chair in the Brewers' Hall
Carved Oak "Livery" Cupboard
Carved Oak Napkin Press
Three Chairs From Hampton Court, Hardwick, and Knole
Carved Oak Screen in Stationers' Hall
Silver Furniture at Knole
Three Chimney Pieces by James Gibbs

Chapter V.

Pattern of a Chinese Lac Screen
An Eastern (Saracenic) Table, as Ornament to Initial Letter
Japanese Cabinet of Red Chased Lacquer Ware
Casket of Indian Lacquer-work
Door of Carved Sandal Wood From Travancore
Persian Incense Burner of Engraved Brass
Governor's Palace, Manfulut
Specimen of Saracenic Panelling
A Carved Door of Syrian Work
Shaped Panel of Saracenic Work

Chapter VI.

Boule Armoire (Hamilton Palace)
Vignette of a Louis Quatorze Commode, as Ornament to Initial Letter.
Boule Armoire (Jones Collection)
Pedestal Cabinet by Boule (Jones Collection)
A Concert in the Reign of Louis XIV.
A Screen Panel by Watteau
Decoration of a Salon in the Louis XIV. Style
A Boule Commode
French Sedan Chair
Part of a Salon (Louis XV.)
Carved and Gilt Console Table
Louis XV. Fauteuil (Carved and Gilt)
Louis XV. Commode (Jones Collection)
A Parqueterie Commode
"Bureau Du Roi"
A Boudoir (Louis XVI. Period)
Part of a Salon in Louis XVI. Style
A Marqueterie Cabinet (Jones Collection)
Writing Table (Riesener)
The "Marie Antoinette" Writing Table
Bedstead of Marie Antoinette
A Cylinder Secretaire (Rothschild Collection)
An Arm Chair (Louis XVI.)
Carved and Gilt Settee and Arm Chair
A Sofa En Suite
A Marqueterie Escritoire (Jones Collection)
A Norse Interior, Shewing French Influence
A Secretaire with Sevres Plaques
A Clock by Robin (Jones Collection)
Harpsichord, About 1750
Italian Sedan Chair

Chapter VII.

Vignette of a Chippendale Girandole, as Ornament to Initial Letter
Fac-simile of Drawings by Robert Adam
English Satinwood Dressing Table
Chimney-piece and Overmantel, Designed by W. Thomas
Two Chippendale Chairs in the "Chinese" Style
Fac-simile of Title Page of Chippendale's "Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's
Two Book Cases From Chippendale's "Director"
Tea Caddy Carved in the French Style (Chippendale)
A Bureau From Chippendale's "Director"
A Design for a State Bed From Chippendale's "Director"
"French" Commode and Lamp Stands
Bed Pillars
Chimney-piece and Mirror
Parlour Chairs by Chippendale
Clock Case by Chippendale
China Shelves, Designed by W. Ince
Girandoles and Pier Table, Designed by W. Thomas
Toilet Glass and Urn Stand, From Hepplewhite's Guide
Parlour Chairs, Designed by W. Ince
Ladies' Secretaires, Designed by W. Ince
Desk and Bookcase, Designed by W. Ince
China Cabinet, Designed by J. Mayhew
Dressing Chairs, Designed by J. Mayhew
Designs of Furniture From Hepplewhite's "Guide"
Plan of a Room. (Hepplewhite)
Inlaid Tea Caddy and Tops of Pier Tables, From Hepplewhite's "Guide"
Kneehole Table by Sheraton
Chairs by Sheraton
Chair Backs, From Sheraton's "Cabinet Maker"
Urn Stand
A Sideboard in the Style of Robert Adam
Carved Jardiniere by Chippendale
Cabinet and Bookcase with Secretaire, by Sheraton

Chapter VIII.

Vignette of an Empire Tripod, as Ornament to Initial Letter
Cabinet Presented to Marie Louise
Stool and Arm Chair (Napoleon I. Period)
Nelson's Chairs by Sheraton
Drawing Room Chair, Designed by Sheraton
Drawing Room Chair, Designed by Sheraton
"Canopy Bed" by Sheraton
"Sisters' Cylinder Bookcase" by Sheraton
Sideboard and Sofa Table (Sheraton)
Design of a Room, by T. Hope
Library Fauteuil, From Smith's "Book of Designs"
Parlor Chairs
Bookcase by Sheraton
Drawing Room Chairs, From Smith's Book
Prie-dieu in Carved Oak, Designed by Mr. Pugin
Secretaire and Bookcase (German Gothic Style)
Cradle for H.M. the Queen by H. Rogers
Design for a Tea Caddy by J. Strudwick
Design for One of the Wings of a Sideboard by W. Holmes
Design for a Work Table. H. Fitzcook
Venetian Stool of Carved Walnut

Chapter IX.

Examples of Design in Furniture in the 1851 Exhibition:--
Sideboard, in Carved Oak, by Gillow
Chimney-piece and Bookcase by Holland and Sons
Cabinet by Grace
Bookcase by Jackson and Graham
Grand Pianoforte by Broadwood
Vignette of a Cabinet, Modern Jacobean Style, as Ornament to Initial
Lady's Escritoire by Wettli, Berne
Lady's Work Table and Screen in Papier Mache
Sideboard (Sir Walter Scott) by Cookes, Warwick
A State Chair by Jancowski, York
Sideboard, in Carved Oak, by Dorand, Paris
Bedstead, in Carved Ebony, by Roule, Antwerp
Pianoforte by Leistler, Vienna
Bookcase, in Lime Tree, by Leistler, Vienna
Cabinet, with Bronze and Porcelain, by Games, St. Petersburg
Casket of Ivory, with Ormolu Mountings, by Matifat, Paris
Table and Chair, in the Classic Style, by Capello, Turin
Cabinet of Ebony, with Carnelions, by Litchfield & Radclyffe (1862
Exhibition, London)
Cabinet of Ebony, with Boxwood Carvings, by Fourdinois, Paris (1867
Exhibition, Paris)
Cabinet of Satinwood, with Wedgwood Plaques, by Wright and Mansfield (1867
Exhibition, Paris)
Cabinet of Ebony and Ivory by Andrea Picchi, Florence (1867 Exhibition,
The Ellesmere Cabinet
The Saloon at Sandringham House
The Drawing Room at Sandringham House
Carved Frame by Radspieler, Munich
Carved Oak Flemish Armoire, as Tail Piece
A Sixteenth Century Workshop

Chapter I.

Ancient Furniture.

BIBLICAL REFERENCES: Solomon's House and Temple--Palace of Ahashuerus.
ASSYRIAN FURNITURE: Nimrod's Palace--Mr. George Smith quoted. EGYPTIAN
FURNITURE: Specimens in the British Museum--the Workman's
Stool--various articles of Domestic Furniture--Dr. Birch quoted. GREEK
FURNITURE: The Bas Reliefs in the British Museum--the Chest of
Cypselus--Laws and Customs of the Greeks--House of Alcibiades--Plutarch
quoted. ROMAN FURNITURE: Position of Rome--the Roman House--Cicero's
Table--Thyine Wood--Customs of wealthy Romans--Downfall of the Empire.

Biblical References.

The first reference to woodwork is to be found in the Book of Genesis, in
the instructions given to Noah to make an Ark of[1] gopher wood, "to make
a window," to "pitch it within and without with pitch," and to observe
definite measurements. From the specific directions thus handed down to
us, we may gather that mankind had acquired at a very early period of the
world's history a knowledge of the different kinds of wood, and of the use
of tools.

We know, too, from the bas reliefs and papyri in the British Museum, how
advanced were the Ancient Egyptians in the arts of civilization, and that
the manufacture of comfortable and even luxurious furniture was not
neglected. In them, the Hebrews must have had excellent workmen for
teachers and taskmasters, to have enabled them to acquire sufficient skill
and experience to carry out such precise instructions as were given for
the erection of the Tabernacle, some 1,500 years before Christ--as to the
kinds of wood, measurements, ornaments, fastenings ("loops and taches"),
curtains of linen, and coverings of dried skins. We have only to turn for
a moment to the 25th chapter of Exodus to be convinced that all the
directions there mentioned were given to a people who had considerable
experience in the methods of carrying out work, which must have resulted
from some generations of carpenters, joiners, weavers, dyers, goldsmiths,
and other craftsmen.

A thousand years before Christ, we have those descriptions of the building
and fitting by Solomon of the glorious work of his reign, the great
Temple, and of his own, "the King's house," which gathered from different
countries the most skilful artificers of the time, an event which marks an
era of advance in the knowledge and skill of those who were thus brought
together to do their best work towards carrying out the grand scheme. It
is worth while, too, when we are referring to Old Testament information
bearing upon the subject, to notice some details of furniture which are
given, with their approximate dates as generally accepted, not because
there is any particular importance attached to the precise chronology of
the events concerned, but because, speaking generally, they form landmarks
in a history of furniture. One of these is the verse (Kings ii. chap. 4)
which tells us the contents of the "little chamber in the wall," when
Elisha visited the Shunamite, about B.C. 895; and we are told of the
preparations for the reception of the prophet: "And let us set for him
there a bed and a table and a stool and a candlestick." The other incident
is some 420 years later, when, in the allusion to the grandeur of the
palace of Ahashuerus, we catch a glimpse of Eastern magnificence in the
description of the drapery which furnished the apartment: "Where were
white, green, and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and
purple, to silver rings and pillars of marble; the beds were of gold and
silver, upon a pavement of red and blue and white and black marble."
(Esther i. 6.)

There are, unfortunately, no trustworthy descriptions of ancient Hebrew
furniture. The illustrations in Kitto's Bible. Mr. Henry Soltan's "The
Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and the Offerings," and other similar books,
are apparently drawn from imagination, founded on descriptions in the Old
Testament. In these, the "table for shew-bread" is generally represented
as having legs partly turned, with the upper portions square, to which
rings were attached for the poles by which it was carried. As a nomadic
people, their furniture would be but primitive, and we may take it that as
the Jews and Assyrians came from the same stock, and spoke the same
language, such ornamental furniture as there was would, with the exception
of the representations of figures of men or animals, be of a similar

Assyrian Furniture.

[Illustration: Part of Assyrian Bronze Throne and Footstool, about B.C.
880, Reign of Asshurnazirpat. (_From a photo by Mansell & Co. of the
original in the British Museum._)]

The discoveries which have been made in the oldest seat of monarchical
government in the world, by such enterprising travellers as Sir Austin
Layard, Mr. George Smith, and others, who have thrown so much light upon
domestic life in Nineveh, are full of interest in connection with this
branch of the subject. We learn from these authorities that the furniture
was ornamented with the heads of lions, bulls, and rams; tables, thrones,
and couches were made of metal and wood, and probably inlaid with ivory;
the earliest chair, according to Sir Austin Layard, having been made
without a back, and the legs terminating in lion's feet or bull's hoofs.
Some were of gold, others of silver and bronze. On the monuments of
Khorsabad, representations have been discovered of chairs supported by
animals, and by human figures, probably those of prisoners. In the
British Museum is a bronze throne found by Sir A. Layard amidst the rains
of Nirnrod's palace, which shews ability of high order for skilled metal

Mr. Smith, the famous Assyrian excavator and translator of cuneiform
inscriptions, has told us in his "Assyrian Antiquities" of his finding
close to the site of Nineveh portions of a crystal throne somewhat similar
in design to the bronze one mentioned above, and in another part of this
interesting book we have a description of an interior that is useful in
assisting us to form an idea of the condition of houses of a date which
can be correctly assigned to B.C. 860:--"Altogether in this place I
opened six chambers, all of the same character, the entrances ornamented
by clusters of square pilasters, and recesses in the rooms in the same
style; the walls were coloured in horizontal bands of red, green, and
yellow, and where the lower parts of the chambers were panelled with small
stone slabs, the plaster and colours were continued over these." Then
follows a description of the drainage arrangements, and finally we have
Mr. Smith's conclusion that this was a private dwelling for the wives and
families of kings, together with the interesting fact that on the under
side of the bricks he found the legend of Shalmeneser II. (B.C. 860), who
probably built this palace.

[Illustration: Assyrian Chair from Khorsabad. (_In the British Museum._)]

[Illustration: Assyrian Chair from Xanthus. (_In the British Museum._)]

[Illustration: Assyrian Throne. (_In the British Museum._)]

In the British Museum is an elaborate piece of carved ivory, with
depressions to hold colored glass, etc., from Nineveh, which once formed
part of the inlaid ornament of a throne, shewing how richly such objects
were ornamented. This carving is said by the authorities to be of
Egyptian origin. The treatment of figures by the Assyrians was more
clumsy and more rigid, and their furniture generally was more massive than
that of the Egyptians.

An ornament often introduced into the designs of thrones and chairs is a
conventional treatment of the tree sacred to Asshur, the Assyrian Jupiter;
the pine cone, another sacred emblem, is also found, sometimes as in the
illustration of the Khorsabad chair on page 4, forming an ornamental foot,
and at others being part of the merely decorative design.

The bronze throne, illustrated on page 3, appears to have been of
sufficient height to require a footstool, and in "Nineveh and its Remains"
these footstools are specially alluded to. "The feet were ornamented like
those of the chair with the feet of lions or the hoofs of bulls."

The furniture represented in the following illustration, from a bas relief
in the British Museum, is said to be of a period some two hundred years
later than the bronze throne and footstool.

[Illustration: Repose of King Asshurbanipal. (_From a Bas relief in the
British Museum._)]

Egyptian Furniture.

In the consideration of ancient Egyptian furniture we find valuable
assistance in the examples carefully preserved to us, and accessible to
everyone, in the British Museum, and one or two of these deserve passing

[Illustration: "Stool", "Stand for a Vase, Head Rest or Pillow",
"Workman's Stool", "Vase on a Stand", "Folding Stool", "Ebony Seat Inlaid
with Ivory" (_From Photos by Mansell & Co. of the originals in the British

Nothing can be more suitable for its purpose then the "Workman's Stool:"
the seat is precisely like that of a modern kitchen chair (all wood),
slightly concaved to promote the sitter's comfort, and supported by three
legs curving outwards. This is simple, convenient, and admirably adapted
for long service. For a specimen of more ornamental work, the folding
stool in the same glass case should be examined; the supports are
crossed in a similar way to those of a modern camp-stool, and the lower
parts of the legs carved as heads of geese, with inlayings of ivory to
assist the design and give richness to its execution.

[Illustration: An Egyptian of High Rank Seated. (_From a Photo by Mansell
& Co. of the Original Wall Painting in the British Museum._) PERIOD: B.C.

Portions of legs and rails, turned as if by a modern lathe, mortice holes
and tenons, fill us with wonder as we look upon work which, at the most
modern computation, must be 3,000 years old, and may be of a date still
more remote.

In the same room, arranged in cases round the wall, is a collection of
several objects which, if scarcely to be classed under the head of
furniture, are articles of luxury and comfort, and demonstrate the
extraordinary state of civilisation enjoyed by the old Egyptians, and help
us to form a picture of their domestic habits.

[Illustration: An Egyptian Banquet. (_From a Wall Painting at Thebes._)]

Amongst these are boxes inlaid with various woods, and also with little
squares of bright turquoise blue pottery let in as a relief; others
veneered with ivory; wooden spoons, carved in most intricate designs, of
which one, representing a girl amongst lotus flowers, is a work of great
artistic skill; boats of wood, head rests, and models of parts of houses
and granaries, together with writing materials, different kinds of tools
and implements, and a quantity of personal ornaments and requisites.

"For furniture, various woods were employed, ebony, acacia or sont,
cedar, sycamore, and others of species not determined. Ivory, both of the
hippopotamus and elephant, was used for inlaying, as also were glass
pastes; and specimens of marquetry are not uncommon. In the paintings in
the tombs, gorgeous pictures and gilded furniture are depicted. For
cushions and mattresses, linen cloth and colored stuffs, filled with
feathers of the waterfowl, appear to have been used, while seats have
plaited bottoms of linen cord or tanned and dyed leather thrown over them,
and sometimes the skins of panthers served this purpose. For carpets they
used mats of palm fibre, on which they often sat. On the whole, an
Egyptian house was lightly furnished, and not encumbered with so many
articles as are in use at the present day."

The above paragraph forms part of the notice with which the late Dr.
Birch, the eminent antiquarian, formerly at the head of this department of
the British Museum, has prefaced a catalogue of the antiquities alluded
to. The visitor to the Museum should be careful to procure one of these
useful and inexpensive guides to this portion of its contents.

Some illustrations taken from ancient statues and bas reliefs in the
British Museum, from copies of wall paintings at Thebes, and other
sources, give us a good idea of the furniture of this interesting people.
In one of these will be seen a representation of the wooden head-rest
which prevented the disarrangement of the coiffure of an Egyptian lady of
rank. A very similiar head-rest, with a cushion attached for comfort to
the neck, is still in common use by the Japanese of the present day.

[Illustration: Chair with Captives As Supports. (_From Papyrus in British

[Illustration: An Ivory Box.]

[Illustration: Bacchus and Attendants Visiting Icarus. (_Reproduced from
a Bas-relief in the British Museum._) Period: About A.d. 100.]

Greek Furniture.

An early reference to Greek furniture is made by Homer, who describes
coverlids of dyed wool, tapestries, carpets, and other accessories, which
must therefore have formed part of the contents of a great man's residence
centuries before the period which we recognise as the "meridian" of Greek

In the second Vase-room of the British Museum the painting on one of these
vases represents two persons sitting on a couch, upon which is a cushion
of rich material, while for the comfort of the sitters there is a
footstool, probably of ivory. On the opposite leaf there is an
illustration of a has relief in stone, "Bacchus received as a guest by
Icarus," in which the couch has turned legs and the feet are ornamented
with carved leaf work.

[Illustration: GREEK BEDSTEAD WITH A TABLE. (_From an old Wall

We know, too, from other illustrations of tripods used for sacred
purposes, and as supports for braziers, that tables were made of wood, of
marble, and of metal; also folding chairs, and couches for sleeping and
resting, but not for reclining at meals, as was the fashion at a later
period. In most of the designs for these various articles of furniture
there is a similarity of treatment of the head, legs, and feet of lions,
leopards, and sphinxes to that which we have noticed in the Assyrian

[Illustration: Greek Furniture. (_From Antique Bas reliefs._)]

The description of an interesting piece of furniture may be noticed here,
because its date is verified by its historical associations, and it was
seen and described by Pausanias about 800 years afterwards. This is the
famous chest of Cypselus of Corinth, the story of which runs that when his
mother's relations, having been warned by the Oracle of Delphi, that her
son would prove formidable to the ruling party, sought to murder him, his
life was saved by his concealment in this chest, and he became Ruler of
Corinth for some 30 years (B.C. 655-625). It is said to have been made of
cedar, carved and decorated with figures and bas reliefs, some in ivory,
some in gold or ivory part gilt, and inlaid on all four sides and on the

The peculiar laws and customs of the Greeks at the time of their greatest
prosperity were not calculated to encourage display or luxury in private
life, or the collection of sumptuous furniture. Their manners were simple
and their discipline was very severe. Statuary, sculpture of the best
kind, painting of the highest merit--in a word, the best that art could
produce--were all dedicated to the national service in the enrichment of
Temples and other public buildings, the State having indefinite and almost
unlimited power over the property of all wealthy citizens. The public
surroundings of an influential Athenian were therefore in direct contrast
to the simplicity of his home, which contained the most meagre supply of
chairs and tables, while the _chef d'oeuvres_ of Phidias adorned the
Senate House, the Theatre, and the Temple.

There were some exceptions to this rule, and we have records that during
the later years of Greek prosperity such simplicity was not observed.
Alcibiades is said to have been the first to have his house painted and
decorated, and Plutarch tells us that he kept the painter Agatharcus a
prisoner until his task was done, and then dismissed him with an
appropriate reward. Another ancient writer relates that "the guest of a
private house was enjoined to praise the decorations of the ceilings and
the beauty of the curtains suspended from between the columns." This
occurs, according to Mr. Perkins, the American translator of Dr. Falke's
German book "Kunst im Hause," in the "Wasps of Aristophanes," written B.C.

The illustrations, taken from the best authorities in the British Museum,
the National Library of Paris, and other sources, shew the severe style
adopted by the Greeks in their furniture.

Roman Furniture.

As we are accustomed to look to Greek Art of the time of Pericles for
purity of style and perfection of taste, so do we naturally expect the
gradual demoralisation of art in its transfer to the great Roman Empire.
From that little village on the Palatine Hill, founded some 750 years
B.C., Rome had spread and conquered in every direction, until in the time
of Augustus she was mistress of the whole civilised world, herself the
centre of wealth, civilisation, luxury, and power. Antioch in the East and
Alexandria in the South ranked next to her as great cities of the world.

From the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii we have learned enough to
conceive some general idea of the social life of a wealthy Roman in the
time of Rome's prosperity. The houses had no upper story, but were formed
by the enclosure of two or more quadrangles, each surrounded by courts
opening into rooms, and receiving air and ventilation from the centre open
square or court. The illustration will give an idea of this arrangement.

In Mr. Hungerford Pollen's useful handbook there is a description of each
room in a Roman house, with its proper Latin title and purpose; and we
know from other descriptions of Ancient Rome that the residences in the
Imperial City were divided into two distinct classes--that of _domus_ and
_insula_, the former being the dwellings of the Roman nobles, and
corresponding to the modern _Palazzi_, while the latter were the
habitations of the middle and lower classes. Each _insula _ consisted of
several sets of apartments, generally let out to different families, and
was frequently surrounded by shops. The houses described by Mr. Pollen
appear to have had no upper story, but as ground became more valuable in
Rome, houses were built to such a height as to be a source of danger, and
in the time of Augustus there were not only strict regulations as to
building, but the height was limited to 70 feet. The Roman furniture of
the time was of the most costly kind. [Illustration: Interior of an
Ancient Roman House. Said to have been that of Sallust. Period: B.C. 20 TO
A.D. 20.]

Tables were made of marble, gold, silver, and bronze, and were engraved,
damascened, plated, and enriched with precious stones. The chief woods
used were cedar, pine, elm, olive, ash, ilex, beech, and maple. Ivory was
much used, and not only were the arms and legs of couches and chairs
carved to represent the limbs of animals, as has been noted in the
Assyrian, Egyptian, and Greek designs, but other parts of furniture were
ornamented by carvings in bas relief of subjects taken from Greek
mythology and legend. Veneers were cut and applied, not as some have
supposed for the purpose of economy, but because by this means the most
beautifully marked or figured specimens of the woods could be chosen, and
a much richer and more decorative effect produced than would be possible
when only solid timber was used. As a prominent instance of the extent to
which the Romans carried the costliness of some special pieces of
furniture, we have it recorded on good authority (Mr. Pollen) that the
table made for Cicero cost a million sesterces, a sum equal to about
L9,000, and that one belonging to King Juba was sold by auction for the
equivalent of L10,000.

[Illustration: Roman State Chair. (_From the Marble example in the Musee
du Louvre._)]

[Illustration: Roman Bronze Lamp and Stand. (_Found in Pompeii._)]

Cicero's table was made of a wood called Thyine--wood which was brought
from Africa and held in the highest esteem. It was valued not only on
account of its beauty but also from superstitious or religious reasons.
The possession of thyine wood was supposed to bring good luck, and its
sacredness arose from the fact that from it was produced the incense used
by the priests. Dr. Edward Clapton, of St. Thomas' Hospital, who has made
a collection of woods named in the Scriptures, has managed to secure a
specimen of thyine, which a friend of his obtained on the Atlas Mountains.
It resembles the woods which we know as tuyere and amboyna.[2]

Roman, like Greek houses, were divided into two portions--the front for
reception of guests and the duties of society, with the back for household
purposes, and the occupation of the wife and family; for although the
position of the Roman wife was superior to that of her Greek contemporary,
which was little better than that of a slave, still it was very different
to its later development.

The illustration given here of a repast in the house of Sallust,
represents the host and his eight male guests reclining on the seats of
the period, each of which held three persons, and was called a triclinium,
making up the favorite number of a Roman dinner party, and possibly giving
us the proverbial saying--"Not less than the Graces nor more than the
Muses"--which is still held to be a popular regulation for a dinner party.

[Illustration: Roman Scamnum or Bench.]

[Illustration: Roman Bisellium, or Seat for Two Persons. But generally
occupied by one, on occasions of festivals, etc.]

From discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii a great deal of information
has been gained of the domestic life of the wealthier Roman citizens, and
there is a useful illustration at the end of this chapter of the furniture
of a library or study in which the designs are very similar to the Greek
ones we have noticed; it is not improbable they were made and executed by
Greek workmen.

It will be seen that the books such as were then used, instead of being
placed on shelves or in a bookcase, were kept in round boxes called
_Scrinia_, which were generally of beech wood, and could be locked or
sealed when required. The books in rolls or sewn together were thus easily
carried about by the owner on his journeys.

Mr. Hungerford Pollen mentions that wearing apparel was kept in
_vestiaria_, or wardrobe rooms, and he quotes Plutarch's anecdote of the
purple cloaks of Lucullus, which were so numerous that they must have been
stored in capacious hanging closets rather than in chests.

In the _atrium_, or public reception room, was probably the best furniture
in the house. According to Moule's "Essay on Roman Villas," "it was here
that numbers assembled daily to pay their respects to their patron, to
consult the legislator, to attract the notice of the statesman, or to
derive importance in the eyes of the public from an apparent intimacy with
a man in power."

The growth of the Roman Empire eastward, the colonisation of Oriental
countries, and subsequently the establishment of an Eastern Empire,
produced gradually an alteration in Greek design, and though, if we were
discussing the merits of design and the canons of taste, this might be
considered a decline, still its influence on furniture was doubtless to
produce more ease and luxury, more warmth and comfort, than would be
possible if the outline of every article of useful furniture were decided
by a rigid adherence to classical principles. We have seen that this was
more consonant with the public life of an Athenian; but the Romans, in the
later period of the Empire, with their wealth, their extravagance, their
slaves, their immorality and gross sensuality, lived in a splendour and
with a prodigality that well accorded with the gorgeous colouring of
Eastern hangings and embroideries, of rich carpets and comfortable
cushions, of the lavish use of gold and silver, and meritricious and
redundant ornament.

[Illustration: Roman Couch, Generally of Bronze. (_From an Antique Bas

This slight sketch, brief and inadequate as it is, of a history of
furniture from the earliest time of which we have any record, until from
the extraordinary growth of the vast Roman Empire, the arts and
manufactures of every country became as it were centralised and focussed
in the palaces of the wealthy Romans, brings us down to the commencement
of what has been deservedly called "the greatest event in history"--the
decline and fall of this enormous empire. For fifteen generations, for
some five hundred years, did this decay, this vast revolution, proceed to
its conclusion. Barbarian hosts settled down in provinces they had overrun
and conquered, the old Pagan world died as it were, and the new Christian
era dawned. From the latter end of the second century until the last of
the Western Caesars, in A.D. 476, it is, with the exception of a short
interval when the strong hand of the great Theodosius stayed the avalanche
of Rome's invaders, one long story of the defeat and humiliation of the
citizens of the greatest power the world has ever known. It is a vast
drama that the genius and patience of a Gibbon has alone been able to deal
with, defying almost by its gigantic catastrophes and ever raging
turbulence the pen of history to chronicle and arrange. When the curtain
rises on a new order of things, the age of Paganism has passed away, and
the period of the Middle Ages will have commenced.

[Illustration: A Roman Study. Shewing Scrolls or Books in a "Scrinium;"
also Lamp, Writing Tablets, etc.]

[Illustration: The Roman Triclinium, or Dining Room.

The plan in the margin shews the position of guests; the place of honor
was that which is indicated by "No. 1," and that of the host by "No. 9."

(_The Illustration is taken from Dr. Jacob von Falke's "Kunst im

[Illustration: Plan of a Triclinium.]

Chapter II.

The Middle Ages.

Period of 1000 years from Fall of Rome, A.D. 476, to Capture of
Constantinople, 1453--the Crusades--Influence of Christianity--Chairs
of St. Peter and Maximian at Rome, Ravenna and Venice--Edict of Leo
III. prohibiting Image worship--the Rise of Venice--Charlemagne and his
successors--the Chair of Dagobert--Byzantine character of
Furniture--Norwegian carving--Russian and Scandinavian--the
Anglo-Saxons--Sir Walter Scott quoted--Descriptions of Anglo-Saxon
Houses and Customs--Art in Flemish Cities--Gothic Architecture--the
Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey--Penshurst--French Furniture in
the 14th Century--Description of rooms--the South Kensington
Museum--Transition from Gothic to Renaissance--German carved work: the
Credence, the Buffet, and Dressoir.


The history of furniture is so thoroughly a part of the history of the
manners and customs of different peoples, that one can only understand and
appreciate the several changes in style, sometimes gradual and sometimes
rapid, by reference to certain historical events and influences by which
such changes were effected.

Thus, we have during the space of time known as the Middle Ages, a stretch
of some 1,000 years, dating from the fall of Rome itself, in A.D. 476, to
the capture of Constantinople by the Turks under Mahomet II. in 1453, an
historical panorama of striking incidents and great social changes bearing
upon our subject. It was a turbulent and violent period, which saw the
completion of Rome's downfall, the rise of the Carlovingian family, the
subjection of Britain by the Saxons, the Danes, and the Normans; the
extraordinary career and fortunes of Mahomet; the conquest of Spain and a
great part of Africa by the Moors; and the Crusades, which, for a common
cause, united the swords and spears of friend and foe.

It was the age of monasteries and convents, of religious persecutions and
of heroic struggles of the Christian Church. It was the age of feudalism,
chivalry, and war; but, towards the close, a time of comparative
civilisation and progress, of darkness giving way to the light which
followed; the night of the Middle Ages preceding the dawn of the

With the growing importance of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern
Empire, families of well-to-do citizens flocked thither from other parts,
bringing with them all their most valuable possessions; and the houses of
the great became rich in ornamental furniture, the style of which was a
mixture of Eastern and Roman: that is, a corruption of the Early Classic
Greek developing into the style known as Byzantine. The influence of
Christianity upon the position of women materially affected the customs
and habits of the people. Ladies were allowed to be seen in chariots and
open carriages, the designs of which, therefore, improved and became more
varied; the old custom of reclining at meals ceased, and guests sat on
benches; and though we have, with certain exceptions, such as the chair of
St. Peter at Rome, and that of Maximian in the Cathedral at Ravenna, no
specimens of furniture of this time, we have in the old Byzantine ivory
bas-reliefs such representations of circular throne chairs and of
ecclesiastical furniture as suffice to show the class of woodwork then in

The chair of St. Peter is one of the most interesting relics of the Middle
Ages. The woodcut will shew the design, which is, like other work of the
period, Byzantine, and the following description is taken from Mr.
Hungerford Pollen's introduction to the South Kensington catalogue:--"The
chair is constructed of wood, overlaid with carved ivory work and gold.
The back is bound together with iron. It is a square with solid front and
arms. The width in front is 39 inches; the height in front 30 inches,
shewing that a scabellum or footstool must have belonged to it.... In the
front are 18 groups or compositions from the Gospels, carved in ivory with
exquisite fineness, and worked with inlay of the purest gold. On the outer
sides are several little figures carved in ivory. It formed, according to
tradition, part of the furniture of the house of the Senator Pudens, an
early convert to the Christian faith. It is he who gave to the Church his
house in Rome, of which much that remains is covered by the Church of St.
Pudenziana. Pudens gave this chair to St. Peter, and it became the throne
of the See. It was kept in the old Basilica of St. Peter's." Since then it
has been transferred from place to place, until now it remains in the
present Church of St. Peter's, but is completely hidden from view by the
seat or covering made in 1667, by Bernini, out of bronze taken from the

Much has been written about this famous chair. Cardinal Wiseman and the
Cavaliere de Rossi have defended its reputation and its history, and Mr.
Nesbitt, some years ago, read a paper on the subject before the Society of

[Illustration: Chair of St. Peter, Rome.]

Formerly there was in Venice another chair of St. Peter, of which there is
a sketch from a photograph in Mrs. Oliphant's "Makers of Venice." It is
said to have been a present from the Emperor Michel, son of Theophilus
(824-864), to the Venetian Republic in recognition of services rendered,
by either the Doge Gradonico, who died in 1864, or his predecessor,
against the Mahommedan incursions. Fragments only now remain, and these
are preserved in the Church of St. Pietro, at Castello.

There is also a chair of historic fame preserved in Venice, and now kept
in the treasury of St. Mark's. Originally in Alexandria, it was sent to
Constantinople and formed part of the spoils taken by the Venetians in
1204. Like both the other chairs, this was also ornamented with ivory
plaques, but these have been replaced by ornamental marble.

The earliest of the before-mentioned chairs, namely, the one at Ravenna,
was made for the Archbishop about 546 to 556, and is thus described in Mr.
Maskell's "Handbook on Ivories," in the Science and Art series:--"The
chair has a high back, round in shape, and is entirely covered with
plaques of ivory arranged in panels carved in high relief with scenes from
the Gospels and with figures of saints. The plaques have borders with
foliated ornaments, birds and animals; flowers and fruits filling the
intermediate spaces. Du Sommerard names amongst the most remarkable
subjects, the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Wise Men, the Flight into
Egypt, and the Baptism of Our Lord." The chair has also been described by
Passeri, the famous Italian antiquary, and a paper was read upon it, by
Sir Digby Wyatt, before the Arundel Society, in which he remarked that as
it had been fortunately preserved as a holy relic, it wore almost the same
appearance as when used by the prelate for whom it was made, save for the
beautiful tint with which time had invested it.

Long before the general break up of the vast Roman Empire, influences had
been at work to decentralise Art, and cause the migration of trained and
skilful artisans to countries where their work would build up fresh
industries, and give an impetus to progress, where hitherto there had been
stagnation. One of these influences was the decree issued in A.D. 726 by
Leo III., Emperor of the Eastern Empire, prohibiting all image worship.
The consequences to Art of such a decree were doubtless similar to the
fanatical proceedings of the English Puritans of the seventeenth century,
and artists, driven from their homes, were scattered to the different
European capitals, where they were gladly received and found employment
and patronage.

It should be borne in mind that at this time Venice was gradually rising
to that marvellous position of wealth and power which she afterwards held.

"A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was;--her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Pour'd in her lap all gems in sparkling showers;
In purple was she robed and of her feasts
Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased."

Her wealthy merchants were well acquainted with the arts and manufactures
of other countries, and Venice would be just one of those cities to
attract the artist refugee. It is indeed here that wood carving as an Art
may be said to have specially developed itself, and though, from its
destructible nature, there are very few specimens extant dating from this
early time, yet we shall see that two or three hundred years later
ornamental woodwork flourished in a state of perfection which must have
required a long probationary period.

[Illustration: Dagobert Chair. Chair of Dagobert, of gilt bronze, now in
the Musee de Souverains, Paris. Originally as a folding chair said to be
the work of St. Eloi, 7th century; back and arms added by the Abbe Suger
in 12th century. There is an electrotype reproduction in the South
Kensington Museum.]

Turning from Venice. During the latter end of the eighth century the star
of Charlemagne was in the ascendant, and though we have no authentic
specimen, and scarcely a picture of any wooden furniture of this reign, we
know that, in appropriating the property of the Gallo-Romans, the Frank
Emperor King and his chiefs were in some degree educating themselves to
higher notions of luxury and civilisation. Paul Lacroix, in "Manners,
Customs, and Dress of the Middle Ages," tells us that the trichorium or
dining room was generally the largest hall in the palace: two rows of
columns divided it into three parts: one for the royal family, one for the
officers of the household, and the third for the guests, who were always
very numerous. No person of rank who visited the King could leave without
sitting at his table or at least draining a cup to his health. The King's
hospitality was magnificent, especially on great religious festivals, such
as Christmas and Easter.

In other portions of this work of reference we read of "boxes" to hold
articles of value, and of rich hangings, but beyond such allusions little
can be gleaned of any furniture besides. The celebrated chair of Dagobert
(illustrated on p. 21), now in the Louvre, and of which there is a cast in
the South Kensington Museum, dates from some 150 years before Charlemagne,
and is probably the only specimen of furniture belonging to this period
which has been handed down to us. It is made of gilt bronze, and is said
to be the work of a monk.

For the designs of furniture of the tenth to the fourteenth centuries we
are in a great measure dependent upon old illuminations and missals of
these remote times. They represent chiefly the seats of state used by
sovereigns on the occasions of grand banquets, or of some ecclesiastical
function, and from the valuable collections of these documents in the
National Libraries of Paris and Brussels, some illustrations are
reproduced, and it is evident from such authorities that the designs of
State furniture in France and other countries dominated by the
Carlovingian monarchs were of Byzantine character, that pseudo-classic
style which was the prototype of furniture of about a thousand years
later, when the Caesarism of Napoleon I., during the early years of the
nineteenth century, produced so many designs which we now recognise as

No history of mediaeval woodwork would be complete without noticing the
Scandinavian furniture and ornamental wood carving of the tenth to the
fifteenth centuries. There are in the South Kensington Museum, plaster
casts of some three or four carved doorways of Norwegian workmanship, of
the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, in which scrolls are entwined
with contorted monsters, or, to quote Mr. Lovett's description, "dragons
of hideous aspect and serpents of more than usually tortuous
proclivities." The woodcut of a carved lintel conveys a fair idea of this
work, and also of the old Juniper wood tankards of a much later time.

[Illustration: A Carved Norwegian Doorway. Period: X. to XI. Century.]

There are also at Kensington other casts of curious Scandinavian woodwork
of more Byzantine treatment, the originals of which are in the Museums of
Stockholm and Copenhagen, where the collection of antique woodwork of
native production is very large and interesting, and proves how wood
carving, as an industrial art, has flourished in Scandinavia from the
early Viking times. One can still see in the old churches of Borgund and
Hitterdal much of the carved woodwork of the seventh and eighth centuries;
and lintels and porches full of national character are to be found in

Under this heading of Scandinavian may be included the very early
Russian school of ornamental woodwork. Before the accession of the
Romanoff dynasty in the sixteenth century, the Ruric race of kings came
originally from Finland, then a province of Sweden; and, so far as one can
see from old illuminated manuscripts, there was a similarity of design to
those of the early Norwegian and Swedish carved lintels which have been
noticed above.

[Illustration: Carved Wood Chair, Scandinavian Work. Period: 12th to 13th

The covers and caskets of early mediaeval times were no inconsiderable
items in the valuable furniture of a period when the list of articles
coming under that definition was so limited. These were made in oak for
general use, and some were of good workmanship; but of the very earliest
none remain. There were, however, others, smaller and of a special
character, made in ivory of the walrus and elephant, of horn and
whalebone, besides those of metal. In the British Museum is one of these,
of which the cover is illustrated on the following page, representing a
man defending his house against an attack by enemies armed with spears and
shields. Other parts of the casket are carved with subjects and runic
inscriptions which have enabled Mr. Stephens, an authority on this period
of archaeology, to assign its date to the eighth century, and its
manufacture to that of Northumbria. It most probably represents a local
incident, and part of the inscription refers to a word signifying
treachery. It was purchased by Mr. A.W. Franks, F.S.A., and is one of the
many valuable specimens given to the British Museum by its generous

[Illustration: Cover of a Casket Carved in Whalebone. (_Northumbrian, 8th
Century. British Museum._)]

Of the furniture of our own country previous to the eleventh or twelfth
centuries we know but little. The habits of the Anglo-Saxons were rude and
simple, and they advanced but slowly in civilisation until after the
Norman invasion. To convey, however, to our minds some idea of the
interior of a Saxon thane's castle, we may avail ourselves of Sir Walter
Scott's antiquarian research, and borrow his description of the chief
apartment in Rotherwood, the hospitable hall of Cedric the Saxon. Though
the time treated of in "Ivanhoe" is quite at the end of the twelfth
century, yet we have in Cedric a type of man who would have gloried in
retaining the customs of his ancestors, who detested and despised the
new-fashioned manners of his conquerors, and who came of a race that had
probably done very little in the way of "refurnishing" for some
generations. If, therefore, we have the reader's pardon for relying upon
the _mise en scene_ of a novel for an authority, we shall imagine the
more easily what kind of furniture our Anglo-Saxon forefathers indulged

[Illustration: Saxon House of 9th or 10th Century. (_From the Harleian
MSS. in the British Museum._)]

"In a hall, the height of which was greatly disproportioned to its extreme
length and width, a long oaken table--formed of planks rough hewn from the
forest, and which had scarcely received any polish--stood ready prepared
for the evening meal.... On the sides of the apartment hung implements of
war and of the chase, and there were at each corner folding doors which
gave access to the other parts of the extensive building.

"The other appointments of the mansion partook of the rude simplicity of
the Saxon period, which Cedric piqued himself upon maintaining. The floor
was composed of earth mixed with lime, trodden into a hard substance, such
as is often employed in flooring our modern barns. For about one quarter
of the length of the apartment, the floor was raised by a step, and this
space, which was called the dais, was occupied only by the principal
members of the family and visitors of distinction. For this purpose a
table richly covered with scarlet cloth was placed transversely across the
platform, from the middle of which ran the longer and lower board, at
which the domestics and inferior persons fed, down towards the bottom of
the hall. The whole resembled the form of the letter T, or some of
those ancient dinner tables which, arranged on the same principles, may
still be seen in the ancient colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. Massive
chairs and settles of carved oak were placed upon the dais, and over these
seats and the elevated table was fastened a canopy of cloth, which served
in some degree to protect the dignitaries who occupied that distinguished
station from the weather, and especially from the rain, which in some
places found its way through the ill-constructed roof. The walls of this
upper end of the hall, as far as the dais extended, were covered with
hangings or curtains, and upon the floor there was a carpet, both of
which were adorned with some attempts at tapestry or embroidery, executed
with brilliant or rather gaudy colouring. Over the lower range of table
the roof had no covering, the rough plastered walls were left bare, the
rude earthen floor was uncarpeted, the board was uncovered by a cloth, and
rude massive benches supplied the place of chairs. In the centre of the
upper table were placed two chairs more elevated than the rest, for the
master and mistress of the family. To each of these was added a footstool
curiously carved and inlaid with ivory, which mark of distinction was
peculiar to them."

A drawing in the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum is shewn on page 25,
illustrating a Saxon mansion in the ninth or tenth century. There is the
hall in the centre, with "chamber" and "bower" on either side; there being
only a ground floor, as in the earlier Roman houses. According to Mr.
Wright, F.S.A., who has written on the subject of Anglo-Saxon manners and
customs, there was only one instance recorded of an upper floor at this
period, and that was in an account of an accident which happened to the
house in which the Witan or Council of St. Dunstan met, when, according to
the ancient chronicle which he quotes, the Council fell from an upper
floor, and St. Dunstan saved himself from a similar fate by supporting his
weight on a beam.

The illustration here given shews the Anglo-Saxon chieftain standing at
the door of his hall, with his lady, distributing food to the needy poor.
Other woodcuts represent Anglo-Saxon bedsteads, which were little better
than raised wooden boxes, with sacks of straw placed therein, and these
were generally in recesses. There are old inventories and wills in
existence which shew that some value and importance was attached to these
primitive contrivances, which at this early period in our history were the
luxuries of only a few persons of high rank. A certain will recites that
"the bed-clothes (bed-reafes) with a curtain (hyrite) and sheet
(hepp-scrytan), and all that thereto belongs," should be given to his son.

In the account of the murder of King Athelbert by the Queen of King Offa,
as told by Roger of Wendover, we read of the Queen ordering a chamber to
be made ready for the Royal guest, which was adorned for the occasion with
what was then considered sumptuous furniture. "Near the King's bed she
caused a seat to be prepared, magnificently decked and surrounded with
curtains, and underneath it the wicked woman caused a deep pit to be dug."
The author from whom the above translation is quoted adds with grim
humour, "It is clear that this room was on the ground floor."

[Illustration: Anglo Saxon Furniture of About the Tenth Century.

(_From old MSS. in the British Museum._)

1. A Drinking Party.
2. A Dinner Party, in which the attendants are serving the meal on the
spits on which it has been cooked.
3. Anglo-Saxon Beds.

There are in the British Museum other old manuscripts whose illustrations
have been laid under contribution representing more innocent occupations
of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers. "The seat on the daeis," "an Anglo-Saxon
drinking party," and other illustrations which are in existence, prove
generally that, when the meal had finished, the table was removed and
drinking vessels were handed round from guest to guest; the storytellers,
the minstrels, and the gleemen (conjurers) or jesters, beguiling the
festive hour by their different performances.

[Illustration: The Seat on The Dais.]

[Illustration: Saxon State Bed.]

Some of these Anglo-Saxon houses had formerly been the villas of the
Romans during their occupation, altered and modified to suit the habits
and tastes of their later possessors. Lord Lytton has given us, in the
first chapter of his novel "Harold," the description of one of such
Saxonised Roman houses, in his reference to Hilda's abode.

The gradual influence of Norman civilisation, however, had its effect,
though the unsettled state of the country prevented any rapid development
of industrial arts. The feudal system by which every powerful baron became
a petty sovereign, often at war with his neighbour, rendered it necessary
that household treasures should be few and easily transported or hidden,
and the earliest oak chests which are still preserved date from about this
time. Bedsteads were not usual, except for kings, queens, and great
ladies; tapestry covered the walls, and the floors were generally sanded.
As the country became more calm, and security for property more assured,
this comfortless state of living disappeared; the dress of ladies was
richer, and the general habits of the upper classes were more refined.
Stairs were introduced into houses, the "parloir" or talking room was
added, and fire places were made in some of the rooms, of brick or
stonework, where previously the smoke was allowed to escape through an
aperture in the roof. Bedsteads were carved and draped with rich hangings.
Armoires made of oak and enriched with carving, and Presses date from
about the end of the eleventh century.

[Illustration: English Folding Chair, 14th Century.[3]]

[Illustration: Cradle Of Henry V.]

It was during the reign of Henry III., 1216-1272, that wood-panelling was
first used for rooms, and considerable progress generally appears to have
been made about this period. Eleanor of Provence, whom the King married in
1236, encouraged more luxury in the homes of the barons and courtiers. Mr.
Hungerford Pollen has quoted a royal precept which was promulgated in this
year, and it plainly shows that our ancestors were becoming more refined
in their tastes. The terms of this precept were as follows, viz., "the
King's great chamber at Westminster be painted a green colour like a
curtain, that in the great gable or 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."

In another 100 or 150 years we find mediaeval Art approaching its best
period, not only in England, but in the great Flemish cities, such as
Bruges and Ghent, which in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries played
so important a part in the history of that time. The taste for Gothic
architecture had now well set in, and we find that in this as in every
change of style, the fashion in woodwork naturally followed that of
ornament in stone; indeed, in many cases it is more than probable that the
same hands which planned the cathedral or monastery also drew the designs
for furniture, especially as the finest specimens of wood-carving were
devoted to the service of the church.

The examples, therefore, of the woodwork of this period to which we have
access are found to be mostly of Gothic pattern, with quaint distorted
conceptions of animals and reptiles, adapted to ornament the structural
part of the furniture, or for the enrichment of the panels.

To the end of the thirteenth century belongs the Coronation chair made for
King Edward I., 1296-1300, and now in Westminster Abbey. This historic
relic is of oak, and the woodcut on the following page gives an idea of
the design and decorative carving. It is said that the pinnacles on each
side of the gabled back were formerly surmounted by two leopards, of which
only small portions remain. The famous Coronation stone which, according
to ancient legend, is the identical one on which the patriarch Jacob
rested his head at Bethel, when "he tarried there all night because the
sun was set, and he took of the stones of that place and put them up for
his pillows," Gen. xxviii., can be seen through the quatrefoil openings
under the seat.[4]

The carved lions which support the chair are not original, but modern
work; and were regilt in honour of the Jubilee of Her Majesty in 1887,
when the chair was last used. The rest of the chair now shows the natural
colour of the oak, except the arms, which have a slight padding on them.
The wood was, however, formerly covered with a coating of plaster, gilded
over, and it is probably due to this protection that it is now in such
excellent preservation.

Standing by its side in Henry III.'s Chapel in Westminster Abbey is
another chair, similar, but lacking the trefoil Gothic arches, which are
carved on the sides of the original chair; this was made for and used by
Mary, daughter of James II. and wife of William III., on the occasion of
their double coronation. Mr. Hungerford Pollen has given us a long
description of this chair, with quotations from the different historical
notices which have appeared concerning it. The following is an extract
which he has taken from an old writer:

"It appears that the King intended, in the first instance, to make the
chair in bronze, and that Eldam, the King's workman, had actually begun
it. Indeed, some parts were even finished, and tools bought for the
clearing up of the casting. However, the King changed his mind, and we
have accordingly 100s. paid for a chair in wood, made after the same
pattern as the one which was to be cast in copper; also 13s. 4d. for
carving, painting, and gilding two small leopards in wood, which were
delivered to Master Walter, the King's painter, to be placed upon and on
either side of the chair made by him. The wardrobe account of 29th Ed. I.
shows that Master Walter was paid L1 19s. 7d. 'for making a step at the
foot of the new chair in which the Scottish stone is placed; and for the
wages of the carpenters and of the painters, and for colours and gold
employed, and for the making a covering to cover the said chair.'"

[Illustration: Coronation Chair. Westminster Abbey.]

In 1328, June 1, there is a royal writ ordering the abbot to deliver up
the stone to the Sheriff of London, to be carried to the Queen-Mother;
however, it never went. The chair has been used upon the occasion of every
coronation since that time, except in the case of Mary, who is said to
have used a chair specially sent by the Pope for the occasion.

[Illustration: Chair in the Vestry of York Minster. Late 14th century.]

The above drawing of a chair in York Minster, and the two more throne-like
seats on the full-page illustration, will serve to shew the best kind of
ornamental Ecclesiastical furniture of the fourteenth century. In the
choir of Canterbury Cathedral there is a chair which has played its part
in history, and, although earlier than the above, it may be conveniently
mentioned here. This is the Archbishop's throne, and it is also called the
chair of St. Augustine. According to legend, the Saxon kings were crowned
therein, but it is probably not earlier than the thirteenth century. It is
an excellent piece of stonework, with a shaped back and arms, relieved
from being quite plain by the back and sides being panelled with a carved

[Illustration: Chair. In St. Mary's Hall, Coventry. Chair. From an Old
English Monastery. Period: XV. Century.]

Penshurst Place, near Tonbridge, the residence of Lord de l'Isle and
Dudley, the historic home of the Sydneys, is almost an unique example of
what a wealthy English gentleman's country house was about the time of
which we are writing, say the middle of the fourteenth century, or during
the reign of Edward III. By the courtesy of Lord de l'Isle, the writer has
been allowed to examine many objects of great interest there, and from the
careful preservation of many original fittings and articles of furniture,
one may still gain some idea of the "hall" as it then appeared, when that
part of the house was the scene of the chief events in the life of the
family--the raised dais for host and honoured guests, the better table
which was placed there (illustrated) and the commoner ones for the body of
the hall; and though the ancient buffet which displayed the gold and
silver cups is gone, one can see where it would have stood. Penshurst is
said to possess the only hearth of the time now remaining in England, an
octagonal space edged with stone in the centre of the hall, over which was
once the simple opening for the outlet of smoke through the roof, and the
old andirons or firedogs are still there.

[Illustration: "Standing" Table at Penshurst, Still on the Dais in the

[Illustration: Bedroom in which a Knight and His Lady are Seated. (_From a
Miniature in "Othea," a Poem by Christine de Pisan. XIV. Century,

An idea of the furniture of an apartment in France during the fourteenth
century is conveyed by the above illustration, and it is very useful,
because, although we have on record many descriptions of the appearance
of the furniture of state apartments, we have very few authenticated
accounts of the way in which such domestic chambers as the one occupied by
"a knight and his lady" were arranged. The prie dieu chair was generally
at the bedside, and had a seat which lifted up, the lower part forming a
box-like receptacle for devotional books then so regularly used by a lady
of the time.

[Illustration: Bedstead and Chair in Carved Oak. _From Miniatures in the
Royal Library, Brussels._ Period: XIV. Century.]

Towards the end of the fourteenth century there was in high quarters a
taste for bright and rich colouring; we have the testimony of an old
writer who describes the interior of the Hotel de Boheme, which after
having been the residence of several great personages was given by Charles
VI. of France in 1388 to his brother the Duke of Orleans. "In this palace
was a room used by the duke, hung with cloth of gold, bordered with
vermilion velvet embroidered with roses; the duchess had a room hung with
vermilion satin embroidered with crossbows, which were on her coat of
arms; that of the Duke of Burgundy was hung with cloth of gold embroidered
with windmills. There were besides eight carpets of glossy texture with
gold flowers, one representing 'the seven virtues and seven vices,'
another the history of Charlemagne, another that of Saint Louis. There
were also cushions of cloth of gold, twenty-four pieces of vermilion
leather of Aragon, and four carpets of Aragon leather, 'to be placed on
the floor of rooms in summer.' The favourite arm-chair of the Princess is
thus described in an inventory--'a chamber chair with four supports,
painted in fine vermilion, the seat and arms of which are covered in
vermilion morocco, or cordovan, worked and stamped with designs
representing the sun, birds, and other devices bordered with fringes of
silk and studded with nails.'"

The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had been remarkable for a general
development of commerce: merchants of Venice, Geneva, Florence, Milan,
Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, and many other famous cities had traded
extensively with the East and had grown opulent, and their homes naturally
showed signs of wealth and comfort that in former times had been
impossible to any but princes and rich nobles. Laws had been made in
answer to the complaints of the aristocracy to place some curb on the
growing ambition of the "bourgeoisie"; thus we find an old edict in the
reign of Philippe the Fair (1285-1314)--"No bourgeois shall have a
chariot, nor wear gold, precious stones, nor crowns of gold and silver.
Bourgeois not being prelates or dignitaries of state shall not have tapers
of wax. A bourgeois possessing 2,000 pounds (tournois) or more, may order
for himself a dress of 12[5] sous 6 deniers, and for his wife one worth 16
sous at the most," etc., etc., etc.

This and many other similar regulations were made in vain; the trading
classes became more and more powerful, and we quote the description of a
furnished apartment in P. Lacroix's "Manners and Customs of the Middle

"The walls were hung with precious tapestry of Cyprus, on which the
initials and motto of the lady were embroidered, the sheets were of fine
linen of Rheims, and had cost more than 300 pounds, the quilt was a new
invention of silk and silver tissue, the carpet was like gold. The lady
wore an elegant dress of crimson silk, and rested her head and arms on
pillows ornamented with buttons of oriental pearls. It should be remarked
that this lady was not the wife of a great merchant, such as those of
Venice and Genoa, but of a simple retail dealer who was not above selling
articles for 4 sous; such being the case, we cannot wonder that Christine
de Pisan should have considered the anecdote 'worthy of being immortalized
in a book.'"

[Illustration: "The New Born Infant." Shewing the interior of an Apartment
at the end of the 14th or commencement of the 15th century. (_From a
Miniature in "Histoire de la Belle Helaine," National Library of Paris_)]

As we approach the end of the fourteenth century, we find canopies added
to the "chaires" or "chayers a dorseret," which were carved in oak or
chesnut, and sometimes elaborately gilded and picked out in color. The
canopied seats were very bulky and throne-like constructions, and were
abandoned towards the end of the fifteenth century; and it is worthy of
notice that though we have retained our word "chair," adopted from the
Norman French, the French people discarded their synonym in favour of its
diminutive "chaise" to describe the somewhat smaller and less massive seat
which came into use in the sixteenth century.

[Illustration: Portrait of Christine de Pisan, Seated on a Canopied Chair
of carved wood, the back lined with tapestry. (_From Miniature on MS., in
the Burgundy Library, Brussels._) Period: XV. Century.]

The skilled artisans of Paris had arrived at a very high degree of
excellence in the fourteenth century, and in old documents describing
valuable articles of furniture, care is taken to note that they are of
Parisian workmanship. According to Lacroix, there is an account of the
court silversmith, Etienne La Fontaine, which gives us an idea of the
amount of extravagance sometimes committed in the manufacture and
decorations of a chair, into which it was then the fashion to introduce
the incrustation of precious stones; thus for making a silver arm chair
and ornamenting it with pearls, crystals, and other stones, he charged the
King of France, in 1352, no less a sum than 774 louis.

The use of rich embroideries at state banquets and on grand occasions
appears to have commenced during the reign of Louis IX.--Saint Louis, as
he is called--and these were richly emblazoned with arms and devices.
Indeed, it was probably due to the fashion for rich stuffs and coverings
of tables, and of velvet embroidered cushions for the chairs, that the
practice of making furniture of the precious metals died out, and carved
wood came into favour.

[Illustration: State Banquet, with Attendant Musicians. (_From Miniatures
in the National Library, Paris._) Period: XV. Century.]

Chairs of this period appear only to have been used on very special
occasions; indeed they were too cumbersome to be easily moved from place
to place, and in a miniature from some MSS. of the early part of the
fifteenth century, which represents a state banquet, the guests are seated
on a long bench with a back carved in the Gothic ornament of the time. In
Skeat's Dictionary, our modern word "banquet" is said to be derived from
the banes or benches used on these occasions.

[Illustration: A High Backed Chair, in Carved Oak (Gothic Style). Period:
XV. Century. French.]

[Illustration: Mediaeval Bed and Bedroom. (_From Viollet-le-Duc._)
Period: XIV. to XV. Century. French.]

The great hall of the King's Palace, where such an entertainment as that
given by Charles V. to the Emperor Charles of Luxemburg would take place,
was also furnished with three "dressoirs" for the display of the gold and
silver drinking cups, and vases of the time; the repast itself was served
upon a marble table, and above the seat of each of the princes present was
a separate canopy of gold cloth embroidered with fleur de lis.

[Illustration: Scribe or Copyist. Working at his desk in a room in which
are a reading desk and a chest with manuscript. (_From an Old Minature_)
Period: XV. Century.]

The furniture of ordinary houses of this period was very simple. Chests,
more or less carved, and ornamented with iron work, settles of oak or of
chestnut, stools or benches with carved supports, a bedstead and a prie
dieu chair, a table with plain slab supported on shaped standards, would
nearly supply the inventory of the furniture of the chief room in a house
of a well-to-do merchant in France until the fourteenth century had
turned. The table was narrow, apparently not more than some 30 inches
wide, and guests sat on one side only, the service taking place from the
unoccupied side of the table. In palaces and baronial halls the servants
with dishes were followed by musicians, as shewn in an old-miniature of
the time, reproduced on p. 39.

Turning to German work of the fifteenth century, there is a cast of the
famous choir stalls in the Cathedral of Ulm, which are considered the
finest work of the Swabian school of German wood carving. The magnificent
panel of foliage on the front, the Gothic triple canopy with the busts of
Isaiah, David, and Daniel, are thoroughly characteristic specimens of
design; and the signature of the artist, Jorg Syrlin, with date 1468, are
carved on the work. There were originally 89 choir stalls, and the work
occupied the master from the date mentioned, 1468, until 1474.

The illustrations of the two chairs of German Gothic furniture formerly in
some of the old castles, are good examples of their time, and are from
drawings made on the spot by Prof. Heideloff.

[Illustration: Two German Chairs (Late 15th Century). (_From Drawings made
in Old German Castles by Prof. Heideloff._)]

There are in our South Kensington Museum some full-sized plaster casts of
important specimens of woodwork of the fifteenth and two previous
centuries, and being of authenticated dates, we can compare them with the
work of the same countries after the Renaissance had been adopted and had
completely altered design. Thus in Italy there was, until the latter part
of the fifteenth century, a mixture of Byzantine and Gothic of which we
can see a capital example in the casts of the celebrated Pulpit in the
Baptistry of Pisa, the date of which is 1260. The pillars are supported by
lions, which, instead of being introduced heraldically into the design, as
would be the case some two hundred years later, are bearing the whole
weight of the pillars and an enormous superstructure on the hollow of
their backs in a most impossible manner. The spandril of each arch is
filled with a saint in a grotesque position amongst Gothic foliage, and
there is in many respects a marked contrast to the casts of examples of
the Renaissance period which are in the Museum.

[Illustration: Carved Oak Buffet in Gothic Style (Viollet le Duc).
Period: XV. Century. French.]

This transition from Mediaeval and Gothic, to Renaissance, is clearly
noticeable in the woodwork of many cathedrals and churches in England and
in continental cities. It is evident that the chairs, stalls, and pulpits
in many of these buildings have been executed at different times, and the
change from one style to another is more or less marked. The Flemish
buffet here illustrated is an example of this transition, and may be
contrasted with the French Gothic buffet referred to in the following
paragraph. There is also in the central hall of the South Kensington
Museum a plaster cast of a carved wood altar stall in the Abbey of Saint
Denis, France: the pilasters at the sides have the familiar Gothic
pinnacles, while the panels are ornamented with arabesques, scrolls, and
an interior in the Renaissance style; the date of this is late in the
fifteenth century.

The buffet on page 43 is an excellent specimen of the best fifteenth
century French Gothic oak work, and the woodcut shows the arrangement of
gold and silver plate on the white linen cloth with embroidered ends, in
use at this time.

[Illustration: Carved Oak Table. Period: Late XV. or Early XVI. Century.

[Illustration: Flemish Buffet. Of Carved Oak; open below with panelled
cupboards above. The back evidently of later work, after the Renaissance
had set in. (_From a Photo, by Messrs. R. Sutton & Co. from the Original
in the S. Kensington Museum._) Period: Gothic To Renaissance, XV.

[Illustration: A Tapestried Room in a French Chateau, With Oak Chests as

[Illustration: Carved Oak Seat, With moveabls Backrest, in front of
Fireplace. Period: Late XV. Century. French.]

We have now arrived at a period in the history of furniture which is
confused, and difficult to arrange and classify. From the end of the
fourteenth century to the Renaissance is a time of transition, and
specimens may be easily mistaken as being of an earlier or later date than
they really are. M. Jacquemart notices this "gap," though he fixes its
duration from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, and he quotes as an
instance of the indecision which characterised this interval, that workers
in furniture were described in different terms; the words coffer maker,
carpenter, and huchier (trunk-maker) frequently occurring to describe the
same class of artisan.

It is only later that the word "menuisier," or joiner, appears, and we
must enter upon the period of the Renaissance before we find the term
"cabinet maker," and later still, after the end of the seventeenth
century, we have such masters of their craft as Riesener described as
"ebenistes," the word being derived from ebony, which, with other eastern
woods, came into use after the Dutch settlement in Ceylon. Jacquemart also
notices the fact that as early as 1360 we have record of a specialist,
"Jehan Petrot," as a "chessboard maker."

[Illustration: Interior of An Apothecary's Shop. Late XIV. or Early XV.
Century. Flemish. (_From an Old Painting._)]

[Illustration: Court of the Ladies of Queen Anne of Brittany. (_From a
Miniature in the Library of St. Petersburg_) Representing the Queen
weeping on account of her Husband's absence during the Italian War.
Period: XV. Century.]

Chapter III.

The Renaissance.

THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY: Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaele--Church of St.
Peter, contemporary great artists--The Italian Palazzo--Methods of
gilding, inlaying and mounting Furniture-Pietra-dura and other
enrichments--Ruskin's criticism. THE RENAISSANCE IN FRANCE: Francois I.
and the Chateau of Fontainebleau--Influence on Courtiers, Chairs of the
time--Design of Cabinets--M.E. Bonnaffe on The Renaissance, Bedstead of
Jeanne d'Albret--Deterioration of taste in time of Henry IV., Louis
Influence of the House of Burgundy on Art--The Chimney-piece at Bruges,
and other casts of specimens at South Kensington Museum. THE
RENAISSANCE IN SPAIN: The resources of Spain in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries--Influence of Saracenic Art, high-backed leather
chairs, the Carthusian Convent at Granada. THE RENAISSANCE IN GERMANY:
Albrecht Duerer--Famous Steel Chair of Augsburg--German seventeenth
century carving in St. Saviour's Hospital. THE RENAISSANCE IN ENGLAND:
Influence of Foreign Artists in the time of Henry VIII.--End of
Feudalism--Hampton Court Palace--Linen pattern Panels--Woodwork in the
Henry VII. Chapel at Westminster Abbey--Livery Cupboards at
Hengrave--Harrison quoted--the "parler," alteration in English
customs--Chairs of the sixteenth century--Coverings and Cushions of the
time, extract from old Inventory--South Kensington Cabinet--Elizabethan
Mirror at Goodrich Court--Shaw's "Ancient Furniture" the Glastonbury
Chair--Introduction of Frames into England--Characteristics of Native
Woodwork--Famous Country Mansions, alteration in design of Woodwork and
Furniture--Panelled Rooms at South Kensington--The Charterhouse--Gray's
Inn Hall and Middle Temple--The Hall of the Carpenter's Company--The
Great Bed of Ware--Shakespeare's Chair--Penshurst Place.


It is impossible to write about the period of the Renaissance without
grave misgivings as to the ability to render justice to a period which has
employed the pens of many cultivated writers, and to which whole volumes,
nay libraries, have been devoted. Within the limited space of a single
chapter all that can be attempted is a brief glance at the influence on
design by which furniture and woodwork were affected. Perhaps the simplest
way of understanding the changes which occurred, first in Italy, and
subsequently in other countries, is to divide the chapter on this period
into a series of short notes arranged in the order in which Italian
influence would seem to have affected the designers and craftsmen of
several European nations.

Towards the end of the fifteenth century there appears to have been an
almost universal rage for classical literature, and we believe some
attempt was made to introduce Latin as a universal language; it is certain
that Italian Art was adopted by nation after nation, and a well known
writer on architecture (Mr. Parker) has observed:--"It was not until the
middle of the nineteenth century that the national styles of the different
countries of Modern Europe were revived."

As we look back upon the history of Art, assisted by the numerous examples
in our Museums, one is struck by the want of novelty in the imagination of
mankind. The glorious antique has always been our classic standard, and it
seems only to have been a question of time as to when and how a return was
made to the old designs of the Greek artists, then to wander from them
awhile, and again to return when the world, weary of over-abundance of
ornament, longed for the repose of simpler lines on the principles which
governed the glorious Athenian artists of old.

The Renaissance in Italy.

Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci and
Raffaele may be said to have guided and led the natural artistic instincts
of their countrymen, to discard the Byzantine-Gothic which, as M. Bonnaffe
has said, was adopted by the Italians not as a permanent institution, but
"faute de mieux" as a passing fashion.

It is difficult to say with any certainty when the first commencement of a
new era actually takes place, but there is an incident related in Michael
Bryan's biographical notice of Leonardo da Vinci which gives us an
approximate date. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, had appointed this great
master Director of Painting and Architecture in his academy in 1494, and,
says Bryan, who obtained his information from contemporary writers,
"Leonardo no sooner entered on his office, than he banished all the Gothic
principles established by his predecessor, Michelino, and introduced the
beautiful simplicity and purity of the Grecian and Roman styles."

A few years after this date, Pope Julius II. commenced to build the
present magnificent Church of St. Peter's, designed by Bramante d'Urbino,
kinsman and friend of Raffaele, to whose superintendence Pope Leo X.
confided the work on the death of the architect in 1514, Michael Angelo
having the charge committed to him some years after Raffaele's death.

These dates give us a very fair idea of the time at which this important
revolution in taste was taking place in Italy, at the end of the fifteenth
and the commencement of the following century, and carved woodwork
followed the new direction.

[Illustration: Reproduction of Decoration By Raffaelle. In the Loggie of
the Vatican. Period: Italian Renaissance.]

[Illustration: A Sixteenth Century Room. Reproduced from the "Magazine of
Art" (By Permission)]

[Illustration: Salon of M. Edmond Bonnaffe, Decorated and Furnished in
the Renaissance Style.]

Leo X. was Pope in 1513. The period of peace which then ensued after war,
which for so many decades had disturbed Italy, as France or Germany had in
turn striven to acquire her fertile soil, gave the princes and nobles
leisure to rebuild and adorn their palaces; and the excavations which were
then made brought to light many of the works of art which had remained
buried since the time when Rome was mistress of the world. Leo was a
member of that remarkable and powerful family the Medicis, the very
mention of whom is to suggest the Renaissance, and under his patronage,
and with the co-operation of the reigning dukes and princes of the
different Italian states, artists were given encouragement and scope for
the employment of their talents. Michael Angelo, Titian, Raffaele Sanzio,
Andrea del Sarto, Correggio, and many other great artists were raising up
monuments of everlasting fame; Palladio was rebuilding the palaces of
Italy, which were then the wonder of the world; Benvenuto Cellini and
Lorenzo Ghiberti were designing those marvellous chef d'oeuvres in gold,
silver, and bronze which are now so rare; and a host of illustrious
artists were producing work which has made the sixteenth century famous
for all time.

[Illustration: Chair in Carved Walnut. Found in the house of Michael

The circumstances of the Italian noble caused him to be very amenable to
Art influence. Living chiefly out of doors, his climate rendered him less

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