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Illustrated History of Furniture by Frederick Litchfield

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Brussels, and Lawreans of Mechlin. Gibbons and his pupils founded a school
of carving in England which has been continued by tradition to the present

[Illustration: Silver Furniture at Knole. (_From a Photo by Mr. Corke, of

A somewhat important immigration of French workmen occurred about this
time owing to the persecutions of Protestants in France, which followed,
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, by Louis XIV., and these
refugees bringing with them their skill, their patterns and ideas,
influenced the carving of our frames and the designs of some of our
furniture. This influence is to be traced in some of the contents of
Hampton Court Palace, particularly in the carved and gilt centre tables
and the _torcheres_ of French design but of English workmanship. It is
said that no less than 50,000 families left France, some thousands of whom
belonged to the industrial classes, and settled in England and Germany,
where their descendants still remain. They introduced the manufacture of
crystal chandeliers, and founded our Spitalfields silk industry and other
trades, till then little practised in England.

The beautiful silver furniture at Knole belongs to this time, having been
made for one of the Earls of Dorset, in the reign of James II. The
illustration is from a photograph taken by Mr. Corke, of Sevenoaks.
Electrotypes of the originals are in the South Kensington Museum. From two
other suites at Knole, consisting of a looking glass, a table, and a pair
of _torcheres_, in the one case of plain walnut wood, and in the other of
ebony with silver mountings, it would appear that a toilet suite of
furniture of the time of James II. generally consisted of articles of a
similar character, more or less costly, according to circumstances. The
silver table bears the English Hall mark of the reign.

As we approach the end of the seventeenth century and examine specimens of
English furniture about 1680 to 1700, we find a marked Flemish influence.
The Stadtholder, King William III., with his Dutch friends, imported many
of their household goods[12], and our English craftsmen seem to have
copied these very closely. The chairs and settees in the South Kensington
Museum, and at Hampton Court Palace, have the shaped back with a wide
inlaid or carved upright bar, the cabriole leg and the carved shell
ornament on the knee of the leg, and on the top of the back, which are
still to be seen in many of the old Dutch houses.

There are a few examples of furniture of this date, which it is almost
impossible to distinguish from Flemish, but in some others there is a
characteristic decoration in marqueterie, which may be described as a
seaweed scroll in holly or box wood, inlaid on a pale walnut ground, a
good example of which is to be seen in the upright "grandfather's clock"
in the South Kensington Museum, the effect being a pleasing harmony of

In the same collection there is also a walnut wood centre table, dating
from about 1700, which has twisted legs and a stretcher, the top being
inlaid with intersecting circles relieved by the inlay of some stars in

As we have observed with regard to French furniture of this time, mirrors
came more generally into use, and the frames were both carved and inlaid.
There are several of these at Hampton Court Palace, all with bevelled
edged plate glass; some have frames entirely of glass, the short lengths
which make the frame, having in some cases the joints covered by rosettes
of blue glass, and in others a narrow moulding of gilt work on each side
of the frame. In one room (the Queen's Gallery) the frames are painted in
colors and relieved by a little gilding.

The taste for importing old Dutch furniture, also lacquer cabinets from
Japan, not only gave relief to the appearance of a well furnished
apartment of this time, but also brought new ideas to our designers and
workmen. Our collectors, too, were at this time appreciating the Oriental
china, both blue and white, and colored, which had a good market in
Holland, so that with the excellent silversmith's work then obtainable, it
was possible in the time of William and Mary to arrange a room with more
artistic effect than at an earlier period, when the tapestry and panelling
of the walls, a table, the livery cupboard previously described, and some
three or four chairs, had formed almost the whole furniture of reception

The first mention of corner cupboards appears to have been made in an
advertisement of a Dutch joiner in "The Postman" of March 8th, 1711; these
cupboards, with their carved pediments being part of the modern fittings
of a room in the time of Queen Anne.

The oak presses common to this and earlier times are formed of an upper
and lower part, the former sometimes being three sides of an octagon with
the top supported by columns, while the lower half is straight, and the
whole is carved with incised ornament. These useful articles of furniture,
in the absence of wardrobes, are described in inventories of the time
(1680-1720) as "press cupboards," "great cupboards," "wainscot," and
"joyned cupboards."

The first mention of a "Buerow," as our modern word "Bureau" was then
spelt, is said by Dr. Lyon, in his American book, "The Colonial Furniture
of New England," to have occurred in an advertisement in "The Daily Post"
of January 4th, 1727. The same author quotes Bailey's Dictionarium
Britannicum, published in London, 1736, as defining the word "bureau" as
"a cabinet or chest of drawers, or 'scrutoir' for depositing papers or

In the latter half of the eighteenth century those convenient pieces of
furniture came into more general use, and illustrations of them as
designed and made by Chippendale and his contemporaries will be found in
the chapter dealing with that period.

Dr. Lyon also quotes from an American newspaper, "The Boston News Letter"
of April 16th, 1716, an advertisement which was evidently published when
the tall clocks, which we now call "grandfathers' clocks," were a novelty,
and as such were being introduced to the American public. We have already
referred to one of these which is in the South Kensington Museum, date
1700, and no doubt the manufacture of similar ones became more general
during the first years of the eighteenth century. The advertisement
alluded to runs, "Lately come from London, a parcel of very fine
clocks--they go a week and repeat the hour when pulled" (a string caused
the same action as the pressing of the handle of a repeating watch) "in
Japan cases or wall-nut."

The style of decoration in furniture and woodwork which we recognise as
"Queen Anne," apart from the marqueterie just described, appears, so far
as the writer's investigations have gone, to be due to the designs of some
eminent architects of the time. Sir James Vanbrugh was building Blenheim
Palace for the Queen's victorious general, and also Castle Howard.
Nicholas Hawksmoor had erected St. George's. Bloomsbury, and James Gibbs,
a Scotch architect and antiquary, St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and the
Royal Library at Oxford; a ponderous style characterises the woodwork
interior of these buildings. We give an illustration of three designs for
chimney-pieces and overmantels by James Gibbs, the centre one of which
illustrates the curved or "swan-necked" pediment, which became a favourite
ornament about this time, until supplanted by the heavier triangular
pediment which came in with "the Georges."

The contents of Hampton Court Palace afford evidence of the transition
which the design of woodwork and furniture has undergone from the time of
William III. until that of George II. There is the Dutch chair with
cabriole leg, the plain walnut card table also of Dutch design, which
probably came over with the Stadtholder; then, there are the heavy
draperies, and chairs almost completely covered by Spitalfields silk
velvet, to be seen in the bedroom furniture of Queen Anne. Later, as the
heavy Georgian style predominated, there is the stiff ungainly gilt
furniture, console tables with legs ornamented with the Greek key pattern
badly applied, and finally, as the French school of design influenced our
carvers, an improvement may be noticed in the tables and _torcheres_,
which but for being a trifle clumsy, might pass for the work of French
craftsmen of the same time. The State chairs, the bedstead, and some
stools, which are said to have belonged to Queen Caroline, are further
examples of the adoption of French fashion.

[Illustration: Three Chimneypieces. Designed by James Gibes, Architect, in

Nearly all writers on the subject of furniture and woodwork are agreed in
considering that the earlier part of the period discussed in this chapter,
that is, the seventeenth century, is the best in the traditions of
English work. As we have seen in noticing some of the earlier Jacobean
examples already illustrated and described, it was a period marked by
increased refinement of design through the abandonment of the more
grotesque and often coarse work of Elizabethan carving, and by soundness
of construction and thorough workmanship.

Oak furniture made in England during the seventeenth century, is still a
credit to the painstaking craftsmen of those days, and even upholstered
furniture, like the couches and chairs at Knole, after more than 250
years' service, are fit for use.

In the ninth and last chapter, which will deal with furniture of the
present day, the methods of production which are now in practice will be
noticed, and some comparison will be made which must be to the credit of
the Jacobean period.

* * * * *

In the foregoing chapters an attempt has been made to preserve, as far as
possible, a certain continuity in the history of the subject matter of
this work from the earliest times until after the Renaissance had been
generally adopted in Europe. In this endeavour a greater amount of
attention has been bestowed upon the furniture of a comparatively short
period of English history than upon that of other countries, but it is
hoped that this fault will be forgiven by English readers.

It has now become necessary to interrupt this plan, and before returning
to the consideration of European design and work, to devote a short
chapter to those branches of the Industrial Arts connected with furniture
which flourished in China and Japan, in India, Persia, and Arabia, at a
time anterior and subsequent to the Renaissance period in Europe.

Chapter V.

The Furniture of Eastern Countries.

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 General
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.

Chinese and Japanese Furniture.


We have been unable to discover when the Chinese first began to use State
or domestic furniture. Whether, like the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians,
there was an early civilization which included the arts of joining,
carving, and upholstering, we do not know; most probably there was; and
from the plaster casts which one sees in our Indian Museum, of the
ornamental stone gateways of Sanchi Tope, Bhopal in Central India, it
would appear that in the early part of our Christian era, the carvings in
wood of their neighbours and co-religionists, the Hindoos, represented
figures of men and animals in the woodwork of sacred buildings or palaces;
and the marvellous dexterity in manipulating wood, ivory and stone which
we recognize in the Chinese of to-day, is inherited from their ancestors.

Sir William Chambers travelled in China in the early part of the last
century. It was he who introduced "the Chinese style" into furniture and
decoration, which was adopted by Chippendale and other makers, as will be
noticed in the chapter dealing with that period of English furniture. He
gives us the following description of the furniture he found in "The
Flowery Land."

"The moveables of the saloon consist of chairs, stools, and tables; made
sometimes of rosewood, ebony, or lacquered work, and sometimes of bamboo
only, which is cheap, and, nevertheless, very neat. When the moveables are
of wood, the seats of the stools are often of marble or porcelain, which,
though hard to sit on, are far from unpleasant in a climate where the
summer heats are so excessive. In the corners of the rooms are stands four
or live feet high, on which they set plates of citrons, and other fragrant
fruits, or branches of coral in vases of porcelain, and glass globes
containing goldfish, together with a certain weed somewhat resembling
fennel; on such tables as are intended for ornament only they also place
little landscapes, composed of rocks, shrubs, and a kind of lily that
grows among pebbles covered with water. Sometimes also, they have
artificial landscapes made of ivory, crystal, amber, pearls, and various
stones. I have seen some of these that cost over 300 guineas, but they are
at best mere baubles, and miserable imitations of nature. Besides these
landscapes they adorn their tables with several vases of porcelain, and
little vases of copper, which are held in great esteem. These are
generally of simple and pleasing forms. The Chinese say they were made two
thousand years ago, by some of their celebrated artists, and such as are
real antiques (for there are many counterfeits) they buy at an extravagant
price, giving sometimes no less than L300 sterling for one of them.

"The bedroom is divided from the saloon by a partition of folding doors,
which, when the weather is hot, are in the night thrown open to admit the
air. It is very small, and contains no other furniture than the bed, and
some varnished chests in which they keep their apparel. The beds are very
magnificent; the bedsteads are made much like ours in Europe--of rosewood,
carved, or lacquered work: the curtains are of taffeta or gauze, sometimes
flowered with gold, and commonly either blue or purple. About the top a
slip of white satin, a foot in breadth, runs all round, on which are
painted, in panels, different figures--flower pieces, landscapes, and
conversation pieces, interspersed with moral sentences and fables written
in Indian ink and vermilion."

From old paintings and engravings which date from about the fourteenth or
fifteenth century one gathers an idea of such furniture as existed in
China and Japan in earlier times. In one of these, which is reproduced in
Racinet's "Le Costume Historique," there is a Chinese princess reclining
on a sofa which has a frame of black wood visible, and slightly
ornamented; it is upholstered with rich embroidery, for which these
artistic people seem to have been famous from a very early period. A
servant stands by her side to hand her the pipe of opium with which the
monotony of the day was varied--one arm rests on a small wooden table or
stand which is placed on the sofa, and which holds a flower vase and a
pipe stand.

On another old painting two figures are seated on mats playing a game
which resembles draughts, the pieces being moved about on a little table
with black and white squares like a modern chessboard, with shaped feet to
raise it a convenient height for the players: on the floor stand cups of
tea ready to hand. Such pictures are generally ascribed to the fifteenth
century, the period of the great Ming dynasty, which appears to have been
the time of an improved culture and taste in China.

From this time and a century later (the sixteenth) also date those
beautiful cabinets of lacquered wood enriched with ivory, mother of pearl,
with silver and even with gold, which have been brought to England
occasionally; but genuine specimens of this, and of the seventeenth
century, are very scarce and extremely valuable.

The older Chinese furniture which one sees generally in Europe dates from
the eighteenth century, and was made to order and imported by the Dutch;
this explains the curious combination to be found of Oriental and European
designs; thus, there are screens with views of Amsterdam and other cities
copied from paintings sent out for the purpose, while the frames of the
panels are of carved rosewood of the fretted bamboo pattern characteristic
of the Chinese. Elaborate bedsteads, tables and cabinets were also made,
with panels of ash stained a dark color and ornamented with hunting
scenes, in which the men and horses are of ivory, or sometimes with ivory
faces and limbs, the clothes being chiefly in a brown colored wood.

In a beautiful table in the South Kensington Museum, which is said to have
been made in Cochin-China, mother of pearl is largely used and produces a
rich effect.

The furniture brought back by the Duke of Edinburgh from China and Japan
is of the usual character imported, and the remarks hereafter made on
Indian or Bombay furniture apply equally to this adaptation of Chinese
detail to European designs.

The most highly prized work of China and Japan in the way of decorative
furniture is the beautiful lacquer work, and in the notice on French
furniture of the eighteenth century, in a subsequent chapter, we shall see
that the process was adopted in Holland, France and England with more or
less success.

It is worth while, however, to allude to it here a little more fully.

The process as practised in China is thus described by M. Jacquemart:--

"The wood when smoothly planed is covered with a sheet of thin paper or
silk gauze, over which is spread a thick coating made of powdered red
sandstone and buffalo's gall. This is allowed to dry, after which it is
polished and rubbed with wax, or else receives a wash of gum water,
holding chalk in solution. The varnish is laid on with a flat brush, and
the article is placed in a damp drying room, whence it passes into the
hands of a workman, who moistens and again polishes it with a piece of
very fine grained soft clay slate, or with the stalks of the horse-tail or
shave grass. It then receives a second coating of lacquer, and when dry is
once more polished. These operations are repeated until the surface
becomes perfectly smooth and lustrous. There are never applied less than
three coatings and seldom more than eighteen, though some old Chinese and
some Japan ware are said to have received upwards of twenty. As regards
China, this seems quite exceptional, for there is in the Louvre a piece
with the legend 'lou-tinsg,' i.e. six coatings, implying that even so
many are unusual enough to be worthy of special mention."

There is as much difference between different kinds and qualities of lac
as between different classes of marquctcrie.

The most highly prized is the LACQUER ON GOLD GROUND, and the specimens of
this which first reached Europe during the time of Louis XV., were
presentation pieces from the Japanese Princes to some of the Dutch

Gold ground lacquer is rarely found in furniture, and only as a rule in
some of those charming little boxes, in which the luminous effect of the
lac is heightened by the introduction of silver foliage on a minute scale,
or of tiny landscape work and figures charmingly treated, partly with dull
gold and partly highly burnished. Small placques of this beautiful ware
were used for some of the choicest pieces of Gouthiere's elegant furniture
made for Marie Antoinette.

Aventurine lacquer closely imitates in color the sparkling mineral from
which it takes its name, and a less highly finished preparation is used as
a lining for the small drawers of cabinets. Another lacquer has a black
ground, on which landscapes delicately traced in gold stand out in
charming relief. Such pieces were used by Riesener and mounted by
Gouthiere in some of the most costly furniture made for Marie Antoinette;
some specimens are in the Louvre. It is this kind of lacquer, in varying
qualities, that is usually found in cabinets, folding screens, coffers,
tables, etageres, and other ornamental articles of furniture. Enriched
with inlay of mother of pearl, the effect of which is in some cases
heightened and rendered more effective by some transparent coloring on its
reverse side, as in the case of a bird's plumage or of those beautiful
blossoms which both Chinese and Japanese artists can represent so

A very remarkable screen in Chinese lacquer of later date is in the South
Kensington Museum; it is composed of twelve folds each ten feet high, and
measuring when fully extended twenty-one feet. This screen is very
beautifully decorated on both sides with incised and raised ornaments
painted and gilt on black ground, with a rich border ornamented with
representations of sacred symbols and various other objects. The price
paid for it was L1,000. There are also in the Museum some very rich chairs
of modern Chinese work, in brown wood, probably teak, very elaborately
inlaid with mother-of-pearl; they were exhibited in Paris in 1867.

Of the very early history of Japanese industrial arts we know but little.
We have no record of the kind of furniture which Marco Polo found when he
travelled in Japan in the thirteenth century, and until the Jesuit
missionaries obtained a footing in the sixteenth century and sent home
specimens of native work, there was probably very little of Japanese
manufacture which found its way to Europe. The beautiful lacquer work of
Japan, which dates from the end of the sixteenth and the following
century, leads us to suppose that a long period of probation must have
occurred before the Arts, which were probably learned from the Chinese,
could have been so thoroughly mastered.

Of furniture, with the exception of the cabinets, chests, and boxes, large
and small, of this famous lac, there appears to have been little. Until
the Japanese developed a taste for copying European customs and manners,
the habit seems to have been to sit on mats and to use small tables raised
a few inches from the ground. Even the bedrooms contained no bedsteads,
but a light mattress served for bed and bedstead.

The process of lacquering has already been described, and in the chapter
on French furniture of the eighteenth century it will be seen how
specimens of this decorative material reached France by way of Holland,
and were mounted into the "_meubles de luxe_" of that time. With this
exception, and that of the famous collection of porcelain in the Japan
Palace at Dresden, probably but little of the art products of this
artistic people had been exported until the country was opened up by the
expedition of Lord Elgin and Commodore Perry, in 1858-9, and subsequently
by the antiquarian knowledge and research of Sir Rutherford Alcock, who
has contributed so much to our knowledge of Japanese industrial art;
indeed it is scarcely too much to say, that so far as England is
concerned, he was the first to introduce the products of the Empire of

[Illustration: Japanese Cabinet of Red Chased Lacquer Work. XVII to XVIII

The Revolution, and the break up of the feudal system which had existed in
that country for some eight hundred years, ended by placing the Mikado on
the throne. There was a sale in Paris, in 1867, of the famous collection
of the Shogun, who had sent his treasures there to raise funds for the
civil war in which he was then engaged with the Daimio. This was followed
by the exportation of other fine native productions to Paris and London;
but the supply of old and really fine specimens has, since about 1874,
almost ceased, and, in default, the European markets have become flooded
with articles of cheap and inferior workmanship, exported to meet the
modern demand. The present Government of Japan, anxious to recover many of
the masterpieces which were produced in the best time, under the
patronage of the native princes of the old _regime_, have established a
museum at Tokio, where many examples of fine lacquer work, which had been
sent to Europe for sale, have been placed after repurchase, to serve as
examples for native artists to copy, and to assist in the restoration of
the ancient reputation of Japan.

There is in the South Kensington Museum a very beautiful Japanese chest of
lacquer work made about the beginning of the seventeenth century, the best
time for Japanese art; it formerly belonged to Napoleon I. and was
purchased at the Hamilton Palace Sale for L722: it is some 3 ft. 3 in.
long and 2 ft. 1 in. high, and was intended originally as a receptacle for
sacred Buddhist books. There are, most delicately worked on to its
surface, views of the interior of one of the Imperial Palaces of Japan,
and a hunting scene. Mother-of-pearl, gold, silver, and aventurine, are
all used in the enrichment of this beautiful specimen of inlaid work, and
the lock plate is a representative example of the best kind of metal work
as applied to this purpose.

H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh has several fine specimens of Chinese and
Japanese lacquer work in his collection, about the arrangement of which
the writer had the honour of advising his Royal Highness, when it arrived
some years ago at Clarence House. The earliest specimen is a reading desk,
presented by the Mikado, with a slope for a book much resembling an
ordinary bookrest, but charmingly decorated with lacquer in landscape
subjects on the flat surfaces, while the smaller parts are diapered with
flowers and quatrefoils in relief of lac and gold. This is of the
sixteenth century. The collections of the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine,
Sir Rutherford Alcock, K.C.B., Mr. Salting, Viscount Gough, and other
well-known amateurs, contain some excellent examples of the best periods
of Japanese Art work of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The grotesque carving of the wonderful dragons and marvellous monsters
introduced into furniture made by the Chinese and Japanese, and especially
in the ornamental woodwork of the Old Temples, is thoroughly peculiar to
these masters of elaborate design and skilful manipulation: and the low
rate of remuneration, compared with our European notions of wages, enables
work to be produced that would be impracticable under any other
conditions. In comparing the decorative work on Chinese and Japanese
furniture, it may be said that more eccentricity is effected by the latter
than by the former in their designs and general decorative work. The
Japanese joiner is unsurpassed, and much of the lattice work, admirable in
design and workmanship, is so quaint and intricate that only by close
examination can it be distinguished from finely cut fret work.

Indian Furniture.

European influence upon Indian art and manufactures has been of long
duration; it was first exercised by the Portuguese and Dutch in the early
days of the United East India Company, afterwards by the French, who
established a trading company there in 1664, and since then by the
English, the first charter of the old East India Company dating as far
back as 1600. Thus European taste dominated almost everything of an
ornamental character until it became difficult to find a decorative
article the design of which did not in some way or other shew the
predominance of European influence over native conception. Therefore it
becomes important to ascertain what kind of furniture, limited as it was,
existed in India during the period of the Mogul Empire, which lasted from
1505 to 1739, when the invasion of the Persians under Kouli Khan destroyed
the power of the Moguls; the country formerly subject to them was then
divided amongst sundry petty princes.

The thrones and State chairs used by the Moguls were rich with elaborate
gilding; the legs or supports were sometimes of turned wood, with some of
the members carved; the chair was formed like an hour glass, or rather
like two bowls reversed, with the upper part extended to form a higher
back to the seat. In M. Racinet's sumptuous work, "Le Costume Historique,"
published in Paris in 20 volumes (1876), there are reproduced some old
miniatures from the collection of M. Ambroise Didot. These represent--with
all the advantages of the most highly finished printing in gold, silver,
and colours--portraits of these native sovereigns seated on their State
chairs, with the umbrella, as a sign of royalty. The panels and ornaments
of the thrones are picked out with patterns of flowers, sometimes detached
blossoms, sometimes the whole plant; the colors are generally bright red
and green, while the ground of a panel or the back of a chair is in
silver, with arabesque tracery, the rest of the chair being entirely gilt.
The couches are rectangular, with four turned and carved supports, some
eight or ten inches high, and also gilt. With the exception of small
tables, which could be carried into the room by slaves, and used for the
light refreshments customary to the country, there was no other furniture.
The ladies of the harem are represented as being seated on sumptuous
carpets, and the walls are highly decorated with gold and silver and
color, which seems very well suited to the arched openings, carved and
gilt doors, and brilliant costumes of the occupants of these Indian

After the break up of the Mogul power, the influence of Holland, France,
and England brought about a mixture of taste and design which, with the
concurrent alterations in manners and customs, gradually led to the
production of what is now known as the "Bombay furniture." The patient,
minute carving of Indian design applied to utterly uncongenial Portuguese
or French shapes of chairs and sofas, or to the familiar round or oval
table, carved almost beyond recognition, are instances of this style. One
sees these occasionally in the house of an Anglo-Indian, who has employed
native workmen to make some of this furniture for him, the European chairs
and tables being given as models, while the details of the ornament have
been left to native taste.

It is scarcely part of our subject to allude to the same kind of influence
which has spoiled the quaint bizarre effect of native design and
workmanship in silver, in jewellery, in carpets, embroideries, and in
pottery, which was so manifest in the contributions sent to South
Kensington at the Colonial Exhibition, 1886. There are in the Indian
Museum at South Kensington several examples of this Bombay furniture, and
also some of Cingalese manufacture.

In the Jones Collection at South Kensington Museum, there are two carved
ivory chairs and a table, the latter gilded, the former partly gilded,
which are a portion of a set taken from Tippo Sahib at the storming of
Seringapatam. Warren Hastings brought them to England, and they were given
to Queen Charlotte. After her death the set was divided; Lord
Londesborough purchased part of it, and this portion is now on loan at the
Bethnal Green Museum.

The Queen has also amongst her numerous Jubilee presents some very
handsome ivory furniture of Indian workmanship, which may be seen at
Windsor Castle. These, however, as well as the Jones Collection examples,
though thoroughly Indian in character as regards the treatment of scrolls,
flowers, and foliage, shew unmistakcably the influence of French taste in
their general form and contour. Articles, such as boxes, stands for gongs,
etc., are to be found carved in sandal wood, and in _dalburgia,_ or black
wood, with rosewood mouldings; and a peculiar characteristic of this
Indian decoration, sometimes applied to such small articles of furniture,
is the coating of the surface of the wood with red lacquer, the plain
parts taking a high polish while the carved enrichment remains dull. The
effect of this is precisely that of the article being made of red sealing
wax, and frequently the minute pattern of the carved ornament and its
general treatment tend to give an idea of an impression made in the wax by
an elaborately cut die. The casket illustrated on p. 134 is an example of
this treatment. It was exhibited in 1851.

The larger examples of Indian carved woodwork are of teak; the finest and
most characteristic specimens within the writer's knowledge are the two
folding doors which were sent as a present to the Indian Government, and
are in the Indian Museum. They are of seventeenth century work, and are
said to have enclosed a library at Kerowlee. While the door frames are of
teak, with the outer frames carved with bands of foliage in high relief,
the doors themselves are divided into panels of fantastic shapes, and yet
so arranged that there is just sufficient regularity to please the eye.
Some of these panels are carved and enriched with ivory flowers, others
have a rosette of carved ivory in the centre, and pieces of talc with
green and red colour underneath, a decoration also found in some Arabian
work. It is almost impossible to convey by words an adequate description
of these doors; they should be carefully examined as examples of genuine
native design and workmanship. Mr. Pollen has concluded a somewhat
detailed account of them by saying:--"For elegance of shape and
proportion, and the propriety of the composition of the frame and
sub-divisions of these doors, their mouldings and their panel carvings and
ornaments, we can for the present name no other example so instructive.
We are much reminded by this decoration of the pierced lattices at the
S. Marco in Venice."

[Illustration: Casket of Indian Lacquer Work.]

There is in the Indian Museum another remarkable specimen of native
furniture--namely, a chair of the purest beaten gold of octagonal shape,
and formed of two bowls reversed, decorated with acanthus and lotus in
repousee ornament. This is of eighteenth century workmanship, and was
formerly the property of Runjeet Sing. The precious metal is thinly laid
on, according to the Eastern method, the wood underneath the gold taking
all the weight.

There is also a collection of plaster casts of portions of temples and
palaces from a very early period until the present time, several having
been sent over as a loan to the Indian and Colonial Exhibition of 1886,
and afterwards presented by the Commissioners to the Museum.

A careful observation of the ornamental details of these casts leads us to
the conclusion that the Byzantine style which was dominant throughout the
more civilized portion of Asia during the power of the Romans, had
survived the great changes of the Middle Ages. As native work became
subject more or less to the influence of the Indo-Chinese carvers of
deities on the one side, and of the European notions of the Portuguese
pioneers of discovery on the other, a fashion of decorative woodwork was
arrived at which can scarcely be dignified by the name of a style, and
which it is difficult to describe. Dr. Birdwood, in his work on Indian
Art, points out that, about a hundred years ago, Indian designs were
affected by the immigration of Persian designers and workmen. The result
of this influence is to be seen in the examples in the Museum, a short
notice of which will conclude these remarks on Indian work.

The copy in shishem wood of a carved window at Amritzar, in the Punjaub,
with its overhanging cornice, ornamental arches, supported by pillars, and
the whole surface covered with small details of ornament, is a good
example of the sixteenth and seventeenth century work. The various facades
of dwelling-houses in teak wood, carved, and still bearing the remains of
paint with which part of the carving was picked out, represent the work of
the contemporary carvers of Ahmedabad, famous for its woodwork.

Portions of a lacquer work screen, similar in appearance to embossed gilt
leather, with the pattern in gold, on a ground of black or red, and the
singular Cashmere work, called "mirror mosaic," give us a good idea of the
Indian decoration of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This
effective decoration is produced by little pieces of looking-glass being
introduced into the small geometrical patterns of the panels; these, when
joined together, form a very rich ceiling.

The bedstead of King Theebaw, brought from Mandalay, is an example of this
mixture of glass and wood, which can be made extremely effective. The
wood is carved and gilt to represent the gold setting of numerous precious
stones, which are counterfeited by small pieces of looking-glass and
variously-coloured pieces of transparent glass.

Some of the Prince of Wales' presents, namely, chairs, with carved lions
forming arms; tables of shishem wood, inlaid with ebony and ivory, shew
the European influence we have alluded to.

Amongst the modern ornamental articles in the Museum are many boxes, pen
trays, writing cases, and even photograph albums of wood and ivory mosaic
work, the inlaid patterns being produced by placing together strips of tin
wire, sandal wood, ebony, and of ivory, white, or stained green: these
bound into a rod, either triangular or hexagonal, are cut into small
sections, and then inlaid into the surface of the article to be decorated.

Papier mache and lacquer work are also frequently found in small articles
of furniture; and the collection of drawings by native artists attests the
high skill in design and execution attained by Indian craftsmen.


The Persians have from time immemorial been an artistic people, and their
style of Art throughout successive conquests and generations has varied
but little.

Major-General Murdoch Smith, R.E., the present Director of the branch of
the South Kensington Museum in Edinburgh, who resided for some years in
Persia, and had the assistance when there of M. Richard (a well-known
French antiquarian), made a collection of _objets d'art_ some years ago
for the Science and Art Department, which is now in the Kensington Museum,
but it contains comparatively little that can be actually termed
furniture; and it is extremely difficult to meet with important specimens
of ornamental wordwork of native workmanship. Those in the Museum, and in
other collections, are generally small ornamental articles. The chief
reason of this is, doubtless, that little timber is to be found in Persia,
except in the Caspian provinces, where, as Mr. Benjamin has told us in
"Persia and the Persians," wood is abundant; and the Persian architect,
taking advantage of his opportunity, has designed his houses with wooden
piazzas--not found elsewhere--and with "beams, lintels, and eaves
quaintly, sometimes elegantly, carved, and tinted with brilliant hues."
Another feature of the decorative woodwork in this part of Persia is that
produced by the large latticed windows, which are well adapted to the

[Illustration: Door of Carved Sandal Wood, from Travancore. India Museum,
South Kensington. Period: Probably Late XVIII. Century.]

In the manufacture of textile fabrics--notably, their famous carpets of
Yezd and Ispahan, and their embroidered cloths in hammered and engraved
metal work, and formerly in beautiful pottery and porcelain--they have
excelled: and examples will be found in the South Kensington Museum. It is
difficult to find a representative specimen of Persian furniture except a
box or a stool; and the illustration of a brass incense burner is,
therefore, given to mark the method of design, which was adopted in a
modified form by the Persians from their Arab conquerors.

[Illustration: Incense Burner of Engraved Brass. (_In the South Kensington

This method of design has one or two special characteristics which are
worth noticing. One of these was the teaching of Mahomet forbidding animal
representation in design--a rule which in later work has been relaxed;
another was the introduction of mathematics into Persia by the Saracens,
which led to the adoption of geometrical patterns in design; and a third,
the development of "Caligraphy" into a fine art, which has resulted in the
introduction of a text, or motto, into so many of the Persian designs of
decorative work. The combination of these three characteristics have given
us the "Arabesque" form of ornament, which, in artistic nomenclature,
occurs so frequently.

The general method of decorating woodwork is similar to that of India, and
consists in either inlaying brown wood (generally teak) with ivory or
pearl in geometrical patterns, or in covering the wooden box, or
manuscript case, with a coating of lacquer, somewhat similar to the
Chinese or Japanese preparations. On this groundwork some good miniature
painting was executed, the colours being, as a rule, red, green, and gold,
with black lines to give force to the design.

The author of "Persia and the Persians," already quoted, had, during his
residence in the country, as American Minister, great opportunities of
observation, and in his chapter entitled "A Glance at the Arts of Persia,"
has said a good deal of this mosaic work. Referring to the scarcity of
wood in Persia, he says: "For the above reason one is astonished at the
marvellous ingenuity, skill, and taste developed by the art of inlaid
work, or Mosaic in wood. It would be impossible to exceed the results
achieved by the Persian artizans, especially those of Shiraz, in this
wonderful and difficult art.... Chairs, tables, sofas, boxes, violins,
guitars, canes, picture frames, almost every conceivable object, in fact,
which is made of wood, may be found overlaid with an exquisite casing of
inlaid work, so minute sometimes that thirty-live or forty pieces may be
counted in the space of a square eighth of an inch. I have counted four
hundred and twenty-eight distinct pieces on a square inch of a violin,
which is completely covered by this exquisite detail of geometric
designs, in Mosaic."

Mr. Benjamin--who, it will be noticed, is somewhat too enthusiastic over
this kind of mechanical decoration--also observes that, while the details
will stand the test of a magnifying glass, there is a general breadth in
the design which renders it harmonious and pleasing if looked at from a

In the South Kensington Museum there are several specimens of Persian
lacquer work, which have very much the appearance of papier mache articles
that used to be so common in England some forty years ago, save that the
decoration is, of course, of Eastern character.

Of seventeenth century work, there is also a fine coffer, richly inlaid
with ivory, of the best description of Persian design and workmanship of
this period, which was about the zenith of Persian Art during the reign of
Shah Abbas. The numerous small articles of what is termed Persian
marqueterie, are inlaid with tin wire and stained ivory, on a ground of
cedar wood, very similar to the same kind of ornamental work already
described in the Indian section of this chapter. These were purchased at
the Paris Exhibition in 1867.

Persian Art of the present day may be said to be in a state of transition,
owing to the introduction and assimilation of European ideas.

Saracenic Woodwork From Cairo and Damascus.

While the changes of fashion in Western, as contrasted with Eastern
countries, are comparatively rapid, the record of two or three centuries
presenting a history of great and well-defined alterations in manners,
customs, and therefore, of furniture, the more conservative Oriental has
been content to reproduce, from generation to generation, the traditions
of his forefathers; and we find that, from the time of the Moorish
conquest and spread of Arabesque design, no radical change in Saracenic
Art occurred until French and English energy and enterprise forced
European fashions into Egypt: as a consequence, the original quaintness
and Orientalism natural to the country, are being gradually replaced by
buildings, decoration, and furniture of European fashion.

The carved pulpit, from a mosque in Cairo, which is in the South
Kensington Museum, was made for Sultan Kaitbeg, 1468-96. The side panels,
of geometrical pattern, though much injured by time and wear, shew signs
of ebony inlaid with ivory, and of painting and gilding; they are good
specimens of the kind of work. The two doors, also from Cairo, the oldest
parts of which are just two hundred years earlier than the pulpit, are
exactly of the same style, and, so far as appearances go, might be just as
well taken for two hundred years later, so conservative was the Saracenic
treatment of decorative woodwork for some four or five centuries.
Pentagonal and hexagonal mosaics of ivory, with little mouldings of ebony
dividing the different panels, the centres of eccentric shapes of ivory or
rosewood carved with minute scrolls, combine to give these elaborate doors
a very rich effect, and remind one of the work still to be seen at the

The Science and Art Department has been fortunate in securing from the St.
Maurice and Dr. Meymar collections a great many specimens which are well
worth examination. The most remarkable is a complete room brought from a
house in Damascus, which is fitted up in the Oriental style, and gives one
a good idea of an Eastern interior. The walls are painted in colour and
gold; the spaces divided by flat pilasters, and there are recesses, or
cupboards, for the reception of pottery, quaintly formed vessels, and pots
of brass. Oriental carpets, octagonal tables, such as the one which
ornaments the initial letter of this chapter, hookas, incense burners, and
cushions furnish the apartment; while the lattice window is an excellent
representation of the "Mesherabijeh," or lattice work, with which we are
familiar, since so much has been imported by Egyptian travellers. In the
upper panels of the lattice there are inserted pieces of coloured glass,
and, looking outwards towards the light, the effect is very pretty. The
date of this room is 1756, which appears at the foot of an Arabic
inscription, of which a translation is appended to the exhibit. It
commences--"In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate," and
concludes; "Pray, therefore, to Him morning and evening."

[Illustration: Governor's Palace, Manfalut. Shewing a Window of Arab
Lattice Work, similar to that of the Damascus Room in the South Kensington

A number of bosses and panels, detached from their original framework, are
also to be seen, and are good specimens of Saracenic design. A bedstead,
with inlay of ivory and numerous small squares of glass, under which are
paper flowers, is also a good example of native work.

[Illustration: Specimen of Saracenic Panelling of Cedar, Ebony, and Ivory.
(_In the South Kensington Museum._)]

The illustration on p. 142 is of a carved wood door from Cairo, considered
by the South Kensington authorities to be of Syrian work. It shews the
turned spindles, which the Arabs generally introduce into their ornamental
woodwork: and the carving of the vase of flowers is a good specimen of the
kind. The date is about the seventeenth century.

For those who would gain an extended knowledge of Saracenic or Arabian Art
industry, "_L'Art Arabe,"_ by M. Prisse d'Aveunes, should be consulted.
There will be found in this work many carefully-prepared illustrations of
the cushioned seats, the projecting balconies of the lattice work already
alluded to, of octagonal inlaid tables, and such other articles of
furniture as were used by the Arabs. The South Kensington Handbook,
"Persian Art," by Major-General Murdoch Smith, R.E., is also a very handy
and useful work in a small compass.

While discussing Saracenic or Arab furniture, it is worth noticing that
our word "sofa" is of Arab derivation, the word "suffah" meaning "a couch
or place for reclining before the door of Eastern houses." In Skeat's
Dictionary the word is said to have first occurred in the "Guardian," in
the year 1713, and the phrase is quoted from No. 167 of that old
periodical of the day--"He leapt off from the sofa on which he sat."

[Illustration: A Carved Door of Syrian Work. (_South Kensington Museum._)]

From the same source the word "ottoman," which Webster defines as "a
stuffed seat without a back, first used in Turkey," is obviously obtained,
and the modern low-seated upholsterer's chair of to-day is doubtless the
development of a French adaptation of the Eastern cushion or "divan," this
latter word having become applied to the seats which furnished the hall or
council chamber in an Eastern palace, although its original meaning was
probably the council or "court" itself, or the hall in which such was

Thus do the habits and tastes of different nations act and re-act upon
each other. Western peoples have carried eastward their civilisation and
their fashions, influencing Arts and industries, with their restless
energy, and breaking up the crust of Oriental apathy and indolence; and
have brought back in return the ideas gained from an observation of the
associations and accessories of Eastern life, to adapt them to the
requirements and refinements of European luxury.

[Illustration: Shaped Panel of Saracenic Work in Carved Bone or Ivory.]

[Illustration: Boule Armoire. Designed by Le Brun, formerly in the
"Hamilton Palace" Collection and purchased (Wertheimer) for L12,075 the
pair. Period: Louis XIV.]

Chapter VI.

French Furniture.

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


There is something so distinct in the development of taste in furniture,
marked out by the three styles to which the three monarchs have given the
names of "Louis Quatorze," "Louis Quinze," and "Louis Seize," that it
affords a fitting point for a new departure.

This will be evident to anyone who will visit, first the Palace of
Versailles,[13] then the Grand Trianon, and afterwards the Petit Trianon.
By the help of a few illustrations, such a visit in the order given would
greatly interest anyone having a smattering of knowledge of the
characteristic ornaments of these different periods. A careful examination
would demonstrate how the one style gradually merged into that of its
successor. Thus the massiveness and grandeur of the best Louis Quatorze
_meubles de luxe_, became, in its later development, too ornate and
effeminate, with an elaboration of enrichment, culminating in the rococo
style of Louis Quinze.

Then we find, in the "Petit Trianon," and also in the Chateau of
Fontainebleau, the purer taste of Marie Antoinette dominating the Art
productions of her time, which reached their zenith, with regard to
furniture, in the production of such elegant and costly examples as have
been preserved to us in the beautiful work-table and secretaire--sold some
years since at the dispersion of the Hamilton Palace collection--and in
some other specimens, which may be seen in the Musee du Louvre, in the
Jones Collection in the South Kensington Museum, and in other public and
private collections: of these several illustrations are given.

We have to recollect that the reign of Louis XIV. was the time of the
artists Berain, Lebrun, and, later in the reign, of Watteau, also of Andre
Charles Boule, _ciseleur et doreur du roi_, and of Colbert, that admirable
Minister of Finance, who knew so well how to second his royal master's
taste for grandeur and magnificence. The Palace of Versailles bears
throughout the stamp and impress of the majesty of _le Grande Monarque;_
and the rich architectural ornament of the interior, with moulded, gilded,
and painted ceilings, required the furnishing to be carried to an extent
which had never been attempted previously.

Louis XIV. had judgment in his taste, and he knew that, to carry out his
ideas of a royal palace, he must not only select suitable artists capable
of control, but he must centralize their efforts. In 1664 Colbert founded
the Royal Academy of Painting, Architecture, and Sculpture, to which
designs of furniture were admitted. The celebrated Gobelins tapestry
factory was also established; and it was here the King collected together
and suitably housed the different skilled producers of his furniture,
placing them all under the control of his favourite artist, Lebrun, who
was appointed director in 1667.

The most remarkable furniture artist of this time, for surely he merits
such title, was Andre Charles Boule, of whom but little is known. He was
born in 1642, and, therefore, was 25 years of age when Lebrun was
appointed Art-director. He appears to have originated the method of
ornamenting furniture which has since been associated with his name. This
was to veneer his cabinets, pedestals, armoires, encoignures, clocks, and
brackets with tortoiseshell, into which a cutting of brass was laid, the
latter being cut out from a design, in which were harmoniously arranged
scrolls, vases of flowers, satyrs, animals, cupids, swags of fruit and
draperies; fantastic compositions of a free Renaissance character
constituted the panels; to which bold scrolls in ormolu formed fitting
frames; while handsome mouldings of the same material gave a finish to the
extremities. These ormolu mountings were gilt by an old-fashioned
process,[14] which left upon the metal a thick deposit of gold, and were
cunningly chiselled by the skilful hands of Caffieri or his

[Illustration: Boule Armoire, In the "Jones" Collection, S. Kensington
Museum. Louis XIV. Period.]

Boule subsequently learned to economise labour by adopting a similar
process to that used by the marqueterie cutter; and by glueing together
two sheets of brass, or white metal, and two of shell, and placing over
them his design, he was then able to pierce the four layers by one cut of
the handsaw; this gave four exact copies of the design. The same process
would be repeated for the reverse side, if, as with an armoire or a large
cabinet, two panels, one for each door, right and left, were required; and
then, when the brass, or white metal cutting was fitted into the shell so
that the joins were imperceptible, he would have two right and two left
panels. These would be positive and negative: in the former pair the metal
would represent the figured design with the shell as groundwork, and the
latter would have the shell as a design, with a ground of metal. The terms
positive and negative are the writer's to explain the difference, but the
technical terms are "first part" and "second part," or "Boule" and
"counter." The former would be selected for the best part of the cabinet,
for instance, the panels of the front doors, while the latter would be
used for the ends or sides. An illustration of this plan of using all four
cuttings of one design occurs in the armoire No. 1026 in the Jones
Collection, and in a great many other excellent specimens. The brass, or
the white metal in the design, was then carefully and most artistically
engraved; and the beauty of the engraving of Boule's finest productions is
a great point of excellence, giving, as it does, a character to the
design, and emphasizing its details. The mounting of the furniture in
ormolu of a rich and highly-finished character, completed the design. The
_Musee du Louvre_ is rich in examples of Boule's work; and there are some
very good pieces in the Jones Collection, at Hertford House, and at
Windsor Castle.

The illustration on p. 144 is the representation of an armoire, which was,
undoubtedly, executed by Boule from a design by Lebrun: it is one of a
pair which was sold in 1882, at the Hamilton Palace sale, by Messrs.
Christie, for L12,075. Another small cabinet, in the same collection,
realised L2,310. The pedestal cabinet illustrated on p. 148, from the
Jones Collection, is very similar to the latter, and cost Mr. Jones
L3,000. When specimens, of the genuineness of which there is no doubt, are
offered for sale, they are sure to realize very high prices. The armoire
in the Jones Collection, already alluded to (No. 1026), of which there is
an illustration, cost between L4,000 and L5,000.

In some of the best of Boule's cabinets, as, for instance, in the
Hamilton Palace armoire (illustrated), the bronze gilt ornaments stand out
in bold relief from the surface. In the Louvre there is one which has a
figure of _Le Grand Monarque_, clad in armour, with a Roman toga, and
wearing the full bottomed wig of the time, which scarcely accords with the
costume of a Roman general. The absurd combination which characterises
this affectation of the classic costume is also found in portraits of our
George II.

[Illustration: Pedestal Cabinet, By Boule, formerly in Mr. Baring's
Collection. Purchased by Mr. Jones for L3,000. (_South Kensington

The masks, satyrs, and ram's heads, the scrolls and the foliage, are also
very bold in specimens of this class of Boule's work; and the "sun" (that
is, a mask surrounded with rays of light) is a very favourite ornament of
this period.

Boule had four sons and several pupils; and he may be said to have founded
a school of decorative furniture, which has its votaries and imitators
now, as it had in his own time. The word one frequently finds misspelt
"Buhl," and this has come to represent any similar mode of decorations on
furniture, no matter how meretricious or common it may be.

[Illustration: A Concert during the Reign of Louis XIV. (_From a
Miniature, dated 1696._)]

Later in the reign, as other influences were brought to bear upon the
taste and fashion of the day, this style of furniture became more ornate
and showy. Instead of the natural colour of the shell, either vermilion or
gold leaf was placed underneath the transparent shell; the gilt mounts
became less severe, and abounded with the curled endive ornament, which
afterwards became thoroughly characteristic of the fashion of the
succeeding reign; and the forms of the furniture itself conformed to a
taste for a more free and flowing treatment; and it should be mentioned,
in justice to Lebrun, that from the time of his death and the appointment
of his successor, Mignard, a distinct decline in merit can be traced.

Contemporary with Boule's work, were the richly-mounted tables, having
slabs of Egyptian porphyry, or Florentine marble mosaic; and marqueterie
cabinets, with beautiful mountings of ormolu, or gilt bronze. Commodes and
screens were ornamented with Chinese lacquer, which had been imported by
the Dutch and taken to Paris, after the French invasion of the

[Illustration: Panel for a Screen. Painted by Watteau. Louis XIV. Period.]

About this time--that is, towards the end of the seventeenth century--the
resources of designers and makers of decorative furniture were reinforced
by the introduction of glass in larger plates than had been possible
previously. Mirrors of considerable size were first made in Venice; these
were engraved with figures and scrolls, and mounted in richly carved and
gilt wood frames; and soon afterwards manufactories of mirrors, and of
glass, in larger plates than before, were set up in England, near
Battersea, and in France at Tour la Ville, near Paris. This novelty not
only gave a new departure to the design of suitable frames in carved wood
(generally gilt), but also to that of Boule work and marqueterie. It also
led to a greater variety of the design for cabinets; and from this time we
may date the first appearance of the "Vitrine," or cabinet with glass
panels in the doors and sides, for the display of smaller _objets d'art._

[Illustration: Decoration of a Salon in Louis XIV. Style.]

The chairs and sofas of the latter half of the reign of Louis Quatorze are
exceedingly grand and rich. The suite of furniture for the state apartment
of a prince or wealthy nobleman comprised a _canape_, or sofa, and six
_fauteils_, or arm chairs, the frames carved with much spirit, or with
"feeling," as it is technically termed, and richly gilt. The backs and
seats were upholstered and covered with the already famous tapestry of
Gobelins or Beauvais.[15]

Such a suite of furniture, in bad condition and requiring careful and very
expensive restoration, was sold at Christie's some time ago for about
L1,400, and it is no exaggeration to say that a really perfect suite, with
carving and gilding of the best, and the tapestry not too much worn, if
offered for public competition, would probably realise between L3,000 and

In the appendix will be found the names of many artists in furniture of
this time, and in the Jones Collection we have several very excellent
specimens which can easily be referred to, and compared with others of the
two succeeding reigns, whose furniture we are now going to consider.

As an example of the difference in both outline and detail which took
place in design, let the reader notice the form of the Louis Quatorze
commode vignetted for the initial letter of this chapter, and then turn to
the lighter and more fanciful cabinets of somewhat similar shape which
will be found illustrated in the "Louis Quinze" section which follows
this. In the Louis Quatorze cabinets the decorative effect, so far as the
woodwork was concerned, was obtained first by the careful choice of
suitable veneers, and then, by joining four pieces in a panel, so that the
natural figure of the wood runs from the centre, and then a banding of a
darker wood forms a frame. An instance of this will also be found in the
above-mentioned illustration.

Louis XV.

When the old King died, at the ripe age of 77, the crown devolved on his
great-grandson, then a child five years old, and therefore a Regency
became necessary; and this period of some eight years, until the death of
Philip, Duke of Orleans, in 1723, when the King was declared to have
attained his majority at the age of 13, is known as _L'Epoch de la
Regence_, and is a landmark in the history of furniture.

[Illustration: Boule Commode, Probably made during the period of the
Regency (_Musee du Louvre._)]

There was a great change about this period of French history in the social
condition of the upper classes in France. The pomp and extravagance of the
late monarch had emptied the coffers of the noblesse, and in order to
recruit their finances, marriages became common which a decade or two
before that time would hardly have been thought possible. Nobles of
ancient lineage married the daughters of bankers and speculators, in order
to supply themselves with the means of following the extravagant fashions
of the day, and we find the wives of ministers of departments of State
using their influence and power for the purpose of making money by
gambling in stocks, and accepting bribes for concessions and contracts.

[Illustration: French Sedan Chair. (_From an Engraving in the South
Kensington Art Library._) Period: Louis XV.]

It was a time of corruption, extravagance, licentiousness, and intrigue,
and although one might ask what bearing this has upon the history of
furniture, a little reflection shows that the abandonment of the great
State receptions of the late King, and the pompous and gorgeous
entertainments of his time, gave way to a state of society in which the
boudoir became of far more importance than the salon, in the artistic
furnishing of a fashionable house. Instead of the majestic grandeur of
immense reception rooms and stately galleries, we have the elegance and
prettiness of the boudoir; and as the reign of the young King advances, we
find the structural enrichment of rooms more free, and busy with redundant
ornament; the curved endive decoration, so common in carved woodwork and
in composition of this period, is seen everywhere; in the architraves, in
the panel mouldings, in the frame of an overdoor, in the design of a
mirror frame; doves, wreaths, Arcadian fountains, flowing scrolls, Cupids,
and heads and busts of women terminating in foliage, are carved or moulded
in relief, on the walls, the doors, and the alcoved recesses of the
reception rooms, either gilded or painted white; and pictures by Watteau,
Lancret, or Boucher, and their schools, are appropriate

[Illustration: Part of a Salon, Decorated in the Louis Quinze style,
showing the carved and gilt Console Table and Mirror, with other
enrichments, _en suite_.]

The furniture was made to agree with this decorative treatment: couches
and easy chairs were designed in more sweeping curves and on a smaller
scale, the woodwork wholly or partially gilt and upholstered, not only
with the tapestry of Gobelins or Beauvais, but with soft colored silk
brocades and brocatelles; light occasional chairs were enriched with
mother-of-pearl or marqueterie; screens were painted with love scenes and
representations of ladies and gentlemen who look as if they passed their
entire existence in the elaboration of their toilettes or the exchange of
compliments; the stately cabinet is modified into the _bombe_ fronted
commode, the ends of which curve outwards with a graceful sweep; and the
bureau is made in a much smaller size, more highly decorated with
marqueterie, and more fancifully mounted to suit the smaller and more
effeminate apartment. The smaller and more elegant cabinets, called
_Bonheur du jour_ (a little cabinet mounted on a table); the small round
occasional table, called a _gueridon_; the _encoignure_, or corner
cabinet; the _etagere_, or ornamental hanging cabinet, with shelves; the
three-fold screen, with each leaf a different height, and with shaped top,
all date from this time. The _chaise a porteur_, or Sedan chair, on which
so much work and taste were expended, became more ornate, so as to fall in
with the prevailing fashion. Marqueterie became more fanciful.

[Illustration: Console Table, Carved and Gilt. (_Collection of M. Double,

The Louis Quinze cabinets were inlaid, not only with natural woods, but
with veneers stained in different tints; and landscapes, interiors,
baskets of flowers, birds, trophies, emblems of all kinds, and quaint
fanciful conceits are pressed into the service of marqueterie decoration.
The most famous artists in this decorative woodwork were Riesener, David
Roentgen (generally spoken of as David), Pasquier. Carlin, Leleu, and
others, whose names will be found in a list in the appendix.

[Illustration: Louis XV. Carved And Gilt "Fauteui." Upholstered with
Beauvais tapestry. Subject from La Fontaine's Fables.]

During the preceding reign the Chinese lacquer ware then in use was
imported from the East, the fashion for collecting which had grown ever
since the Dutch had established a trade with China: and subsequently as
the demand arose for smaller pieces of _meubles de luxe,_ collectors had
these articles taken to pieces, and the slabs of lacquer mounted in
panels to decorate the table, or cabinet, and to display the lacquer.
_Ebenistes_, too, prepared such parts of woodwork as were desired to be
ornamented in this manner, and sent them to China to be coated with
lacquer, a process which was then only known to the Chinese; but this
delay and expense quickened the inventive genius of the European, and it
was found that a preparation of gum and other ingredients applied again
and again, and each time carefully rubbed down, produced a surface which
was almost as lustrous and suitable for decoration as the original
article. A Dutchman named Huygens was the first successful inventor of
this preparation; and, owing to the adroitness of his work, and of those
who followed him and improved his process, one can only detect European
lacquer from Chinese by trifling details in the costumes and foliage of
decoration, not strictly Oriental in character.

[Illustration: Commode. With Panels of fine old Laquer and Mountings by
Caffieri. _Jones Collection, S. Kensington Museum._ Period of Louis XV.]

About 1740-4 the Martin family had three manufactories of this peculiar
and fashionable ware, which became known as Vernis-Martin, or Martins'
Varnish; and it is singular that one of these was in the district of Paris
then and now known as Faubourg Saint Martin. By a special decree a
monopoly was granted in 1744 to Sieur Simon Etienne Martin the younger,
"To manufacture all sorts of work in relief and in the style of Japan and
China." This was to last for twenty years; and we shall see that in the
latter part of the reign of Louis XV., and in that of his successor, the
decoration was not confined to the imitation of Chinese and Japanese
subjects, but the surface was painted in the style of the decorative
artist of the day, both in monochrome and in natural colours; such
subjects as "Cupid Awakening Venus," "The Triumph of Galatea," "Nymphs and
Goddesses," "Garden Scenes," and "Fetes Champetres," being represented in
accordance with the taste of the period. It may be remarked in passing,
that lacquer work was also made previous to this time in England. Several
cabinets of "Old" English lac are included in the Strawberry Hill sale
catalogue; and they were richly mounted with ormolu, in the French style;
this sale took place in 1842. George Robins, so well known for his flowery
descriptions, was the auctioneer; the introduction to the catalogue was
written by Harrison Ainsworth.

[Illustration: In Parqueterie with massive Mountings of Gilt Bronze,
probably by Caffieri, (_Formerly in the Hamilton Palace Collection.
Purchased_ (_Westheims_), L6,247 ICS.) Louis XV. Period.]

The gilt bronze mountings of the furniture became less massive and much
more elaborate: the curled endive ornament was very much in vogue; the
acanthus foliage followed the curves of the commode; busts and heads of
women, cupids, satyrs terminating in foliage, suited the design and
decoration of the more fanciful shapes; and Caffieri, who is the great
master of this beautiful and highly ornate enrichment, introduced Chinese
figures and dragons into his designs. The amount of spirit imparted into
the chasing of this ormolu is simply marvellous--it has never been
equalled and could not be excelled. Time has now mellowed the colour of
the woodwork it adorns; and the tint of the gold with which it is
overlaid, improved by the lights and shadows caused by the high relief of
the work and the consequent darkening of the parts more depressed while
the more prominent ornaments have been rubbed bright from time to time,
produces an effect which is exceedingly elegant and rich. One cannot
wonder that connoisseurs are prepared to pay such large sums for genuine
specimens, or that clever imitations are exceedingly costly to produce.

Illustrations are given from some of the more notable examples of
decorative furniture of this period, which were sold in 1882 at the
celebrated Hamilton Palace sale, together with the sums they realised:
also of specimens in the South Kensington Museum in the Jones Collection.

We must also remember, in considering the _meubles de luxe_ of this time,
that in 1753 Louis XV. had made the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory a State
enterprise; and later, as that celebrated undertaking progressed, tables
and cabinets were ornamented with plaques of the beautiful and choice
_pate tendre_, the delicacy of which was admirably adapted to enrich the
light and frivolous furnishing of the dainty boudoir of a Madame du Barri
or a Madame Pompadour.

Another famous artist in the delicate bronze mountings of the day was
Pierre Gouthiere. He commenced work some years later than Caffieri, being
born in 1740; and, like his senior fellow craftsman, did not confine his
attention to furniture, but exercised his fertility of design, and his
passion for detail, in mounting bowls and vases of jasper, of Sevres and
of Oriental porcelain. The character of his work is less forcible than
that of Caffieri, and comes nearer to what we shall presently recognise as
the Louis Seize, or Marie Antoinette style, to which period his work more
properly belongs: in careful finish of minute details, it more resembles
the fine goldsmith's work of the Renaissance.

[Illustration: Bureau Du Roi. Made for Louis XV. by Riesener. (Collection
of "Mobilier National.") (_From a pen and ink drawing by H. Evans._)
Period: Louis XV.]

Gouthiere was employed extensively by Madame du Barri; and at her
execution, in 1793, he lost the enormous balance of 756,000 francs which
was due to him, but which debt the State repudiated, and the unfortunate
man died in extreme poverty, the inmate of an almshouse.

The designs of the celebrated tapestry of Gobelins and of Beauvais, used
for the covering of the finest furniture of this time, also underwent a
change; and, instead of the representation of the chase, with a bold and
vigorous rendering, we find shepherds and shepherdesses, nymphs and
satyrs, the illustrations of La Fontaine's fables, or renderings of
Boucher's pictures.

Without doubt, the most important example of _meubles de luxe_ of this
reign is the famous "Bureau du Roi," made for Louis XV. in 1769, and which
appears fully described in the inventory of the "Garde Meuble" in the year
1775, under No. 2541. This description is very minute, and is fully quoted
by M. Williamson in his valuable work, "Les Meubles d'Art du Mobilier
National," and occupies no less than thirty-seven lines of printed matter.
Its size is five-and-a-half feet long and three feet deep; the lines are
the perfection of grace and symmetry; the marqueterie is in Riesner's best
manner; the mountings are magnificent--reclining figures, foliage, laurel
wreaths, and swags, chased with rare skill; the back of this famous bureau
is as fully decorated as the front: it is signed "Riesener, f.e., 1769, a
l'arsenal de Paris." Riesener is said to have received the order for this
bureau from the King in 1767, upon the occasion of the marriage of this
favourite Court _ebeniste_ with the widow of his former master Oeben. Its
production therefore would seem to have taken about two years.

This celebrated chef d'oeuvre was in the Tuileries in 1807, and was
included in the inventory found in the cabinet of Napoleon I. It was moved
by Napoleon III. to the Palace of St. Cloud, and only saved from capture
by the Germans by its removal to its present home in the Louvre, in
August, 1870. It is said that it would probably realise, if offered for
sale, between fifteen and twenty thousand pounds. A full-page illustration
of this famous piece of furniture is given.

A similar bureau is in the Hertford (Wallace) collection, which was made
to the order of Stanilaus, King of Poland; a copy executed by Zwiener, a
very clever _ebeniste_ of the present day in Paris, at a cost of some
three thousand pounds, is in the same collection.

Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette.

[Illustration: Boudoir Furnished in the Taste of the Louis XVI. Period.]

It is probable that for some little time previous to the death of Louis
XV., the influence of the beautiful daughter of Maria Theresa on the
fashions of the day was manifested in furniture and its accessories. We
know that Marie Antoinette disliked the pomp and ceremony of Court
functions, and preferred a simpler way of living at the favourite farm
house which was given to her husband as a residence on his marriage, four
years before his accession to the throne; and here she delighted to mix
with the bourgeoise on the terrace at Versailles, or, donning a simple
dress of white muslin, would busy herself in the garden or dairy. There
was, doubtless, something of the affectation of a woman spoiled by
admiration, in thus playing the rustic; still, one can understand that the
best French society, weary of the domination of the late King's
mistresses, with their intrigues, their extravagances, and their
creatures, looked forward, at the death of Louis, with hope and
anticipation to the accession of his grandson and the beautiful young

[Illustration: Part of a Salon. Decorated and furnished in the Louis XVI.

Gradually, under the new regime, architecture became more simple; broken
scrolls are replaced by straight lines, curves and arches only occur when
justifiable, and columns and pilasters reappear in the ornamental facades
of public buildings. Interior decoration necessarily followed suit;
instead of the curled endive scrolls enclosing the irregular panel, and
the superabundant foliage in ornament, we have rectangular panels formed
by simpler mouldings, with broken corners, having a patera or rosette in
each, and between the upright panels there is a pilaster of refined
Renaissance design. In the oval medallions supported by cupids, is found a
domestic scene by a Fragonard or a Chardin; and the portraits of innocent
children by Greuze replace the courting shepherds and mythological
goddesses of Boucher and Lancret. Sculpture, too, becomes more refined and
decorous in its representations.

As with architecture, decoration, painting, and sculpture, so also with
furniture. The designs became more simple, but were relieved from severity
by the amount of ornament, which, except in some cases where it is
over-elaborate, was properly subordinate to the design and did not control

Mr. Hungerford Pollen attributes this revival of classic taste to the
discoveries of ancient treasures in Herculaneum and Pompeii, but as these
occurred in the former city so long before the time we are discussing as
the year 1711, and in the latter in 1750, these can scarcely be the
immediate cause; the reason most probably is that a reversion to simpler
and purer lines came as a relief and reaction from the over-ornamentation
of the previous period. There are not wanting, however, in some of the
decorated ornaments of the time, distinct signs of the influence of these
discoveries. Drawings and reproductions from frescoes, found in these old
Italian cities, were in the possession of the draughtsmen and designers of
the time; and an instance in point of their adaptation is to be seen in
the small boudoir of the Marquise de Serilly, one of the maids of honour
to Marie Antoinette. The decorative woodwork of this boudoir is fitted up
in the Kensington Museum.

A notable feature in the ornament of woodwork and in metal mountings of
this time, is a fluted pilaster with quills or husks filling the flutings
some distance from the base, or starting from both base and top and
leaving an interval of the hollow fluting plain and free. An example of
this will be seen in the next woodcut of a cabinet in the Jones
collection, which has also the familiar "Louis Seize" riband surmounting
the two oval Sevres china plaques. When the flutings are in oak, in rich
mahogany, or painted white, these husks are gilt, and the effect is chaste
and pleasing. Variation was introduced into the gilding of frames by
mixing silver with some portion of the gold so as to produce two tints,
red gold and green gold; the latter would be used for wreaths and
accessories, while the former, or ordinary gilding, was applied to the
general surface. The legs of tables are generally fluted, as noticed
above, tapering towards the feet, and are relieved from a stilted
appearance by being connected by a stretcher.

[Illustration: Marqueterie Cabinet. With Plaques of Sevres China (_In the
Jones Collection, South Kensington Museum._)]

[Illustration: Writing Table. Made by Riesener for Marie Antoinette.
Collection "Mobilier National." (_From a-pen and ink drawing by H.
Evans._) Period: Late Louis XV.]

There occurs in M. Williamson's valuable contribution to the literature
of our subject ("_Les Meubles d'Art du Mobilier National_,") an
interesting illustration of the gradual alterations which we are noticing
as having taken place in the design of furniture. This is a small writing
table, some 3 ft. 6 in. long, made during the reign of Louis XV., but
quite in the Marie Antoinette style, the legs tapering and fluted, the
frieze having in the centre a plaque of _bronze dore_, the subject being a
group of cupids, representing the triumph of Poetry, and on each side a
scroll with a head and foliage (the only ornament characteristic of Louis
Quinze style) connecting leg and frieze. M. Williamson quotes verbatim the
memorandum of which this was the subject. It was made for the Trianon and
the date is just one year after Marie Antoinette's marriage:--"Memoire des
ouvrages faits et livres, par les ordres de Monsieur le Chevalier de
Fontanieu, pour le garde meuble du Roy par Riesener, ebeniste a l'arsenal
Paris," savoir Sept. 21, 1771; and then follows a fully detailed
description of the table, with its price, which was 6,000 francs, or L240.
There is a full page illustration of this table.

The maker of this piece of furniture was the same Riesener whose
masterpiece is the magnificent _Bureau du Roi_ which we have already
alluded to in the Louvre. This celebrated _ebeniste_ continued to work for
Marie Antoinette for about twenty years, until she quitted Versailles, and
he probably lived quite to the end of the century, for during the
Revolution we find that he served on the Special Commission appointed by
the National Convention to decide which works of Art should be retained
and which should be sold, out of the mass of treasure confiscated after
the deposition and execution of the King.

Riesener's designs do not show much fertility, but his work is highly
finished and elaborate. His method was generally to make the centre panel
of a commode front, or the frieze of a table, a _tour de force_, the
marqueterie picture being wonderfully delicate. The subject was generally
a vase with fruits and flowers; the surface of the side panels inlaid with
diamond-shaped lozenges, or a small diaper pattern in marqueterie; and
then a framework of rich ormolu would separate the panels. The centre
panel had sometimes a richer frame. His famous commode, made for the
Chateau of Fontainebleau, which cost a million francs (L4,000)--an
enormous sum in those days--is one of his _chefs d'oeuvre_, and this is an
excellent example of his style. A similar commode was sold in the Hamilton
Palace sale for L4,305. An upright secretaire, _en suite_ with the
commode, was also sold at the same time for L4,620, and the writing table
for L6,000. An illustration of the latter is on the following page, but
the details of this elaborate gem of cabinet maker's work, and of
Gouthiere's skill in mounting, are impossible to reproduce in a woodcut.
It is described as follows in Christie's catalogue:--

"Lot 303. An oblong writing table, _en suite_, with drawer fitted with
inkstand, writing slide and shelf beneath; an oval medallion of a trophy
and flowers on the top, and trophies with four medallions round the sides:
stamped T. Riesener and branded underneath with cypher of Marie
Antoinette, and _Garde Meuble de la Reine_." There is no date on the
table, but the secretaire is stamped 1790, and the commode 1791. If we
assume that the table was produced in 1792, these three specimens, which
have always been regarded as amongst the most beautiful work of the reign,
were almost the last which the unfortunate Queen lived to see completed.

[Illustration: The "Marie Antoinette" Writing Table. (_Formerly in the
Hamilton Palace Collection._)]

[Illustration: Bedstead of Marie Antoinette, From Fontainebleau.
Collection "Mobilier National." (_From a pen and ink drawing by H.
Evans._) Period: Louis XVI.]

The fine work of Riesener required the mounting of an artist of quite
equal merit, and in Gouthiere he was most fortunate. There is a famous
clock case in the Hertford collection, fully signed "Gouthiere, ciseleur
et doreur du roi a Paris Quai Pelletier, a la Boucle d'or, 1771." He
worked, however, chiefly in conjunction with Riesener and David Roentgen
for the decoration of their marqueterie.

In the Louvre are some beautiful examples of this co-operative work; and
also of cabinets in which plaques of very fine black and gold lacquer take
the place of marqueterie; the centre panel being a finely chased oval
medallion of Gouthiere's gilt bronze, with caryatides figures of the same
material at the ends supporting the cornice.

[Illustration: Cylinder Secretaire, In Marqueterie, with Bronze Gilt
Mountings, by Gouthiere. (_Mr. Alfred de Rothschild's Collection._)
Period: Louis XVI.]

A specimen of this kind of work (an upright secretaire, of which we have
not been able to obtain a satisfactory representation) formed part of the
Hamilton Palace collection, and realised L9,450, the highest price which
the writer has ever seen a single piece of furniture bring by auction; it
must be regarded as the _chef d'oeuvre_ of Gouthiere.

In the Jones Collection, at South Kensington, there are also several
charming examples of Louis Seize _meubles de luxe_. Some of these are
enriched with plaques of Sevres porcelain, which treatment is better
adapted to the more jewel-like mounting of this time than to the rococo
style in vogue during the preceding reign.

[Illustration: Arm Chair In Louis XVI. Style.]

The upholstered furniture became simpler in design; the sofas and chairs
have generally, but not invariably, straight fluted tapering legs, but
these sometimes have the flutings spiral instead of perpendicular, and the
backs are either oval or rectangular, and ornamented with a carved riband
which is represented as tied at the top in a lover's knot. Gobelins,
Beauvais, and Aubusson tapestry are used for covering, the subjects being
in harmony with the taste of the time. A sofa in this style, with settees
at the ends, the frame elaborately carved with trophies of arrows and
flowers in high relief, and covered with fine old Gobelins tapestry, was
sold at the Hamilton Palace sale for L1,176. This was formerly at
Versailles. Beautiful silks and brocades were also extensively used both
for chairs and for the screens, which at this period were varied in design
and extremely pretty. Small two-tier tables of tulip wood with delicate
mountings were quite the rage, and small occasional pieces, the legs of
which, like those of the chairs, are occasionally curved. An excellent
example of a piece with cabriole legs is the charming little Marie
Antoinette cylinder-fronted marqueterie escritoire in the Jones Collection
(illustrated below). The marqueterie is attributed to Riesener, but, from
its treatment being so different from that which he adopted as an almost
invariable rule, it is more probably the work of David.

[Illustration: Carved and Gilt Causeuse or Settee, and Fauteuil or Arm
Chair, Covered with Beauvais tapestry. (Collection "Mobilier National.")
(_From a pen and ink drawing by H. Evans._) Period: End of Louis XVI.]

[Illustration: Carved and Gilt Canape or Sofa. Covered with Beauvais
tapestry. (Colection "Mobilier Natioanal.") Period: End of Louis XVI.]

Another fine specimen illustrated on page 170 is the small cabinet made
of kingwood, with fine ormolu mounts, and some beautiful Sevres plaques.

[Illustration: Marqueterie Escritoire. By Davis, said to have belonged to
Marie Antoinette. (_Jones Collection, South Kensington Museum._)]

The influence exercised by the splendour of the Court of Louis Quatorze,
and by the bringing together of artists and skilled handicraftsmen for the
adornment of the palaces of France, which we have seen took place during
the latter half of the seventeenth century, was not without its effect
upon the Industrial Arts of other countries. Macaulay mentions the "bales
of tapestry" and other accessories which were sent to Holland to fit up
the camp quarters of Louis le Grand when he went there to take the
command of his army against William III., and he also tells us of the
sumptuous furnishing of the apartments at St. Germains when James II.,
during his exile, was the guest of Louis. The grandeur of the French King
impressed itself upon his contemporaries, and war with Germany, as well as
with Holland and England, helped to spread this influence. We have noticed
how Wren designed the additions to Hampton Court Palace in imitation of
Versailles; and in the chapter which follows this, it will be seen that
the designs of Chippendale were really reproductions of French furniture
of the time of Louis Quinze. The King of Sweden, Charles XII., "the Madman
of the North," as he was called, imitated his great French contemporary,
and in the Palace at Stockholm there are still to be seen traces of the
Louis Quatorze style in decoration and in furniture; such adornments are
out of keeping with the simplicity of the habits of the present Royal
family of Sweden.

A Bourbon Prince, too, succeeded to the throne of Spain in 1700, and there
are still in the palaces and picture galleries of Madrid some fine
specimens of French furniture of the three reigns which have just been
discussed. It may be taken, therefore, that from the latter part of the
seventeenth century the dominant influence upon the design of decorative
furniture was of French origin.

There is evidence of this in a great many examples of the work of Flemish,
German, English, and Spanish cabinet makers, and there are one or two
which may be easily referred to which it is worth while to mention.

One of these is a corner cupboard of rosewood, inlaid with engraved
silver, part of the design being a shield with the arms of an Elector of
Cologne; there is also a pair of somewhat similar cabinets from the
Bishop's Palace at Salzburg. These are of German work, early eighteenth
century, and have evidently been designed after Boule's productions. The
shape and the gilt mounts of a secretaire of walnutwood with inlay of
ebony and ivory, and some other furniture which, with the other specimens
just described, may be seen in the Bethnal Green Museum, all manifest the
influence of the French school, when the bombe-fronted commodes and curved
lines of chair and table came into fashion.

Having described somewhat in detail the styles which prevailed and some of
the changes which occurred in France, from the time of Louis XIV. until
the Revolution, it is unnecessary for the purposes of this sketch, to do
more than briefly refer to the work of those countries which may be said
to have adopted, to a greater or less extent, French designs. For reasons
already stated, an exception is made in the case of our own country; and
the following chapter will be devoted to the furniture of some of the
English designers and makers of the latter half of the eighteenth century.
Of Italy it may be observed generally that the Renaissance of Raffaele,
Leonardo da Vinci, and Michael Angelo, which we have seen became
degenerate towards the end of the sixteenth century, relapsed still
further during the period which we have been discussing, and although the
freedom and grace of the Italian carving, and the elaboration of inlaid
arabesques, must always have some merit of their own, the work of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Italy will compare very
unfavourably with that of the earlier period of the Renaissance.

[Illustration: A Norse Interior, Shewing Chairs of Dutch Design. Period:
Late XVII. or Early XVIII. Century.]

There are many other museum specimens which might be referred to to prove
the influence of French design of the seventeenth and subsequent centuries
on that of other countries. The above illustration of a Norse interior
shews that this influence penetrated as far as Scandinavia; for while the
old-fashioned box-like bedsteads which the Norwegians had retained from
early times, and which in a ruder form are still to be found in the
cottages of many Scottish counties, especially of those where the
Scandinavian connection existed, is a characteristic mark of the country,
the design of the two chairs is an evidence of the innovations which had
been made upon native fashions. These chairs are in style thoroughly
Dutch, of about the end of the seventeenth or early in the eighteenth
century; the cabriole legs and shell ornaments were probably the direct
result of the influence of the French on the Dutch. The woodcut is from a
drawing of an old house in Norwav.

[Illustration: Secretaire, In King and Tulip Wood, with Sevres Plaques and
Ormolu Mountings. Period: Early Louis XVI.]

It would be unfitting to close this chapter on French furniture without
paying a tribute to the munificence and public spirit of Mr. John Jones,
whose bequest to the South Kensington Museum constitutes in itself a
representative Museum of this class of decorative furniture. Several of
the illustrations in this chapter have been taken from this collection.

In money value alone, the collection of furniture, porcelain, bronzes,
and _articles de vertu,_ mostly of the period embraced within the limits
of this chapter, amounts to about L400,000, and exceeds the value of any
bequest the nation has ever had. Perhaps the references contained in these
few pages to the French furniture of this time may stimulate the interest
of the public in, and its appreciation of, this valuable national

[Illustration: Clock, By Robin, in Marqueterie Case, with Mountings of
Gilt Bronze, (_Jones Collection. South Kensington Museum._) Louis XVI.

Soon after this generous bequest was placed in the South Kensington
Museum, for the benefit of the public, a leading article appeared in the
_Times_, from which the following extract will very appropriately conclude
this chapter:--"As the visitor passes by the cases where these curious
objects are displayed, he asks himself what is to be said on behalf of the
art of which they are such notable examples." Tables, chairs, commodes,
secretaires, wardrobes, porcelain vases, marble statuettes, they represent
in a singularly complete way the mind and the work of the _ancien regime_.
Like Eisen's vignettes, or the _contes_ of innumerable story-tellers, they
bring back to us the grace, the luxury, the prettiness, the frivolity of
that Court which believed itself, till the rude awakening came, to contain
all that was precious in the life of France. A piece of furniture like the
little Sevres-inlaid writing table of Marie Antoinette is, to employ a
figure of Balzac's, a document which reveals as much to the social
historian as the skeleton of an ichthyosaurus reveals to the
palaeontologist. It sums up an epoch. A whole world can be inferred from
it. Pretty, elegant, irrational, and entirely useless, this exquisite and
costly toy might stand as a symbol for the life which the Revolution swept

[Illustration: Harpsichord, from the Permanent Collection belonging to
South Kensington Museum. Date: About 1750.]

[Illustration: Italian Sedan Chair. Used at the Baptism of the Grand
Ducal Family of Tuscany, now in the South Kensington Museum. Period:
Latter Half of XVIII. Century.]

Chapter VII.

Chippendale and his Contemporaries.

Chinese style--Sir William Chambers--The Brothers Adams'
work--Pergelesi, 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.

Soon after the second half of the eighteenth century had set in, during
the latter days of the second George, and the early part of his
successor's long reign, there is a distinct change in the design of
English decorative furniture.

Sir William Chambers, R.A., an architect, who has left us Somerset House
as a lasting monument of his talent, appears to have been the first to
impart to the interior decoration, of houses what was termed "the Chinese
style," after his visit to China, of which a notice was made in the
chapter on Eastern furniture: and as he was considered an "oracle of
taste" about this time, his influence was very powerful. Chair backs
consequently have the peculiar irregular lattice work which is seen in the
fretwork of Chinese and Japanese ornaments, and Pagodas, Chinamen and
monsters occur in his designs for cabinets. The overmantel which had
hitherto been designed with some architectural pretension, now gave way to
the larger mirrors which were introduced by the improved manufacture of
plate glass: and the chimney piece became lower. During his travels in
Italy, Chambers had found some Italian sculptors, and had brought them to
England, to carve in marble his designs; they were generally of a free
Italian character, with scrolls of foliage and figure ornaments: but being
of stone instead of woodwork, would scarcely belong to our subject, save
to indicate the change in fashion of the chimney piece, the vicissitudes
of which we have already noticed. Chimney pieces were now no longer
specially designed by architects, as part of the interior fittings, but
were made and sold with the grates, to suit the taste of the purchaser,
often quite irrespective of the rooms for which they were intended. It may
be said that Dignity gave way to Elegance.

Robert Adam, having returned from his travels in France and Italy, had
designed and built, in conjunction with his brother James, Adelphi Terrace
about 1769, and subsequently Portland Place, and other streets and houses
of a like character; the furniture being made, under the direction of
Robert, to suit the interiors. There is much interest attaching to No. 25,
Portland Place, because this was the house built, decorated and furnished
by Robert Adam for his own residence, and, fortunately, the chief
reception rooms remain to shew the style then in vogue. The brothers Adam
introduced into England the application of composition ornaments to
woodwork. Festoons of drapery, wreaths of flowers caught up with rams'
heads, or of husks tied with a knot of riband, and oval pateroe to mark
divisions in a frieze, or to emphasize a break in the design, are
ornaments characteristic of what was termed the Adams style.

Robert Adam published between 1778 and 1822 three magnificent volumes,
"Works on Architecture." One of these was dedicated to King George III.,
to whom he was appointed architect. Many of his designs for furniture were
carried out by Gillows; there is a good collection of his original
drawings in the Soane Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields.

The decoration was generally in low relief, with fluted pilasters, and
sometimes a rather stiff Renaissance ornament decorating the panel; the
effect was neat and chaste, and a distinct change from the rococo style
which had preceded it.

The design of furniture was modified to harmonize with such decoration.
The sideboard had a straight and not infrequently a serpentine-shaped
front, with square tapering legs, and was surmounted by a pair of
urn-shaped knife cases, the wood used being almost invariably mahogany,
with the inlay generally of plain flutings relieved by fans or oval
pateroe in satin wood.

Pergolesi, Cipriani and Angelica Kaufmann had been attracted to England by
the promise of lucrative employment, and not only decorated the panels of
ceilings and walls which were enriched by Adams' "_compo_'" (in reality a
revival of the old Italian gesso work), but also painted the ornamental
cabinets, occasional tables, and chairs of the time.

[Illustration: Fac-simile of Original Drawings by Robert Adam (Reduced).]

Towards the end of the century, satin wood was introduced into England
from the East Indies; it became very fashionable, and was a favourite
ground-work for decoration, the medallions of figure subjects, generally
of cupids, wood-nymphs, or illustrations of mythological fables on darker
coloured wood, formed an effective relief to the yellow satin wood.
Sometimes the cabinet, writing table, or spindle-legged occasional piece,
was made entirely of this wood, having no other decoration beyond the
beautiful marking of carefully chosen veneers; sometimes it was banded
with tulipwood or harewood (a name given to sycamore artificially
stained), and at other times painted as just described. A very beautiful
example of this last named treatment is the dressing table in the South
Kensington Museum, which we give as an illustration, and which the
authorities should not, in the writer's opinion, have labelled

Besides Chambers, there were several other architects who designed
furniture about this time who have been almost forgotten. Abraham Swan,
some of whose designs for wooden chimney pieces in the quasi-classic style
are given, flourished about 1758. John Carter, who published "Specimens of
Ancient Sculpture and Painting"; Nicholas Revitt and James Stewart, who
jointly published "Antiquities of Athens" in 1762; J.C. Kraft, who
designed in the Adams' style; W. Thomas, M.S.A., and others, have left us
many drawings of interior decorations, chiefly chimney pieces and the
ornamental architraves of doors, all of them in low relief and of a
classical character, as was the fashion towards the end of the eighteenth

Josiah Wedgwood, too, turned his attention to the production of plaques in
relief, for adaptation to chimney pieces of this character. In a letter
written from London to Mr. Bentley, his partner, at the works, he deplores
the lack of encouragement in this direction which he received from the
architects of his day; he, however, persevered, and by the aid of
Flaxman's inimitable artistic skill as a modeller, made several plaques of
his beautiful Jasper ware, which were let in to the friezes of chimney
pieces, and also into other wood-work. There can be seen in the South
Kensington Museum a pair of pedestals of this period (1770-1790) so

It is now necessary to consider the work of a group of English cabinet
makers, who not only produced a great deal of excellent furniture, but who
also published a large number of designs drawn with extreme care and a
considerable degree of artistic skill.

The first of these and the best known was Thomas Chippendale, who appears
to have succeeded his father, a chair maker, and to have carried on a
large and successful business in St. Martin's Lane, which was at this time
an important Art centre, and close to the newly-founded Royal Academy.

[Illustration: English Satinwood Dressing Table. With Painted Decoration.
End of XVIII. Century.]

[Illustration: Chimneypiece and Overmantel. Designed by W. Thomas,
Architect. 1783. Very similar to Robert Adam's work.]

Chippendale published "The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director," not,
as stated in the introduction to the catalogue to the South Kensington
Museum, in 1769, but some years previously, as is testified by a copy of
the "third edition" of the work which is in the writer's possession and
bears date 1762, the first edition having appeared in 1754. The title page
of this edition is reproduced in _fac simile_ on page 178.

[Illustration: Chairs, With ornament in the Chinese style, by Thomas

This valuable work of reference contains over two hundred copperplate
engravings of chairs, sofas, bedsteads, mirror frames, girandoles,
torcheres or lamp stands, dressing tables, cabinets, chimney pieces,
organs, jardinieres, console tables, brackets, and other useful and
decorative articles, of which some examples are given. It will be observed
from these, that the designs of Chippendale are very different from those
popularly ascribed to him. Indeed, it would appear that this maker has
become better known than any other, from the fact of the designs in his
book being recently republished in various forms; his popularity has thus
been revived, while the names of his contemporaries are forgotten. For the
last fifteen or twenty years, therefore, during which time the fashion has
obtained of collecting the furniture of a bygone century, almost every
cabinet, table, or mirror-frame, presumably of English manufacture, which
is slightly removed from the ordinary type of domestic furniture, has
been, for want of a better title, called "Chippendale." As a matter of
fact, he appears to have adopted from Chambers the fanciful Chinese
ornament, and the rococo style of that time, which was superseded some
five-and-twenty years later by the quieter and more classic designs of
Adam and his contemporaries.

[Illustration: _Fac-Simile of the Title Page of Chippendale's "Director."
(Reduced by Photography.) The Original is in Folio Size_.

Being a large COLLECTION of the

Including a great VARIETY of

private Rooms, or Churches, DESKS, and


Proper DIRECTIONS for executing the most difficult Pieces, the
Mouldings being exhibited at large, and the Dimensions of each DESIGN

The Whole comprehended in Two HUNDRED COPPER-PLATES, neatly engraved.

Calculated to improve and refine the present TASTE, and suited to the
Fancy and Circumstances of Persons in all Degrees of Life.

CABINET-MAKER and UPHOLSTERER, in St. Martin's Lane, London.



Printed for the AUTHOR, and sold at his House, in St. Martin's Lane;
Also by T. BECKET and P.A. DeHONDT, in the Strand.


[Illustration: Fac-simile of a Page in Chippendale's "Director." (The
original is folio size.)]

[Illustration: Tea Caddy, Carved in the French style. (From Chippendale's

In the chapter on Louis XV. and Louis XVI. furniture, it has been shewn
how France went through a similar change about this same period. In
Chippendale's chairs and console tables, in his state bedsteads and his
lamp-stands, one can recognise the broken scrolls and curved lines, so
familiar in the bronze mountings of Caffieri. The influence of the change
which had occurred in France during the Louis Seize period is equally
evident in the Adams' treatment. It was helped forward by the migration
into this country of skilled workmen from France, during the troubles of
the revolution at the end of the century. Some of Chippendale's designs
bear such titles as "French chairs" or a "Bombe-fronted Commode." These
might have appeared as illustrations in a contemporary book on French
furniture, so identical are they in every detail with the carved woodwork
of Picau, of Cauner, or of Nilson, who designed the flamboyant frames of
the time of Louis XV. Others have more individuality. In his mirror frames
he introduced a peculiar bird with a long snipe-like beak, and rather
impossible wings, an imitation of rockwork and dripping water, Chinese
figures with pagodas and umbrellas; and sometimes the illustration of
Aesop's fables interspersed with scrolls and flowers. By dividing the
glass unequally, by the introduction into his design of bevelled pillars
with carved capitals and bases, he produced a quaint and pleasing effect,
very suitable to the rather effeminate fashion of his time, and in harmony
with three-cornered hats, wigs and patches, embroidered waistcoats, knee
breeches, silk stockings, and enamelled snuff-boxes. In some of the
designs there is a fanciful Gothic, to which he makes special allusion in
his preface, as likely to be considered by his critics as impracticable,
but which he undertakes to produce, if desired--

"Though some of the profession have been diligent enough to represent
them (espescially those after the Gothick and Chinese manner) as so
many specious drawings impossible to be worked off by any mechanick
whatsoever. I will not scruple to attribute this to Malice, Ignorance,
and Inability; and I am confident I can convince all Noblemen,
Gentlemen, or others who will honour me with their Commands, that every
design in the book can be improved, both as to Beauty and Enrichment,
in the execution of it, by

"Their most obedient servant,


[Illustration: A Bureau, From Chippendale's "Director."]

The reader will notice that in the examples selected from Chippendale's
book there are none of those fretwork tables and cabinets which are
generally termed "Chippendale." We know, however, that besides the designs
which have just been described, and which were intended for gilding, he
also made mahogany furniture, and in the "Director" there are drawings of
chairs, washstands, writing-tables and cabinets of this description.
Fretwork is very rarely seen, but the carved ornament is generally a
foliated or curled endive scroll; sometimes the top of a cabinet is
finished in the form of a Chinese pagoda. Upon examining a piece of
furniture that may reasonably be ascribed to him, it will be found of
excellent workmanship, and the wood, always mahogany without any inlay, is
richly marked, shewing a careful selection of material.

[Illustration: Fac-simile of a Page In Chippendale's "Director." (The
original is folio size.)]

[Illustration: "French" Commode and Lamp Stands. Designed by T.
Chippendale, and Published in His "Director."]

[Illustration: Fac-simile of a Page in Chippendale's "Director." (The
original is folio size.)]

[Illustration: Chimneypiece and Mirror. Designed By T. Chippendale, and
Published in His "Director."]


The chairs of Chippendale and his school are very characteristic. If the
outline of the back of some of them be compared with the stuffed back of
the chair from Hardwick Hall (illustrated in Chap. IV.) it will be seen
that the same lines occur, but instead of the frame of the back being
covered with silk, tapestry, or other material--as in William III.'s
time--Chippendale's are cut open into fanciful patterns; and in his more
highly ornate work, the twisted ribands of his design are scarcely to be
reconciled with the use for which a dining room chair is intended. The
well-moulded sweep of his lines, however, counterbalances this defect to
some extent, and a good Chippendale mahogany chair will ever be an elegant
and graceful article of furniture.

One of the most graceful chairs of about the middle of the century, in the
style of Chippendale's best productions, is the Master's Chair in the Hall
of the Barbers' Company. Carved in rich Spanish mahogany, and upholstered
in morocco leather, the ornament consists of scrolls and cornucopiae, with
flowers charmingly disposed, the arms and motto of the Company being
introduced. Unfortunately, there is no certain record as to the designer
and maker of this beautiful chair, and it is to be regretted that the date
(1865), the year when the Hall was redecorated, should have been placed in
prominent gold letters on this interesting relic of a past century.

[Illustration: Clock Case, by Chippendale.]

Apart from the several books of design noticed in this chapter, there were
published two editions of a work, undated, containing many of the drawings
found in Chippendale's book. This book was entitled, "Upwards of One
Hundred New and Genteel Designs, being all the most approved patterns of
household furniture in the French taste. By a Society of Upholders and
Cabinet makers." It is probable that Chippendale was a member of this
Society, and that some of the designs were his, but that he severed
himself from it and published his own book, preferring to advance his
individual reputation. The "sideboard" which one so generally hears called
"Chippendale" scarcely existed in his time. If it did, it must have been
quite at the end of his career. There were side tables, sometimes called
"Side-Boards," but they contained neither cellaret nor cupboard: only a
drawer for table linen.

The names of two designers and makers of mahogany ornamental furniture,
which deserve to be remembered equally with Chippendale, are those of W.
Ince and J. Mayhew, who were partners in business in Broad Street, Golden
Square, and contemporary with him. They also published a book of designs
which is alluded to by Thomas Sheraton in the preface to his "Cabinet
Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book," published in 1793. A few examples
from Ince and Mayhew's "Cabinet Maker's Real Friend and Companion" are
given, from which it is evident that, without any distinguishing brand, or
without the identification of the furniture with the designs, it is

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