Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Illustrated History of Furniture by Frederick Litchfield

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

difficult to distinguish between the work of these contemporary makers.

It is, however, noticeable after careful comparison of the work of
Chippendale with that of Ince and Mayhew, that the furniture designed and
made by the latter has many more of the characteristic details and
ornaments which are generally looked upon as denoting the work of
Chippendale; for instance, the fretwork ornaments finished by the carver,
and then applied to the plain mahogany, the open-work scroll-shaped backs
to encoignures or china shelves, and the carved Chinaman with the pagoda.
Some of the frames of chimney glasses and pictures made by Ince and Mayhew
are almost identical with those of Chippendale.

Other well known designers and manufacturers of this time were
Hepplewhite, who published a book of designs very similar to those of his
contemporaries, and Matthias Lock, some of whose original drawings were on
view in the Exhibition of 1862, and had interesting memoranda attached,
giving the names of his workmen and the wages paid: from these it appears
that five shillings a day was at that time sufficient remuneration for a
skilful wood carver.

Another good designer and maker of much excellent furniture of this time
was "Shearer," who has been unnoticed by nearly all writers on the
subject. In an old book of designs in the author's possession, "Shearer
delin" and "published according to Act of Parliament, 1788," appears
underneath the representations of sideboards, tables, bookcases, dressing
tables, which are very similar in every way to those of Sheraton, his

A copy of Hepplewhite's book, in the author's possession (published in
1789), contains 300 designs "of every article of household furniture in
the newest and most approved taste," and it is worth while to quote from
his preface to illustrate the high esteem in which English cabinet work
was held at this time.

[Illustration: China Shelves, Designed by W. Ince. (Reproduced by
Photography from an old Print in the Author's Possession.)]

[Illustration: Girandoles and Pier Table, Designed by W. Thomas,
Architect, 1783. (Reproduced by Photography from an old Print in the
Author's possession.)]

"English taste and workmanship have of late years been much sought for by
surrounding nations; and the mutability of all things, but more especially
of fashions, has rendered the labours of our predecessors in this line of
little use; nay, in this day can only tend to mislead those foreigners who
seek a knowledge of English taste in the various articles of household

It is amusing to think how soon the "mutabilities of fashion" did for a
time supersede many of his designs.

A selection of designs from his book is given, and it will be useful to
compare them with those of other contemporary makers. From such a
comparison it will be seen that in the progress from the rococo of
Chippendale to the more severe lines of Sheraton, Hepplewhite forms a
connecting link between the two.

[Illustration: Toilet Glass.

Urn Stand.

(_From "Hepplewhite's Guide"._)]

The names given to some of these designs appear curious; for instance:

"Rudd's table or reflecting dressing table," so called from the first one
having been invented for a popular character of that time.

"Knife cases," for the reception of the knives which were kept in them,
and used to "garnish" the sideboards.

"Cabriole chair," implying a stuffed back, and not having reference, as it
does now, to the curved form of the leg.

"Bar backed sofa," being what we should now term a three or four chair
settee, i.e., like so many chairs joined and having an arm at either

"Library case" instead of Bookcase.

"Confidante" and "Duchesse," which were sofas of the time.

"Gouty stool," a stool having an adjustable top.

"Tea chest," "Urn stand," and other names which have now disappeared from
ordinary use in describing similar articles.

[Illustration: Ladies' Secretaires, Designed by W. Ince. (Reproduced by
Photography from an old Print in the Author's possession.)]

[Illustration: Parlour Chairs, Designed by W. Ince.]

[Illustration: Desk and Bookcase, Designed by W. Ince. (Reproduced by
Photography from an old Print in the Author's possession.)]

[Illustration: China Cabinet, Designed by J. Mayhew. (Reproduced from an
old Print in the Author's possession).]

[Illustration: "Dressing Chairs," Designed by J. Mayhew. These shew the
influence of Sir W. Chamber's Chinese style.]

Hepplewhite had a _specialite_, to which he alludes in his book, and of
which he gives several designs. This was his japanned or painted
furniture: the wood was coated with a preparation after the manner of
Chinese or Japanese lacquer, and then decorated, generally with gold on a
black ground, the designs being in fruits and flowers: and also medallions
painted in the style of Cipriani and Angelica Kauffmann. Subsequently,
furniture of this character, instead of being japanned, was only painted
white. It is probable that many of the chairs of this time which one sees,
of wood of inferior quality, and with scarcely any ornament, were
originally decorated in the manner just described, and therefore the
"carving" of details would have been superfluous. Injury to the enamelling
by wear and tear was most likely the cause of their being stripped of
their rubbed and partly obliterated decorations, and they were then
stained and polished, presenting an appearance which is scarcely just to
the designer and manufacturer.

In some of Hepplewhite's chairs, too, as in those of Sheraton, one may
fancy one sees evidence of the squabbles of two fashionable factions of
this time, "the Court party" and the "Prince's party," the latter having
the well known Prince of Wales' plumes very prominent, and forming the
ornamental support of the back of the chair. Another noticeable enrichment
is the carving of wheat ears on the shield shape backs of the chairs.

"The plan of a room shewing the proper distribution of the furniture,"
appears on p. 193 to give an idea of the fashion of the day; it is evident
from the large looking glass which overhangs the sideboard that the
fashion had now set in to use these mirrors. Some thirty or forty year
later this mirror became part of the sideboard, and in some large and
pretentious designs which we have seen, the sideboard itself was little
better than a support for a huge glass in a heavily carved frame.

The dining tables of this period deserve a passing notice as a step in the
development of that important member of our "Lares and Penates." What was
and is still called the "pillar and claw" table, came into fashion towards
the end of last century. It consisted of a round or square top supported
by an upright cylinder, which rested on a plinth having three, or
sometimes four, feet carved as claws. In order to extend these tables for
a larger number of guests, an arrangement was made for placing several
together. When apart, they served as pier or side tables, and some of
these--the two end ones, being semi-circular--may still be found in some
of our old inns.[17]

[Illustration: Tea Tray.]

[Illustration: Girandole.]

[Illustration: Tea Tray.]

[Illustration: Parlour Chair, with Prince Of Wales' Plumes.]

[Illustration: Pier Table.]

[Illustration: Parlour Chair.]

[Illustration: Designs of Furniture. From Hepplewhite's "Guide," Published

[Illustration: Fac-simile of a Page in Hepplewhite's "Cabinet Maker's
Guide." Published In 1787.]

It was not until 1800 that Richard Gillow, of the well-known firm in
Oxford Street, invented and patented the convenient telescopic contrivance
which, with slight improvements, has given us the table of the present
day. The term still used by auctioneers in describing a modern extending
table as "a set of dining tables," is, probably, a survival of the older
method of providing for a dinner party. Gillow's patent is described as
"an improvement in the method of constructing dining and other tables
calculated to reduce the number of legs, pillars and claws, and to
facilitate and render easy, their enlargement and reduction."

[Illustration: Inlaid Tea Caddy and Top of Pier Tables. (_From
"Hepplewhite's Guide"_)]

As an interesting link between the present and the past it may be useful
here to introduce a slight notice of this well-known firm of furniture
manufacturers, for which the writer is indebted to Mr. Clarke, one of the
present partners of Gillows. "We have an unbroken record of books dating
from 1724, but we existed long anterior to this: all records were
destroyed during the Scottish Rebellion in 1745." The house originated in
Lancaster, which was then the chief port in the north, Liverpool not being
in existence at the time, and Gillows exported furniture largely to the
West Indies, importing rum as payment, for which privilege they held a
special charter. The house opened in London in 1765, and for some time the
Lancaster books bore the heading and inscription, "Adventure to London."
On the architect's plans for the premises now so well-known in Oxford
Street, occur these words, "This is the way to Uxbridge." Mr. Clarke's
information may be supplemented by adding that from Dr. Gillow, whom the
writer had the pleasure of meeting some years ago, and was the thirteenth
child of the Richard Gillow before mentioned; he learnt that this same
Richard Gillow retired in 1830, and died as late as 1866 at the age of 90.
Dowbiggin, founder of the firm of Holland and Sons, was an apprentice to
Richard Gillow.

Mahogany may be said to have come into general use subsequent to 1720,
and its introduction is asserted to have been due to the tenacity of
purpose of a Dr. Gibbon, whose wife wanted a candle box, an article of
common domestic use of the time. The Doctor, who had laid by in the garden
of his house in King Street, Covent Garden, some planks sent to him by his
brother, a West Indian captain, asked the joiner to use a part of the wood
for this purpose; it was found too tough and hard for the tools of the
period, but the Doctor was not to be thwarted, and insisted on
harder-tempered tools being found, and the task completed; the result was
the production of a candle box which was admired by every one. He then
ordered a bureau of the same material, and when it was finished invited
his friends to see the new work; amongst others, the Duchess of Buckingham
begged a small piece of the precious wood, and it soon became the fashion.
On account of its toughness, and peculiarity of grain, it was capable of
treatment impossible with oak, and the high polish it took by oil and
rubbing (not French polish, a later invention), caused it to come into
great request. The term "putting one's knees under a friend's mahogany,"
probably dates from about this time.

[Illustration: Kneehole Table, by Sheraton.]

Thomas Sheraton, who commenced work some 20 years later than Chippendale,
and continued it until the early part of the nineteenth century,
accomplished much excellent work in English furniture.

The fashion had now changed; instead of the rococo or rock work (literally
rock-scroll) and shell (_rocquaille et cocquaille_) ornament, which had
gone out, a simpler and more severe taste had come in. In Sheraton's
cabinets, chairs, writing tables, and occasional pieces we have therefore
no longer the cabriole leg or the carved ornament; but, as in the case of
the brothers Adam, and the furniture designed by them for such houses as
those in Portland Place, we have now square tapering legs, severe lines,
and quiet ornament. Sheraton trusted almost entirely for decoration to his
marqueterie. Some of this is very delicate and of excellent workmanship.
He introduced occasionally animals with foliated extremities into his
scrolls, and he also inlaid marqueterie trophies of musical instruments;
but as a rule the decoration was in wreaths of flowers, husks, or drapery,
in strict adherence to the fashion of the decorations to which allusion
has been made. A characteristic feature of his cabinets was the
swan-necked pediment surmounting the cornice, being a revival of an
ornament fashionable during Queen Anne's reign. It was then chiefly found
in stone, marble, or cut brickwork, but subsequently became prevalent in
inlaid woodwork.

[Illustration: Chairs, by Sheraton.]

Sheraton was apparently a man very well educated for his time, whether
self taught or not one cannot say; but that he was an excellent
draughtsman, and had a complete knowledge of geometry, is evident from the
wonderful drawings in his book, and the careful though rather verbose
directions he gives for perspective drawing. Many of his numerous designs
for furniture and ornamental items, are drawn to a scale with the
geometrical nicety of an engineer's or architect's plan: he has drawn in
elevation, plan, and minute detail, each of the five architectural orders.

[Illustration: Chair Backs, from Sheraton's "Cabinet Maker."]

The selection made here from his designs for the purposes of illustration,
is not taken from his later work, which properly belongs to a future
chapter, when we come to consider the influence of the French Revolution,
and the translation of the "Empire" style to England. Sheraton published
"The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book" in 1793, and the list
of subscribers whose names and addresses are given, throws much light on
the subject of the furniture of his time.[18] Amongst these are many of
his aristocratic patrons and no less than 450 names and addresses of
cabinet makers, chair makers and carvers, exclusive of harpsichord
manufacturers, musical instrument makers, upholsterers, and other kindred
trades. Included with these we find the names of firms who, from the
appointments they held, it may be inferred, had a high reputation for good
work and a leading position in the trade, but who, perhaps from the
absence of a taste for "getting into print" and from the lack of any brand
or mark by which their work can be identified, have passed into oblivion
while their contemporaries are still famous. The following names taken
from this list are probably those of men who had for many years conducted
well known and old established businesses, but would now be but poor ones
to "conjure" with, while those of Chippendale, Sheraton, or Hepplewhite,
are a ready passport for a doubtful specimen. For instance:--France,
Cabinet Maker to His Majesty, St. Martin's Lane; Charles Elliott, Upholder
to His Majesty and Cabinet Maker to the Duke of York, Bond Street;
Campbell and Sons, Cabinet Makers to the Prince of Wales, Mary-le-bone
Street, London. Besides those who held Royal appointments, there were
other manufacturers of decorative furniture--Thomas Johnson, Copeland,
Robert Davy, a French carver named Nicholas Collet, who settled in
England, and many others.

In Mr. J.H. Pollen's larger work on furniture and woodwork, which includes
a catalogue of the different examples in the South Kensington Museum,
there is a list of the various artists and craftsmen who have been
identified with the production of artistic furniture either as designers
or manufacturers, and the writer has found this of considerable service.
In the Appendix to this work, this list has been reproduced, with the
addition of several names (particularly those of the French school)
omitted by Mr. Pollen, and it will, it is hoped, prove a useful reference
to the reader.

* * * * *

Although this chapter is somewhat long, on account of the endeavour to
give more detailed information about English furniture of the latter half
of last century, than of some other periods, in consequence of the
prevailing taste for our National manufacture of this time, still, in
concluding it, a few remarks about the "Sideboard" may be allowed.

The changes in form and fashion of this important article of domestic
furniture are interesting, and to explain them a slight retrospect is
necessary. The word "Buffet," sometimes translated "Sideboard," which was
used to describe continental pieces of furniture of the 15th and 16th
centuries, does not designate our Sideboard, which may be said to have
been introduced by William III.; and of which kind there is a fair
specimen in the South Kensington Museum; an illustration of it has been
given in the chapter dealing with that period.

The term "stately sideboard" occurs in Milton's "Paradise Regained," which
was published in 1671, and Dryden, in his translation of Juvenal,
published in 1693, when contrasting the furniture of the classical period
of which he was writing with that of his own time, uses the following

"No sideboards then with gilded plate were dressed."

The fashion in those days of having symmetrical doors in a room, that is,
false doors to correspond with the door used for exit, which one still
finds in many old houses in the neighbourhood of Portland Place, and
particularly in the palaces of St. James' and of Kensington, enabled our
ancestors to have good cupboards for the storage of glass, crockery, and
reserve wine. After the middle of the eighteenth century, however, these
extra doors and the enclosed cupboard gradually disappeared, and soon
after the mahogany side table came into fashion it became the custom to
supplement this article of furniture by a pedestal cupboard on either side
(instead of the cupboards alluded to), one for hot plates and the other
for wine. Then, as the thin legs gave the table rather a lanky appearance,
the _garde de vin_, or cellaret, was added in the form of an oval tub of
mahogany with bands of brass, sometimes raised on low feet with castors
for convenience, which was used as a wine cooler. A pair of urn-shaped
mahogany vases stood on the pedestals, and these contained--the one hot
water for the servants' use in washing the knives, forks and spoons, which
being then much more valuable were limited in quantity, and the other held
iced water for the guests' use.

A brass rail at the back of the side table with ornamental pillars and
branches for candles was used, partly to enrich the furniture, and partly
to form a support to the handsome pair of knife and spoon cases, which
completed the garniture of a gentleman's sideboard of this period.

The full page illustrations will give the reader a good idea of this
arrangement, and it would seem that the modern sideboard is the
combination of these separate articles into one piece of furniture--at
different times and in different fashions--first the pedestals joined to
the table produced our "pedestal sideboard," then the mirror was joined to
the back, the cellarette made part of the interior fittings, and the
banishment of knife cases and urns to the realms of the curiosity hunter,
or for conversion into spirit cases and stationery holders. The
sarcophagus, often richly carved, of course succeeded the simpler cellaret
of Sheraton's period.

Before we dismiss the furniture of the "dining room" of this period, it
may interest some of our readers to know that until the first edition of
"Johnson's Dictionary" was published in 1755, the term was not to be found
in the vocabularies of our language designating its present use. In
Barrat's "Alvearic," published in 1580, "parloir," or "parler," was
described as "a place to sup in." Later, "Minsheu's Guide unto Tongues,"
in 1617, gave it as "an inner room to dine or to suppe in," but Johnson's
definition is "a room in houses on the first floor, elegantly furnished
for reception or entertainment."

[Illustration: Urn Stand.]

To the latter part of the eighteenth century--the English furniture of
which time has been discussed in this Chapter--belong the quaint little
"urn stands" which were made to hold the urn with boiling water, while the
tea pot was placed on the little slide which is drawn out from underneath
the table top. In those days tea was an expensive luxury, and the urn
stand, of which there is an illustration, inlaid in the fashion of the
time, is a dainty relic of the past, together with the old mahogany or
marqueterie tea caddy, which was sometimes the object of considerable
skill and care. One of these designed by Chippendale is illustrated on p.
179, and another by Hepplewhite will be found on p. 194. They were fitted
with two and sometimes three bottles or tea-pays of silver or Battersea
enamel, to hold the black and green teas, and when really good examples of
these daintily-fitted tea caddies are offered for sale, they bring large

[Illustration: A Sideboard in Mahogany with Inlay of Satinwood. In the
Style of Robert Adam.]

The "wine table" of this time deserves a word. These are now somewhat
rare, and are only to be found in a few old houses, and in some of the
Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. These were found with revolving tops,
which had circles turned out to a slight depth for each glass to stand in,
and they were sometimes shaped like the half of a flat ring. These latter
were for placing in front of the fire, when the outer side of the table
formed a convivial circle, round which the sitters gathered after they had
left the dinner table.

One of these old tables is still to be seen in the Hall of Gray's Inn, and
the writer was told that its fellow was broken and had been "sent away."
They are nearly always of good rich mahogany, and have legs more or less
ornamental according to circumstances.

A distinguishing feature of English furniture of the last century was the
partiality for secret drawers and contrivances for hiding away papers or
valued articles; and in old secretaires and writing tables we find a great
many ingenious designs which remind us of the days when there were but few
banks, and people kept money and deeds in their own custody.

[Illustration: Carved Jardiniere, by Chippendale.]

[Illustration: A China Cabinet, and a Bookcase With Secretaire. Designed
by T. Sheraton, and published in his "Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's
Drawing Book," 1793.]

Chapter VIII.

First Half of the Nineteenth Century

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

Empire Furniture.


There are great crises in the history of a nation which stand out in
prominent relief. One of these is the French Revolution, which commenced
in 1792, and wrought such dire havoc amongst the aristocracy, with so much
misery and distress throughout the country. It was an event of great
importance, whether we consider the religion, the politics, or the manners
and customs of a people, as affecting the changes in the style of the
decoration of their homes. The horrors of the Revolution are matters of
common knowledge to every schoolboy, and there is no need to dwell either
upon them or their consequences, which are so thoroughly apparent. The
confiscation of the property of those who had fled the country was added
to the general dislocation of everything connected with the work of the
industrial arts.

Nevertheless it should be borne in mind that amongst the anarchy and
disorder of this terrible time in France, the National Convention had
sufficient foresight to appoint a Commission, composed of competent men in
different branches of Art, to determine what State property in artistic
objects should be sold, and what was of sufficient historical interest to
be retained as a national possession. Riesener, the celebrated _ebeniste_,
whose work we have described in the chapter on Louis Seize furniture, and
David, the famous painter of the time, both served on this Commission, of
which they must have been valuable members.

There is a passage quoted by Mr. C. Perkins, the American translator of
Dr. Falke's German work "Kunst im Hause," which gives us the keynote to
the great change which took place in the fashion of furniture about the
time of the Revolution. In an article on "Art," says this democratic
French writer, as early as 1790, when the great storm cloud was already
threatening to burst, "We have changed everything; freedom, now
consolidated in France, has restored the pure taste of the antique!
Farewell to your marqueterie and Boule, your ribbons, festoons, and
rosettes of gilded bronze; the hour has come when objects must be made to
harmonize with circumstances."

Thus it is hardly too much to say that designs were governed by the
politics and philosophy of the day; and one finds in furniture of this
period the reproduction of ancient Greek forms for chairs and couches;
ladies' work tables are fashioned somewhat after the old drawings of
sacrificial altars; and the classical tripod is a favourite support. The
mountings represent antique Roman fasces with an axe in the centre;
trophies of lances, surmounted by a Phrygian cap of liberty; winged
figures, emblematical of freedom; and antique heads of helmeted warriors
arranged like cameo medallions.

After the execution of Robespierre, and the abolition of the Revolutionary
Tribunal in 1794, came the choice of the Directory: and then, after
Buonaparte's brilliant success in Italy, and the famous expeditions to
Syria and Egypt two years later, came his proclamation as First Consul in
1799, which in 1802 was confirmed as a life appointment.

We have only to refer to the portrait of the great soldier, represented
with the crown of bay leaves and other attributes of old Roman
imperialism, to see that in his mind was the ambition of reviving much of
the splendour and of the surroundings of the Caesars, whom he took, to
some extent, as his models; and that in founding on the ashes of the
Revolution a new fabric, with new people about him, all influenced by his
energetic personality, he desired to mark his victories by stamping the
new order of things with his powerful and assertive individualism.

[Illustration: Cabinet in Mahogany with Bronze Gilt Mountings, Presented
by Napoleon I. to Marie Louise on his Marriage with her in 1810 Period:
Napoleon I.]

The cabinet which was designed and made for Marie Louise, on his marriage
with her in 1810, is an excellent example of the Napoleonic furniture. The
wood used was almost invariably rich mahogany, the colour of which made a
good ground for the bronze gilt mounts which were applied. The full-page
illustration shews these, which are all classical in character; and though
there is no particular grace in the outline or form of the cabinet,
there is a certain dignity and solemnity, relieved from oppressiveness by
the fine chasing and gilding of the metal enrichments, and the excellent
colour and figuring of the rich Spanish mahogany used.

On secretaires and tables, a common ornament of this description of
furniture, is a column of mahogany, with a capital and base of bronze
(either gilt, part gilt, or green), in the form of the head of a sphinx
with the foot of an animal; console tables are supported by sphinxes and
griffins; and candelabra and wall brackets for candles have winged figures
of females, stiff in modelling and constrained in attitude, but almost
invariably of good material with careful finish.

[Illustration: Tabouret, or Stool, Carved and Gilt; Arm Chair, In
Mahogany, with Gilt Bronze Mountings. Period of Napoleon I.]

The bas-reliefs in metal which ornament the panels of the friezes of
cabinets, or the marble bases of clocks, are either reproductions of
mythological subjects from old Italian gems and seals, or represent the
battles of the Emperor, in which Napoleon is portrayed as a Roman general.
There was plenty of room to replace so much that had disappeared during
the Revolution, and a vast quantity of decorative furniture was made
during the few years which elapsed before the disaster of Waterloo caused
the disappearance of a power which had been almost meteoric in its career.

The best authority on "Empire Furniture" is the book of designs, published
in 1809 by the architects Percier and Fontaine, which is the more valuable
as a work of reference, from the fact that every design represented was
actually carried out, and is not a mere exercise of fancy, as is the case
with many such books. In the preface the authors modestly state that they
are entirely indebted to the antique for the reproduction of the different
ornaments; and the originals, from which some of the designs were taken,
are still preserved in a fragmentary form in the Museum of the Vatican.

The illustrations on p. 205 of an arm chair and a stool, together with
that of the tripod table which ornaments the initial letter of this
chapter, are favourable examples of the richly-mounted and more decorative
furniture of this style. While they are not free from the stiffness and
constraint which are inseparable from classic designs as applied to
furniture, the rich colour of the mahogany, the high finish and good
gilding of the bronze mounts, and the costly silk with which they are
covered, render them attractive and give them a value of their own.

The more ordinary furniture, however, of the same style, but without these
decorative accessories, is stiff, ungainly, and uncomfortable, and seems
to remind us of a period in the history of France when political and
social disturbance deprived the artistic and pleasure-loving Frenchman of
his peace of mind, distracting his attention from the careful
consideration of his work. It may be mentioned here that, in order to
supply a demand which has lately arisen, chiefly in New York, but also to
some extent in England, for the best "Empire" furniture, the French
dealers have bought up some of the old undecorated pieces, and by
ornamenting them with gilt bronze mounts, cast from good old patterns,
have sold them as original examples of the _meubles de luxe_ of the

In Dutch furniture of this time one sees the reproduction of the
Napoleonic fashion--the continuation of the Revolutionists' classicalism.
Many marqueterie secretaires, tables, chairs, and other like articles, are
mounted with the heads and feet of animals, with lions' heads and
sphinxes, designs which could have been derived from no other source; and
the general design of the furniture loses its bombe form, and becomes
rectangular and severe. Whatever difficulty there may be in sometimes
deciding between the designs of the Louis XIV. period, towards its close,
and that of Louis XV., there can be no mistake about _l'epoch de la
Directoire_ and _le style de l'Empire._ These are marked and branded with
the Egyptian expedition, and the Syrian campaign, as legibly as if they
all bore the familiar plain Roman N, surmounted by a laurel wreath, or the
Imperial eagle which had so often led the French legions to victory.

It is curious to notice how England, though so bitterly opposed to
Napoleon, caught the infection of the dominant features of design which
were prevalent in France about this time.

[Illustration: Nelson's Chairs. Designs Published by T. Sheraton, October
29th, 1806.]

Thus, in Sheraton's book on Furniture, to which allusion has been made,
and from which illustrations have been given in the chapter on
"Chippendale and his Contemporaries," there is evidence that, as in France
during the influence of Marie Antoinette, there was a classical revival,
and the lines became straighter and more severe for furniture, so this
alteration was adopted by Sheraton, Shearer, and other English designers
at the end of the century. But if we refer to Sheraton's later drawings,
which are dated about 1804 to 1806, we see the constrained figures and
heads and feet of animals, all brought into the designs as shewn in the
"drawing room" chairs here illustrated. These are unmistakable signs of
the French "Empire" influence, the chief difference between the French and
English work being, that, whereas in French Empire furniture the
excellence of the metal work redeems it from heaviness or ugliness, such
merit was wanting in England, where we have never excelled in bronze work,
the ornament being generally carved in wood, either gilt or coloured
bronze-green. When metal was used it was brass, cast and fairly finished
by the chaser, but much more clumsy than the French work. Therefore, the
English furniture of the first years of the nineteenth century is stiff,
massive, and heavy, equally wanting in gracefulness with its French
contemporary, and not having the compensating attractions of fine
mounting, or the originality and individuality which must always add an
interest to Napoleonic furniture.

[Illustration: Drawing Room Chair. Design published by T. Sheraton,
April, 1804.]

[Illustration: Drawing Room Chair. Design published by T. Sheraton,
April 1, 1804.]

There was, however, made about this time by Gillow, to whose earlier work
reference has been made in the previous chapter, some excellent furniture,
which, while to some extent following the fashion of the day, did so more
reasonably. The rosewood and mahogany tables, chairs, cabinets and
sideboards of his make, inlaid with scrolls and lines of flat brass, and
mounted with handles and feet of brass, generally representing the heads
and claws of lions, do great credit to the English work of this time. The
sofa table and sideboard, illustrated on the previous page, are of this
class, and shew that Sheraton, too, designed furniture of a less
pronounced character, as well as the heavier kind to which reference has
been made.

[Illustration: "Canopy Bed" Design Published by T. Sheraton, November
9th, 1803.]

[Illustration: "Sister's Cylinder Bookcase." Designed by T. Sheraton,

[Illustration: Sideboard, In Mahogany, with Brass Rail and Convex Mirror
at back, Design published by T. Sheraton, 1802.]

[Illustration: Sofa Table, Design published by T. Sheraton, 1804.]

A very favourable example of the craze in England for classic design in
furniture and decoration, is shown in the reproduction of a drawing by
Thomas Hope, in 1807, a well-known architect of the time, in which it will
be observed that the forms and fashions of some of the chairs and tables,
described and illustrated in the chapter on "Ancient Furniture," have been
taken as models.

There were several makers of first-class furniture, of whom the names of
some still survive in the "style and title" of firms of the present day,
who are their successors, while those of others have been forgotten, save
by some of our older manufacturers and auctioneers, who, when requested by
the writer, have been good enough to look up old records and revive the
memories of fifty years ago. Of these the best known was Thomas Seddon,
who came from Manchester and settled in Aldersgate Street. His two sons
succeeded to the business, became cabinet makers to George IV., and
furnished and decorated Windsor Castle. At the King's death their account
was disputed, and L30,000 was struck off, a loss which necessitated an
arrangement with their creditors. Shortly after this, however, they took
the barracks of the London Light Horse Volunteers in the Gray's Inn Road
(now the Hospital), and carried on there for a time a very extensive
business. Seddon's work ranked with Gillow's, and they shared with that
house the best orders for furniture.

Thomas Seddon, painter of Oriental subjects, who died in 1856, and P.
Seddon, a well-known architect, were grandsons of the original founder of
the firm. On the death of the elder brother, Thomas, the younger one then
transferred his connection to the firm of Johnstone and Jeanes, in Bond
Street, another old house which still carries on business as "Johnstone
and Norman," and who some few years ago executed a very extravagant order
for an American millionaire. This was a reproduction of Byzantine designs
in furniture of cedar, ebony, ivory, and pearl, made from drawings by Mr.
Alma Tadema, R.A.

[Illustration: Design of a Room, in the Classic Style, by Thomas Hope,
Architect, In 1807.]

Snell, of Albemarle Street, had been established early in the century, and
obtained an excellent reputation; his specialite was well-made birch
bedroom suites, but he also made furniture of a general description. The
predecessor of the present firm of Howard and Son, who commenced
business in Whitechapel as early as 1800, and the first Morant, may all be
mentioned as manufacturers of the first quarter of the century.

Somewhat later, Trollopes, of Parliament Street; Holland, who had
succeeded Dowbiggin (Gillow's apprentice), first in Great Pulteney Street,
and subsequently at the firm's present address; Wilkinson, of Ludgate
Hill, founder of the present firm of upholsterers in Bond Street;
Aspinwall, of Grosvenor Street; the second Morant, of whom the great Duke
of Wellington made a personal friend; and Grace, a prominent decorator of
great taste, who carried out many of Pugin's Gothic designs, were all men
of good reputation. Miles and Edwards, of Oxford Street, whom Hindleys
succeeded, were also well known for good middle-class furniture. These are
some of the best known manufacturers of the first half of the present
century, and though until after the great Exhibition there was, as a rule,
little in the designs to render their productions remarkable, the work of
those named will be found sound in construction, and free from the faults
which accompany the cheap and showy reproductions of more pretentious
styles which mark so much of the furniture of the present day. With regard
to this, more will be said in the next chapter.

There was then a very limited market for any but the most commonplace
furniture. Our wealthy people bought the productions of French cabinet
makers, either made in Paris or by Frenchmen who came over to England, and
the middle classes were content with the most ordinary and useful
articles. If they had possessed the means they certainly had neither the
taste nor the education to furnish more ambitiously. The great extent of
suburbs which now surround the Metropolis, and which include such numbers
of expensive and extravagantly-fitted residences of merchants and
tradesmen, did not then exist. The latter lived over their shops or
warehouses, and the former only aspired to a dull house in Bloomsbury, or,
like David Copperfield's father-in-law, Mr. Spenlow, a villa at Norwood,
or perhaps a country residence at Hampstead or Highgate.

In 1808 a designer and maker of furniture, George Smith by name, who held
the appointment of "Upholder extraordinary to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales,"
and carried on business at "Princess" Street, Cavendish Square, produced a
book of designs, 158 in number, published by "Wm. Taylor," of Holborn.
These include cornices, window drapery, bedsteads, tables, chairs,
bookcases, commodes, and other furniture, the titles of some of which
occur for about the first time in our vocabularies, having been adapted
from the French. "Escritore, jardiniere, dejune tables, chiffoniers" (the
spelling copied from Smith's book), all bear the impress of the
pseudo-classic taste; and his designs, some of which are reproduced, shew
the fashion of our so-called artistic furniture in England at the time of
the Regency. Mr. Smith, in the "Preliminary Remarks" prefacing the
illustrations, gives us an idea of the prevailing taste, which it is
instructive to peruse, looking back now some three-quarters of a

[Illustration: "Library Fauteuil." Reproduced from Smith's Book of
Designs, published in 1804]

"The following practical observations on the various woods employed in
cabinet work may be useful. Mahogany, when used in houses of consequence,
should be confined to the parlour and the bedchamber floors. In furniture
for these apartments the less inlay of other woods, the more chaste will
be the style of work. If the wood be of a fine, compact, and bright
quality, the ornaments may be carved clean in the mahogany. Where it may
be requisite to make out panelling by an inlay of lines, let those lines
be of brass or ebony. In drawing-rooms, boudoirs, ante-rooms, East and
West India satin woods, rosewood, tulip wood, and the other varieties of
woods brought from the East, may be used; with satin and light coloured
woods the decorations may be of ebony or rosewood; with rosewood let the
decorations be _ormolu_, and the inlay of brass. Bronze metal, though
sometimes used with satin wood, has a cold and poor effect: it suits
better on gilt work, and will answer well enough on mahogany."

[Illustration: "Parlor Chairs," Shewing the Inlay of Brass referred to.
From Smith's Book of Designs, published 1808.]

Amongst the designs published by him are some few of a subdued Gothic
character; these are generally carved in light oak, or painted light stone
colour, and have, in some cases, heraldic shields, with crests and coats
of arms picked out in colour. There are window seats painted to imitate
marble, with the Roman or Greco-Roman ornaments painted green to represent
bronze. The most unobjectionable are mahogany with bronze green ornaments.

Of the furniture of this period there are several pieces in the Mansion
House, in the City of London, which apparently was partly refurnished
about the commencement of the century.

[Illustration: Bookcase. Design Published by T. Sheraton, June 12th,
1806. _Note_.--Very similar bookcases are in the London Mansion House.]

In the Court Room of the Skinners' Company there are tables which are now
used' with extensions, so as to form a horseshoe table for committee
meetings. They are good examples of the heavy and solid carving in
mahogany, early in the century before the fashion had gone out of
representing the heads and feet of animals in the designs of furniture.
These tables have massive legs, with lion's heads and claws, carved with
great skill and shewing much spirit, the wood being of the best quality
and rich in color.

[Illustration: "Drawing Room Chairs in Profile." From G. Smith's Book,
published 1808.]

Early Victorian.

In the work of the manufacturers just enumerated, may be traced the
influence of the "Empire" style. With the restoration, however, of the
Monarchy in France came the inevitable change in fashions, and "_Le style
de l'Empire_" was condemned. In its place came a revival of the Louis
Quinze scrolls and curves, but with less character and restraint, until
the style we know as "baroque," [19] or debased "rococo," came in. Ornament
of a florid and incongruous character was lavished on decorative
furniture, indicative of a taste for display rather than for appropriate

It had been our English custom for some long period to take our fashions
from France, and, therefore, about the time of William IV. and during the
early part of the present Queen's reign, the furniture for our best houses
was designed and made in the French style. In the "Music" Room at
Chatsworth are some chairs and footstools used at the time of the
Coronation of William IV. and Queen Adelaide, which have quite the
appearance of French furniture.

The old fashion of lining rooms with oak panelling, which has been noticed
in an earlier chapter, had undergone a change which is worth recording. If
the illustration of the Elizabethan oak panelling, as given in the English
section of Chapter III., be referred to, it will be seen that the oak
lining reaches from the floor to within about two or three feet of the
cornice. Subsequently this panelling was divided into an upper and a lower
part, the former commencing about the height of the back of an ordinary
chair, a moulding or chair-rail forming a capping to the lower part. Then
pictures came to be let into the panelling; and presently the upper part
was discarded and the lower wainscoting remained, properly termed the
Dado,[20] which we have seen revived both in wood and in various
decorative materials of the present day. During the period we are now
discussing, this arrangement lost favour in the eyes of our grandfathers,
and the lowest member only was retained, which is now termed the "skirting

As we approach a period that our older contemporaries can remember, it is
very interesting to turn over the leaves of the back numbers of such
magazines and newspapers as treated of the Industrial Arts. The _Art
Union_, which changed its title to the _Art Journal_ in 1849, had then
been in existence for about ten years, and had done good work in promoting
the encouragement of Art and manufactures. The "Society of Arts" had been
formed in London as long ago as 1756, and had given prizes for designs and
methods of improving different processes of manufacture. Exhibitions of
the specimens sent in for competition for the awards were, and are still,
held at their house in Adelphi Buildings. Old volumes of "Transactions of
the Society" are quaint works of reference with regard to these

About 1840, Mr., afterwards Sir, Charles Barry, R.A., had designed and
commenced the present, or, as it was then called, the New Palace of
Westminster, and, following the Gothic character of the building, the
furniture and fittings were naturally of a design to harmonize with what
was then quite a departure from the heavy architectural taste of the day.
Mr. Barry was the first in this present century to leave the beaten track,
although the Reform and Travellers' Clubs had already been designed by him
on more classic lines. The Speaker's chair in the House of Commons is
evidently designed after one of the fifteenth century "canopied seats,"
which have been noticed and illustrated in the second chapter; and the
"linen scroll pattern" panels can be counted by the thousand in the Houses
of Parliament and the different official residences which form part of the
Palace. The character of the work is subdued and not flamboyant, is
excellent in design and workmanship, and is highly creditable, when we
take into consideration the very low state of Art in England fifty years

This want of taste was very much discussed in the periodicals of the day,
and, yielding to expressed public opinion, Government had in 1840-1
appointed a Select Committee to take into consideration the promotion of
the fine Arts in the country, Mr. Charles Barry, Mr. Eastlake, and Sir
Martin Shee, R.A., being amongst the witnesses examined. The report of
this Committee, in 1841, contained the opinion "That such an important and
National work as the erection of the two Houses of Parliament affords an
opportunity which ought not to be neglected of encouraging, not only the
higher, but every subordinate branch of fine Art in this country."

Mr. Augustus Welby Pugin was a well-known designer of the Gothic style of
furniture of this time. Born in 1811, he had published in 1835 his
"Designs for Gothic Furniture," and later his "Glossary of Ecclesiastical
Ornament and Costume"; and by skilful application of his knowledge to the
decorations of the different ecclesiastical buildings he designed, his
reputation became established. One of his designs is here reproduced.
Pugin's work and reputation have survived, notwithstanding the furious
opposition he met with at the time. In a review of one of his books, in
the _Art Union_ of 1839, the following sentence completes the
criticism:--"As it is a common occurrence in life to find genius mistaken
for madness, so does it sometimes happen that a madman is mistaken for a
genius. Mr. Welby Pugin has oftentimes appeared to us to be a case in

[Illustration: Prie-dieu, In Carved Oak, enriched with Painting and
Gilding. Designed by Mr. Pugin, and manufactured by Mr. Crace, London.]

At this time furniture design and manufacture, as an Industrial Art in
England, seems to have attracted no attention whatever. There are but few
allusions to the design of decorative woodwork in the periodicals of the
day; and the auctioneers' advertisements--with a few notable exceptions,
like that of the Strawberry Hill Collection of Horace Walpole, gave no
descriptions; no particular interest in the subject appears to have been
manifested, save by a very limited number of the dilettanti, who, like
Walpole, collected the curios and cabinets of two or three hundred years

[Illustration: Secretaire And Bookcase, In Carved Oak, in the style of
German Gothic. (_From Drawing by Professor Heideloff, Published in the
"Art Union," 1816._)]

York House was redecorated and furnished about this time, and as it is
described as "Excelling any other dwelling of its own class in regal
magnificence and vieing with the Royal Palaces of Europe," we may take
note of an account of its re-equipment, written in 1841 for the _Art
Journal_. This notice speaks little for the taste of the period, and less
for the knowledge and grasp of the subject by the writer of an Art
critique of the day:--"The furniture generally is of no particular style,
but, on the whole, there is to be found a mingling of everything, in the
best manner of the best epochs of taste." Writing further on of the
ottoman couches, "causeuses," etc., the critic goes on to tell of an
alteration in fashion which had evidently just taken place:--"Some of
them, in place of plain or carved rosewood or mahogany, are ornamented in
white enamel, with classic subjects in bas-relief of perfect execution."

Towards the close of the period embraced by the limits of this chapter,
the eminent firm of Jackson and Graham were making headway, a French
designer named Prignot being of considerable assistance in establishing
their reputation for taste; and in the Exhibition which was soon to take
place, this firm took a very prominent position. Collinson and Lock, who
have recently acquired this firm's premises and business, were both
brought up in the house as young men, and left some thirty odd years ago
for Herrings, of Fleet Street, whom they succeeded about 1870.

Another well-known decorator who designed and manufactured furniture of
good quality was Leonard William Collmann, first of Bouverie Street and
later of George Street, Portman Square. He was a pupil of Sydney Smirke,
R.A. (who designed and built the Carlton and the Conservative Clubs), and
was himself an excellent draughtsman, and carried out the decoration and
furnishing of many public buildings, London clubs, and mansions of the
nobility and gentry. His son is at present Director of Decorations to Her
Majesty at Windsor Castle. Collmann's designs were occasionally Gothic,
but generally classic.

There is evidence of the want of interest in the subject of furniture in
the auctioneers' catalogues of the day. By the courtesy of Messrs.
Christie and Manson, the writer has had access to the records of this old
firm, and two or three instances of sales of furniture may be given. While
the catalogues of the Picture sales of 1830-40 were printed on paper of
quarto size, and the subjects described at length, those of "Furniture"
are of the old-fashioned small octavo size, resembling the catalogue of a
small country auctioneer of the present day, and the printed descriptions
rarely exceed a single line. The prices very rarely amount to more than
L10; the whole proceeds of a day's sale were often less than L100, and
sometimes did not reach L50. At the sale of "Rosslyn House," Hampstead, in
1830, a mansion of considerable importance, the highest-priced article was
"A capital maghogany pedestal sideboard, with hot closet, cellaret, 2
plate drawers, and fluted legs," which brought L32. At the sale of the
property of "A man of Fashion," "a marqueterie cabinet, inlaid with
trophies, the panels of Sevres china, mounted in ormolu," sold for
twenty-five guineas; and a "Reisener (_sic_) table, beautifully inlaid
with flowers, and drawers," which appears to have been reserved at nine
guineas, was bought in at eight-and-a-half guineas. Frequenters of
Christie's of the present day who have seen such furniture realize as many
pounds as the shillings included in such sums, will appreciate the
enormously increased value of really good old French furniture.

Perhaps the most noticeable comparison between the present day and that of
half-a-century ago may be made in reading through the prices of the great
sale at Stowe House, in 1848, when the financial difficulties of the Duke
of Buckingham caused the sale by auction which lasted thirty-seven days,
and realised upwards of L71,000, the proceeds of the furniture amounting
to L27,152. We have seen in the notice of French furniture that armoires
by Boule have, during the past few years, brought from L4,000 to L6,000
each under the hammer, and the want of appreciation of this work, probably
the most artistic ever produced by designer and craftsman, is sufficiently
exemplified by the statement that at the Stowe sale two of Boule's famous
armoires, of similar proportions to those in the Hamilton Palace and Jones
Collections, were sold for L21 and L19 8s. 6d. respectively.

We are accustomed now to see the bids at Christie's advance by guineas, by
fives and by tens; and it is amusing to read in these old catalogues of
marqueterie tables, satin wood cabinets, rosewood pier tables, and other
articles of "ornamental furniture," as it was termed, being knocked down
to Town and Emanuel, Webb, Morant, Hitchcock, Raldock, Forrest, Redfearn,
Litchfield (the writer's father), and others who were the buyers and
regular attendants at "Christie's" (afterwards Christie and Manson) of
1830 to 1845, for such sums as 6s., 15s., and occasionally L10 or L15.

A single quotation is given, but many such are to be found:--Sale on
February 25th and 26th, 1841. Lot 31. "A small oval table, with a piece of
Sevres porcelain painted with flowers. 6s."

It is pleasant to remember, as some exception to this general want of
interest in the subject, that in 1843 there was held at Gore House,
Kensington, then the fashionable residence of Lady Blessington, an
exhibition of old furniture; and a series of lectures, illustrated by the
contributions, was given by Mr., now Sir, J.C. Robinson. The Venetian
State chair, illustrated on p. 57, was amongst the examples lent by the
Queen on that occasion. Specimens of Boule's work and some good pieces of
Italian Renaissance were also exhibited.

A great many of the older Club houses of London were built and furnished
between 1813 and 1851, the Guards' being of the earlier date, and the Army
and Navy of the latter; and during the intervening thirty odd years the
United Service, Travellers', Union, United University, Athenaeum,
Oriental, Wyndham, Oxford and Cambridge, Reform, Carlton, Garrick,
Conservative, and some others were erected and fitted up. Many of these
still retain much of the furniture of Gillows, Seddons, and some of the
other manufacturers of the time whose work has been alluded to, and these
are favourable examples of the best kind of cabinet work done in England
during the reign of George IV., William IV., and that of the early part of
Queen Victoria. It is worth recording, too, that during this period, steam
power, which had been first applied to machinery about 1815, came into
more general use in the manufacture of furniture, and with its adoption
there seems to have been a gradual abandonment of the apprenticeship
system in the factories and workshops of our country; and the present
"piece work" arrangement, which had obtained more or less since the
English cabinet makers had brought out their "Book of Prices" some years
previously, became generally the custom of the trade, in place of the
older "day work" of a former generation.

[Illustration: Cradle, In Boxwood, for H.M. the Queen. Designed and Carved
by H. Rogers, London.]

In France the success of national exhibitions had become assured, the
exhibitors having increased from only 110 when the first experiment was
tried in 1798, by leaps and bounds, until at the eleventh exhibition, in
1849, there were 4,494 entries. The _Art Journal_ of that year gives us a
good illustrated notice of some of the exhibits, and devotes an article to
pointing out the advantages to be gained by something of the kind taking
place in England.

From 1827 onwards we had established local exhibitions in Dublin, Leeds,
and Manchester. The first time a special building was devoted to
exhibition of manufactures was at Birmingham in 1849; and from the
illustrated review of this in the _Art Journal_ one can see there was a
desire on the part of our designers and manufacturers to strike out in new
directions and make progress.

We are able to reproduce some of the designs of furniture of this period;
and in the cradle, designed and carved in Turkey-boxwood, for the Queen,
by Mr. Harry Rogers, we have a fine piece of work, which would not have
disgraced the latter period of the Renaissance. Indeed, Mr. Rogers was a
very notable designer and carver of this time; he had introduced his
famous boxwood carvings about seven years previously.

[Illustration: Design for a Tea Caddy, By J. Strudwick, for Inlaying and
Ivory. Published as one of the "Original Designs for Manufacturers" in
_Art Journal_, 1829.]

The cradle was also, by the Queen's command, sent to the Exhibition, and
it may be worth while quoting the artist's description of the
carving:--"In making the design for the cradle it was my intention that
the entire object should symbolize the union of the Royal Houses of
England with that of Saxe-Coburg and Gothe, and, with this view, I
arranged that one end should exhibit the Arms and national motto of
England, and the other those of H.R.H. Prince Albert. The inscription,
'Anno, 1850,' was placed between the dolphins by Her Majesty's special

[Illustration: Design for One of the Wings of a Sideboard, By W. Holmes.
Exhibited at the "Society of Art" in 1818, and published by the _Art
Journal_ in 1829.]

In a criticism of this excellent specimen of work, the _Art Journal_ of
the time said:--"We believe the cradle to be one of the most important
examples of the art of wood carving ever executed in this country."

Rogers was also a writer of considerable ability on the styles of
ornament; and there are several contributions from his pen to the
periodicals of the day, besides designs which were published in the _Art
Journal_ under the heading of "Original Designs for Manufacturers." These
articles appeared occasionally, and contained many excellent suggestions
for manufacturers and carvers, amongst others, the drawings of H.
Fitzcook, one of whose designs for a work table we are able to reproduce.
Other more or less constant contributors of original designs for furniture
were J. Strudwick and W. Holmes, a design from the pencil of each of whom
is given.

[Illustration: Design for a Work Table, By H. Fitzcook. Published as one
of the "Original Designs for Manufacturers" in the _Art Journal_, 1850.]

But though here and there in England good designers came to the front, as
a general rule the art of design in furniture and decorative woodwork was
at a very low ebb about this time.

In furniture, straight lines and simple curves may be plain and
uninteresting, but they are by no means so objectionable as the over
ornamentation of the debased rococo style, which obtained in this country
about forty years ago; and if the scrolls and flowers, the shells and
rockwork, which ornamented mirror frames, sideboard backs, sofas, and
chairs, were debased in style, even when carefully carved in wood, the
effect was infinitely worse when, for the sake of economy, as was the case
with the houses of the middle classes, this elaborate and laboured
enrichment was executed in the fashionable stucco of the day.

Large mirrors, with gilt frames of this material, held the places of
honour on the marble chimney piece, and on the console, or pier table,
which was also of gilt stucco, with a marble slab. The cheffonier, with
its shelves having scroll supports like an elaborate S, and a mirror at
the back, with a scrolled frame, was a favourite article of furniture.

Carpets were badly designed, and loud and vulgar in colouring; chairs, on
account of the shape and ornament in vogue, were unfitted for their
purpose, on account of the wood being cut across the grain; the
fire-screen, in a carved rosewood frame, contained the caricature, in
needlework, of a spaniel, or a family group of the time, ugly enough to be
in keeping with its surroundings.

The dining room was sombre and heavy. The pedestal sideboard, with a large
mirror in a scrolled frame at the back, had come in; the chairs were
massive and ugly survivals of the earlier reproductions of the Greek
patterns, and, though solid and substantial, the effect was neither
cheering nor refining.

In the bedrooms were winged wardrobes and chests of drawers; dressing
tables and washstands, with scrolled legs, nearly always in mahogany; the
old four-poster had given way to the Arabian or French bedstead, and this
was being gradually replaced by the iron or brass bedsteads, which came in
after the Exhibition had shewn people the advantages of the lightness and
cleanliness of these materials.

In a word, from the early part of the present century, until the impetus
given to Art by the great Exhibition had had time to take effect, the
general taste in furnishing houses of all but a very few persons, was at
about its worst.

In other countries the rococo taste had also taken hold. France sustained
a higher standard than England, and such figure work as was introduced
into furniture was better executed, though her joinery was inferior. In
Italy old models of the Renaissance still served as examples for
reproduction, but the ornament became more carelessly carved and the
decoration less considered. Ivory inlaying was largely executed in Milan
and Venice; mosaics of marble were specialites of Rome and of Florence,
and were much applied to the decoration of cabinets; Venice was busy
manufacturing carved walnutwood furniture in buffets, cabinets, Negro page
boys, elaborately painted and gilt, and carved mirror frames, the chief
ornaments of which were cupids and foliage.

Italian carving has always been free and spirited, the figures have never
been wanting in grace, and, though by comparison with the time of the
Renaissance there is a great falling off, still, the work executed in
Italy during the present century has been of considerable merit as regards
ornament, though this has been overdone. In construction and joinery,
however, the Italian work has been very inferior. Cabinets of great
pretension and elaborate ornament, inlaid perhaps with ivory, lapislazuli,
or marbles, are so imperfectly made that one would think ornament, and
certainly not durability, had been the object of the producer.

In Antwerp, Brussels, Liege, and other Flemish Art centres, the School of
Wood Carving, which came in with the Renaissance, appears to have been
maintained with more or less excellence. With the increased quality of the
carved woodwork manufactured, there was a proportion of ill-finished and
over-ornamented work produced; and although, as has been before observed,
the manufacture of cheap marqueterie in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities
was bringing the name of Dutch furniture into ill-repute--still, so far as
the writer's observations have gone, the Flemish wood-carver appears to
have been, at the time now under consideration, ahead of his fellow
craftsmen in Europe; and when in the ensuing chapter we come to notice
some of the representative exhibits in the great International Competition
of 1851, it will be seen that the Antwerp designer and carver was
certainly in the foremost rank.

In Austria, too, some good cabinet work was being carried out, M.
Leistler, of Vienna, having at the time a high reputation.

In Paris the house of Fourdinois was making a name which, in subsequent
exhibitions, we shall see took a leading place amongst the designers and
manufacturers of decorative furniture.

England, it has been observed, was suffering from languor in Art industry.
The excellent designs of the Adams and their school, which obtained early
in the century, had been supplanted, and a meaningless rococo style
succeeded the heavy imitations of French pseudo-classic furniture. Instead
of, as in the earlier and more tasteful periods, when architects had
designed woodwork and furniture to accord with the style of their
buildings, they appear to have then, as a general rule, abandoned the
control of the decoration of interiors, and the result was one which--when
we examine our National furniture of half a century ago--has not left us
much to be proud of, as an artistic and industrious people.

Some notice has been taken of the appreciation of this unsatisfactory
state of things by the Government of the time, and by the Press; and, as
with a knowledge of our deficiency, came the desire and the energy to
bring about its remedy, we shall see that, with the Exhibition of 1851,
and the intercourse and the desire to improve, which naturally followed
that great and successful effort, our designers and craftsmen profited by
the great stimulus which Art and Industry then received.

[Illustration: Venetian Stool of Carved Walnut Wood.]

[Illustration: Sideboard in Carved Oak, with Cellaret. Designed and
Manufactured by Mr. Gillow, London. 1851 Exhibition.]

[Illustration: Chimneypiece and Bookcase. In carved walnut wood with
colored marbles inlaid and doors of perforated brass. Designed By Mr. T.
R. Macquoid, Architect, and Manufactured by Messrs. Holland & Sons.
London, 1851 Exhibition.]

[Illustration: Cabinet in the Mediaeval Style. Designed and Manufactured
by Mr. Grace, London. 1851 Exhibition.]

[Illustration: Bookcase in Carved Wood. Designed and Manufactured by
Messrs. Jackson & Graham, London, 1851 Exhibition.]

[Illustration: Grand Pianoforte. In Ebony inlaid, and enriched with Gold
in relief. Designed and Manufactured by Messrs. Broadwood, London. 1851

Chapter IX.

From 1851 to the Present Time.

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


In the previous chapter attention has been called to the success of the
National Exhibition in Paris of 1849; in the same year the competition of
our manufacturers at Birmingham gave an impetus to Industrial Art in
England, and there was about this time a general forward movement, with a
desire for an International Exhibition on a grand scale. Articles
advocating such a step appeared in newspapers and periodicals of the time,
and, after much difficulty, and many delays, a committee for the promotion
of this object was formed. This resulted in the appointment of a Royal
Commission, and the Prince Consort, as President of this Commission, took
the greatest personal interest in every arrangement for this great
enterprise. Indeed, there can be no doubt, that the success which crowned
the work was, in a great measure, due to his taste, patience, and
excellent business capacity. It is no part of our task to record all the
details of an undertaking which, at the time, was a burning question of
the day, but as we cannot but look upon this Exhibition of 1851 as one of
the landmarks in the history of furniture, it is worth while to recall
some particulars of its genesis and accomplishment.

The idea of the Exhibition of 1851 is said to have been originally due to
Mr. F. Whishaw, Secretary of the Society of Arts, as early as 1844, but no
active steps were taken until 1849, when the Prince Consort, who was
President of the Society, took the matter up very warmly. His speech at
one of the meetings contained the following sentence:--

"Now is the time to prepare for a great Exhibition--an Exhibition worthy
of the greatness of this country, not merely national in its scope and
benefits, but comprehensive of the whole world; and I offer myself to the
public as their leader, if they are willing to assist in the undertaking."

[Illustration: Lady's Escritoire, In White Wood, Carved with Rustic
Figures. Designed and Manufactured by M. Wettli, Berne, Switzerland. 1851
Exhibition, London.]

To Mr. (afterwards Sir) Joseph Paxton, then head gardener to the Duke of
Devonshire, the general idea of the famous glass and iron building is due.
An enterprising firm of contractors. Messrs. Fox and Henderson, were
entrusted with the work; a guarantee fund of some L230,000 was raised by
public subscriptions; and the great Exhibition was opened by Her Majesty
on the 1st of May, 1851. At a civic banquet in honour of the event, the
Prince Consort very aptly described the object of the great
experiment:--"The Exhibition of 1851 would afford a true test of the point
of development at which the whole of mankind had arrived in this great
task, and a new starting point from which all nations would be able to
direct their further exertions."

The number of exhibitors was some 17,000, of whom over 3,000 received
prize and council medals; and the official catalogue, compiled by Mr.
Scott Russell, the secretary, contains a great many particulars which are
instructive reading, when we compare the work of many of the firms of
manufacturers, whose exhibits are therein described, with their work of
the present day.

The _Art Journal_ published a special volume, entitled "The Art Journal
Illustrated Catalogue," with woodcuts of the more important exhibits, and,
by the courtesy of the proprietors, a small selection is reproduced, which
will give the reader an idea of the design of furniture, both in England
and the chief Continental industrial centres at that time.

With regard to the exhibits of English firms, of which these illustrations
include examples, little requires to be said, in addition to the remarks
already made in the preceding chapter, of their work previous to the
Exhibition. One of the illustrations, however, may be further alluded to,
since the changes in form and character of the Pianoforte is of some
importance in the consideration of the design of furniture. Messrs.
Broadwood's Grand Pianoforte (illustrated) was a rich example of
decorative woodwork in ebony and gold, and may be compared with the
illustration on p. 172 of a harpsichord, which the Piano had replaced
about 1767, and which at and since the time of the 1851 Exhibition
supplies evidence of the increased attention devoted to decorative
furniture. In the Appendix will be found a short notice of the different
phases through which the ever-present piano has passed, from the virginal,
or spinette--of which an illustration will be found in "A Sixteenth
Century Room," in Chapter III.--down to the latest development of the
decoration of the case of the instrument by leading artists of the present
day. Mr. Rose, of Messrs. Broadwood, whose firm was established at this
present address in 1732, has been good enough to supply the author with
the particulars for this notice.

Other illustrations, taken from the exhibits of foreign cabinet makers, as
well as those of our English manufacturers, have been selected, being
fairly representative of the work of the time, rather than on account of
their own intrinsic excellence.

It will be seen from these illustrations that, so far as figure carving
and composition are concerned, our foreign rivals, the Italians, Belgians,
Austrians, and French, were far ahead of us. In mere construction and
excellence of work we have ever been able to hold our own, and, so long as
our designers have kept to beaten tracks, the effect is satisfactory. It
is only when an attempt has been made to soar above the conventional, that
the effort is not so successful.

[Illustration: Lady's Work Table and Screen. In Papier-mache. 1851
Exhibition, London.]

In looking over the list of exhibits, one finds evidence of the fickleness
of fashion. The manufacture of decorative articles of furniture of
_papier-mache_ was then very extensive, and there are several specimens of
this class of work, both by French and English firms. The drawing-room of
1850 to 1860 was apparently incomplete without occasional chairs, a screen
with painted panel, a work table, or some small cabinet or casket of this
decorative but somewhat flimsy material.

[Illustration: Sideboard. In Carved Oak, with subjects taken from Sir
Walter Scott's "Kenilworth." Designed And Manufactured by Messrs. Cookes,
Warwick 1851 Exhibition, London.]

[Illustration: A State Chair. Carved and Gilt Frame, upholstered in Ruby
Silk, Embroidered with the Royal Coat of Arms and the Prince of Wales'
Plumes. Designed and Manufactured by M. Jancowski, York. 1851 Exhibition,

[Illustration: Sideboard in Carved Oak. Designed And Manufactured by M.
Durand, Paris. 1851 Exhibition, London.]

[Illustration: Bedstead in Carved Ebony. Renaissance Style. Designed and
Manufactured by M. Roule, Antwerp. 1851 Exhibition, London.]

[Illustration: Pianoforte. In Rosewood, inlaid with Boulework, in Gold,
Silver, and Copper. Designed and Manufactured by M. Leistler, Vienna. 1851
Exhibition, London.]

[Illustration: Bookcase, In Carved Lime Tree, with Panels of Satinwood.
Designed and Manufactured by M. Leistler, Vienna. 1851 Exhibition,

[Illustration: Cabinet. In Tulipwood, ornamented with bronze, and inlaid
with Porcelain. Manufactured by M. Games, St. Petersburg, 1851

The design and execution of mountings of cabinets in metal work,
particularly of the highly-chased and gilt bronzes for the enrichment of
_meubles de luxe_, was then, as it still to a great extent remains, the
specialite of the Parisian craftsman, and almost the only English exhibits
of such work were those of foreigners who had settled amongst us.

[Illustration: Casket of Ivory, With Ormolu Mountings. Designed and
Manufactured by M. Matifat, Paris. 1851 Exhibition, London.]

[Illustration: Table, In the Classic Style, inlaid with Ivory,
Manufactured for the King of Sardinia by M. G. Capello, Turin. 1851
Exhibition, London.]

[Illustration: Chair, In the Classic Style, inlaid with Ivory.
Manufactured for the King of Sardinia by M. G. Capello, Turin. 1851
Exhibition, London.]

Amongst the latter was Monbro, a Frenchman, who established himself in
Berners Street, London, and made furniture of an ornamental character in
the style of his countrymen, reproducing the older designs of "Boule" and
Marqueterie furniture. The present house of Mellier and Cie. are his
successors, Mellier having been in his employ. The late Samson Wertheimer,
then in Greek Street, Soho, was steadily making a reputation by the
excellence of the metal mountings of his own design and workmanship, which
he applied to caskets of French style. Furniture of a decorative character
and of excellent quality was also made some forty years ago by Town and
Emanuel, of Bond Street, and many of this firm's "Old French" tables
and cabinets were so carefully finished with regard to style and detail,
that, with the "tone" acquired by time since their production, it is not
always easy to distinguish them from the models from which they were
taken. Toms was assistant to Town and Emanuel, and afterwards purchased
and carried on the business of "Toms and Luscombe," a firm well-known as
manufacturers of excellent and expensive "French" furniture, until their
retirement from business some ten years ago.

[Illustration: Cabinet of Ebony, in the Renaissance Style. With Carnelions
inserted. Litchfield and Radclyffe. 1862 Exhibition.]

Webb, of Old Bond Street, succeeded by Annoot, and subsequently by Radley,
was a manufacturer of this class of furniture; he employed a considerable
number of workmen, and carried on a very successful business.

The name of "Blake," too, is one that will be remembered by some of our
older readers who were interested in marqueterie furniture of forty years
ago. He made an inlaid centre table for the late Duke of Northumberland,
from a design by Mr. C. P. Slocornbe, of South Kensington Museum; he also
made excellent copies of Louis XIV. furniture.

The next International Exhibition held in London was in the year 1862,
and, though its success was somewhat impaired by the great calamity this
country sustained in the death of the Prince Consort on 14th December,
1861, and also by the breaking out of the Civil War in the United States
of America, the exhibitors had increased from 17,000 in '51 to some 29,000
in '62, the foreign entries being 16,456, as against 6,566.

Exhibitions of a National and International character had also been held
in many of the Continental capitals. There was in 1855 a successful one in
Paris, which was followed by one still greater in 1867, and, as every one
knows, they have been lately of almost annual occurrence in various
countries, affording the enterprising manufacturer better and more
frequent opportunities of placing his productions before the public, and
of teaching both producer and consumer to appreciate and profit by every
improvement in taste, and by the greater demand for artistic objects.

The few illustrations from these more recent Exhibitions of 1862 and 1867
deserve a passing notice. The cabinet of carved ebony with enrichments of
carnelian and other richly-colored minerals (illustrated on previous
page), received a good deal of notice, and was purchased by William, third
Earl of Craven, a well-known virtuoso of thirty years ago.

The work of Fourdinois, of Paris, has already been alluded to, and in the
1867 Exhibition his furniture acquired a still higher reputation for good
taste and attention to detail. The full page illustration of a cabinet of
ebony, with carvings of boxwood, is a remarkably rich piece of work of its
kind; the effect is produced by carving the box-wood figures and
ornamental scroll work in separate pieces, and then inserting these bodily
into the ebony. By this means the more intricate work is able to be more
carefully executed, and the close grain and rich tint of Turkey boxwood
(perhaps next to ivory the best medium for rendering fine carving) tells
out in relief against the ebony of which the body of the cabinet is
constructed. This excellent example of modern cabinet work by Fourdinois,
was purchased for the South Kensington Museum for L1,200, and no one who
has a knowledge of the cost of executing minute carved work in boxwood and
ebony will consider the price a very high one.

The house of Fourdinois no longer exists; the names of the foremost makers
of French _meubles de luxe_, in Paris, are Buerdeley, Dasson, Roux,
Sormani, Durand, and Zwiener. Some mention has already been made of
Zwiener, as the maker of a famous bureau in the Hertford collection, and a
sideboard exhibited by Durand in the '51 Exhibition is amongst the
illustrations selected as representative of cabinet work at that time.

[Illustration: Cabinet of Ebony with Carvings of Boxwood. Designed and
Manufactured by M. Fourdenois, Paris. 1867 Exhibition, Paris. (Purchased
by S. Kensington Museum for L1,200.)]

[Illustration: Cabinet in Satinwood, With Wedgwood plaques and inlay of
various woods in the Adams' style. Designed and Manufactured by Messrs.
Wright & Mansfield, London. 1867 Exhibition, Paris. Purchased by the S.
Kensington Museum.]

[Illustration: Ebony And Ivory Cabinet. In The Style of Italian
Renaissance by Andrea Picchi, Florence, Exhibited Paris, 1867.

NOTE.--A marked similarity in this design to that of a 17th Century
cabinet, illustrated in the Italian section of Chapter iii., will be

The illustration of Wright and Mansfield's satin-wood cabinet, with
Wedgewood plaques inserted, and with wreaths and swags of marqueteric
inlaid, is in the Adams' style, a class of design of which this firm made
a specialite. Both Wright and Mansfield had been assistants at Jackson and
Graham's, and after a short term in Great Portland Street, they removed to
Bond Street, and carried on a successful business of a high class and
somewhat exclusive character, until their retirement from business a few
years since. This cabinet was exhibited in Paris in 1867, and was
purchased by our South Kensington authorities. Perhaps it is not generally
known that a grant is made to the Department for the purchase of suitable
specimens of furniture and woodwork for the Museum. This expenditure is
made with great care and discrimination. It may be observed here that the
South Kensington Museum, which was founded in 1851, was at this time
playing an important part in the Art education of the country. The
literature of the day also contributed many useful works of instruction
and reference for the designer of furniture and woodwork.[21]

One noticeable feature of modern design in furniture is the revival of
marquetry. Like all mosaic work, to which branch of Industrial Art it
properly belongs, this kind of decoration should be quite subordinate to
the general design; but with the rage for novelty which seized public
attention some forty years ago, it developed into the production of all
kinds of fantastic patterns in different veneers. A kind of minute mosaic
work in wood, which was called "Tunbridge Wells work," became fashionable
for small articles. Within the last ten or fifteen years the reproductions
of what is termed "Chippendale," and also Adam and Sheraton designs in
marqueterie furniture, have been manufactured to an enormous extent.
Partly on account of the difficulty in obtaining the richly-marked and
figured old mahogany and satin-wood of a hundred years ago, which needed
little or no inlay as ornament, and partly to meet the public fancy by
covering up bad construction with veneers of marquetry decoration, a great
deal more inlay has been given to these reproductions than ever appeared
in the original work of the eighteenth century cabinet makers. Simplicity
was sacrificed, and veneers, thus used and abused, came to be a term of
contempt, implying sham or superficial ornament. Dickens, in one of his
novels, has introduced the "Veneer" family, thus stamping the term more
strongly on the popular imagination.

The method now practised in using marquetry to decorate furniture is very
similar to the one explained in the description of "Boule" furniture given
in Chapter VI., except that, instead of shell, the marquetry cutter uses
the veneer, which he intends to be the groundwork of his design, and as
in some cases these veneers are cut to the thickness of 1/16 of an inch,
several layers can be sawn through at once. Sometimes, instead of using so
many different kinds of wood, when a very polychromatic effect is
required, holly wood and sycamore are stained different colours, and the
marquetry thus prepared, is glued on to the body of the furniture, and
subsequently prepared, engraved, and polished.

This kind of work is done to a great extent in England, but still more
extensively and elaborately in France and Italy, where ivory and brass,
marble, and other materials are also used to enrich the effect. This
effect is either satisfactory or the reverse according as the work is well
or ill-considered and executed.

It must be obvious, too, that in the production of marquetry the processes
are attainable by machinery, which saves labour and cheapens productions
of the commoner kinds; this tends to produce a decorative effect which is
often inappropriate and superabundant.

Perhaps it is allowable to add here that marquetry, or _marqueterie_, its
French equivalent, is the more modern survival of "Tarsia" work to which
allusion has been made in previous chapters. Webster defines the word as
"Work inlaid with pieces of wood, shells, ivory, and the like," derived
from the French word _marqueter_ to checker and _marque_ (a sign), of
German origin. It is distinguished from parquetry (which is derived from
"_pare_," an enclosure, of which it is a diminutive), and signifies a kind
of joinery in geometrical patterns, generally used for flooring. When,
however, the marquetry assumes geometrical patterns (frequently a number
of cubes shaded in perspective) the design is often termed in Art
catalogues a "parquetry" design.

In considering the design and manufacture of furniture of the present day,
as compared with that of, say, a hundred years ago, there are two or three
main factors to be taken into account. Of these the most important is the
enormously increased demand, by the multiplication of purchasers, for some
classes of furniture, which formerly had but a limited sale. This enables
machinery to be used to advantage in economising labour, and therefore one
finds in the so-called "Queen Anne" and "Jacobean" cabinet work of the
well furnished house of the present time, rather too prominent evidence of
the lathe and the steam plane. Mouldings are machined by the length, then
cut into cornices, mitred round panels, or affixed to the edge of a plain
slab of wood, giving it the effect of carving. The everlasting spindle,
turned rapidly by the lathe, is introduced with wearisome redundance, to
ornament the stretcher and the edge of a shelf; the busy fret or band-saw
produces fanciful patterns which form a cheap enrichment when applied to a
drawer-front, a panel, or a frieze, and carving machines can copy any
design which a century ago were the careful and painstaking result of a
practised craftsman's skill.

Again, as the manufacture of furniture is now chiefly carried on in large
factories, both in England and on the Continent, the sub-division of
labour causes the article to pass through different hands in successive
stages, and the wholesale manufacture of furniture by steam has taken the
place of the personal supervision by the master's eye of the task of a few
men who were in the old days the occupants of his workshop. As a writer on
the subject has well said, "the chisel and the knife are no longer in such
cases controlled by the sensitive touch of the human hand." In connection
with this we are reminded of Ruskin's precept that "the first condition of
a work of Art is that it should be conceived and carried out by one

Instead of the carved ornament being the outcome of the artist's educated
taste, which places on the article a stamp of individuality--instead of
the furniture being, as it was in the seventeenth century in England, and
some hundred years earlier in Italy and in France, the craftsman's
pride--it is now the result of the rapid multiplication of some pattern
which has caught the popular fancy, generally a design in which there is a
good deal of decorative effect for a comparatively small price.

The difficulty of altering this unsatisfactory state of things is evident.
On the one side, the manufacturers or the large furnishing firms have a
strong case in their contention that the public will go to the market it
considers the best: and when decoration is pitted against simplicity,
though the construction which accompanies the former be ever so faulty,
the more pretentious article will be selected. When a successful pattern
has been produced, and arrangements and sub-contracts have been made for
its repetition in large quantities, any considerable variation made in the
details (even if it be the suppression of ornament) will cause an addition
to the cost which those only who understand something of a manufacturer's
business can appreciate.

During the present generation an Art movement has sprung up called
AEstheticism, which has been defined as the "Science of the Beautiful and
the Philosophy of the Fine Arts," and aims at carrying a love of the
beautiful into all the relations of life. The fantastical developments
which accompanied the movement brought its devotees into much ridicule
about ten years ago, and the pages of _Punch_ of that time will be found
to happily travesty its more amusing and extravagant aspects. The great
success of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, "Patience," produced in 1881,
was also to some extent due to the humorous allusions to the
extravagances of the "Aesthetetes." In support of what may be termed a
higher AEstheticism, Mr. Ruskin has written much to give expression to his
ideas and principles for rendering our surroundings more beautiful. Sir
Frederic Leighton and Mr. Alma Tadema are conspicuous amongst those who
have in their houses carried such principles into effect, and amongst
other artists who have been and are, more or less, associated with this
movement, may be named Rossetti, Burne Jones, and Holman Hunt. As a writer
on AEstheticism has observed:--"When the extravagances attending the
movement have been purged away, there may be still left an educating
influence, which will impress the lofty and undying principles of Art upon
the minds of the people."

For a time, in-spite of ridicule, this so-called AEstheticism was the
vogue, and considerably affected the design and decoration of furniture of
the time. Woodwork was painted olive green; the panels of cabinets,
painted in sombre colors, had pictures of sad-looking maidens, and there
was an attempt at a "dim religious" effect in our rooms quite
inappropriate to such a climate as that of England. The reaction, however,
from the garish and ill-considered colourings of a previous decade or two
has left behind it much good, and with the catholicity of taste which
marks the furnishing of the present day, people see some merit in every
style, and are endeavouring to select that which is desirable without
running to the extreme of eccentricity.

Perhaps the advantage thus gained is counterbalanced by the loss of our
old "traditions," for amongst the wilderness of reproductions of French
furniture, more or less frivolous--of Chippendale, as that master is
generally understood--of what is termed "Jacobean" and "Queen Anne"--to
say nothing of a quantity of so-called "antique furniture," we are
bewildered in attempting to identify this latter end of the nineteenth
century with any particular style of furniture. By "tradition" it is
intended to allude to the old-fashioned manner of handing down from father
to son, or master to apprentice, for successive generations, the skill to
produce any particular class of object of Art or manufacture. Surely
Ruskin had something of this in his mind when he said, "Now, when the
powers of fancy, stimulated by this triumphant precision of manual
dexterity, descend from generation to generation, you have at last what is
not so much a trained artist, as a new species of animal, with whose
instinctive gifts you have no chance of contending."

Tradition may be said to still survive in the country cartwright, who
produces the farmer's wagon in accordance with custom and tradition,
modifying the method of construction somewhat perhaps to meet altered
conditions of circumstances, and then ornamenting his work by no
particular set design or rule, but partly from inherited aptitude and
partly from playfulness or fancy. In the house-carpenter attached to some
of our old English family estates, there will also be found, here and
there, surviving representatives of the traditional "joyner" of the
seventeenth century, and in Eastern countries, particularly in Japan, we
find the dexterous joiner or carver of to-day is the descendant of a long
line of more or less excellent mechanics.

It must be obvious, too, that "Trades Unionism" of the present day cannot
but be, in many of its effects, prejudicial to the Industrial Arts. A
movement which aims at reducing men of different intelligence and ability,
to a common standard, and which controls the amount of work done, and the
price paid for it, whatever are its social or economical advantages, must
have a deleterious influence upon the Art products of our time.

Writers on Art and manufactures, of varying eminence and opinion, are
unanimous in pointing out the serious drawbacks to progress which will
exist, so long as there is a demand for cheap and meretricious imitations
of old furniture, as opposed to more simply made articles, designed in
accordance with the purposes for which they are intended. Within the past
few years a great many well directed endeavours have been made in England
to improve design in furniture, and to revive something of the feeling of
pride and ambition in his craft, which, in the old days of the Trade
Guilds, animated our Jacobean joiner. One of the best directed of these
enterprises is that of the "Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society," of which
Mr. Walter Crane, A.R.W.S., is president, and which numbers, amongst its
committee and supporters, a great many influential names. As suggested in
the design of the cover of their Exhibition Catalogue, drawn by the
President, one chief aim of the society is to link arm in arm "Design and
Handicraft," by exhibiting only such articles as bear the names of
individuals who (1) drew the design and (2) carried it out: each craftsman
thus has the credit and responsibility of his own part of the work,
instead of the whole appearing as the production of Messrs. A.B. or C.D.,
who may have known nothing personally of the matter, beyond generally
directing the affairs of a large manufacturing or furnishing business.

In the catalogue published by this Society there are several short and
useful essays in which furniture is treated, generally and specifically,
by capable writers, amongst whom are Mr. Walter Crane, Mr. Edward Prior,
Mr. Halsey Ricardo, Mr. Reginald T. Blomfield, Mr. W.R. Letharby, Mr. J.H.
Pollen, Mr. Stephen Webb, and Mr. T.G. Jackson, A.R.A., the order of names
being that in which the several essays are arranged. This small but
valuable contribution to the subject of design and manufacture of
furniture is full of interest, and points out the defects of our present
system. Amongst other regrets, one of the writers (Mr. Halsey Ricardo)
complains, that the "transient tenure that most of us have in our
dwellings, and the absorbing nature of the struggle that most of us have
to make to win the necessary provisions of life, prevent our encouraging
the manufacture of well wrought furniture. We mean to outgrow our
houses--our lease expires after so many years, and then we shall want an
entirely different class of furniture--consequently we purchase articles
that have only sufficient life in them to last the brief period of our
occupation, and are content to abide by the want of appropriateness or
beauty, in the clear intention of some day surrounding ourselves with
objects that shall be joys to us for the remainder of our life."

Many other societies, guilds, and art schools have been established with
more or less success, with the view of improving the design and
manufacture of furniture, and providing suitable models for our young wood
carvers to copy. The Ellesmere Cabinet (illustrated) was one of the
productions of the "Home Arts and Industries Association," founded by the
late Lady Marian Alford in 1883, a well known connoisseur and Art patron.
It will be seen that this is virtually a Jacobean design.

In the earlier chapters of this book, it has been observed that as
Architecture became a settled Art or Science, it was accompanied by a
corresponding development in the design of the room and its furniture,
under, as it were, one impulse of design, and this appropriate concord may
be said to have obtained in England until nearly the middle of the present
century, when, after the artificial Greek style in furniture and woodwork
which had been attempted by Wilkins, Soane, and other contemporary
architects, had fallen into disfavour, there was first a reaction, and
then an interregnum, as has been noticed in the previous chapter. The
Great Exhibition marked a fresh departure, and quickened, as we have seen,
industrial enterprise in this country; and though, upon the whole, good
results have been produced by the impetus given by these international
competitions, they have not been exempt from unfavorable accompaniments.
One of these was the eager desire for novelty, without the necessary
judgment to discriminate between good and bad. For a time, nothing
satisfied the purchaser of so-called "artistic" products, whether of
decorative furniture, carpets, curtains or merely ornamental articles,
unless the design was "new." The natural result was the production either
of heavy and ugly, or flimsy and inappropriate furniture, which has been
condemned by every writer on the subject. In some of the designs selected
from the exhibits of '51 this desire to leave the beaten track of
conventionality will be evident: and for a considerable time after the
exhibition there is to be seen in our designs, the result of too many
opportunities for imitation, acting upon minds insufficiently trained to
exercise careful judgment and selection.

[Illustration: The Ellesmere Cabinet, In the Collection of the late Lady
Marian Alford.]

The custom of appropriate and harmonious treatment of interior decorations
and suitable furniture, seems to have been in a great measure abandoned
during the present century, owing perhaps to the indifference of
architects of the time to this subsidiary but necessary portion of their
work, or perhaps to a desire for economy, which preferred the cheapness of
painted and artificially grained pine-wood, with decorative effects
produced by wall papers, to the more solid but expensive though less
showy wood-panelling, architectural mouldings, well-made panelled doors
and chimney pieces, which one finds, down to quite the end of the last
century, even in houses of moderate rentals. Furniture therefore became
independent and "beginning to account herself an Art, transgressed her
limits" ... and "grew to the conceit that it could stand by itself, and,
as well as its betters, went a way of its own." [22] The interiors, handed
over from the builder, as it were, in blank, are filled up from the
upholsterer's store, the curiosity shop, and the auction room, while a
large contribution from the conservatory or the nearest florist gives the
finishing touch to a mixture, which characterizes the present taste for
furnishing a boudoir or a drawing room.

There is, of course, in very many cases an individuality gained by the
"omnium gatherum" of such a mode of furnishing. The cabinet which reminds
its owner of a tour in Italy, the quaint stool from Tangier, and the
embroidered piano cover from Spain, are to those who travel, pleasant
souvenirs; as are also the presents from friends (when they have taste and
judgment), the screens and flower-stands, and the photographs, which are
reminiscences of the forms and faces separated from us by distance or
death. The test of the whole question of such an arrangement of furniture
in our living rooms, is the amount of judgment and discretion displayed.
Two favorable examples of the present fashion, representing the interior
of the Saloon and Drawing Room at Sandringham House, are here reproduced.

[Illustration: The Saloon at Sandringham House. (_From a Photo by Bedford
Lemere & Co., by permission of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales_).]

[Illustration: The Drawing Room at Sandringham House. (_From a Photo by
Bedford Lemere & Co., by permission of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales_).]

There is at the present time an ambition on the part of many well-to-do
persons to imitate the effect produced in houses of old families where,
for generations, valuable and memorable articles of decorative furniture
have been accumulated, just as pictures, plate and china have been
preserved; and failing the inheritance of such household gods, it is the
practice to acquire, or as the modern term goes, "to collect," old
furniture of different styles and periods, until the room becomes
incongruous and overcrowded, an evidence of the wealth, rather than of the
taste, of the owner. As it frequently happens that such collections are
made very hastily, and in the brief intervals of a busy commercial or
political life, the selections are not the best or most suitable; and
where so much is required in a short space of time, it becomes impossible
to devote a sufficient sum of money to procure a really valuable specimen
of the kind desired; in its place an effective and low priced reproduction
of an old pattern (with all the faults inseparable from such conditions)
is added to the conglomeration of articles requiring attention, and
taking up space. The limited accommodation of houses built on ground which
is too valuable to allow spacious halls and large apartments, makes this
want of discretion and judgment the more objectionable. There can be no
doubt that want of care and restraint in the selection of furniture, by
the purchasing public, affects its character, both as to design and

These are some of the faults in the modern style of furnishing, which have
been pointed out by recent writers and lecturers on the subject. In "Hints
on Household Taste," [23] Mr. Eastlake has scolded us severely for running
after novelties and fashions, instead of cultivating suitability and
simplicity, in the selection and ordering of our furniture; and he has
contrasted descriptions and drawings of well designed and constructed
pieces of furniture of the Jacobean period with those of this century's
productions. Col. Robert Edis, in "Decoration and Furniture of Town
Houses," has published designs which are both simple and economical, with
regard to space and money, while suitable to the specified purpose of the
furniture or "fitment."

This revival in taste, which has been not inappropriately termed "The New
Renaissance," has produced many excellent results, and several well-known
architects and designers in the foremost rank of art, amongst whom the
late Mr. Street, R.A.; Messrs. Norman Shaw, R.A.; Waterhouse, R.A.; Alma
Tadema, R.A.; T. G. Jackson, A.R.A.; W. Burgess, Thomas Cutler, E. W.
Godwin, S. Webb, and many others, have devoted a considerable amount of
attention to the design of furniture.

The ruling principle in the majority of these designs has been to avoid
over ornamentation, and pretension to display, and to produce good solid
work, in hard, durable, and (on account of the increased labour) expensive
woods, or, when economy is required, in light soft woods, painted or
enamelled. Some manufacturing firms, whom it would be invidious to name,
and whose high reputation renders them independent of any recommendation,
have adopted this principle, and, as a result, there is now no difficulty
in obtaining well designed and soundly constructed furniture, which is
simple, unpretentious, and worth the price charged for it. Unfortunately
for the complete success of the new teaching, useful and appropriate
furniture meets with a fierce competition from more showy and ornate
productions, made to sell rather than to last: furniture which seems to
have upon it the stamp of our "three years' agreement," or "seven years'
lease." Of this it may be said, speaking not only from an artistic, but
from a moral and humane standpoint, it is made so cheaply, that it seems a
pity it is made at all.

The disadvantages, inseparable from our present state of society, which we
have noticed as prejudicial to English design and workmanship, and which
check the production of really satisfactory furniture, are also to be
observed in other countries; and as the English, and English-speaking
people, are probably the largest purchasers of foreign manufacturers,
these disadvantages act and re-act on the furniture of different nations.

In France, the cabinet maker has ever excelled in the production of
ornamental furniture; and by constant reference to older specimens in the
Museums and Palaces of his country, he is far better acquainted with what
may be called the traditions of his craft than his English brother. With
him the styles of Francois Premier, of Henri Deux, and the "three Louis"
are classic, and in the beautiful chasing and finishing of the mounts
which ornament the best _meubles de luxe_, it is almost impossible to
surpass his best efforts, provided the requisite price be paid; but this
amounts in many cases to such considerable sums of money as would seem
incredible to those who have but little knowledge of the subject. As a
simple instance, the "copy" of the "Bureau du Louvre" (described in
Chapter vi.) in the Hertford House collection, cost the late Sir Richard
Wallace a sum of L4,000.

As, however, in France, and in countries which import French furniture,
there are many who desire to have the effect of this beautiful but
expensive furniture, but cannot afford to spend several thousand pounds in
the decoration of a single room, the industrious and ingenious Frenchman
manufactures, to meet this demand, vast quantities of furniture which
affects, without attaining, the merits of the better made and more highly
finished articles.

In Holland, Belgium, and in Germany, as has already been pointed out, the
manufacture of ornamental oak furniture, on the lines of the Renaissance
models, still prevails, and such furniture is largely imported into this

Italian carved furniture of modern times has been already noticed; and in
the selections made from the 1851 Exhibition, some productions of
different countries have been illustrated, which tend to shew that,
speaking generally, the furniture most suitable for display is produced
abroad, while none can excel English cabinet makers in the production of
useful furniture and woodwork, when it is the result of design and
handicraft, unfettered by the detrimental, but too popular, condition that
the article when finished shall appear to be more costly really than it

[Illustration: Carved Frame, by Radspieler, Munich.]

The illustration of a carved frame in the rococo style of Chippendale,
with a Chinaman in a canopy, represents an important school of wood
carving which has been developed in Munich; and in the "Kuenst
Gewerberein," or "Workman's Exhibition," in that city, the Bavarians have
a very similar arrangement to that of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition
Society of this country, of which mention has already been made. Each
article is labelled with the name of the designer and maker.

In conclusion, it seems evident that, with all the faults and shortcomings
of this latter part of the nineteenth century--and no doubt they are many,
both of commission and omission--still, speaking generally, there is no
lack of men with ability to design, and no want of well trained patient
craftsmen to produce, furniture which shall equal the finest examples of
the Renaissance and Jacobean periods. With the improved means of
inter-communication between England and her Colonies, and with the chief
industrial centres of Europe united for the purposes of commerce, the
whole civilized world is, as it were, one kingdom: merchants and
manufacturers can select the best and most suitable materials, can obtain
photographs or drawings of the most distant examples, or copies of the
most expensive designs, while the public Art Libraries of London, and
Paris, contain valuable works of reference, which are easily accessible to
the student or to the workman. It is very pleasant to bear testimony to
the courtesy and assistance which the student or workman invariably
receives from those who are in charge of our public reference libraries.

There needs, however, an important condition to be taken into account.
Good work, requiring educated thought to design, and skilled labour to
produce, must be paid for at a very different rate to the furniture of
machined mouldings, stamped ornament, and other numerous and inexpensive
substitutes for handwork, which our present civilization has enabled our
manufacturers to produce, and which, for the present, seems to find favour
with the multitude. It has been well said that, "Decorated or sumptuous
furniture is not merely furniture that is expensive to buy, but that which
has been elaborated with much thought, knowledge, and skill. Such
furniture cannot be cheap certainly, but _the real cost is sometimes borne
by the artist who produces, rather than by the man who may happen to buy
it_." [24] It is often forgotten that the price paid is that of the lives
and sustenance of the workers and their families.


A point has now been reached at which our task must be brought to its
natural conclusion; for although many collectors, and others interested in
the subject, have invited the writer's attention to numerous descriptions
and examples, from an examination of which much information could, without
doubt, be obtained, still, the exigencies of a busy life, and the limits
of a single volume of moderate dimensions, forbid the attempt to add to a
story which, it is feared, may perhaps have already overtaxed the reader's

As has already been stated in the preface, this book is not intended to be
a guide to "_collecting,"_ or "_furnishing";_ nevertheless, it is possible
that, in the course of recording some of the changes which have taken
place in designs and fashions, and of bringing into notice, here and
there, the opinions of those who have thought and written upon the
subject, some indirect assistance may have been given in both these
directions. If this should be the case, and if an increased interest has
been thereby excited in the surroundings of the Home, or in some of those
Art collections--the work of bye-gone years--which form part of our
National property, the writer's aim and object will have been attained,
and his humble efforts amply rewarded.


[Illustration: A Sixteenth Century Workshop.]


NOTE.--The Names of several Designers and Makers, omitted from the
Index, will be found in the List in the Appendix, with references.

Academy (French) of the Arts founded
Adam, Robert and James
Ahashuerus, Palace of
Alcock, Sir Rutherford, collection of
Angelo, Michael
Anglo-Saxon Furniture
Arabesque Ornament, origin of
Arabian Woodwork
Ark, reference to the
Armoires, mention of
Art Journal, The
Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society
Aspinwall, of Grosvenor Street
Assyrian Furniture
Aubusson Tapestry
Audley End
Austrian Work

Barbers' Company, Hall of the
Baroque, The style
Barry, Sir Charles, R.A.
Beauvais Tapestry
Bedroom Furniture
Bedstead of Jeanne d'Albret
Bedstead in the Cluny Museum
Bellows, Italian
Benjamin, Mr., referred to
Berain, Charles, French artist
Bethnal Green Museum
Biblical references
Birch, Dr., reference to
Birdwood, Sir George, referred to
Black, Mr. Adam, reference to
Blomfield, Mr. Reginald T.
Boards and Trestles
Boleyn, Anna, chair of
Bombay Furniture
Bonnaffe, referred to
Boucher, artist
Boule, Andre Charles
Brackets, Wall
British Museum, references to specimens in the
Brittany Furniture
Broadwood, Messrs
Bronze Mountings
Bruges, Chimney-piece at
Bryan, Michael, referred to
Buffet, The
Bureau du Roi
Burgess, Mr. W
Byzantine-Gothic, discarded
Byzantine style

Caffieri, work of
Cairo Woodwork
Canopied Seats
Canterbury Cathedral
Carpenters' Company
Cashmere Work
Cauner, French carver
Cellaret, The
Cellini, B.
Chambers, Sir William, R.A.
Chair of Dagobert
Chairs of St. Peter
Chardin, reference to
Charlemagne, reference to
Charles I.
reference to

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest