[Illustration: Clock, By Robin, in Marqueterie Case, with Mountings of Gilt Bronze, (Jones Collection. South Kensington Museum.) Louis XVI. Period.]
Soon after this generous bequest was placed in the South Kensington Museum, for the benefit of the public, a leading article appeared in the Times, from which the following extract will very appropriately conclude this chapter:—“As the visitor passes by the cases where these curious objects are displayed, he asks himself what is to be said on behalf of the art of which they are such notable examples.” Tables, chairs, commodes, secretaires, wardrobes, porcelain vases, marble statuettes, they represent in a singularly complete way the mind and the work of the ancien regime. Like Eisen’s vignettes, or the contes of innumerable story-tellers, they bring back to us the grace, the luxury, the prettiness, the frivolity of that Court which believed itself, till the rude awakening came, to contain all that was precious in the life of France. A piece of furniture like the little Sevres-inlaid writing table of Marie Antoinette is, to employ a figure of Balzac’s, a document which reveals as much to the social historian as the skeleton of an ichthyosaurus reveals to the palaeontologist. It sums up an epoch. A whole world can be inferred from it. Pretty, elegant, irrational, and entirely useless, this exquisite and costly toy might stand as a symbol for the life which the Revolution swept away.
[Illustration: Harpsichord, from the Permanent Collection belonging to South Kensington Museum. Date: About 1750.]
[Illustration: Italian Sedan Chair. Used at the Baptism of the Grand Ducal Family of Tuscany, now in the South Kensington Museum. Period: Latter Half of XVIII. Century.]
Chippendale and his Contemporaries.
Chinese style—Sir William Chambers—The Brothers Adams’ work—Pergelesi, Cipriani, and Angelica Kauffmann—Architects of the time—Wedgwood and Flaxman—Chippendale’s Work and his Contemporaries—Chair in the Barbers’ Hall—Lock, Shearer, Hepplewhite, Ince, Mayhew, Sheraton—Introduction of Satinwood and Mahogany—Gillows of Lancaster and London—History of the Sideboard—The Dining Room—Furniture of the time.
Soon after the second half of the eighteenth century had set in, during the latter days of the second George, and the early part of his successor’s long reign, there is a distinct change in the design of English decorative furniture.
Sir William Chambers, R.A., an architect, who has left us Somerset House as a lasting monument of his talent, appears to have been the first to impart to the interior decoration, of houses what was termed “the Chinese style,” after his visit to China, of which a notice was made in the chapter on Eastern furniture: and as he was considered an “oracle of taste” about this time, his