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.]