Before concluding the remarks on this period of English woodwork and furniture, further mention should be made of Penshurst Place, to which there has been already some reference in the chapter on the period of the Middle Ages. It was here that Sir Philip Sydney spent much of his time, and produced his best literary work, during the period of his retirement when he had lost the favour of Elizabeth, and in the room known as the “Queen’s Room,” illustrated on p. 89, some of the furniture is of this period; the crystal chandeliers are said to have been given by Leicester to his Royal Mistress, and some of the chairs and tables were sent down by the Queen, and presented to Sir Henry Sydney (Philip’s father) when she stayed at Penshurst during one of her Royal progresses. The room, with its vases and bowls of old oriental china and the contemporary portraits on the walls, gives us a good idea of the very best effect that was attainable with the material then available.
Richardson’s “Studies” contains, amongst other examples of furniture, and carved oak decorations of English Renaissance, interiors of Little Charlton, East Sutton Place, Stockton House, Wilts, Audley End, Essex, and the Great Hall, Crewe, with its beautiful hall screens and famous carved “parloir,” all notable mansions of the sixteenth century.
To this period of English furniture belongs the celebrated “Great Bed of Ware,” of which there is an illustration. This was formerly at the Saracen’s Head at Ware, but has been removed to Rye House, about two miles away. Shakespeare’s allusion to it in the “Twelfth Night” has identified the approximate date and gives the bed a character. The following are the lines:—
“SIR TOBY BELCH.—And
as many lies as shall lie in thy sheet of paper,
altho’ the sheet were big enough for the Bed of Ware in England, set em
down, go about it.”
Another illustration shows the chair which is said to have belonged to William Shakespeare; it may or may not be the actual one used by the poet, but it is most probably a genuine specimen of about his time, though perhaps not made in England. There is a manuscript on its back which states that it was known in 1769 as the Shakespeare Chair, when Garrick borrowed it from its owner, Mr. James Bacon, of Barnet, and since that time its history is well known. The carved ornament is in low relief, and represents a rough idea of the dome of S. Marc and the Campanile Tower.
We have now briefly and roughly traced the advance of what may be termed the flood-tide of Art from its birthplace in Italy to France, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and England, and by explanation and description, assisted by illustrations, have endeavoured to shew how the Gothic of the latter part of the Middle Ages gave way before the revival of classic forms and arabesque ornament, with the many details and peculiarities characteristic of each different nationality which