Illustrated History of Furniture eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 221 pages of information about Illustrated History of Furniture.

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

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

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

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

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

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Illustrated History of Furniture from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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