[Illustration: Three Chimneypieces. Designed by James Gibes, Architect, in 1739.]
Nearly all writers on the subject of furniture and woodwork are agreed in considering that the earlier part of the period discussed in this chapter, that is, the seventeenth century, is the best in the traditions of English work. As we have seen in noticing some of the earlier Jacobean examples already illustrated and described, it was a period marked by increased refinement of design through the abandonment of the more grotesque and often coarse work of Elizabethan carving, and by soundness of construction and thorough workmanship.
Oak furniture made in England during the seventeenth century, is still a credit to the painstaking craftsmen of those days, and even upholstered furniture, like the couches and chairs at Knole, after more than 250 years’ service, are fit for use.
In the ninth and last chapter, which will deal with furniture of the present day, the methods of production which are now in practice will be noticed, and some comparison will be made which must be to the credit of the Jacobean period.
* * * * *
In the foregoing chapters an attempt has been made to preserve, as far as possible, a certain continuity in the history of the subject matter of this work from the earliest times until after the Renaissance had been generally adopted in Europe. In this endeavour a greater amount of attention has been bestowed upon the furniture of a comparatively short period of English history than upon that of other countries, but it is hoped that this fault will be forgiven by English readers.
It has now become necessary to interrupt this plan, and before returning to the consideration of European design and work, to devote a short chapter to those branches of the Industrial Arts connected with furniture which flourished in China and Japan, in India, Persia, and Arabia, at a time anterior and subsequent to the Renaissance period in Europe.
The Furniture of Eastern Countries.
CHINESE FURNITURE: Probable source of artistic taste—Sir William Chambers quoted—Racinet’s “Le Costume Historique”—Dutch influence—The South Kensington and the Duke of Edinburgh Collections—Processes of making Lacquer—Screens in the Kensington Museum. JAPANESE FURNITURE: Early History—Sir Rutherford Alcock and Lord Elgin—The Collection of the Shogun—Famous Collections—Action of the present Government of Japan—Special characteristics. INDIAN FURNITURE: Early European influence—Furniture of the Moguls—Racinet’s Work—Bombay Furniture—Ivory Chairs and Table—Specimens in the India Museum. PERSIAN WOODWORK: Collection of Objets d’Art formed by General Murdoch Smith, R.E.—Industrial Arts of the Persians—Arab influence—South Kensington Specimens. SARACENIC WOODWORK: Oriental customs—Specimens in the South Kensington Museum of Arab Work—M. d’Aveune’s Work.
Chinese and Japanese Furniture.