Illustrated History of Furniture eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 273 pages of information about Illustrated History of Furniture.

[Illustration:  Governor’s Palace, Manfalut.  Shewing a Window of Arab Lattice Work, similar to that of the Damascus Room in the South Kensington Museum.]

A number of bosses and panels, detached from their original framework, are also to be seen, and are good specimens of Saracenic design.  A bedstead, with inlay of ivory and numerous small squares of glass, under which are paper flowers, is also a good example of native work.

[Illustration:  Specimen of Saracenic Panelling of Cedar, Ebony, and Ivory. (In the South Kensington Museum.)]

The illustration on p. 142 is of a carved wood door from Cairo, considered by the South Kensington authorities to be of Syrian work.  It shews the turned spindles, which the Arabs generally introduce into their ornamental woodwork:  and the carving of the vase of flowers is a good specimen of the kind.  The date is about the seventeenth century.

For those who would gain an extended knowledge of Saracenic or Arabian Art industry, “L’Art Arabe," by M. Prisse d’Aveunes, should be consulted.  There will be found in this work many carefully-prepared illustrations of the cushioned seats, the projecting balconies of the lattice work already alluded to, of octagonal inlaid tables, and such other articles of furniture as were used by the Arabs.  The South Kensington Handbook, “Persian Art,” by Major-General Murdoch Smith, R.E., is also a very handy and useful work in a small compass.

While discussing Saracenic or Arab furniture, it is worth noticing that our word “sofa” is of Arab derivation, the word “suffah” meaning “a couch or place for reclining before the door of Eastern houses.”  In Skeat’s Dictionary the word is said to have first occurred in the “Guardian,” in the year 1713, and the phrase is quoted from No. 167 of that old periodical of the day—­“He leapt off from the sofa on which he sat.”

[Illustration:  A Carved Door of Syrian Work. (South Kensington Museum.)]

From the same source the word “ottoman,” which Webster defines as “a stuffed seat without a back, first used in Turkey,” is obviously obtained, and the modern low-seated upholsterer’s chair of to-day is doubtless the development of a French adaptation of the Eastern cushion or “divan,” this latter word having become applied to the seats which furnished the hall or council chamber in an Eastern palace, although its original meaning was probably the council or “court” itself, or the hall in which such was held.

Thus do the habits and tastes of different nations act and re-act upon each other.  Western peoples have carried eastward their civilisation and their fashions, influencing Arts and industries, with their restless energy, and breaking up the crust of Oriental apathy and indolence; and have brought back in return the ideas gained from an observation of the associations and accessories of Eastern life, to adapt them to the requirements and refinements of European luxury.

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Illustrated History of Furniture from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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