This section is from the book "The Practical Book Of Interior Decoration", by Harold Donaldson Eberlein, Abbot Mcclure, Edward Stratton Holloway. See also: The Victorian House Book: A Practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration.
NOT yet does it seem to be understood by many that the spirit which is contrary to the Classic in interior decoration is the same which opposes it in the other arts: consequently we hear much of Baroque, Rococo, Art Nouveau and the "Newer Decoration" while feeling sure it is not generally realised they are all recrudescences of the Romantic spirit. The failure to recognise this has been responsible for much narrowness of view.
These two great informing influences - the Classic and the Romantic - which affect literature and the other arts - likewise move through the course of interior decoration and act as alternate inspirations. These often blend, and indeed since the beginnings of modern art (as distinguished from mediaeval) have seldom been entirely separate; but one or the other is nearly always dominant.
The Classic ideal is that of "order," of restraint, and is usually accompanied by dignified colour: the Romantic is emotional, free, frets and champs at restraint, resents the rule of precedent and naturally rejoices in exuberant colour.
We shall continually see the manifestations of both, and have not long to wait; for here, almost at the beginnings of modern decoration, the Renaissance movement, dominantly Classic though infiltrated with many romantic features, was interrupted, we might almost say set upon, by the contrary influence. Like the preceding movement, the Baroque arose in Southern Europe, and with greater or less force swept over the Continent and England.
A natural question to any enquiring mind is why such changes occur and why new movements arise. We shall always find the answer in natural causes, and learn that they are in the direction of development or reaction - sometimes partaking of both, as does the one we are now to consider.
The Renaissance began with the classic inspiration of order and dignity. To this was added state and magnificence. Interior architecture and furnishing became, through political and social changes, increasingly ornate, till the original inspiration was forgotten or ignored; till the desire for display could no longer be satisfied by the capabilities of the classic, aided, though it was, by features unknown to Greece and Rome, and so naturally burst its bonds and overflowed into the romantic, curvilinear, redundant and often ill-balanced Baroque. Impatience of the restrictions of the Renaissance doubtless also aided in developing a reaction from its principles.
Although much of the rectilinear persisted in the Baroque, its characteristic is the curve. But when, later, we arrive at the succeeding period - the Rococo - we shall find that its characteristic also is the curvilinear, and to a still greater degree - what, therefore, are the outstanding features by which we shall recognise the Baroque?
They will become still more evident when we compare it with the Rococo, but as "seeing is believing," let us look for a moment at its extreme manifestation in the cut of the diminutive Spanish chair illustrated in Plate 136 A.
In the first place, it rather increased the weight and retained the impressiveness of the Renaissance, though different in its forms, and the constructional material remained largely oak and walnut. In the second, while all sorts of curves were in use in the Baroque period an analysis seems to show the "broken curve," often called the Flemish scroll, the C curve and the cartouche to be its most prominent decorative motifs. In furniture, where symptoms are always the most marked, all its curves were marked by roundness of the edges, as is appropriate to their weight, and they were what we might denominate stopped curves, being usually closed at the ends by a whorled termination. They were not free and flowing - there is a ponderous tightness about them all. The shell was much used as an ornament.
Its interior architecture was marked in its use of pilasters, pillars, broken entablatures and ornament without due regard to construction and an often clumsy heaviness in mouldings and details.
In order to arrive at the practical use and application of the Baroque interior and furnishing today these will now be taken up in both their international and inter period relations.