Other Decorative Accessories And Movable Decorations

During the early part of the eighteenth century, the tapestries which had played so important a part in the decorative composition of former times, retained somewhat of their pristine popularity and remained to a certain extent in evidence, although they did not constitute one of the distinctively characteristic features of the time.

Hangings for windows consisted of either brocades, damasks or velvets in bright colours and strong patterns, much like the fabrics used for covering upholstered furniture, or else of printed linens and chintzes of agreeably bright colouring and in designs similar to those shown in the illustration. Both kinds of hangings were used either with or without valances and were often hung from box heads which were covered with the same material strained over the wood.

In large rooms chandeliers were often used; sometimes they were made of carved wood, painted and parcel gilt, sometimes of brass, sometimes of wrought iron which was occasionally embellished by colour and gilding, and sometimes of glass with large crystal pendants. Sconces, too, were conspicuous items of decorative equipment and were made in the manner just noted in the description of chandeliers as well as with various other devices of embellishment.

In addition to the mirrors employed in fixed decorative treatments, great numbers of mirrors, both large and small, were in common use. Some were tall and narrow, others were long and low, while others still were quite small It was quite a usual thing for a mirror to be made in several divisions. The edges were often bevelled, even where the head of the mirror was elaborately shaped, and it was not an uncommon thing for the surface of the glass to be adorned with shallow cutting where such decoration would not interfere with practical utility. Then again, side panels in large tripartite mirrors were frequently adorned with polychrome paintings in reverse, in the Chinese manner, which added greatly to their decorative value. A number of the early mirrors were framed with bevelled glass of a different colour, very often a rich deep blue, although other colours were used. Most of the mirror frames, however, were of walnut and were either adorned with marqueterie or were carved and parcel gilt; or they were of pine or some other soft wood, carved and coated with gesso and wholly gilt; or else they were of lacquer with gilt, and also sometimes with polychrome decorations. Sconces, when not of metal or of carved wood, painted and parcel gilt, were often made in combination with small mirrors and were framed in the manner just indicated. A number of mirrors, especially those intended for overmantel decoration, were framed in combination with decorative paintings, the mirror forming the lower part of the composition and the painting the upper portion.

Pictures - portraits, landscapes and decorative paintings of fruits and flowers or of combined architectural and landscape subjects - constituted another valuable and much used decorative resource, and likewise framed prints, both plain and coloured, were extensively employed.

Sculptures, especially in marble but to some extent also in bronze, were much in vogue and were placed either on pedestals or in niches designed to receive them. These marbles and bronzes were often in the form of urns and vases as well as busts, figures and groups. Porcelains, in the shape of urns, vases, jars and other articles, both large and small, especially during the China-mad days in the early part of the century, were freely employed as decorative adjuncts.

From the middle of the century onward, when the Adam influence had become dominant, the same decorative accessories as just enumerated continued to be used, but their forms naturally underwent such modifications as rendered them in keeping with the altered conceptions of elegant design. With the ornate wall surfaces of many of the Adam rooms, there was less opportunity to use the tapestries which earlier in the century had continued to enjoy at least a certain cut-tailed degree of favour. The method of draping window hangings was often more involved and the cornices surmounting them frequently assumed more pretentious forms than had hitherto been common. Chandeliers were lighter in line and more intricate in design and there was a preference for metal with numerous pendent glass prisms rather than for wood painted and gilt or for brass alone in its more robust but graceful designs. Sconces, too, reflected the same trend toward attenuation and were quite generally adorned with cut glass drops and pendent prisms which greatly added to the brilliance and lustre of the illumination when the candles were lighted. The sconces, also, not uncommonly displayed, along with mirror frames, the airy surmounting or surrounding ornaments wrought in gilt compo supported on wires. In the heads of mirrors were often inserted paintings with classic motifs or designs in gilt relief on a ground of plain colour or else devices painted in reverse on the under side of the glass.

Materials And Colour

In the early part of the century the woods chiefly used were oak, walnut and, for panelling, deal and pine and fir also. About 1720 mahogany, while not wholly displacing the others, came into use for cabinet purposes and grew more and more popular. Gesso laid over a pine foundation and gilt was also an important source of decoration.

The fabrics were brocades, velvets, plain and with cut pile figures, brocatelles, damasks and silks. The simpler fabrics were printed linens, muslins and chintzes. In both cases the colours were strong and vigorous and the designs usually bold and often large in detail. As the century wore on the diversity and brilliance of colouring became less pronounced. Pale and delicate pastel colours were freely employed and stripes had a tremendous vogue. The patterns on the brocades were refined in scale and often attenuated in accord with the prevalent trend of contemporary style. Even when the colours used were fairly vigorous, they were so disposed in quantity that their emphasis was appreciably modified. Needlework in petit point and gros point also played a prominent part for the covering of furniture.

After the middle of the century and all through the period of Adam ascendency, while mahogany retained a place of honour, satinwood and other light coloured woods, such as sycamore or harewood, maple and similar light toned materials enjoyed huge popularity, for the whole tendency of the time was toward a lighter and more cheerful and blithesome colour scheme. Not only was furniture very commonly made of light coloured wood or painted some light tone, but the fixed woodwork also was painted in various pale hues, as were the walls and ceilings. The scale of the earlier work, both in architectural usage and in furniture contours and decorative motifs was heavier and required heavier colours; the lighter scale and refined, attenuated motifs of the Adam period demanded lighter colours and would have looked utterly out of place with the full-bodied tones of an earlier era.

The same thing was true of fabrics. The silks, damasks, brocades, velvets and other stuffs used for hangings and upholstery were light in colour and refined in the details of their pattern. At this time also Aubusson tapestry, by the nature of its colour, design and texture, came into vogue for furniture covering and also for rugs and carpets.

Arrangement

During the earlier part of the century, while symmetry and formality of arrangement were duly considered in the disposition of the movable furnishings, there was still a certain amount of the casual latitude of earlier days to be seen in the placement of the principal articles that entered into the composition of a room. Under the Adam regime, however, the principles of formality and balanced symmetry were caried to their fullest limit. It was the period of the ' dominance of pairs. It might be pairs of consoles, or pairs of sconces, or pairs of sofas, or pairs of candelabra - but wherever there was an opportunity to introduce the element of balance by the use of duplicates, the opportunity was seized and made the most of.