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.
During the preceding epoch mirrors had proved too valuable a decorative accessory to be dispensed with and they continued in high favour for the spaces over mantels and likewise for insertion in panels (Plates 46 and 48) at other appropriate, positions in rooms, although, in this latter capacity, they were not, perhaps, utilised to such an extent as they had been during the Louis Quinze period. Decorative landscapes (Plates 46 and 47 B) and other decorative subjects on large canvasses were to a certain degree employed as panel embellishments, but the favourite devices for ornamentation were arabesques, classical subjects introduced in the form of medallions or tablets, groupings of trophies or attributes, enriched or decorative bands, and floral compositions in the shape of pendants, swags, garlands, interlaced wreathings and borders (Plates 47 B, 48 and 49). The disposition of all ornament was well-ordered and logical and the compositions were always confined within geometrically regular boundaries.
Decorative paintings that filled whole panels were chiefly of two sorts, landscapes and architectural subjects in the eighteenth century Italian manner, which were also largely employed at the same time in England under the Adam influence, or else paintings apotheosising rustic life, these latter inspired by the influence of Jean Jacques Rousseau. In some cases, whole panels, usually of small dimension, were filled with classic subjects executed in monochrome.
It was more customary, however, to use the classic figure motifs in the smaller form of medallions, plaques and tablets, wrought in the fashion of cameos, which made integral parts of arabesque compositions, or else executed as low reliefs on plaster walls. Arabesques were commonly of the Pompeiian type or patterned after those of the Vatican Loggie. They were quite as delicate in execution and as full of imagination as were those of the preceding period, but more restrained and occasionally less vigorous, and they were decidedly lighter in scale than those of the Louis Treize or Louis Quatorze styles. The groupings of trophies or attributes included a diversity of subjects, but there seems to have been a special predilection for musical emblems, rustic motifs, such as wheat sheaves, bundles and baskets of vegetables or fruits (Plate 48 A), agricultural or horticulural hand implements, hay-makers9 hats and beehives, or distinctly "sentimental emblems, such as burning torches, quivers, pierced hearts, and billing doves." The floral and foliated treatments occurred as pendants falling nearly the full length of a panel, as swags and garlands; as pairs of light and long sprays of such small-leaved plants as myrtle or ivy or jasmine, "interlaced to form a series of vesica shapes, or else with a series of tassellike knots of foliage or bell-flowers issuing one from the other"; or as loose bands of bordering. The flowers and blossoms themselves - roses, marigolds, daisies, anemones, forget-me-nots, bell flowers, and many more - were almost invariably small in size and dainty in execution.
Besides the motifs and classes of motifs just enumerated, ribbons played an important part in much of the painted and modelled decoration of the period and were closely associated with flowers and foliage. They were generally closely pleated throughout their length and, as well as appearing in bow knots and wreaths, were used in the foliage banding of panels or for spiral coilings or intertwinings round staves or mouldings. Swags and drops (Plate 45, Fig. 1) of imbricated leafage of bay, olive and myrtle appeared in carved, moulded and painted expression. Drapery festoons sometimes took the place of foliated and floral swags. Among the purely naturalistic items must also be mentioned birds, insects, and single knots of fruit, foliage and flowers. Diapers or chequerings were retained for occasional background enrichment The honeysuckle pattern was much in evidence as were also urns and vases, successions of Vitruvian scrolls in the "wave" motif - "postes," as the French call them - many kinds of guilloche (Plate 45, Fig., 1) or meander, paterae, rosettes and sundry other small classic architectural motifs, besides the usual stock complement of tripods, sphinxes and lyres. In the depiction of human figures, classic apparel rather than modern was to be seen.
Sconces, which were extensively employed, were of brass, of carved and gilt wood, of compo painted and gilt, and of crystal. In design, rectilinear feeling was dominant and in their general purity of motif and restraint of treatment they fully conformed to the prevailing spirit of the style. The same observations apply to chandeliers anent which it is merely necessary to add that crystal was peculiarly in favour owing to brilliance and the manifold reflections.
Fireplaces remained low (Plates 46, 48 and 49) and there were no "continued chimney-pieces," the overmantel space (Plate 45, Fig. 2) being customarily filled by a large mirror (Plates 46,48 and 49). If the ceiling was very high, a decorative panel might be included in the space between the head of the mirror and the cornice. Mantel shelves were low and, in the design and structure of the whole mantel composition, right angles, straight lines and parallel sides took the place of the flowing curves that had previously been in vogue. The depth and breadth of the fireplace itself were somewhat decreased by placing decorative metal side and back plates within the wood or marble trim. Mantels were made of carved and painted wood, of carved stone, or of carved and sometimes inlaid marble. The frieze beneath the shelf was supported on scrolled consoles or brackets or else upon termes or term-like columns.
Ceilings were much less frequently coved than formerly and were quite commonly flat, an occasional exception being made for flat elliptical vaulting. Unbroken cornices with strong horizontal accent mark (Plates 46, 47 B, 48 and 49) the boundary between walls and ceiling and are distinctly architectural in the character of their members. Not a few of the ceilings were quite plain, while others were enriched with formal plaster mouldings, bands of imbricated foliage and other devices that conformed with the generally classic architectural tone of composition. The mouldings and foliated bands often divided the ceiling into symmetrically panelled spaces. These plaster decorations, standing forth in relief, were frequently coloured and parcel gilt. In the more elaborate ceilings, the flat surfaces were not seldom frescoed or else embellished with classic motifs in low relief which were intensified with subdued colour. The frieze of the cornice might be filled with motifs of purely architectural derivation or else with swags, festoons, wreaths and other items of semi-architectural or of conventionalised naturalistic origin. These latter might be in moulded relief and coloured or gilt or they might be wholly painted on a flat surface.