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.
The Style Henri II marks the very height and flower of the French Renaissance, the climax to which all previous development was only preparatory. It is logical and straightforward in all its characteristics and its creations carry a sense of satisfaction and conviction unequalled by the work that preceded or followed. The composition of a room in this style possessed unity of conception and did not represent merely a more or less unrelated group of fixed decorative items.
Windows to a great extent retained their mullioned and transomed divisions and their two-light width, although mullions and transomes were not invariable, and square-headed windows without them and with two full-length casements were not uncommon. Round-arched windows also occurred to some extent. Panelled inside shutters were used. Door heads were of corresponding shape to window heads and over-door decoration often took the form of a pediment, either rectilinear or arc-shaped, with appropriate accompaniments.
While movable hangings, such as those mentioned in the review of the preceding styles, continued to some extent in use, permanent complete decorations (Plate 28) were much more common. Walls were often panelled, either wholly or in part, and the panelling, which tended to become larger and more diversified (Plate 28) in the shapes of its divisions, was not infrequently embellished with carving and gilding and sometimes also "with marqueterie of coloured woods, and inlays of ivory, ebony, precious metals and even of marble."
Oftentimes walls that had an high-panelled dado (Plate 28) were of decorated and moulded plaster above, with colour and gilding applied to the plaster relief, or else there were frescoes (Plate 28) framed in moulded plaster cartouches with all their attendant scroll embellishments. Again, whole wall surfaces were frescoed, or were hung with tapestries or decorated leather hangings which were framed in with stucco or plaster frames wrought in high relief and embellished with scrolls, strapwork and figures in the round. Wall coverings were also made from embossed and stamped leather decorated in the Spanish manner, polychromed and gilt in repeat patterns, and affixed to the wall. A much less pretentious wall covering, but one nevertheless capable of agreeable decorative effect when wisely used, was the Italian motley marbleised paper made in small squares and applied to the walls. This paper, similar in pattern to that used for book covers, was called "domino" paper and was made in Italy from the fifteenth century on.
The motifs employed for the sundry wall decorations - this includes likewise the adornments of the chimney-pieces and door trims - showed, for one thing, an increased use of the orders (Plate 28) in a systema-tised and consistent arrangement with due recognition of their proportions and parts. The combinations of members and forms were somewhat more restricted in variety than previously by a more conscientious attention to classic rules. Capitals, for instance, adhered more nearly to traditional types (Plate 28) and the variations from precedent were chiefly in minor matters such as the incorporation of monograms, sprays of foliage and the like. Bay, olive, myrtle, oak, acanthus and palm were the usual sorts of foliage. It was very significant and characteristic that pilasters were fluted, or now and then wreathed, instead of being panelled and adorned with arabesques or with circles and lozenges, a treatment thoroughly indicative of the Francis I style. Strapwork, scrolls, interfacings, frets and running borders were among the "properties" in evidence.
While the profiles of mouldings and the cutting of all enrichments were cleanly and incisively wrought with extreme delicacy, a larger scale in general was adopted, patterns were less complex and "in the treatment of doors, shutters, panelling, and indeed all features, larger and bolder patterns were preferred, with a tendency to make of each a single, centralised design with one dominant feature, while the characteristic of the best rooms is the manner in which all the features were combined into a consistent whole." In other words, whereas the earlier styles had been largely methods of enriched decoration of spaces with small enrichments, the style of Henry II was far more architectural in its feeling and in its well-rounded scheme of composition.
The general contour and structure of the chimney-piece, which still continued the most significant single feature (Plate 28) in the room, remained substantially the same as previously. The only notable differences were that its composition was more closely governed by classic precedent and that it was not seldom executed in coloured marbles as well as in the stone or wood of former times.
Plaster ceilings had now come into high favour and were wrought with all the mastery of design and delicacy of finish of which the best Italian and Italian-taught French plasterers were capable. To the rare artistry of pattern and modelling these ceilings added the living glory of colour and gold in brilliant and glowing schemes. In addition to flat and coffered plaster ceilings, there were simple and intersecting barrel vaults and domes. • The wooden ceilings also glowed with rich colour and gold and were beamed and panelled or coffered in hexagons, octagons and the like. Oftentimes the beams were encased in panelling. Occasionally the wooden ceilings were inlaid instead of being painted and gilt.
While the formerly mentioned flooring materials were still employed, carefully laid wooden floors, enriched with parquetting, were more than ever in high esteem. Likewise, glazed polychrome tiles, now made in France after the inspiration of the Italian maiolica tiles, played an important part as flooring materials.