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.
A volume would be required to describe and picture all the types of furniture of the Baroque age, bound up as it is with the political and religious history of the times and the action and reaction of country upon country. Because of this intercourse - often frictional enough - we constantly find the general forms of one country echoed in one or more of the others, but always with those national differences that have been mentioned.
In all practical furnishing there are four points to be remembered as a basis:
I. Unity and variety should both be secured - the first to avoid confusion, and the second to preclude monotony by the providing of interest.
II. The unit to be considered is the house or apartment - not the single room.
III. That there are degrees in all things; and that a closer degree of unity is necessary in the single room than in the house as a whole, especially if the room be not spacious;
IV. That a sliding scale may be used in the various rooms, providing that a satisfying effect of unity is secured throughout.
In what shall that sliding scale consist? So far as the two epochs discussed go, the writers cannot think of a better word than impressiveness. The word formality does not always hit the mark here, for a piece of furniture may be very formal in its lines and yet be quite simple; nor does handsome cover it, for a bedroom chair may be handsome and yet not particularly impressive.
An example will make the idea clear: The two Renaissance chairs accompanying the credenza and candelabra illustrated in Plate 89 B are comparatively simple but impressive. The typical Queen Anne chair, with which we are all familiar, is Dutch and comfortable; and, notwithstanding other admirable qualities, is unimpressive. If we use one in a room we should not use the other.
We now arrive at the main point - we shall find ourselves able to employ in a single room both comparatively simple and comparatively ornate pieces (whether Renaissance or Baroque, or both together) provided the same degree of impressiveness exists in each, and provided we do not jumble them. We find this constantly illustrated in original interiors of the Renaissance and elsewhere. The wall furniture may be simple, but a table set out on the floor may have a handsomely scrolled and carved base (Plate 139), or a chest may be elaborate and its flanking chairs simple, each having its share of general impressiveness. In less formal and more intimate rooms that general degree may be less, and so the scale in the various rooms may be a sliding one.
The furniture illustrated is decidedly various in character and will enable us to consider combinations suggestive to the decorator, dealer or householder. In considering these illustrations we shall see that this furniture falls, naturally, into groups.
Having now arrived at the point where the inter period element of this plan of decoration may be exemplified, it will be most interesting first to take up Baroque pieces which will properly accompany furniture of the preceding Renaissance age.
Plate 141B shows a fine Italian carved armoire in developed Baroque style and with a pediment fully illustrating its tendencies. Yet this handsome piece of furniture is of great dignity and would not only well accompany the more massive mobiliary forms of Renaissance provenance but would lend distinct variety and interest.
One so fortunate as to secure a piece of furniture resembling the wonderfully decorative French cabinet (Plate 142 A) with panels and diagonal marquet-erie, certainly does not need to hesitate to use it in the same room with one of the equally decorative Italian painted and gilded cassoni, though, because of their differences, he would not place them in close proximity. Each might well form a "centre of interest."
The two cabinets, on either side of the dais, in the Portuguese interior (Plate 140) are quite of a character to go with Renaissance furniture. The one on the right is pronouncedly Baroque in its support and scrollwork, but is rectangular and impressive, while at the same time presenting decorative qualities of a different order from that of other nationalities. The table in the same room is also excellent.
Two Italian tables are shown in Plate 147 A and B; one of these early Baroque and still rectangular in its constructional lines and the other of developed style. Both would, however, look well in a Renaissance room even in close proximity.
In Plate 144 a group is shown of an Italian cabinet with a pair of candlesticks, backed by a tapestry, and two chairs. Instead of the formal Renaissance chair usually found in such company, the owner has here placed two of Baroque type with scroll arm, waved stretcher and goat feet, and, notwithstanding the variation in type, the result is pleasing. A pair of the Louis Quatorze chairs in Genoese velvet (Plate 143 B) would go equally well here, because of general impressiveness and formal character. The cabinet is Renaissance and this chair the latest phase of Baroque, when under the Grand Monarch the Classic spirit regained a certain degree of ascendancy, A remarkably good chair in such a situation would be the Portuguese Baroque chair with spiral members (Plate 149 B). Its generally rectangular lines, brocade upholstery and quiet dignity fit it for the neighbourhood of most Renaissance pieces and other Baroque furniture of like character, while its back is at once noticeable because of its difference from the usual forms of other countries.
Plate 145 is occupied by a group of six different chairs, Italian and English, of ornate Baroque character. Yet these chairs are dignified and impressive in character and of these, too, we may say they would by no means be out of place in a room with Renaissance forms of generally ornamental type.
We have only to consider these English chairs and the Classicism of the contemporary English backgrounds illustrated to see how far apart architecture and furniture in this age could be in that country.*