We have already seen one form of chair in Figs. 4 and 5, which show a box with a lid for the seat, on which is a cushion. This chair has arms and a high panelled back. The common stool, faldstool, or escarbeau also appears in Fig. 4. The rigid square high-backed chair, however, was not the only form known in the Middle Ages. The type represented in Fig. 9 was in great favour. This chair is reproduced from a miniature by Jehan de Bruges (fl.1370). This form of chair, with curved lines in the back, arms and supports, was a great favourite, not only in the Netherlands, but throughout Europe for several centuries. Sometimes it was made of wood, and carved on the extremities of the back, arms and legs; and sometimes it was made of wrought metal, brass, silver and even gold. In the latter case it was probably plated. Sometimes the inventories mention chairs of great value and very precious workmanship. Some of them were even ornamented with enamel. These were the work of the orfevre. Brass and copper chairs of this type were made in large numbers by the skilful smiths of Dinant. Naturally they were comfortably and sumptuously upholstered.
An inventory of 1328 contains an item of a chair of copper garnished with velvet.
Flanders was always famous for its woven stuffs: wool was the staple on which its prosperity depended. The Duke of Burgundy recognized this when he chose the Golden Fleece as the emblem of his great Order of Knighthood. Apart from the looms, the art of the needle was also held in high esteem; and ladies of high and low estate devoted much of their time to embroidery.
Everything was embroidered: vestments and cloths for the church; shoes, gloves, hats and clothes of men and women; and cushions and draperies for the house. Notwithstanding the lavish use of tapestry, the taste for embroidered materials was ever on the increase. The entire furnishings for a bedroom were often the product of the needle; for instance, the "embroidered chamber" of Jane of Burgundy, Queen of Philip V, at her coronation at Rheims in 1330, was ornamented with 1321 parrots, with the arms of the King, and 1321 butterflies, with the arms of Burgundy.
In Mediaeval days, the word "chambre" had a broader signification than it has to-day. By chambre was meant the whole of the rugs, curtains, hangings and upholstery that adorned a bedroom. There was a distinction drawn between "courtpointerie" and "tap-isserie". "Courtpointerie" included everything pertaining to the bed, such as the dais, mattress, headboard, etc. The "tapisserie" was changed every season like the altar cloths and vestments of church and clergy. Cords were run across the rafters, and the curtains and canopies were hung on these with hooks. Thus the rooms at the various seasons received such names as the "Easter," "Christmas," or "All Saints' Chamber." Then again the rooms were named after the subjects (mythological, historical, romantic or religious), of the tapestry that adorned them, such as the Chamber of the Cross, of the Lions, of the Conquest of England, of Queen Penthesile, of the Nine Paladins, of the Unicorn and Maiden, etc., etc.
Plate II shows how the canopy and curtains of the bed were usually supported. Sometimes, however, the hangings were attached to the rods by means of tenterhooks.
The inventories and chronicles of the Middle Ages frequently mention textiles; but it is difficult to know from the numerous terms the old scribes employ whether they are describing woollen and silk tapestry, brocades, damasks, velvets, or embroidered material. The fabrics are of many varieties, and their names vary with the details of production and places of manufacture, as well as the material of which they are composed, and the subjects they depict.
A great deal of Byzantine tapestry, with other hangings and carpets, was brought into Western Europe, by those returning from the First Crusade (1096-1099); and after 1146, when Count Robert of Sicily brought home from his expedition into Greece some captive silk-workers, and established a manufactory for brocades and damasks at Palermo, beautiful materials were carried northward from Italy.
During the early centuries the use of tapestry was very extensively devoted to the decoration of churches, and therefore represented scenes from the Scriptures, and lives of the Saints and the Virgin.
Cathedrals and monasteries were very rich in hangings of tapestry, brocades, and embroideries of various kinds, as well as stuffs on which ornaments were laid and sewn. About 985, the Abbot Robert of the monastery of Saint Florent of Saumur, ordered a number of curtains, carpets, cushions, dossers and wall-hangings, all of wool; and, moreover, had two large pieces of tapestry made in which silk was introduced, and on which lions and elephants were represented upon a red background.
In 1133, another Abbot of the same monastery had two dossers made to hang in the choir during festivals. On one of these the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse with citharas and viols were depicted. The hangings he got for the nave, represented centaurs, lions and other animals.
On all festal occasions, the cathedrals were beautifully decorated with superb tapestries. Some of them served as hangings and door-curtains, others draped the altars, while the seats and backs of the benches were covered with pieces called bancalia, spaleriae, and dossalia. Tapestries also covered the baldachins, or canopies; and foot-carpets, called substratoria, tapetes, tapeta, or tapecii were lavishly spread upon the ground.
During the thirteenth century tapestries came into general use for hangings in private mansions. It is not unlikely that Baldwin, Count of Flanders, who came into power in 1204, stimulated the work of the Nether-land looms; for, from the very opening years of the thirteenth century, the Flemish weavers adopted brighter colours in their tapestries; and Damme, the poet of Bruges, received all kinds of goods from the East, including "seeds for producing the scarlet dye."