There is every reason to believe that flat cushions, usually covered with velvet, were made for these chairs originally, as the proper finish to the seat.
Fig. 301 is the aristocratic type of the same model, one of four from Cassiobury Park, probably original to the house and made prior to the appointment of the Earl of Essex as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. The upholstery of the seats is a later addition, a replacement of worn caning, but these chairs, otherwise, are in their original condition and of fine quality. They are typical of the first ten years of the Restoration and show the kind of furniture which was made for the large houses at this date.
It would be useless here to illustrate a procession of these walnut Charles II chairs, as they differ, as a rule, very little in form or detail, although varying considerably in quality, but such variation is often not apparent in a small illustration. It is more instructive, however, to show the departures from the type which were then introduced from the Continent, Holland, Flanders, Portugal and Spain.
Fig. 298. 3 ft. 10 1/2 ins. floor to top of back. 2 ft. 0 1/2 ins. across front of seat.
Fig. 299. 3 ft. 10 ins. floor to top of back. 2 ft. across front of seat. - The Marquis of Townshend. - Walnut Chairs. - Date about 1660-5. 213
The two rich chairs, Figs. 302 and 303, from Belton House, show these foreign details in a very striking manner. Chief of these is the Flemish curve, which, when used for the shaping of front legs, rapidly evolves into the cabriole form. This can be noticed in the arm balusters and the front legs of both of these chairs, and in the stretcher-rail of Fig. 303 it is still further emphasised. These later chairs, although still of Charles II period, were frequently made for upholstery on the seat and in the back panel, instead of the former caning, although the latter does not lose its popularity until almost the end of the seventeenth century. It is with the years following 1680 that we enter what may be described as the era of gorgeous fabrics, and one event in France, partly religious and partly political, must be noted here, as it has an important bearing on the later development of English furniture. This is the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and the persecution of the Huguenots which immediately followed.
Fig. 301. Walnut Arm-Chair. - The Earl of Essex. - C. 1665.
Fig. 300. Walnut Chair.
Ft was Henry of Navarre who, on the 13th of April, 1590, granted permission to the Protestants of France to worship openly, wherever Protestant communities existed, to establish churches, except in Paris and its environs, to maintain colleges and universities, and to enjoy complete religious liberty. Although threatened and oppressed by Richelieu, and in turn by Mazarin and Colbert, it remained for Louis XIV to revoke the edict, under the influence of a corrupt and hypocritical penitence, on 18th October, 1685. Although actually accomplished at that date, the storm, had threatened for some five or six years before, and many had fled from France to avoid the persecution which they had seen to be imminent. It was not the aristocracy who thus forsook their country, but the artisan and peasant classes, and it is to these emigres that England owed its knowledge and skill in the weaving of silks and velvets, and South Africa some of its finest families of settlers, men whose descendants fought against England, and successfully, at Majuba, some two centuries later. We do not know these Huguenots by name, in connection with silk-weaving, although they established a colony in Spitalfields which remained famous for many years, but on the dials of long-case and bracket clocks such names as Nieue, Du Chesne, De Charmes, Massy, and de la Fontaine perpetuate this persecution of the French Protestants of 1685-90.
Fig. 303. Walnut Arm-Chairs. - Date about 1670-80. Earl Brownlow.
Apart from the mere use of these elaborate silks and velvets, their influence in the development of form in chair-designing was immediate and immense. They overpowered the simple pattern of the earlier Restoration years, and designs were altered and enriched to accord with them. These two chairs from Belton, especially Fig. 302, show this ornate character in unmistakable fashion. Here we have the amorini not only in the back cresting and front stretcher, but also as terminals to the balusters of the back and as ornamental details on the front legs. Of these elaborate chairs, examples exist in many noted houses, as at Glemham Hall, for example, which show that the fashion must have been very widespread. Fig. 303 is quieter in taste, and of pronounced Flemish design, the balusters of the back twisted in the earlier manner from which Fig. 301 had departed. Fig. 304 is of about the same period as the two chairs from Belton, and shows the somewhat rare conceit, of carving representations of couchant lions on the ends of the scrolled arms. In the cresting to the back are the figures of four boys, the two in the centre supporting a crown, resting on a female head. The same pattern, almost identical in detail, is repeated below in the stretcher uniting the front legs. The framing of the back is richly carved with bunches of grapes, vine tendrils and imbricated baskets, the figures of boys being introduced into the composition with a charming and novel effect. The front legs have the Flemish curve, but the somewhat older double twist is used for the back legs and the stretcher-railing. This is an ornate and well-designed chair of the full Restoration type. Fig. 305, from Bond's Hospital at Coventry, has the typical Restoration back and front stretcher, in conjunction with the Flemish front legs and arm balusters harmonising with the scrolled arm. Fig. 306 is of the same general form, but the double C-scroll of Flanders is introduced both in the back and on the front stretcher. The chair in Bond's Hospital has the caned back panel, but divided by a central muntin, which prepares the way for the three flat balusters in that of Fig. 306. In the latter the prototype of the cabriole leg can be seen in an unmistakable manner. Fig. 307, although possessing many of the older features, such as the twisted legs and stretcher railing, has three vertical carved splats in the back, where an ingenious use is made of the Flemish C-scroll. The point-twist turning, also, is of unusual type in this chair. The upholstery of the seat is a later addition. It can be remarked, in this example, how backs of chairs become taller in the last years of Charles II, but that this example is not later than 1685 is suggested by the fact that the back cresting is still tenoned between the squares of the balusters, instead_of ...being. dowelled on them in the manner of the next reign.