The true James II chair, graceful in proportion, but with the weaknesses of construction which have been pointed out before, is shown in Fig. 320. The front legs have the strong Flemish double-curve, the back is tall, with side balusters fluted and reeded and the cresting rail of the back dowelled on them instead of being tenoned between. The open back has a central splat formed by a slender reeded muntin flanked by pendant husks, all finely carved. In spite of faulty construction, this is a finely proportioned and beautiful chair. The uneducated version of the same type can be seen in Fig. 321, which has the tradition of its time, but little designing ingenuity, being crude both in proportions and detail.
The social, and especially the aristocratic, life of England has always reacted upon the artistic craftsmanship of the nation. We have seen this, in a very striking manner, in the instance of the early furniture, and especially the woodwork, prior to the Reformation, as described and illustrated in the opening chapters of the previous volume. It is true that the fine productions of the joiner's craft in the fifteenth century were made for the Church, but this standard is not appreciably affected by the fact that this fine woodwork was made for clerical establishments. The absence of strife in those parts of England which were under the beneficent dominion of the Church, a state of rural peace coupled with practically no want nor privation, and an amount of leisure on the part of the artisans of England due to the easily procurable character of the subsistence of that period, all made for work of high artistic and technical skill. Time was neither reckoned, nor begrudged then, as it was during the latter part of the seventeenth century, and scamped work is usually associated with depravity of artistic taste and a loss of fine constructional traditions.
A more or less settled state of affairs, such as during the reign of Charles II, did much to atone for the lack of the cultured and discriminating patronage of the Church of former ages. Architecture was fast becoming a distinct profession, well grounded in classical traditions by Inigo Jones in the first half, and his followers in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and these architects had a direct influence on the interior decoration of their time, and, indirectly, on much of the furniture which was produced. Furniture, other than chairs and their kindred pieces, does not lose its earlier sturdy character after the Restoration, and, although the fashion for chairs of lighter form and construction rapidly replaced the taste for the former cumbrous models, there is still a logical method pursued, and only departed from in the concluding years of the reign of Charles II.
Fig. 330. Walnut Chair. - The ornate back and hooped stretcher of c. 1685-90. - Bond's Hospital, Coventry,
Fig. 331. Walnut Chair. - The Spanish-Flemish stretcher, c. 1685-90. - Messrs. Gill and Reigate.
Fig. 332. Walnut Chair - (One of a pair.) c. 1865-90. - Biddenden Church, Kent.
Fig. 333. Walnut Chair. - Height, .4 ft. 3 ins.; width, I ft.;7 1/4 ins.; depth, 1 ft. 6 ins. - C. 1690. Victoria and Albert Museum. - C. 1690.
Fig. 334 Beech Chair, Lacquered. - The Worcester Museum. Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Fig. 335. Walnut Chair. - 1 ft. 8 1/2 ins. across seat. c. 1685-90. - Messrs. Gill and Reigate. - C. 1690.
Fig. 336. Walnut Chair. - Messrs. Gill and Reigate. - C. 1685-90. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 337. Walnut Chair. - C. 1690-5.
Fig. 338. Walnut Chair. - Messrs. Gill and Reigate.
With the accession of the Duke of York, under the title of James II, England was again in a turmoil for a space of about four years. The rebellion of Monmouth, the rise of the factions which favoured William of Orange, and the threat of strife and insurrection throughout England shook the Court and its satellites to their foundations. Neither life nor property was secure under the last of the Stuarts. A treacherous race, they were known and distrusted as such by all with whom they associated. True, Charles II had shown some gratitude to certain of those who had befriended him after Worcester, but his liberality, or rather his extravagant profusion, was that rather of sheer carelessless than of studied repayment for services rendered. It was soon realised that another libertine king was on the throne of England, and the period of profligacy which followed again impoverished the country, although it also fostered artistic productions in woodwork, furniture and fabrics, in the way in which an age of vice always has done and a sober and moral era has equally failed to do.
Fig. 339. Walnut Settee. - With original needlework covering on a morine ground. - C. 1690-5. Capt. The Hon. Richard Legh.