Considering the bigoted character of the last of the Stuarts, his short and unsettled reign before he fled, for safety, to the Court of St. Germains, it is not surprising that artistic craftsmanship in wood or silk declined from its former fine traditions; it is surprising that anything was produced worthy of the name. The exiled French Huguenots were the saving factor, and show how the arts of a country are fostered and developed by the artisans, and not the aristocratic classes. There is little doubt that these French emigres were largely, if not entirely responsible for many of the finer productions in the way of furniture, in the years from 1685 to 1689, as we know that their influence on the long-case clocks of the same period (from their signatures on the dials) was immediate and manifest. Thus in chairs such as Figs. 322 and 323 there is a skill in designing, a capability of assimilating forms from France and the Low Countries, which only these cultured Frenchmen would have possessed. In Fig. 322 the Spanish hooped front stretcher is used in a manner far more decorative than in Figs. 315 and 316, for example. The embryonic flat serpentine stretcher of Flanders can be seen here, a detail which became very general in the chairs of the next reign. The back is formed of eight curves, framing a caned panel flanked with pierced and well-carved scroll-work. There is an entire absence of the Flemish vigour and coarseness such as in Fig. 311, although the latter is a fine chair of its type.
Fig. 323 is a beautiful chair of slightly earlier date, but of similar origin. The designing of the front legs, and their prolongations as arm-balusters, the sweeping and foliating of the arms, and the form of the back with its cresting and balusters, all show a skill and creative ability of a high order. Of the chairs which bridge the Stuart and the Orange periods, Figs. 324 and 325 may be given as examples, although neither of the two is in its complete and original state. The first has the long fluted and reeded back balusters as in Fig. 322, with a similar Flemish curved front leg and Spanish type of stretcher, with an additional flat swept rail, set back from the front legs between the cross-rails which tie the front and back legs together. The caning of the back has been replaced by upholstery, and the framing of the panel itself appears to be a later addition. The same fate has overtaken the arm-chair from Bond's Hospital, the back framing and its caning being later, and unfortunate additions. The turning of the front legs and the arm balusters show the beginning of the inverted cup-form which became so popular during the early Orange years. The original caned seat here has been replaced by a flat board. The familiar C-scroll has been employed in the decoration of the Spanish hooped stretcher, and the flat Flemish serpentine form is also used, as in Fig. 322. There is the same influence evident in both, in spite of material differences in their design, and certain features which place Fig. 325 as the later of the two. Although of about the same date as Fig. 324, there is an absence of the Flemish coarse vigour in the scrolling of the arms or the cresting to the back. Fig. 326 is a typical Low-Country model of this period, unusual in having turned balusters above C-scrolled legs. This scrolling is also used, in a crude, but effective way, for the stretcher uniting] the front legs. The moulded seat rail is a subsequent application, fixed after the seat has been upholstered, a method of avoiding the use of fringe or braid which was frequently employed, especially with chairs where the back consisted of a solid upholstered panel, separately framed with mouldings to correspond. The method of upholstering the backs of chairs in one panel, framed round with mouldings, is a French manner which was introduced shortly after 1690. The open arm-chair with padded seat and back, although rare, was not unknown in the later years of the reign of Charles II. Fig. 327 is one of a set of six made for the State Bedroom at Glemham Hall, during the years from 1670 to 1675, but they were exceptional chairs for this period. Covered with a fine crimson silk velvet, and tasselled fringes of yellow and brown, with frames painted a cream white, with tiny flowers, and the carving parcel-gilt, they are extraordinarily fine examples of the art of the chairmaker of the later Restoration years. The front stretcher is in the ornate manner of the period, carved with power and skill. The set was made to match the State Bed at Glemham, and it is significant as showing the mode of the time that such rich furniture was made for a bedroom.
Fig. 341. Walnut Arm-Chair. - 4 it. 3 1/2 ins. floor to top of back. 2 ft. 2 ins. across front of seat. The pierced cup-turning of 1695.
Fig. 342. Beech Painted Chair. - (One of a pair.) The flat serpentine stretcher of 1695. - Viscount Rothermere.
The standard of comfort in the living rooms, even of the wealthy, and as late as the reign of Charles II, was exceedingly meagre, compared with the furnishings of the next century. It was only in the bedrooms of the larger houses that upholstered chairs and patterned carpets (either imported from the East, or made of coarse woolwork on a tambour frame in the fashion of gros-point needlework) were used, and even then they were exceptional. That at this period, as at all others, certain sybarites existed who were far in advance of their time, in refinement of ideas, is unquestionable, but these were in an extreme minority. At Knole Park are several Persian carpets from the province of Ispahan, which were probably imported at this date, and in the whole history of Persian carpet weaving, the glory of these fine Ispahan rugs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has never been surpassed, or even equalled, for beauty of design and jewel-like quality of colouring. The mere pleasure of illustrating a priceless work of art may excuse the inclusion here of Figs. 328 and 329, one of these fine Ispahan carpets, probably of early sixteenth-century date, in general view and detail, which may serve to show the floor coverings of this period which were available, and which were imported, - all too sparingly, - to enrich the important rooms in the large houses of such of the Restoration nobility as possessed the necessary taste to appreciate them.
Fig. 343. Beech Gilt Chair. - The thermed leg and crested stretcher of 1695.