There was a time—before the existance of the present rage for Georgian work—when seventeenth century art was thoroughly in vogue. Even now Jacobean and Stuart oak is collected with zest, but the demand for work of the century after is much greater, and the prices for furniture of the earlier period stand at a reasonable level; this therefore is an opportunity, I think, for the collector to pick up pieces of oak on terms more favourable than would have been possible some years ago.
We are apt to regard oak as more essentially English in the style of its decoration than the later fashions; but we must not forget that Flemish and French influences—especially the former—were at work in the seventeenth as in the eighteenth century. To continental craftsmen we owe much of the best work we have and to their influence some of the finest touches in work produced by Englishmen.
Identifying Jacobean Furniture
In image 4, for instance, we in the strap work, which is the chief finger-post in pointing out this style. In image 2 we see illustrated the French influence, the detail coming distinctly from that source. This sideboard, or cabinet, is a very rich example, valuable for the work it displays. There is something particularly fascinating in the collation of history as written in books and history as displayed by furniture. Of course, we have carved dates and royal chiffres pointing plainly to their origin; but more subtle are the clearly, shown evidences of an event like the Field of the Cloth of Gold in the artistic history of our country. Whether English ideas affected the French work of that period I am not able to state, but certainly the French exercised much influence over our workmen as a result of that great parley.
Image 3 an example from the early part of the eighteenth century. The geometrical ornament of the earlier period still subsists, but the cabriole feet show the advent of a newer fashion. In image 1 we have the most recent of all the pieces. It is interesting as displaying the severe taste which characterised some of the Georgian work, and is shown by many of the beautiful bookcase doors then in fashion.
The well-known designers of that period produced hundreds of patterns for these doors and, not infrequently, the wood tracery forms a valuable guide to the authorship of a piece whose origin may be doubtful.