The History Of Foreign Influences On Tudor Period Interior Design 1500-1650 Part 2
Copyright (c) 2012 Mathew Jenkins
The decoration of the great English houses was often finished off by Low Countrymen like Henryk, who would submit patterns, “platts,” and models for a bay window, a chimney-piece or a porch, with a greater knowledge of the prevailing style of ornament than Englishmen could then show; and the execution of the carved detail was no doubt often given to the more highly skilled Low Countryman. For the wainscoting of the hall’ of Queen’s College, Cambridge, in 1531, two or three carpenters were employed, the arms of benefactors and medallioned heads being executed by Gills Fambeler and Dyrik Harrison, names which have a foreign sound. At Hatfield the joiners’ work, wainscoting, and designing of the chimney-pieces were given to one Jenever, a ” Dutchman,” living in London, while Hoocker, of St Martin’s Lane, who made the turners’ work, was probably of the same nationality.’ Bernard Jansen or Janssen, stone-mason and tombmaker, was employed at Audley End. Woodwork and weaving were the most common occupations of these immigrants. In an epitome of the returns of the city companies in 1583, one hundred joiners and seventy-three weavers head the list of occupations.’ Besides these humble craftsmen a group of Low Country artists, sculptors, and painters in London worked together in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Maximilian Coult or Colt,’ a sculptor from Arras, settled in England at the close of Elizabeth’s reign and was appointed master carver to James I. The two Cuers or Cures, father and son, were also sculptors and marble-masons ; the elder,’ Cornelius (who was of Dutch origin), master mason to Queen Elizabeth, was employed in the monuments to Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth, while his son, William Cure, succeeded him as master mason to James I., and completed the monument to Mary, Queen of Scots.
The marble-mason was the purveyor of marble chimney-pieces of which examples closely similar in design are found in great houses of the early seventeenth century, such as Knoll, Bramshill, Hatfield, and Charlton in Kent. The fact that Cornelius Cuer was paid for stones for the chimney-piece in the drawing chamber at Knoll, indicates the Low Country origin of these designs in which panelling of contrasting marbles were employed.
A later designer of monuments, Nicholas Stone,” though of English birth-he was the son of a Devon quarryman-was closely connected with Holland by training. About the time of James L’s accession, he entered the workshop of Pieter de Keyser, a monumental mason of Amsterdam, whose daughter he married and with whom he had close business ties. Though he did a certain amount of work as an architect it is chiefly by his monuments that he is now best known; and one of his earliest works is the monument to Sir Francis Vere in St John’s Chapel, Westminster Abbeya bier of black marble, carrying armour, which is borne by four kneeling knights carved in alabaster, which is on the same plan, as has been pointed out, as the tomb to Engelbert, Count of Nassau, at Breda by Pieter de Keyser. Stone’s work is always interesting and individual, influenced by his Dutch apprenticeship. The Civil War broke in upon Stone’s activities, and the items in his note-book are very meagre after 1641. These are cases where there is documentary evidence of Low Country influence.
In other cases, as in the chimney-pieces in the library at Rothamsted, though there is no direct evidence of Flemish handiwork, there is a strong presumption of it from the character of the work and the Flemish connections of the Witterwronges. These engravings published at Antwerp usually bear no date, but as de Vries resided at Antwerp from 1563 to 1570, and again from 1575 to 1585, it is probable that his books of design date from his connection with Antwerp, and would be readily accessible to English craftsmen during the great building period of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.
At Antwerp, then the great commercial centre of Western Europe, “the number of patient and more or less skilful hands employed between 156o and 1640 in cutting images on plates of copper for the rolling press passes belief.” . . . Maps, illustrations to books of history, topography and travel, allegorical and emblematic frontispieces and title-pages to books, decorative borders or compartments enclosing subjects of history and myth, patterns for the sculptor, joiner, and architect poured without stint from these ateliers.
The dependence of the craftsman upon pattern books can be gauged by comparing the ornament at Charlton House in Kent with Abraham de Bruyn’s panels of figures and animals in grotesque ornament round a central cartouche containing a mythological scene. An oval medallion entitled Medusa figures in the upper stage of the chimneypiece in the white drawing-room ; a medallion of Danx in the south-east bedroom. The ornament surrounding the oval medallion of the sacrifice of Isaac, in the upper stage of the chimney-piece in the state drawing-room at Boston House, Brentford, is taken from Abraham de Bruyn’s panel entitled Andromeda in the same series. Details of the ornament surrounding the medallion of Danx in the south-east bedroom at Charlton are borrowed from the same series.
It is -natural that, based as this detail is upon de Bruyn, its relative refinement and expertise should have been commented on: “The primitive views on anatomy, and the somewhat barbarous treatment common to so much carved work of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods are (according to an authority) not altogether lacking in these mantelpieces, but they are decidedly more thoughtful in design and expert in handling ” than in many other examples.
Elizabethan work is like the Elizabethans themselves, outspoken, turbulent, energetic. The orders, used in the crudest fashion and seen through the medium of Flemish pattern books are a frequent feature of interior decoration, and with them grotesque terminal caryatides and strapwork. “Regular columns,” as Walpole writes,” with ornaments neither Grecian nor Gothic, and half embroidered with foliage, were crammed over frontispieces, facades, and chimneys, and lost all grace by wanting simplicity.” Audley End struck an Italian visitor in Charles IL’s reign not as classic building, but as inclining ” to the Gothic, mixed with a little of the Doric and Ionic.” Three Pillars were placed on pedestals, and the orders were assimilated in character, the Doric being in many cases as decorated as the Corinthian. The shafts were enriched with surface carving or broken by faceted or sculptured bands until the reign of Charles I. In the reign of Charles I., allied by marriage with France, there is evidence of two French architects practicing in England, Solomon and Isaac de Caux, and Barbet’s designs for chimney-pieces were laid under contribution by Inigo Jones. The presence in England of the French sculptor, Hubert le Sueur,” his majesty’s servant, now dwelling in St Bartholomews’s, London,” and the “best statuary that ever this country enjoyed,” and an Italian, Francesco Fanelli (who describes himself as ” Scultore de Re della Gran Bretagne “), witness to the new bias towards the art of France and Italy, and there are Italian features, pergolas, grates, Italian windows and doors, in the designs of Smithson. But this new development of English art was checked by the outbreak of civil war.