Renaissance (16th – 17th centuries) History of Wood Carving

Renaissance 728x375 - Renaissance (16th - 17th centuries) History of Wood Carving


At the beginning of the 16th century, the great renaissance began, with the exception of Gothic design. But the process was not sudden and much transition work has great merits. The Kreuzwand in Hurst, Berkshire, the standing work by Cartmel Priory, Westmorland, and the bankers of many churches in Somerset are good examples. But the devotional spirit of the new style was unlike the old one, except in classic buildings like St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Grinling Gibbons’ stalls better match their own surroundings. The rest of this article will therefore mainly be devoted to housework, and the exact location of the examples can only be given if not owned by the private owner or if the public has access.

During the 16th century, the best work is undoubtedly found on the continent. France, Germany and the Netherlands produce countless examples not only for house decoration, but also for furniture. The wealth of the newly discovered American continent was only one factor that contributed to the civilizing influence of that time, and hand in hand with the expansion of trade came the desire for refinement. The custom of building houses mainly from wood, wherever there was plenty of wood, continued. Pilasters took the place of battlements, and vases or dolphins helped the acanthus leaf to replace the older forms of design. House fronts made of wood gave the carver plenty of scope. The one by Sir Paul Pinder (1600), who used to be in Bishopsgate but is now kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a good example of a decorative treatment without overloading. The brackets carved in the form of monsters that support the projecting upper floor are typical of hundreds of apartments, such as the St. Peters Hospital in Bristol. The panels of Sir Paul Pinders’ house are also good examples of this Jacobean medallion shape, which is surrounded by a scroll that is as decorative as it is simple.

The well-known Elizabethan and Jacobin style prevailed in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. At present, hardly any house in the country has not carved its old oak box with the familiar semicircle or rolled edge along the top rail or the arch pattern on the panels. The courtyard cupboards with their fixed or open bases and the upper cornice, which are carried by twisted balusters of extravagant thickness, can be seen everywhere. And both real and false chairs with solid backrests, which are carved into the usual flat relief, are bought with a desire that is inseparable from fashion. Bed frames with four posts are harder to come by. The back is usually broken up into small panels and carved. The best effect can be seen in the examples where only the panels or the frame are decorated. The dining tables often had six legs of great substance, twisted somewhat in the shape of a covered cup and carved with leaves that had a distant resemblance to the acanthus. The rooms were generally paneled with oak, sometimes divided by flat pilasters, and the top frieze was decorated with scrolls or dolphins. But the feature that marked the time was the fire jacket. It must always be the main object in a room, and the Elizabethan carver fully appreciated this fact. By carving the chimney breast to the ceiling and covering the surrounding walls with more or less smooth panels by focusing attention on one point, the designer often achieved high order results. Caryatid figures, pilasters and friezes were among the usual details with which good effects were achieved. There is no better example than the one that was recently brought to the Victoria and Albert Museum from the old palace in Bromley-by-Bow. The coat rack is 1.8 m long. from the floor and consists of a deep quadrant shape, which is decorated with flat scrolls of good design. The supporting pilasters on both sides are shaped and shaped in the usual Jacobean manner and are crowned by busts with Ionic capitals on their heads. Above the shelf, the large central plate is deeply decorated with the royal coat of arms with supports and a coat, and on both sides a semicircular arched niche contains a figure in classic clothing. The Elizabethan carver often made splendid stairs and sometimes carved the Newel posts with coats of arms that bore coats of arms, etc. The Newels of a staircase in Highgate support various types of Cromwellian soldiers who have been carved with great vitality and life. Despite excellent works, such as the beautiful gallery in Hatfield, the carving of this period was not comparable to other periods in England or to contemporary works in other parts of Europe. Much of the work is poorly drawn and poorly executed. It is true that good decorative effects have always been achieved at a minimum cost, but it is difficult to discover a lot of merit in the work that looks really good when it is badly cut.

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In France, this flat and simple treatment has been used to a certain extent. This was the best way to decorate the doors, and the split baluster so characteristic of Jacobean work is common. In the museum in Lyngby, Denmark, there are some very good cabinets that illustrate these two treatment methods in combination. But the Swiss and Austrians worked out this style and significantly improved the effect by adding color. The best continental designs, however, have inherited the typical acanthus foliage of Italy, yet the strength of the lines and the cut of the details have retained a certain Gothic feel. The often long and narrow panels were commonly used for all types of household purposes. A feature was a medallion in the middle with a simple arrangement of vases, dolphins, dragons or birds and leaves that filled the spaces above and below.

The cupboards of the Netherlands and Belgium are excellent [by whom?] Design models. These pieces of furniture were usually arranged on two floors with a finely shaped and carved cornice, a central partition and a base. The pilasters on the sides and small raised panels carved only on the projecting part would form a very harmonious whole. Some of the French cabinets are adorned with caryatids, which are not carved in the best taste, and like other French woodwork of this time, sometimes overloaded with sculptures. The doors of St. Maclou, Rouen, as beautiful as they are, would hardly be held up as models for imitation today. A remarkable row of doors belongs to the town hall of Oudenaarde. The central door contains twelve and eight panels on either side, each carved with Renaissance foliage that surrounds an unobtrusive figure. In the Palais de Justice we see this great decoration scheme that occupies the entire chimney end of the hall. Five large figures carved into the round are surrounded by small figures and adorned with leaves and coats of arms.

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Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, has many beautiful works from the 16th century. A very important design school was sponsored by Raphael, whose patterns were used or adapted by a large number of artisans. The shutters of Raphael’s punch in the Vatican and the choir stands in the church of St. Pietro de Cassinesi in Perugia are among the most beautiful examples of this carving style. The work is slightly embossed and carved in walnut with the graceful patterns that Raphael developed from the newly discovered remains of ancient Roman wall paintings from the Palace of Nero and other places. There are many examples of Italian work in the Victoria and Albert Museum: the door of a monastery near Parma with its three striking masks and heavy gadroon shapes; a picture frame with a charming acanthus border and egg and tongue shapes on both sides; and various wedding boxes made of walnut wood, which are covered with very elaborate carving schemes. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish Spanish or southern France from Italian, the character is similar. The Spaniards give in to anyone in good workmanship. Some Spanish plates with a typical Italian design are in the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as cabinets of the purest Renaissance order. In this section there is a wonderful Portuguese chest (17th century). The top is carved deep into small compartments with scenes from our Lord’s life.

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