« AnkstesnisTęsti »
tern in clear relief on the flat surface. It may be remarked in passing, that very good ornamental casting is done here even now, and in the old time our American casting could not be excelled. The "Franklin" stoves for burning wood were covered with excellent ornament executed in a first-rate
CHINESE ÉTAGÈRE, WITH MODERN ENGLISH SCONCE. manner, and the good design and workmanship were inherited by the "Nott" stoves, that superseded them on the coming in of anthracite; but the stoves for heating made now are as coarse in execution as they are clumsy in form. The only handsome "stoves" seen nowadays are the cooking stoves, but they are generally kept austerely plain.
The English grates I am praising come provided with the prettiest appendages in the shape of andirons, brass shovels, tongs and pokers, fenders, scuttles, with "trivets," for holding the tea-kettle; and when the grate is fairly installed with her frame and tiles (as in No. 2), her ministering kettle singing on the trivet, and all her shining appurtenances in order about her, a man must have an inhospitable streak in him, or be entirely given over to "social "social
science" and the Spencer-Youmans theory of life, who doesn't feel the cockles of his heart thrill a wee bit with the cheerful human sight.
But, however people have been willing to give up fire-places, they have not been willing to give up mantel-pieces, and, indeed, I suppose the keeping up even a show of fireplaces has been partly owing to the liking for the shelf that has so long been suspended over them. It has long been the fashion to support this shelf in one way—that is, with two seeming posts, or piers, or pilasters, one on either side supporting an entablature, or sometimes a simple lintel, whether of wood or marble, and the shelf supported by a molding that played the part of cornice. This is the arrangement which, whether reduced to its simple element in upstairs bedrooms, or covered over with a heap of absurdities by way of ornament, obtains in nearly all our houses, and wherever in any country there are fire-places at all. In New York, Boston, and Philadelphia houses of the late last century or early present century, pleasing examples of this may be found. where the piers and the lintel are sculptured, sometimes by skillful hands, with delicately designed classic ornamentation of leaf, or flower, or arabesque; but this refinement seemed tame to the next generation, and but little of it survives. In England in the time of Queen Anne and the early Georges, there was a great deal of this sort of work done, and good sculptors did not think it beneath them to carve mantel-pieces; nor would it be a bad thing now if some of our sculptors would leave their search for the ideal and their search for a big job, and take humbler tasks in hand, that were perhaps better suited to the measure of their talent. In England to-day they are coming to set great store by the delicately carved mantel-piece of Queen Anne's time; and as the houses of that period are pulled down, as too many of them are, the mantel-pieces, and not only the mantel, but the wroughtiron stair-rails, the wainscoting and the paneled doors are bought up, often for good round prices. But there, as well as here, houses built thirty or forty years ago have nothing in them worth buying, except as lumber, and it will be so with the houses we are building to-day.
.In wood-cut No. 2 Mr. Godwin has discarded, even more positively than in No. 1, the old post and lintel system, and has devised a very simple way of framing the grate and of supporting the shelf. He gets,
in fact, two shelves,--the lower one with projecting ends, and, between it and the upper one, a long strip of mirror, which enables us to look at ourselves on the sly by accident whenever we want to, and also gives opportunity for all sorts of pretty reflections and glancing lights without usurping the room. we may happen to want for our favorite picture or print. The wood-work in No. 2 would look best in mahogany, or in some hard wood stained black; but of course this depends on the general tone of the room.
Hardly anything in the modern parlor is so uninteresting as the mantel-piece. It is such a trouble to most people to think what to put on it, that they end by accepting blindly the dictation of friends and tradesmen and making the customary sacrifice to Mammon of the clock-and-candelabra suite. I remember a rich lady who had so much money she never could devise ways enough of spending it, and who one day introduced us to a stunning suite of mantel-piece ornaments, fearfully and wonderfully made, in the very latest style, and costing all that even the most fashionable votary could require. The handsome owner stood before
No. 10. "HOW FAR THAT LITTLE CANDLE THROWS HIS BEAMS!"
her purchase, and good-naturedly excused herself by declaring that she had been so badgered by her friends, who, one and all, to the self-same tune and words, had declared that she must have a set of mantel-piece ornaments. "I didn't want 'em; never did care for such things, and don't like 'em now I have 'em; but I've done my duty, and shall have a little peace from my friends." Now this was a person who had a strong,
clear mind of her own on most subjects, who was abundantly able, out of her own pursuits and resources, to have made her house delightful by simply allowing it to reflect her own accomplished individuality, and there was much about the house which did reflect her own tastes and studies, and gave a peculiar charm to certain corners, but this was overcrowed by the conventional commonplace note of the world she lived in, and the total result was mere tameness and matter-of-fact. The mantel ornaments were the key to the whole.
A clock finds itself naturally at home on a mantel-piece, but it is a pity to give up so much space in what ought to be the central opportunity of the room to anything that is not worth looking at for itself, apart from its merely utilitarian uses. It is very seldom worth while to look at a clock to know what time it is, and, as a rule, it would be much better to keep clocks out of our dining-room, though, for that matter, it is hard to say where they are not an impertinence. In the dining-room they are a constant rebuke to the people who come down late to breakfast, and they give their moral support to the priggishness of the punctual people, while they have, no doubt, to reproach themselves for a good share in the one bad American habit of eating on time. In a drawing-room a clock plays a still more ill-mannered part, for what can he do there but tell visitors when to go away, a piece of information the well-bred man is in no need of, and which the ill-bred man never heeds. So that, if a clock must usurp the place of honor on a mantel-piece, it ought to have so good a form, or serve as the pedestal to such a bit of bronze, or such a vase, as to make us forget the burden of time-and-tide in the occasional contemplation of art eternities. We get this habit of clocks, with their flanking candlesticks or vases on all our mantel-pieces, from the French, who have no other way, from the palace to the bourgeois parlor. But they get rid of the main difficulty, by either making sure that the clock does not keep good time,-the best French clock being delightfully irresponsible in this particular, or by having clocks without any insides to them, a comfortably common thing, as every one used to Paris "flats" knows.
Ever since Sam Slick's day, America has been known as the land where cheap clocks abound. If we were a legend-making people, we should have our Henry IV., who would have said he wished every peasant might have a clock on his mantel-piece.
No. II. THE YOUNG SCHOLAR AND HIS WIFE."
the center of the family life-the spiritual | and intellectual center, as the table is the material center. There ought, then, to be gathered on the shelf, or shelves, over the fire-place, a few beautiful and chosen things -the most beautiful that the family purse can afford, though it is by no means necessary that they should cost much, the main point being that they should be things to lift us up, to feed thought and feeling, things we are willing to live with, to have our children grow up with, and that we never can become tired of, because they belong alike to nature and to humanity. Of course, if one were the happy owner of a beautiful painting-but that is so rare a piece of good fortune we need hardly stop to consider it-the problem would be easily solved, but we are happy in knowing that in these days there can always be procured, at trifling expense, some copy of a
There is a certain parlor where, in long years, some of the best and bravest spirits of our time have found loyal welcome and equal companionship, and whose walls are covered with such pictures and engravings as naturally find a place in such a home; but all these give place in memory to a large photograph of the Madonna of the Grand Duke, which hangs over the fire-place, and which is certainly better to have than any copy. There are German lithographs of the Sistine Madonna, and of the Meyer Family, which, to my thinking, are much more desirable than even Steinla's engravings of the two great masterpieces, although, as engravings, Steinla's seem to me far the best that have been made..
All this, by the way. It is impossible to choose for another, and it is fortunate there is so wide a field from which to select. All is, to choose something for the living-room
mantel-piece that shall be worth living with; | it ought to be something that is good alike for young and old. Such an engraving, photograph, or picture might be flanked on either side by a cast of some lovely masterpiece; but for casts there is no resource but Europe-there is small opportunity for getting them here. However, they can always be ordered from London, Paris, or Berlin,— the expense of even the very best casts of the good things is but small, the main obstacle is the trouble-and there is hardly anything that better rewards trouble than a fine cast of a really noble or lovely piece of sculpture. Who would ever get tired of seeing on the wall over his mantelpiece, as he sat with wife or friend before his sea-coal fire, the mask of either one of Michael Angelo's "Captives" on one side, and the Naples "Psyche" on the other these or any two of the many everlasting works made in the charméd days ere sculpture was a lost art.
Of course, the two or three "great" things having been installed, there is room enough for the pleasant little things that always find a hospitable place at the feet of greatness, and which as they cannot derogate from the master's dignity, so neither does his dignity crush them, nor make us think them out of keeping. Here is the bit of Japanese bronze, or the Satsuma cup, or the Etruscan vase, or the Roman lamp, or the beautiful shell, or the piece of English or Venetian glass. Here, too, is the tumbler filled with roses, or the red-cheeked apple, or the quaintly painted gourd, or the wreath of autumn leaves. And here, too, must be the real candlesticks, with real candles to be lighted at twilight, before the hour for the lamps, in the hour of illusion and of pensive thought, casting a soft, wavering gleam over the down-looking picture and the mysterious cast, and bringing a few moments of poetry to close the weary working-day.
Nos. 3 and 4 are intended to hint at ways of grouping simple objects in a picturesque and yet natural way, so as to get something out of them besides their individual elegance or interestingness. No. 3 is made up of a chair, well shaped and comfortable for a chair not intended for lounging, covered with old needle-work tapestry; a Chinese table of simply-carved teak-wood with a marble slab let into the top; and a Japanese scroll hanging upon the wall. The other cut, No. 4, shows one of the old-fashioned card-tables so commonly met with in old-fashioned homes, and now much sought VOL. XI.-23.
after. It supports one of the useful Japanese cabinets of lackered wood, and on this is one of the Japanese tray-stands, which, in its turn, supports a jar with flowers, whose gleam is reflected in a deep-framed mirror with its beveled glass. In arranging these objects, the artist's intention was to show how a dark corner may be lighted up, and, perhaps, also how things, which, beautiful or handsome or curious in themselves, lose something of their value by isolation, and are also sometimes in the way, and apt to find themselves thrust into closets and corners, may be made pleasing to their owner and just to themselves. Everybody must have noticed how corners seem to be, in nine cases out of ten, mistakes; how seldom it is that any good is got out of them. There is, to be sure, the cornercupboard, a delightful invention, of which the reader will find pretty examples in future articles of this series; but they are more at home in the dining-room,—for no reason, to be sure, except a traditional one. Corners, however, are fond of a bust occasionally, and, as things go, this may be allowed the best thing to do with a bust, seeing how small our rooms are apt to be, and how difficult of solution the pedestal question is. The corner chosen, too, is to be a matter of consideration; one of those on either side the window is the fittest, the effects of light and shade being the most telling there. Our way of muffling up our windows with heavy upholstery stuffs, however, makes these corners almost useless for any such delicate light as is needed for the refinement of sculpture. Meantime, much pleasure for the eyes can be procured by putting together some such group as this, composed of a few rich-looking (in this case inexpensive) things, with subdued color, as in the porcelain vase on the edge of the table, and in the one that holds the flowers, with sober, rich reflection all through the trophy, brought to a ripe accord in the gleaming mirror.
There is hardly anything this time of ours enjoys less, less knows how to value, than a clear space of blank wall. Yet there are few things so pleasant to the eye, provided the wall is of a good tone and has a surface that absorbs the light, or at least does not reflect it. The early Italians, painters and builders alike, understood this, and some of them, Giotto, for instance, liked such breadths of breadth so well, that he could sometimes hardly make up his mind to put a fold or a wrinkle into the cloaks
and mantles of his personages. But all the great men knew the secret, Titian best of all; and this delight in broad stretches of blank wall, broken only, and that rarely, by the shadow of a projecting corbel, or of the wrought-iron support of a lantern, or by the sparse leaves and knotted, straggling branch of a creeping vine, is one of the most encouraging elements in the art of the new school of Italian-Spanish painters. We must try and get something of the feeling in our house-furnishing, trust more to simplicity and unity; give the eye some repose, and put the little bits of pictures and the knickknacks away in closets and drawers and portfolios, to be looked at only when we have nothing better to do.
Cut No. 5 does not call for much remark. The table is one that Cottier and Co. made recently, and the chair is one of a pattern they made some time ago, and which seems to me perfect of its kind, both for the elegance of its lines and its comfortableness as a seat. This chair must not be confounded with other chairs of the same general shape, but which, as a rule, are as different from it as a cabbage is from a rose. They are almost always too large; that is their main fault; and their curves are abrupt, and the proportions not well kept. This chair is small, but amply large enough for a comfortable man, and nothing could be better managed than the flow of its lines. The original chair is covered with a material of a golden yellow color, damasked over with a floriated pattern, and round the bottom is a silk fringe of the same color, with some red introduced into it. It is so pretty to look at, that one' forgets to sit down in it; but this is not to imply that it is too good to use. The stuff it is covered with is a sensible work-a-day material, looking as if it were made of silk and linen; but, in reality, the seeming silk is jute, I believe. How ever, the form is the principal thing, and such a chair, covered with a good chintz, might be as pretty a creature as she is in her golden gown. Next to making simplicity charming, the Cottiers have done us the greatest service, in showing us how to unite usefulness and beauty. All that they manufacture is made for every-day use, and will stand service. If they are not as much sought after as they should be, it is because they do not know how to minister to the popular desire to make a great splurge on a very little money. It is amusing to hear that when they recommend their things as thoroughly well made and good for a life
time, the modish people cry out, "Oh, we don't want things to last a life-time!" "What is life?" says one beauty, as she glances at her charming head in a Venetian mirror. "What is life without new furniture ?" But the number of people increases who like sincerity even in chairs and tables. The table in cut No. 5 is a good design for a center-table; it is as light and easily moved as it looks, and of generous size, without being clumsy. And here it occurs to me to meet an objection that has been made to these designs I offer the objection, namely, that, though often very pretty and attractive in themselves, they are of no practical use, because they are not procurable by the general public; or, if procurable, are too expensive or difficult to find. Now, this objection is valid enough, but it does not touch me, since my main object in writing these papers is not to dogmatize, nor to give definite rules for doing this or that, nor to give people precise patterns to follow. On the contrary, it has been urged from the beginning that people should follow their own taste, and do the best they can to make their homes pretty and attractive in their own way. If everybody's rooms are to be furnished like C's, how is that better than when they were all furnished like B's? There is always a first sheep to leap a fence or run down a side street, and all the sheep follow their leader till a new one tries a new start. I write in the hope that people are not all sheep, and that enough will be found to look at the principle taught, and to try and put it into practice in their own way. This is all I am after, and these cuts are meant to indicate my general taste in furnishing a home, and what seems to me likely to be pleasing to many people besides myself.
As for getting these things, or things like them, there isn't any real difficulty. We have shops like Sypher's, where in the course of a year more good things appear and disappear than any one house of ordinary size could find room for, and considering how really good they are, and how well made, they cannot be called dear. They would not be called dear in most cases if they were new, and careful use improves almost all furniture. Every artist or artistic person would rather have a well-kept piece of old furniture than any new piece. But if old things are not wanted, have new ones made; and if the Cottiers or Herters cannot suit you, do as I have found it profitable to dogo to an architect, to Mr. John F. Miller, or Mr. Babb, or Mr. Sandier, or to any one